To write about an Angry Miao keyboard always means to write about the design as much as the actual typing experience. Just look at the AM AFA or AM Hatsu. For the longest time, I’ve wondered what a more restrained offering from the company would look like. The AM 65 Less came close, but the touch panel that replaced the arrow keys was its Achilles’ heel — and maybe one gimmick too much. Currently on my desk is what may just be Angry Miao’s most conventional mechanical keyboard to date: the AM Relic 80.
There’s no technical gimmick here (unless you want to count Angry Miao’s traditional overengineering as such). The AM Relic, with prices starting at $490 for the bare-bones version, is a rather standard tenkeyless board. The gimmick is that the design is inspired by Daniel Arsham’s “Brillo Box” from his “Future Relic” series. But where Arsham’s box has roughly cut corners, the AM Relic 80 has LED-lit corners in the lower-left and top-right corners. These look striking with a cool reflective effect and diamond-cut patterns, but almost subtle by Angry Miao standards. They do have their own LED settings, so you can opt for solid colors, a rainbow effect or, if you want to get distracted, a strobe effect.
In a way, that’s exactly what I wanted to see from the company. You get all of Angry Miao’s design and manufacturing chops (combined with a very pleasing typing sound) and none of the trade-offs that sometimes come with its designs.
The overall design is boxy and while Angry Miao says that its 19mm front height makes for a comfortable typing experience, I would recommend a wrist rest anyway. The keys sit at an eight-degree angle, which works for me, though that’s pretty much a personal preference.
Angry Miao sent me the Relic 80 in the Meteor colorway, which I can only describe as a silvery bronze. There are also white and black editions. I was worried that the Meteor color would be either too golden or too brown, but it finds a nice middle ground. For the Meteor and Black versions, Angry Miao opted for its “Glacier Dark” transparent keycaps. Unsurprisingly, they do a nice job of letting the bright per-key LED colors shine through, but I’ve never been a fan of how smooth they are. Depending on your point of view, this may be the one area where Angry Miao traded design for user experience. Keycaps are easily replaced, though.
One thing the keycaps do seem to help with, though, is the sound. Angry Miao opted for an FR4 plate and seven layers of foam and pads to shape the Relic 80’s typing sound. If you like your keyboards to have a marbly sound texture, you won’t be disappointed. If I were building a custom keyboard from scratch, that would be the sound I’d be going for, so this works for me.
As for the rest of the tech, Angry Miao opted for what is now its tried and true adjustable leaf springs. I find they work well, though it’s a bit of work to change them out. You’re only likely to do this a few times, though, until you find your own preferred setting, so it’s not a big deal.
With the Relic 80, Angry Miao also once again opted for its linear Icy Silver Pro switches. These retail for $100 for a set of 90, so you should have high expectations of them. In my experience, they are very smooth and don’t exhibit any leaf ping. They are also quite light with an actuation force of 37 grams. Since this is a hot-swap PCB, you can easily switch them out if you’d like to try something else, though. Or you could just opt for the base kit and bring your own.
In terms of connectivity, there’s the usual USB-C port, as well as Bluetooth support and, for the gamers, a 2.4 GHz dongle (which wasn’t yet available when I received the review unit). The wireless functionality is backed by two 5,000mAh batteries.
Fully kitted out, the Relic 80 weighs in at almost five pounds (2.25kg).
As usual, you pay a premium for an Angry Miao board. With keycaps and switches, we’re talking about a $650 investment into a keyboard. Many people would think $65 for a keyboard is too much. It’s a luxury product and as with most high-end purchases always, there are diminishing returns as you step up the price ladder. But if you’re looking for a keyboard that makes a statement and is a joy to type on, you can’t go wrong with the Relic 80.