Just like luxury clothes or shoes, we tend to lean towards more well-known brands for our tech because it’s safe and familiar. MONKA, however, has completely turned my world upside down this week with brand loyalty. I’ve been in the market for a while for a keyboard that I could use for both my writing and gaming that wouldn’t break the bank. MechKeys was kind enough to send us their MONKA AE98 keyboard to try out which just so happened to tick all of those boxes and more.
- $89.99 (MechKeys)
- Three-Mode Connectivity(Wireless 2.4GHz, Bluetooth 3.0/5.0, Wired USB Type-C).
- Customized Sea Salt & Sakura Pink Switches.
- Hot-Swappable Sockets.
- Gasket Mounted Structure.
- 98% Arrangement.
- Dual-Tone PBT Keycaps.
- PC Positioning Board.
- Silicone Padded Structure Design.
- Compatible With Multiple Systems(Android/Windows/Mac).
- RGB Backlight with Pre-Built Effects.
- Musical RGB Effects.
- Adjustable RGB Logo.
- Large 3000mAh Battery.
Packaging is always important, and MONKA definitely didn’t skimp on their packaging for the AE98. Wrapped in a beautiful lavender and white cardboard box, the AE98 keyboard rests in a snug plastic case and is covered with a clear plastic protector for the keys. In addition to the keyboard, they’ve included a nice bag of replacement yellow switches, a branded keycap/switch puller, and instructions if needed. I’m one of those, and I’m not throwing them out. Time to put this baby to work.
You’ve seen how bulky 100% keyboards can be, but I haven’t been able to give them up. I just cannot live without my full numpad on my keyboard, and I’m lost without my separate directional keys. I’ve tried it before on some of the newer, fancy-schmancy keyboards that are super tiny and I just can’t get behind the overlapping button layout. It just doesn’t feel natural. I’m also not familiar with a 98% keyboard, which is what the MONKA AE98 is advertised as.
However, I think the core differences may lie in the smaller right Shift key which makes more room for the arrow keys and the overall condensed nature of the keys. Additional keys like Home, End, and PgUp and PgDn were moved to a function key position on the numpad - which felt right. No searching through the entire keyboard until I found the key I wanted in a nonsensical layout. I didn’t know that I needed a 98% keyboard in my life, but it honestly feels amazing. It’s not too big and bulky, and it’s not too small and inconvenient. It’s just perfect for me.
Previously, I’ve made it known that I’m pretty fond of heavy keyboard frames, but the MONKA AE98 doesn’t quite fit into that category. It’s somewhere in the middle. The frame has a little bit of bend which might be alarming for some, but it still has a nice heft to the body which makes it feel sturdy and comfortable to game on. If you’re worried about it going anywhere-it won’t. Another contributing factor to this flex is probably the gasket-mounted structure. From MONKA, “The keyboard plate is placed firmly between the top and bottom covers using soft gasket mounts allowing for a flexible rebound on each keystroke.”
With the gasket-mounted structure, the AE98 we reviewed also came with pre-lubed Gateron G Pro Yellow 2.0 switches. These switches are linear, extremely quiet, and smooth as butter. I’ve been typing on Cherry MX Red switches for almost a year now, so the change was fairly drastic.
At first, it took some time to get used to the pressure change. There is a considerably heavier operating force on the Gateron G Pro Yellow 2.0 switches that I wasn’t sure I’d like at first. However, after typing and gaming for a few days in a row, I think I may have found a new favorite switch. The Gateron switches combined with MONKA’s gasket-mounted structure combined to form a lovely typing experience.
One of my favorite features of the AE98, is the hot-swappable sockets. It’s no secret that I’ve also been wanting to dip my toes into the world of custom keyboards, and this keyboard is a perfect beginner frame to work with. If you ever get tired of the included switches or want something that feels a bit more tactile, you can change them to any 3-pin or 5-pin switches. Pretty swanky!
While it doesn’t seem like MONKA has any specific software you can download to use with the keyboard, there are a few pre-set colors available already programmed into the Delete key, and MONKA claims that this keyboard “supports customized software for RGB programming and also swapping different functions between programmable keys.” Every company has their own brand of bloatware that can cause conflicts with other RGB products you have, so I was a little surprised to see that it wasn’t included.
With that being said, I’m kind of fond of it, or the lack thereof. Realizing how many programs I already had on my computer prompted me look for other alternatives that might cover both my MONKA keyboard and mouse. There are a few programs out there like OpenRGB that close the software gap for free, so it isn’t much of an issue for me.
The last features I was thoroughly impressed with were the three separate connection modes (Wireless 2.4GHz, Bluetooth 3.0/5.0, and Wired USB Type-C) and the incredible battery life. Over the weekend, I went to my partner’s home for a late-night gaming session and decided to bring MONKA’s AE98 keyboard with me. I actually found myself using all three modes when a rough snowstorm hit and knocked out most of our power for the day.
Before the power went out, I connected the keyboard to our spare computer with the USB cord and plunked away at Stardew Valley or dug up some archaeology artifacts in WoW. After a while, I pulled out the wireless dongle that was inserted into the base of the keyboard (and secured with a magnet) and tested out the wireless connection. Absolutely no shift in performance-they both worked perfectly. I didn’t feel any hiccups in between pressing a key and it registering the keystroke. When I wanted to focus on my writing, I dredged out my chromebook and connected the AE98 via Bluetooth for a little bit of worldbuilding. Let’s face it…the Chromebook keyboard really isn’t the best. Like the wireless connection, I was pleasantly surprised! All three modes worked seamlessly, and sacrificed no feedback when swapping between them.
As I mentioned a moment ago, the 3000mAh battery is fantastic. The keyboard actually outlasted my both Chromebook and my cellphone battery through the two days it took the storm to pass and then some!
To say I’m very impressed with this little package is a huge understatement. For $89.99, I’m incredibly happy with the MONKA AE98 and definitely see myself purchasing another keyboard if my clumsiness dooms my setup. I’d consider this a great budge keyboard, with a ton of fantastic features for those hobbyists looking to get into custom keyboards. I know for most (including myself) almost $90 isn’t really “budget-friendly” for tech, but compared to some mainstream keyboards that are offering the same features for $100 more, I think it’s a fantastic alternative.