Back in 2008, I complained here about Apple keyboards. Apple still hasn’t addressed my complaint (hard to believe, I know). So, 15 years later, as in late 2023, I picked up a Lofree “Flow”, which I gather had a Kickstarter and advertises itself as “The smoothest mechanical keyboard”. I’ve been using it long enough to offer opinions.
The problem with Apple keyboards is illustrated by the picture below; The Lofree is in the middle.
They’re all wireless. While the small Apple product at the bottom is really old, today’s equivalent has the same problems: There are no Home, End, PgUp, and PgDn keys, and the arrow keys are annoyingly small. The larger Apple at the top wastes space on the accountants’ number pad.
The LoFree is small enough and has the keys I want.
Why? · There are several places where I work regularly, and none of them feature a large desk, to the extent that if I have one or more of coffee, printed document, camera, or whatever else on the desk, things get crowded. So small is good.
Also, I use the navigation keys but never the number grid.
Also, those last few years at AWS a few of the engineers near where I sat had fancy keyboards with multiple colors and would argue about key-feel options.
Now, I generally like Apple keyboards and managed to avoid buying any of the infamous “butterfly” models. But there was this rave review in The Verge and I was trying to avoid some boring work that I was supposed to do, and there was a Black Friday sale, so here I am, my fingers now laying down a mellow rhythm section behind the creation of the prose melody you are now reading.
What’s good · The feel and the sound. I got the tactile “Phantom” keys rather than the linear “Ghost” option, so I can’t report on the latter, but I don’t play twitchy games and the consensus seems to be that tactile is good for a fast touch typist. I’m not as blindingly fast as I used to be but I’m still north of 100wpm. It may be relevant that I have big fat farmer’s fingers and have always hit keyboards pretty hard.
I’m struggling a bit for vocabulary to describe how this thing feels. I’ll settle for “eager” — the keys feel like they’re working with me to inject these blogwords into the noösphere.
As for the sound, it’s just delicious; low but distinct, and to my ears, euphonious.
Obvious problems · You might as well work with the thing plugged in, because the battery isn’t big enough and (perhaps to compensate) the Bluetooth goes to sleep quickly and (when unplugged) wakes up slowly.
The backlighting is lousy; it illuminates the edges of the keys adequately, but the letterforms only weakly. (Which for a touch typist is usually not a problem.) The “ambient” lighting is ridiculous; think of the flames on Wayne and Garth’s Mirthmobile. And if you have the lights turned up it runs the battery down even faster.
I should mention that the enthusiast community is annoyed that they have trouble (on some systems) customizing the keyboard layout, and that the selection of key options is limited. My modestly-customized Mac keyboard layout just worked.
Mobility · My biggest problem is that switching back and forth between the Lofree and an Apple keyboards makes my fingers clumsy for enough minutes to be annoying. Easy enough, just carry the Lofree around. It’s not big and despite the metal-not-plastic frame, is acceptably light. Except for, there isn’t a carrying case on offer. Which feels like a real miss.
Success? · Oh, definitely. Typing on it makes me happy. None of the problems interfere much given the way I use it. I guess the nav buttons are a little small but my fingers are starting to know where they are. Those big fat arrow keys are great. No, I’m not going to tumble over the edge onto the slippery slope of keyboard obsession. But this first step turned out fine.