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Angry Miao AFA (Adjustable Flex Alice) Custom Keyboard Review

Ready for Lift-Off

Christopher Coke Updated: Posted:
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Hardware Reviews 0

Angry Miao is known for its innovation in the world of custom mechanical keyboards, but even I was surprised by the AFA. AFA, as it happens, stands for “adjustable flex alice” and it’s only one of an array of features that make this keyboard the best that Angry Miao has delivered yet. The AFA demonstrates a renewed commitment to sound, feel, and a customizable typing experience. It still doesn’t support QMK or VIA, which is a shame, but it’s hard to argue that the AFA is anything short of great. It doesn’t come cheap, but if you’ve had your eye on a custom alice-style keyboard, this is definitely one you should take a long, close look at. 

Specifications

  • Current Price: 
  • Product Name: AM AFA (Adjustable Gasket Alice)
  • Typing Angle: 6.5° keyboard inclination, 5° tenting
  • Structure: Three-stage adjustable gasket (leaf spring)
  • Drivers: No additional drivers required, supports N-key rollover
  • Layout/Lighting Configuration: Configurable on PC (Windows/MacOS)
  • Switch Mounting Style: Hot-swappable
  • Connectivity: Wired, Bluetooth 5.0
  • Indicators: Power indicator, connection status indicator and Caps Lock indicator are located on the mainboard
  • USB Port: USB 2.0, Type-C, supports USB-C to USB-C
  • Battery: 10,000mAh (Lithium polymer 5000mAh x2)
  • Qi Wireless Charging: Wireless charging 3W, starts charging automatically when battery power drops below 85%

Who is Angry Miao?

Here’s the thing about Angry Miao: they’re an art house. Yes, they’re in the business of making modern electronics, but they’re also in the business of creating modern art using those electronics. You don’t need to look far to see it. We reviewed the Cyberboard R2 Le Smoking in August and it’s a perfect example. The high-gloss finish, the hard angles, the glossy acrylic keycaps, and, of course, the completely over-the-top but eye-catchingly cool customizable LED panel. 

Or, take the Cyberblade true wireless earbuds. They’re designed after the earpiece Aloy wears in Horizon: Zero Dawn and Horizon: Forbidden West, trimmed with a reflective, prismatic finish. The charging case doubles as a desktop volume wheel when it’s placed in its dock, trimmed with attractive, tasteful RGB.

With all of its products, it’s about the fine details of their design. Look closely and you’ll see just how much precision and care go into every aspect of their presentation. 

That same thing is true — in fact, more true than ever — with the AFA.

Angry Miao AFA - What Is It?

Let’s start with the basics. The AFA is an Alice-styled keyboard. That means the buttons on the left and right sides of the keyboard are slightly twisted toward their opposing side. It’s a design based around ergonomics and the natural angle of your hands at rest. Unlike other ergo keyboards, the keys are still staggered, so the learning curve is much less than a columnar option like the ZSA Moonlander. The two halves are also angled upward toward the center, creating a built-in tent that other brands usually force you to buy a special kit to create. 

The two halves of the keyboard are spaced further apart than most alice keyboards, giving it a long, spaceship-like look that’s by design. The AFA is inspired by the mecha anime, Macross, and the VF-19 fighter. It’s available in multiple colors ranging from the beige-black of the fighter, to the black and pink of BLACKPINK, to the all-black, Batman-inspired board I was sent for testing. As a huge Batman fan, it doesn’t get much better than a custom Dark Knight-inspired set of keys. 

The design is incredibly interesting. The two halves are actually independent assemblies that connect into a central module that glows with bright LEDs, hidden behind a smoked, glossy plastic face. The chassis, apart from being shaped like a desktop spaceship, has a skeletal frame with cutouts around the edges. A set of down-firing LEDs from the center-module create an underglow effect, like a propulsion engine warming before flight.   

But as interesting as the exterior is, what’s happening on the inside is even more inspired. Even though it comes as one whole unit, this is actually a split keyboard. The two halves are completely separate. Each uses its own circuit board that connects to the center module, which acts as the “brain” of the AFA. Both halves can also be adjusted for sound and feel.

Even though AM refers to this as an adjustable gasket, it actually uses a set of four leaf springs in the corners of each half. These springs support the PCB and can be adjusted into different “gears” for a softer or firmer typing experience; there are also steel and brass springs to fine-tune firmness. By adjusting a rubber stopper, you can set the spring to have a wide range of movement or nearly none at all, transforming each side with exactly the level of bounce or flex you prefer. This also means you can adjust each side, or even each corner, to have more or less flex. This is enhanced with a set of flex cuts in the PCB and positioning plate too.

