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Akko MU01 Mountain Seclusion review

In this review I write about yet another Akko masterpiece: the MU01 Mountain Seclusion, a 65% wireless keyboard in a gorgeous walnut case.

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Published June 11, 2024
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Woohoo! I've been eagerly waiting for this MU01 Mountain Seclusion (EU/US) ever since the Akko EU team asked me if I'd like to review it, even before mass production started. In fact, my muggle coworkers were similarly excited, one of them keeping me asking almost daily if the "wooden keyboard" has arrived yet. For two months…

Well, it's here, it's as gorgeous as expected, and here are my thoughts about it.

TLDR; The MU01 is another piece of art by Akko. Wireless, hotswap, beautiful walnut case, incredible attention to detail, excellent build quality. Decent typing feel and heartwarming thock out of the box. Again, it's more for the casual typer than serious keymap wizards (no VIA support and no layers in the proprietary software either). If you prefer VIA support, other Akko boards may suit you better.

Disclaimer

The kind folks at Akko EU sent me this MU01. (Thanks a lot guys!) As you already know: I'm not being paid to write this review, but getting a free sample may result in all kinds of bias on its own, both positive and negative in my experience. Take everything I write with a grain of salt.

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Feel free to look up the product in Akko's localized stores, most notably the Akko EU and Akko US site (partially shipping from Canada as I was told). The KBDNEWS coupon should work in both stores but prices and discounts will differ.

Variants

The initial MU01 flyer I was shown back in early April suggested there were two variants: I explicitly asked for the Mountain Seclusion which I fell in love with immediately, but there was also an Autumn version (US).

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There is an EU product page prepared too, indicating it's "sold out" which probably means it is not yet available here? Maybe.

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However, it seems there's a new Joy of Life MU01 variant too which I did not know about.

First impressions, design language

I'm blown away by the walnut case, the attention for detail (look at that USB connector) and the coherent design language. The MOA keycap profile fits the design perfectly, just like the 5-side dye-sub here and there, familiar from the Year of Dragon keyboard.

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While testing the keyboard, some people visited my office so I had the opportunity to ask around how they like the design. One person mentioned that the golden metal strip may be a bit too much, but I personally find it coherent with the wood.

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All in all, similarly to the Dragon board: your eyes keep moving from one pattern to the next, discovering all the small details of the case and keycaps – as it's usual in the case of a real piece of art.

Specs

  • prebuilt 65% keyboard, three-mode wireless (switch beneath the Tab key)
  • walnut case (CNC)
  • keycaps: Dye-sub PBT, MOA profile, some of them 5-side printed
  • switches: 45gf Akko V3 Piano Pro linear switches (MX)
  • hotswap
  • plate: FR4 with lots of flex cuts
  • gasket mount
  • South-facing RGB
  • typing angle: ~8°
  • dimensions: 337x125.3x46.7mm
  • weight: 0.85kg

Unboxing & Contents

In the nice cardboard box you have the prebuilt Akko MU01 with Piano switches and MOA caps mounted, along with a black cable, tools, wireless dongle, some extra switches, quickstart guide – and some wax and cloth for polishing the walnut case? :) The product page and box don't mention this so it was a nice surprise.

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Layout

The layout is 65%, basically you take a classic 60% board and snap an extra column to its right side. 68 keys. Number row but no F-row.

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What else? The arrow cluster is not offset, but being located in the corner you have the opportunity to anchor your hand when coming from the home row.

Keycaps

Dye-sublimated PBT keycaps in MOA profile. The sublegends of the the alpha caps mimic brushstrokes and Chinese calligraphy, the backspace and spacebar allegedly feature Wang Wei's classic poem:

Embrace the beauty of Chinese poetry and landscape art with the MU01 Mountain Seclusion keyboard. The keycap feature the complete poem "Autumn Twilight in the Mountain Abode" alongside stunning Chinese landscape paintings.

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The muted Earth tones match the wooden case perfectly, just like the sparely sprinkled dark red accents here and there.

Some keycaps received 5-sided dye sub, mostly the modifiers and the keys of the rightmost column.

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The MOA profile, if you are not familiar with it, is uniform and spherical. Relatively high, about the height of Cherry's R1 (number row). A bit higher than XDA, KAM or ASA, and a lot higher than DSA – just to name some similar uniform profiles.

