Redesigning an input device is a risky business. When Apple introduced its latest MacBooks, some users complained that the new butterfly mechanism in the keys was a turnoff. They criticized the keyboard for its lack of travel, and said the experience of typing was not much different to tapping on a touch screen. Other users felt okay with the change. Whichever side people fell on the debate, everyone could agree that how a keyboard actually feels beneath the fingers matters a great deal.
With the lofree Bluetooth keyboard, the designers have tried to re-imagine the typing process in a more radical way, by recreating the experience of operating a traditional typewriter, but in an elegant retro-modern design. The desirability of such a product is in no doubt – lofree's Indiegogo campaign set out to raise $10,000 over 30 days, but has already garnered $364,443 from over 4,000 backers, with several weeks to spare. We got a hold of a finished unit to see if the lofree keyboard can live up to expectations.
Design and Features
The first thing that struck me about the lofree was its sheer heft. At 800 grams, it's pretty heavy – the Apple Magic Keyboard is just 321 grams – but the extra weight has a stabilizing influence and adds to the retro feel. It features a sturdy rounded plastic base, with two rubber legs at the back that raise the keys high off the desk at a six degree angle.
On the right-hand side of the keyboard is a micro-USB port for charging as well as for connecting in wired mode using the included cable. There's a switch next to the port to turn Bluetooth on/off. The second switch sets the keyboard for use on Mac/iOS or Windows/Android, but a quick look at the layout shows the lofree has been designed primarily with Apple users in mind.
The functional layout on the top row houses the usual controls you'd expect of an Apple keyboard, like Mission Control, Launchpad, volume, and so on. However, overall the keys are more crowded, and there are some changes to the layout, the main one being the fact that the number key row lines up differently, so 1 is slightly right of Q, 2 is right of W, and so on. Eagle-eyed readers may have noticed key numbers 1, 2, and 3 all have Bluetooth symbols. These are used in combination with the fn key to quickly switch between up to three paired devices.
The keycaps are raised off the ba