Angry Miao has also done a lot of work tuning the sound profile of the keyboard. There are layers of foam all throughout its design and each is able to be removed to adjust the sound profile to taste. There’s a layer of PCB foam between the plate and PCB, and another layer of PE foam beneath the switches to lend the keyboard some extra pop. Underneath the circuit board is a layer of PCB foam that’s adhered to the underside of the circuit board and even more foam filling out the bottom of the case. The sound and feel are a big improvement over the Cyberboard, and it’s clear that Angry Miao has been listening to the community throughout the design process.

The keyboard also supports hot-swappable switches and bright per-key RGB backlighting. As of this writing, there are a handful of preset modes, but each of Angry Miao’s other keyboards have supported customization through its DIY site and I expect the same to be true here. 

And like the Cyberboard and Cyberblade, the AFA is decidedly a part of the “Nowire” gang. The keyboard supports Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity with up to three devices. AM has used an antenna system borrowed from the mobile phone industry for better reception with your PC. It features two 5000mAh batteries (10,000mAh total) for incredibly long battery life, and there’s even a wireless charging coil built into the base for Qi charging. 

Charging Coil

A wireless charging coil is built into the back of the keyboard

The AFA is a keyboard like no other. It’s one of the most unique I’ve ever seen, as a matter of fact. The structure is really something else (watch the typing video below to see a 360 view). But even the way it comes together, the two halves being assembled separately and then setting into precisely cut slots into either half, then hidden with magnetic faceplates. The four-corner leaf spring design for unprecedented customizability. The almost modular design of it. This is an Angry Miao keyboard through and through and in the best possible way. 

Angry Miao AFA - Performance

But how does it all work? Pretty great. I’m not sure if it’s the extra spacing between the halves or the height of the keyboard or what… but I found it much easier to type on this keyboard and get up to full speed again within just a few hours. The sculpture-like frame makes it feel like you’re typing on a piece of modern art, and it feels almost as good as it looks. 

The new assembly design and foam structure give the keyboard a lightweight, almost marbly sound. I was sent the pre-assembled version which uses acrylic Glacier keycaps and Icy Silver switches. The combination makes for quite a lightshow when the RGB shines through, but AM have somehow managed to give these caps a bit more body to the sound profile. It’s a very unique sound overall and is very pleasant to my ears. I still wouldn’t say it’s the best sounding keyboard, especially at this price, but it’s good nonetheless. 

The leaf spring implementation is also very, very well done. It took me a little bit to wrap my head around. On my prototype, I had to manually bend the springs up a bit so they had more room to flex. I believe this will be changed with the final production version. With that done, the keyboard has noticeable bounce even when typing normally in its softest setting. In its firmest setting, there is almost none at all. The flex can be enhanced further by removing some of the bottom foam. 

The downside to having such a complicated, multi-part keyboard is that assembly and disassembly are much more complicated. It took me far too long before I realized there was a magnetic plate covering the screws on the front. There are quite a few screws to remove each half and adjust the leaf springs, so I suggest testing the flex before putting everything back together again. Angry Miao did simplify things somewhat from the Cyberboard, however, and the battery pack now uses a set of contact terminals, so you don’t have to fuss with anything more than the ribbon cables attaching each side. 

The only issue I had with the layout is the position of the right shift key. It’s directly in line with the up arrow button, which makes hitting up arrow by mistake much too easy. Otherwise, it’s a very effective, well-done layout.

Angry Miao AFA - Typing Demo

Final Thoughts

At $680 for the base kit (no switches or keycaps) and $795 for the pre-assembled bundle, the AFA is quite an expensive custom keyboard. It’s also innovative and wholly unique. Like most of its products, the Angry Miao AFA is a boutique product designed for enthusiasts. It’s out of my personal price range, but I honestly love it. It’s my favorite Alice-styled keyboard by far, and Angry Miao has made major strides from the Cyberboard to make this its best keyboard yet. Buy this keyboard for its originality, its feel… for the art inherent in its design. It’s not cheap but it certainly is great. 

The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes

8.5Great
Pros
  • Unique, innovative,a and well executed: easily Angry Miao’s best yet
  • Excellent customization options, great sound and feel
  • Premium materials and craftsmanship
  • Incredible wireless battery life
  • More ergonomic than most Alice keyboards
Cons
  • Layout has a learning curve
  • Expensive, even by custom standards
  • Position of right shift can lead to typos


GameByNight

Christopher Coke

Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight