Review: The Monokei Standard makes sacrifices to offer high-end features at affordable price

Review: The Monokei Standard makes sacrifices to offer high-end features at affordable price

Excellent mechanical keyboards usually cost hundreds of dollars. They feature aluminum casings, brass weights, gaskets and several types of foam. That’s on top of other bells and whistles such as knobs or OLED screens. Taken altogether, the pricey device delivers a distinct sound accompanied by a memorable typing experience.

The Monokei Standard tries to capture that feeling at a more affordable price. The company does this by using less expensive materials while retaining features found in higher-end products. The result is a good mechanical keyboard that punches above its weight class.

Monokei has some collaborations with popular franchises such as Jujutsu Kaisen. (Gieson Cacho/Bay Area News Group) 

The Standard is a TKL, or a tenkeyless, meaning it has all the keys of a full standard keyboard except for the number pad usually on the right. This allows it to fit on more desks and prevents the gaming or workspace from feeling overwhelmed by the size.

And though it has TKL elements, the Standard does have its quirks in its layout. The keyboard has a function key that allows users to access multimedia commands, control volumen and change profiles. The Alt key is also shifted next to the Control key with the Windows/Command keys sandwiching the space bar. It takes some getting used to.

As far as build quality goes, the Standard is surprisingly solid despite its plastic case. It feels rugged yet light, so that means you can toss it in your backpack if you need to bring a piece of your work-from-home space to the office.

The Monokei Standard keycaps have a great feel thanks to its textured surface. (Gieson Cacho/Bay Area News Group) 

That high-quality feeling extends to the keycaps, which are doubleshot PBT. They’re essentially made by injecting plastic into two molds. That creates a more durable keycap, one that’s heftier and thicker with letter that won’t fade. What’s notable is that Monokei adds a textured surface to the keys that makes it grippier to touch. They compare favorably to other expensive brands such as GMK, which has some keycap sets that would cost more than the Standard.

The Cherry stabilizers are firm, and though the keyboard has gaskets, the typing experience doesn’t feel as flexible as I was hoping for. It’s not a pillowy typing experience by any measure, but there is a slight give.

The bigger problem that the Standard faces is the sound profile. The keyboard has a ping issue for heavy-handed typers. If you pound the keys, it will produce a ping, especially in the enter key, backspace or space bar. That sound is magnified by the polycarbonate plate.

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It’s imperceptible at first, but it’s one of those problems that when you hear it, the sound irks you and soon becomes all you hear from the keyboard.

Monokei sent the Jujutsu Kaisen-branded keyboard that featured the Cherry MX Silent Reds, which are quieter and great if you don’t want to ignore your coworkers. I dealt with the ping problem by lubricating the switches. It also happened to improve the feel of pressing the keys. The stock Cherry switches felt firm but scratchy.

What’s great about the Standard is that if you dislike the profile, it is customizable because the keyboard has a hot-swappable printed circuit board. Users can pop in tactile or linear switches if they want to mix it up. It depends on personal preference, but the sound issue can be fixed.

Just to check the sound profile, I swapped out the Cherry Silent Reds with modified Alpaca switches I had at home, and it worked beautifully and the ping was gone.

The Monokei Standard keyboard looks beautiful in any color scheme. (Gieson Cacho/Bay Area News Group) 

For gamers, the Standard has some notable features. It has a wired connection for stable and fast response times. It also connects wirelessly with up to four devices and the battery life really does last 30 days. Some of that has to do with the lack of RGB lighting. That may be a deal breaker for certain gamers, but regardless, this is decent but unspectacular for games.

If you want a little color in your life, the Standard comes in a variety of vibrant colors. The “Jujutsu Kaisen” Yuji edition brightens up my desk with an orange and purple combination.

Still, the Standard is more about work rather than gaming. Fresh out of the box, this mechanical keyboard gives users everything they’ll need — excellent keycaps, decent switches and good build quality — for satisfying typing experience. It has the potential to be better though if users put in an afternoon of work on the switches or go even further by modifying it.

Monokei Standard

Three stars
Manufacturer: Monokei
Price: $140