Keyboards can be tricky gadgets. They need to have the right design while fitting the needs of users, which can be far-ranging. Some prefer Apple's flatter keyboards while others like mechanical keyboards because they provide satisfying feedback.
The Lofree Mechanical Keyboard doesn't really follow the path of either approach. Instead, it was inspired by typewriters of a bygone era. It features circular keys and a compact size while adding modern features like backlighting and Bluetooth connectivity.
The backlit keys are one of my favorite features of the keyboard. I typically use an Apple Magic Keyboard, which doesn't have backlit keys, so it's a nice change of pace. The brightness of the Lofree can be toggled to four different settings: off, weak, moderate and strong.
On my desk at work, I hook up a 13-inch MacBook Pro to a 27-inch Samsung display. I also use an aluminum laptop stand and display stand, and the keyboard fits right in with this aesthetic. When setting the keyboard up, the process was simple—the same as any other Bluetooth accessory. It can also connect to three different devices.
Lofree said its keyboard was specifically made to work with Macs. It works with Windows, iOS and Android too, but the primary focus was on Mac integration. It features the same function keys present in Apple's keyboards, along with the command keys that make shortcuts really easy.
But the best feature of the keyboard is its design.
It features a plastic round base with a glossy finish that's sturdy and gives it a certain heft. On the right side are the on/off and Mac (iOS)/Windows (Android) toggles. The black keys provide a good contrast with the white base. The keyboard was initially only available in three colors (blue, red and white), but has since expanded to many more options.
Gateron Blue mechanical switches were used to provide a feedback similar to a typewriter. When typing, it tries to mimic the same function, but it feels slightly manufactured. Aside from a few annoyances I encountered with the keys (I'll get to them soon), typing on this keyboard is strangely fun. There's something reverential about writing on a typewriter and this is the closest you can get to that experience while also retaining the benefits of a modern keyboard.
However, the keys do take some getting used to. They're more crowded than, say, an Apple keyboard, making it difficult to take on.
Not only are the keys really crowded, but the layout of the right side is frustrating. The backspace and shift key are combined into a single key, something that drove me nuts for the first few days. I made so many errors I had to take a break. It was frustrating hitting the wrong key every time I tried to type.
I struggled for a few days before finally adjusting. And, even then, it still required a lot of focus when pressing the right shift key.
The arrow keys are also really annoying. The left, right and down keys are fine, but the top arrow key is off-center to make room for the (annoying) right shift key. Not sure why the designers didn't just move the shift key to the far-most right side. This design decision was the primary source of my typos. In an effort to hit the shift key, I'd hit the top arrow key and move the cursor, which often led to the deletion of entire sentences. Luckily Command-Z fixed those mistakes, but my patience wasn't re-conjured up as easily.
The keyboard comes equipped with a rechargeable battery, which Lofree says is on a par with some of today's most popular Bluetooth keyboards. Upon receiving it, I fully charged it up and never encountered any low battery indicators in five full days of use. It also comes with an auto-sleep mode that Lofree claims will extend the keyboard's battery. It falls asleep when you don't use it for a few minutes, but once you resume your typing, it darts up super-quick.
Still, for all the quirky nuances of this keyboard, I actually really enjoyed it. It definitely has that hipster-accessory vibe, but as a mechanical keyboard, it's surprisingly enjoyable once you get past the early pains of adjustment.
The Lofree keyboard is now available on Indiegogo for $74, but the retail price will be higher at $99.
I typed this entire review on the keyboard. I still made my fair share of mistakes, but nothing the tiny backspace key wasn't able to fix. I'm not sure I would recommend it at its $99 price retail price. It's more of a fixture for your desk than a tool to improve your writing, but if you're looking for a cool looking mechanical keyboard that plays really well with Mac, this is an option worth considering.
Disclaimer: TechnoBuffalo received a Lofree Mechanical Keyboard to review. I used it for 5 days.