Wireless + Primary Apple compatibility + Clean design sounds great. But how does the aesthetic design impact on the keyboard's primary function as an input device?
LAYOUT & SIZE
This is quite a compact keyboard at 29.5cm wide, 14cm tall, and about 4cm high at it’s highest point.
We would refer to this as a 75% keyboard, which is relative to a standard 100% full sized keyboard, although it would be more like a 70%. It is missing most of the nav cluster, in which normal 75% boards have some of, making this keyboard a bit shorter.
And it’s essentially the same length as a 60% keyboard, but with somewhat thick bezels.
This gives us more space for other things, like our mouse, which is a more natural ergonomic position, bringing our hands closer together.
DESIGN & BUILD
To go with their typist thinking, they’ve of course gone for a typewriter aesthetic. I personally like this retro look. It features a very full and curvy design, much like many typewriters, like my grandfather's typewriter I have. The corners are rounded, along with the rounded edges
This then extends to the keycaps, which are round spherical caps. Everything just has the edge taken off to give it that very retro feel. But at the same time, it’s very clean and minimalist, despite using more complicated lines than what’s used in today's keyboard designs.
This is available in various colours. Unfortunately I was given the most plain one. Not that I don’t like plain black keyboards, but it’s nice to have something different, and something that doesn’t pick up dust so easily. However we do feature a red backspace keycap.
The entire outer shell is made from plastic and is a pretty smooth satin finish. Fingerprints do show because of its smoothness, but it’s not that bad. However because of the black background and the circle keycaps, the base is very visible and dust is very easy to see, as said before.
The build is actually quite nice. The plastic doesn’t feel particularly cheap, but the main surprise is just how heavy this is, at about 800 grams, which compared to other keyboards, is really quite respectable.
This is only available Gateron Blues. Again, not offering flexibility, but they have chosen a solid switch. They’ve gone for a clicky switch to mimic the loud typewriter noise, and it was nice of them to go with Gateron Blues, even though I don’t mind Outemu Blues as well. So these are tactile and clicky.
See video above for full typing and sound demonstrations.
Now pretty much the biggest complaint with this keyboard from the reviews I’ve seen, is that it’s difficult to type on. And yep, it is a bit troublesome.
Many were saying that it’s the circular keycaps. Which is true to an extent, since they are part of the cause. But in my experience, it’s the alignment of the keys, or the stagger. A standard keyboard will use a normal stagger, where the alignment differs for each row.
This however has a uniform stagger. So if we look at a diagonal column, they line up perfectly. And this of course messes up the spacing between keys.
I am a touch typist, so I don’t need to look at the keys when typing, so keep that in mind. And I think it put me at a disadvantage. For casual typing, I got used to it within minutes, and had no issues with it. The number row was difficult to get used to, and I still do make mistakes when trying to put in a number like when typing out a password.
There are other quirks with this keyboard though. The glaring one is the directional arrow keys being misaligned. Personally, it’s not a huge deal for me, but will definitely be a huge problem for those who often use them. What did happen many times though is that when I tried to hit the shift key that’s right next to it, which is now just a 1 unit key, I accidentally hit the up arrow key.
Another issue I had was the backspace key. It’s further and smaller than usual. If we compare it to a standard ANSI keyboard, the distance from the P key is about 1.5cm further, measuring it like this. And since it is smaller, it takes that bit more effort to hit it.
The enter and left shift key are the only keys that aren’t 1 unit keys, besides the space bar. What’s very interesting is that they’ve gone with 2 switches, rather than a stabilised key. Not sure why they did this, and it seemed like the easy option, so they didn't need to change the shape of the keycap.
But by not having stabilisers, the actuation force required essentially doubles. So these are some heavy keys, especially since we tend to use our weakest fingers to press them.
But on top of that, if we press it on one side, it will of course actuate the first switch first, and then the other, and at the same time, it makes it even more difficult and heavier to press, making it very sluggish. The best place the press it is in the centre, in which there’s not even a finger groove for.
The positioning of the Fn key also messes up with me pressing the left control key.
It will definitely take time to get used to this, and that’s absolutely fine. I’ve tried many different layouts that need time to get used to. But the thing is, there’s no advantage to the layout. It’s not like an ortholinear layout, which aims to reduce finger movement, it’s not like an ergonomic keyboard, and it’s not like a 40% keyboard. Those have reasons behind it, however this is clearly an example of form over function.
So since it is supposed to be a typist's keyboard, in my opinion, there’s quite a few quirks that don’t really go with that philosophy. However, it doesn't excel in much else. Like for gaming, the layout is a bit weird, like with the arrow keys, plus it only has 2 key rollover, meaning that it’s guaranteed registering at least 2 keys, however that’s absolutely fine for normal use.
See video above for analysis.
WIRELESS BLUETOOTH MODE
It can store up to 3 devices, which are designated to the 1, 2, and 3 keys, and the pairing process is really simple using the function key. The battery life is stated as so. However I haven’t been able to test the longevity, as I did used it plugged in and wireless, messing up with the times. However I never did run it flat.
After 5 minutes of inactivity it goes into its sleep mode, helping with that battery life.
Taken from Lofree's Indiegogo page :
How long does the keyboard last on a single charge?
This highly depends on the backlit settings;
Backlit off, normal use: ~6 months
Backlit at 40%, normal use: ~3 weeks
Backlit at 70%, normal use: ~2 weeks
Backlit at 100%, normal use: ~1 week
If it's low on battery, the usb port LED indicator will blink rapidly. You can recharge with the supplied micro USB cable.
At the end of the day, it’s not a keyboard targeted at mechanical keyboard enthusiasts, because it absolutely does trigger a lot of views that we hold. And that’s absolutely fine, it’s just not meant for us. And frankly there’s not too many in this category, where it’s targeting a more average consumer.
The build of the keyboard is quite reasonable, and it’s packing some good weight.
Despite only offering one keyswitch, they've made a solid choice in Gateron Blues, and it does go with their whole typewriter thing. The bluetooth experience is simple and easy to use, and works perfectly, with the battery life stated to be quite good.
However the issue is the typing experience. And that’s the primary function of the keyboard. It’s just not great, however if you’re willing to give it time, then it of course will be fine. But it’s that notion towards aesthetics over function that will turn many away, but it’s evidently not a problem to people with other products. But the attention to looks and it’s accommodation for Apple products is it’s greatest strong point, especially with it’s other colours.
So all up, enthusiast grade. Nope. Gamer grade? Nope. Casual consumer that likes to look at nice things. Yep.