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My big problem with this stunning $800 keyboard isn’t the price

A top-down view of the Angry Miao AM AFA R2 keyboard.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

When I was offered the Angry Miao AM AFA R2 keyboard to review, I couldn’t resist due to the fabulous Macross-inspired styling and futuristic looks, but I also remember trying to live with an Alice-layout keyboard before and failing to adapt to it. However, I convinced myself this time would be different. I’d try much harder.

Living with the AM AFA R2 has been a bit different from the last time, but I’ll admit it now, I still can’t type on it very well. However, this hasn’t stopped me falling in love with this amazing product that’s more a piece of functional art than a keyboard for me.

What is the AF AMA R2?

The back view of the Angry Miao AM AFA R2 keyboard.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

As keyboards go, even high-end mechanical gaming ones, the Angry Miao AM AFA R2 (the successor to Angry Miao’s R1 keyboard) is pretty expensive, with the price topping out at $795. For that price, however, you are getting something very special indeed. The chassis is made from sandblasted aluminum with a hand-polished finish, and each side of the keyboard is controlled by its own PCB. The keys have a 6.5-degree inclination and a 5-degree tenting, which Angry Miao says matches the the height difference of our fingers.

The 65% keyboard has an unusual adjustable leaf spring suspension system to help get the feel just right. It comes set at the medium level, which offers a degree of resistance, but with a screwdriver and an included set of accessories, you can take the casing apart and switch between three different levels of flex, with 18 options possible in total if you change the Poron foam pads too. The switches are hot-swappable, and have a soft, non-mechanical sound.

The back of the Angry Miao AM AFA R2 keyboard.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

I’ve mostly been using the keyboard connected to my Mac Mini M1 with a cable — a USB Type-C connector is hidden on the back of the chassis — but there’s a Bluetooth 5.1 connection if you’d prefer. It has a 10,000mAh battery inside (actually made up of two 5,000mAh cells), and it even has 5-watt wireless charging. It didn’t require any drivers and worked instantly with my Mac — just be aware Angry Miao swaps the Command key for the one marked Code, but all the usual shortcuts are available through it.

What about the AM AFA R2’s design?

The Angry Miao AM AFA R2 keyboard's elevation.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The model I’ve been testing has a color scheme inspired by the VF-19 fighter from the Macross Plus anime, and it looks fantastic. Angry Miao seems to have taken further inspiration for its materials from the armored mechs featured in the anime, because it’s built like a tank. It’s absurdly heavy at 1.4 kilograms (just under 3.1 pounds), and comes delivered in a stunning custom case with foam-molded inserts keeping it safe.

The metal chassis is full of vents, slashes, and RGB lights, while the weight and rubber feet keep it firmly planted on your desk. The glass center strip (upgraded from an acrylic one on the R1) contains LEDs indicating the keyboard’s status. It’s actually the least impressive part of the design, as although it’s functional, it feels underutilized. This aside, the Angry Miao keyboard is a seriously imposing addition to your desk.

Keys on the Angry Miao AM AFA R2 keyboard.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The high-end style and materials are matched by the fantastic translucent keycaps, which feel absolutely superb under your fingers, while the RGB lights pierce through them in even brightly lit rooms. As you’d expect, there are multiple patterns and options, with my personal favorite being the one that lights up each individual key as I tap it.

Angry Miao says the R2 is easier to take apart and modify than the R1, but how was it for a novice? The faceplates around the keys are magnetic and can be pulled away, revealing four screws per side to undo before gaining access to the leaf springs and foam. You do have to be careful of the connector ribbon on the PCB, but otherwise, it’s very straightforward and can be done in less than 10 minutes.

If the Macross Plus version of the AM AFA R2 isn’t for you, Angry Miao has four other color schemes to choose from. It was a difficult choice between them all, with the very recognizable Neon Genesis Evangelion-inspired model in purple and green looking especially brilliant. It’s joined by a dark green-and-gold model inspired by The Legend of Zelda, a silver-and black-version inspired by Robocop, and a pink multicolor model inspired by the Demon Slayer manga.