Switches

A switch called Piano should guarantee the excellent sound. Joke aside, the sound is indeed a relatively loud, pronounced and heartwarming thockish one. At least for my ear. I personally love it, haven't really heard such a characteristic sound coming out of a prebuilt keyboard for a long time (maybe the Luminkey80) – however, this is subjective. Your coworkers' enthusiasm may quickly start to wane, especially hours into a long typing session in an open office. :D

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Akko Piano Pro V3 switch specs

  • Type: linear
  • Operating force: 45gf ± 5gf
  • Total travel: 3.1mm
  • Pre-travel: 1.9 ± 0.5mm

Stabilizers

Purple plate-mounted stabilizers, but the PCB is ready for screw-in stabs too if you fancy those.

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Build quality, structure

So wood is tricky. Wood is a living material potentially causing all kinds of tolerance issues, making production more difficult, etc.

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That said, the case I received is simply perfect. I can't see any issues, not the slightest aesthetic one. Even the endgrain sides look cool and are nice to the touch. Of course the finishing is a bit rougher in the inside, but that's normal with wooden stuff.

Case

Typing angle: fixed 8 degrees (no adjustable feet).

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PCB

The board, while easy to disassemble, was probably meant with those users in mind who don't usually eviscerate their keyboards on first contact. Obviously, since we are talking about a prebuilt keyboard.

The PCB is MX compatible, supports screw-in stabs, and of course wireless modes.

Plate

FR4 plate with flex cuts. It isn't that flexible, probably because of the thick switch foam below it.

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Gaskets

Yep, gasket mounting. As you probably know, this design allows for even more flex and cushioning, which can result in a softer typing experience.

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Sound & Sound dampening

Plenty of foam: 3mm plate foam, another 3mm bottom foam with cutouts for the hotswap sockets, and there's a thin layer on the bottom of the case too.

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As already mentioned, the sound is loud and I'd say more on the thocky side of the spectrum (depending on the circumstances). Here is Akko's video, decide it for yourself:

RGB

The board comes with per-key RGB backlighting. I'm still not the target audience for this and maybe the RGB feature is less fitting when it comes to a wooden keyboard with a classy look. Nevertheless, I understand that this is a must-have feature and major selling point for many.

The default caps and case successfully block most of the light, so you can see it only between the caps.

Software

The MU01 IS NOT VIA/Vial compatible! For some features there is the Akko Cloud Driver, however, it lacks layer support.

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By the way, the keyboard is pre-built and works out of the box of course, so you don't even have to install the Akko software if you are content with the factory settings and keymap.

That said, if you'd like to customize your keymap, there's the Akko Cloud Diver software, which, as I wrote earlier, is moderately intuitive but feature-rich (remapping keys, RGB settings, light off and sleep times, etc).

It could be a bit more streamlined with regards to workflow: simply swapping two alpha characters takes 4 clicks in VIA/Vial but 8 clicks here. […] All in all, it's usable but could be improved.

Reproducing my custom layout worked only on the base layer, partially, setting up SpaceFN was impossible a few weeks ago so I haven't bothered with it this time.

Anyway, the target audience being casual keyboard users, the average owner of the MU01 will find the software sufficient.

Wireless

The MU01 is a three-mode wireless board (Bluetooth5.0 / 2.4GHz / USB Type-C) with 4,000mAh battery. Polling rate: 1000Hz in wired and 2.4G mode, 125Hz in Bluetooth mode.

If you wonder: the switch to turn on the battery is hidden beneath the Tab key.

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Portability

Given the wireless features, the relatively compact 65% layout, and weighing only 0.85kg, the MU01 is much more portable than e.g. the recently reviewed chunks of aluminum (MoeeTech Glitter, Akko YoD, Whitefox Eclipse – about 2kg each).

That said, the wooden case is a bit higher than usual so keep this in mind if you'd like to drop it in your bag.

Conclusion

Akko's MU01 is simply beautiful. I'm very glad to have it in my collection, and my colleagues are lining up to have it for a day. :D This very well built 65% wireless keyboard has a special feel and mood, thanks to the walnut case and the whole concept of the MOA caps. More for the casual typer than keymap wizards though – due to the lack of VIA support.

Pros

  • Wood: feels nice and solid, plus it's sustainable!
  • Overall design concept – I love it!
  • Sound – this may be personal preference though.

Cons

  • Software – no VIA/Vial support and no layers either

Availability

There's a 10% and 5% discount (EU/DE vs US) in effect with the KBDNEWS coupon code, so the MU01 can be yours for 129 EUR at Akko EU or $114 Akko US:

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And now, time to wax! :D

(The deskmat shown in the photos came from Zion Studios, it's called Nimbus I guess.)

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Published on Tue 11th Jun 2024. Featured in KBD #167.


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