The most striking thing about the Azeron Keypad is the aesthetic. At first glance it looks like something they'd have used to interrogate prisoners in the late 1800s, except it comes in rainbow!
Honestly, it looks like the kind of novelty contraption you'd wave off as a gimmick. And while I might get some people riled up if I were to suggest it being a worthy replacement for the sacred WASD, the Azeron Keypad has actually become integral to my gaming experience—I'm loath to go back to boring old keypresses.
19 tower buttons
7 thumb buttons
Full size analog thumbstick
Adjustable metal chassis
Anti-slip silicon pads
2m braided USB Mini-B cable
Programmable Teensy++ 2.0 brain
When your hand is treated to this much ergonomic comfort, a ten hour Valheim (opens in new tab) session feels like twenty minutes (I do not condone spending that long in front of a screen without breaks, but I know you're gonna do it anyway). The likelihood of suffering from carpal tunnel with this in your arsenal is pretty miniscule, though. Your hand is able to rest completely still as you play, and you never need to shift along the supposed 'quickbar' in the heat of battle (inevitably losing your place and resulting in a good old troll-crushing).
There are even two models to choose from: one with 26 keys, and another with two less. The larger version gives your middle finger has access to 5 buttons, and your index finger: 6. The compact version replaces those ridiculous towers with button-topped stumps. I prefer the latter as the angle of the higher buttons can be a little awkward, especially if you're sporting long nails, but it doesn't look as nearly as dastardly.
Either model comes with the option of an additional or alternative wrist rest, should your hand sit flatter. The only thing is that if you're getting the other wrist pad as an additional item, know that swapping them requires a little electrical engineering. It's all quite straightforward stuff, but it's not as hot-swappable as, say, the thumbstick.
That's due to the Teensy++ 2.0 inside being connected to a handy profile switch on the side, as well as indicator LEDs (the colour of which are also editable). Another drawback that comes from this choice of Teensy hardware, is the Mini-B USB connection. It doesn't stifle much as it comes with its own braided cable, but it means you can't use it with today's standard cables if you lose yours. However, the company is making a move toward it's own custom hardware design that will include more onboard memory and additional features. We should also see a change to USB Type-C some time in the future—keep a check on the Azeron blog (opens in new tab) for updates.
Right now though, aside from the connection, this thing is a paragon of practicality. Not only are there more buttons than I'll ever need for all my actions, menus and quickbar items, they're also incredibly satisfying to click. My partner and I spent about 2 days before we even set them up properly just clicking them like crazy, and they haven't broken yet—a testament to Omron's promise of 10 million keypresses.
With a sturdy metal chassis as a foundation for the impressively 3D printed, hand-assembled components (opens in new tab), the Azeron Keypad is heavier than expected for a 3D printed accessory, though still absolutely compact and portable. It's also easy to set up physically, though a little fiddly. The keypad comes with a proper nifty screwdriver/allen key combo, for fitting it to the size and splay of your hand easily with the underside screws.
Despite the Azeron Keypad being a worthy contestant to the keyboard, a controller might still be a better choice in some instances. While it does include an analogue stick, and negates the need for radial menus with the sheer number of buttons present, it lacks pressure sensitivity triggers as well as haptic feedback. This makes it almost as impossible as the keyboard for playing racing games. At the end of the day, you're more likely to use it in MMO or RPG type situations. Basically anything that necessitates easy access to masses of quick actions or shortcuts.
Which brings me to its other use. I've heard it can be great for creative applications, such as 3D modelling software. Having not tried it myself I can only take others' word for it, but I can see the potential.
The main issue I've encountered with the keypad is the learning curve when you first map out your keys, as well as the accidental keypresses when attempting to press the uppermost keys. That's about the limit of my problems with it.
The software is super easy to use, and even shows which buttons are being pressed on-screen so you can double check you're mapping the right one. You can even calibrate the analogue stick to output WASD to prevent any problems with input type flicking back and forth. And you can use it as a mouse if that's how you roll—dual wielding?
When it comes to customisation options, you won't be disappointed if you're looking to match it with the colour of your setup. Not only are there some awesome themed special-edition runs that pop up every now and then, you can even create your own design in the Azeron Keypad 3D creator (opens in new tab). What's more, it lets you request personalised lettering for the side—as long as its 2-8 letters. And for some reason, Q, Y, J, P, and G can only be uppercase.
Just know this isn't some throwaway novelty item, it can really give you an edge once you get used to your button layouts. I've got to say, I'm unironically in love with the Azeron Keypad.
I don't expect any of you to understand. Pick one up for yourself and you'll get it.