I can’t type on it

A person typing on the Angry Miao AM AFA R2 keyboard.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

The Angry Miao AM AFA R2 undoubtedly costs a lot of money, but you are getting a lot of keyboard and technology, and it has clearly been lovingly designed and built for enthusiasts. It really is something special. The problem is me, or at least my inability to type quickly and accurately on an Alice layout keyboard, even after days of practice.

Designed to be ergonomic and reduce wrist and shoulder strain, the traditional keyboard is split into two halves and angled, forcing your hands and fingers into a slightly different position than usual. If you’ve never used an Alice keyboard before, then expect a steep learning curve. You will press the wrong key a lot, and you will have to look down at the keys to find punctuation, the Shift key, and Delete too, as they aren’t exactly where your muscle memory remembers them being.

The arrow keys on the Angry Miao AM AFA R2 keyboard.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

I imagine even trained touch typists will have to cope with a period of adjustment, during which you’ll type slower than normal and make more mistakes. Stick with it and you will get better, but you will also need plenty of patience. The previous Alice keyboard I used was the Keychron Q8, and with the experience gained from that, along with the more comfortable, wider stance of the Angry Miao, my accuracy and speed noticeably improved over the last time.

It has been a better experience typing on the AM AFA R2, but on days where I really needed to write a lot, I swapped back to a normal layout keyboard and my typing speed practically doubled, while autocorrect was mostly out of a job again. If you’re going to buy the Angry Miao AM AFA R1 and it’s your first Alice keyboard, just be prepared to put in plenty of time learning to type again.

Angry Miao wrist rests.
Hover wrist rests Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

Angry Miao also sent its Hover wrist rests with the keyboard, and I’m very glad it did. My usual oblong foam wrist rest wasn’t even close to the right height or size for use with the AM AFA R2, while these unusual “floating” springy discs are perfect for it. Like the keyboard itself, they also require some getting used to, but they add to the cool and unique experience of using the AM AFA R2. I’d consider them an essential if you’re going to buy and use the keyboard, as it’s too tall to use without a rest at all.

Is the Angry Miao AM AFA R2 worth it?

I like a challenge and hate failing, especially when I feel as if there is some benefit to what it is I’m trying to perfect. Quite apart from how I think it looks cool to type quickly on an Alice keyboard, the Angry Miao AM AFA R2 is such a stunning piece of kit that it’s a terrible shame not to make use of it. Plus, the typing feel is amazing. I know I’d get better with it over time, but I also know it won’t be a five-minute endeavor.

I type all day, every day, and if something slows me down, it gets frustrating very quickly. If you don’t have deadlines that require you to bash out words on a keyboard, then the Alice keyboard’s learning curve won’t be such an issue. When you do take the time to learn it properly, there’s a good chance your wrists and shoulders will thank you too.

The Angry Miao AM AFA R2 keyboard's glass center section.
Andy Boxall / Digital Trends

If you still end up failing in the same way as I have at this stage, then just break the AM AFA R2 out for special occasions, or for days when you don’t have to worry about typing speed and accuracy. It’s a beautifully made, fabulously designed product that simply looks good on your desk, and it’s wonderful to type on, even if you’re not very fast. Pair it with the right machine and accessories, and you’ve got the perfect Instagram-worthy setup.

How to get an AM AFA R2

The Angry Miao AM AFA R2 costs $680 in its basic form, which includes the body, plates, leaf springs, and all the accessories required to change the keyboard’s suspension. For $795, you get a complete bundle with Angry Miao’s 68-piece Glacier Dark keycaps, Icy Silver switches, and a selection of stabilizers and pads. It’s available to preorder now and shipping is expected to start in October.

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Andy Boxall
Andy is a Senior Writer at Digital Trends, where he concentrates on mobile technology, a subject he has written about for…
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