MONOKEI Standard keyboard review: A gateway to mechanical obsession

This entry-level mechanical keyboard offers excellent feel and performance without a ton of bells and whistles.
Monokei Standard keyboard on a desk typing
Monokei

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Over the last three years, more and more people have discovered the multi-sensory pleasure of typing on a mechanical keyboard. What once was a niche hobby that took place in remote message boards online has become a multibillion-dollar business

This means you don’t have to be a full-on enthusiast to have a better typing or gaming experience. Brands like MONOKEI have come out with new keyboards that appeal to newcomers without frightening them with tons of customizations. And it works—the Standard provides an elevated wireless typing experience, beautiful aesthetics, and a long battery life for an accessible price. Users might find in MONOKEI’s first fully built board what they were missing from those cheap keyboard/mouse bundles. More experienced users may find themselves wanting a little more. 

Monokei Standard keyboard

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Overview

  • The Standard is MONOKEI’s attempt to democratize the mechanical keyboard and make it more accessible to those without the know-how to build their own or the money to splurge on a custom-made device. 
  • This keyboard is all about simplicity—its design is sleek and clean, making it a perfect choice for those who prioritize desktop aesthetics as much as performance. 
  • The Standard’s doubleshot PBT keycaps provide a luxurious typing experience that lacks opportunity for customization.

Pros

  • Good price ($110) for an entry-level mechanical keyboard
  • Beautiful design in four colors
  • Great battery life
  • Delicious typing sound 
  • Textured and wear-resistant keycaps
  • Hot-swappable
  • Compatible with USB-C
  • Supports all major operating systems and multiple-device connections (up to four)

Cons

  • No background light
  • Not compatible with keymapping apps like VIA
  • Extremely lightweight body can inhibit overall feel
  • Innovative but somewhat confusing custom-designed legends

Verdict

MONOKEI’s Standard is exactly what it was designed to be: an entry-level mechanical keyboard that provides just enough customization possibilities for beginners or more casual keyboard enthusiasts. If your laptop’s membrane keyboard is below you, but you’re not ready to find out how to lube your stabilizers, the Standard is a perfect way to test the waters. 

The MONOKEI’s design

The first thing that strikes you about MONOKEI’s Standard is its design. Its collection of high and angular keys can remind you of a classic IBM Model M keyboard, but the overall effect doesn’t feel vintage at all. 

The Standard is a TKL or 80-percent-sized device (it doesn’t include a number pad) that comes in four color combinations: Classic White (white body and keycaps), Blush Pink (pink body, white keycaps), Suave Blue (deep blue body, white keycaps), and Dream Lilac (purple body, white keycaps). All the versions of the Standard come with three sets of different colored accent keys you can easily swap to match your aesthetics and operating system as soon as you open the box. If the minimalistic white keycaps are not your thing, you can also buy one of MONOKEI’s amazing and colorful keycap sets. 

Other than the fun array of colors it comes in, the Standard stands out for its legends (the characters printed on the keys), which were designed especially for this keyboard by MONOKEI. You’ll see some understandable but noticeable differences in the Control and Command keys, for example, but things start getting a bit weird with the Fn key and the entire set of buttons above the arrows on the right. Those keys are outfitted with entirely new legends—some are easy to figure out, others not so much. 

The four colors of the Monokei Standard keyboard
It comes in four colors. Monokei

The caps feel excellent to the touch. They’re the company’s own Series 1 doubleshot PBT keycaps, which have a textured finish that promises to be resistant to your corrosive and oily digits. They also sound great against the board’s polycarbonate plate. 

The Standard’s case might be its least likable feature. The ABS plastic enclosure is durable enough, but it feels cheap and lacks sturdiness. On the other hand, this also makes the keyboard lightweight, which might be exactly what you want if you plan on constantly changing locations. However, our biggest complaint with the Standard’s case is its typing angle, which, combined with tall keys, forces your wrists to bend to a somewhat uncomfortable degree. You can easily solve this problem with a wrist rest, but for a keyboard that puts so much emphasis on aesthetics, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to compromise the keyboard’s look with an external accessory that might not do it justice. 

MONOKEI put a lot of thought into the acoustics of the Standard, which features a polycarbonate plate and silencing foams. That, paired up with Cherry MX switches in your choice of reds, silent reds, and browns, results in typing sounds that are pleasant and crisp. 

The MONOKEI’s performance 

Monokei symbols

Before TikTok exploded with ASMR videos of people typing on mechanical keyboards, these devices had found a loyal audience in gamers, who usually appreciate gadgets with RBG lights to fit their aesthetic. This is probably why we’ve come to expect mechanical keyboards to have some RBG feature—even if they’re not marketed for gaming.

But the Standard doesn’t have any of that—no customizable RBG lights, nor even a simple white backlight to use your keyboard in the dark. In fact, the only light you’ll find on the Standard is a set of two tiny dots that briefly light up when you turn it on, pair it, or need to plug it in. This might be a dealbreaker for you, but it gives the Standard a 30-day battery life when used over Bluetooth. And if you prefer your peripherals to be plugged, this device has a beautiful USB-C nylon-wrapped cable that matches the colors of your keyboard so that it won’t ruin your desktop aesthetic. 

So, who should buy the MONOKEI Standard Keyboard?

The Standard is also not compatible with VIA or other similar programs out there. This means that you won’t be able to add layers to your keymap or create personalized shortcuts like with other fully customizable keyboards. If you’re looking for a truly unique experience or you’re a power user that relies on specific key combos to control your machine, maybe MONOKEI’s first fully assembled keyboard is not for you. If, on the other hand, you’re just searching for ASMR-worth typing sounds and a nice-looking addition to your desktop setup, the Standard is a great choice, and possibly a gateway to more fine-tuned peripheral experiences in the future. 

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Sandra Gutierrez G. Avatar

Sandra Gutierrez G.

Associate DIY Editor

Sandra Gutierrez is the former Associate DIY editor at Popular Science. She makes a living by turning those “Wait, I can make that!” moments she has while browsing the internet into fully-fledged stories—and she loves that. A native from Santiago de Chile who will never get used to the Northeastern cold, Sandra moved to Brooklyn three years ago, where she paints, draws, drinks green tea, and lives with her 11-year-old beagle Lucas.