Regular readers will know I’m a big fan of mechanical keyboards. These clicky-style keyboards have grown in popularity over the past year or so. Gamers particularly love the more tactile feedback of mechanical designs and they are far more enjoyable for typing on than a traditional laptop keyboard with shallow travel.
Lofree is a new peripheral brand that has just launched its second mechanical keyboard through crowdfunding. The Lofree Block is a minimalist design that harks back to the 1970s with its beige color scheme and a layout reminiscent of the original IBM PC keyboards.
Lofree’s designers say they have drawn inspiration for the Block’s aesthetics from Braun, the famous German brand best known for its classic calculators, clocks and even hi-fi. The keyboard has a slightly retro and boxy look and is recognizable by a couple of Hermès orange knobs. One of the knobs functions as a volume and mute control, while the other is a mode selector for choosing the connection method or turning the keyboard’s power off altogether.
The Lofree Block isn’t just a pretty face. It’s one of the most robust and pleasing keyboards I’ve ever typed on. To offer an improved typing experience, the Block has a layer of foam and Poron damping material that deadens the resonance of the switches and reduces the cavity sounds you get with most other mechanical keyboards.
The switches used in the Lofree Block are full-POM (Polyoxymethylene) switches customized by TTC. The POM material self-lubricates, ensuring the switches stay smooth over their whole operational life.
All the keys are fully hot-swappable for any other MX-compatible mechanical switches. The overall look of the Lofree Block is pleasingly square and angular, with a 98-key layout. Unlike many other keyboard designs, the cursor-key cluster fits in line with the bottom row of keys. This arrangement gives the Block a more coherent and squared-off appearance.
Between the numeric keypad and the primary keys, the Block has a small and narrow LCD panel that looks like a panel of shiny black plastic when the keyboard is turned off. Once the power is turned on, the LCD panel displays the remaining battery life in the form of four bars, Caps Lock status, and the method the keyboard uses to connect with the host device.
There are three ways of connecting the Lofree Block to a computer. The first is via a regular Bluetooth link. There are three Bluetooth channels on the Blcok, which means you can connect up to three different Bluetooth devices and easily switch between them. The other two methods are a USB-C cable or the Wireless RF dongle supplied with the keyboard.
The Wireless RF dongle provides a lower latency connection than Bluetooth, which is useful for gamers who want a faster response time because every millisecond matters when gaming at an elite level. If you want the lowest possible latency, USB-C cable may be the best bet as that has a polling rate of 1,000Hz. The keyboard also supports N-Key rollover.
The Lofree Block supports both Windows and macOS layouts. The keycaps cater for either operating system and a physical switch can set the keyboard to work with Mac or PC. As you might expect with a wireless mechanical keyboard, the Lofree Block has backlit keys that can be set at various brightness levels and with 14 animation effects.
The backlight color is limited to white, so if you want gaudy RGB backlights, you’ll need to look elsewhere. Battery life for the Block is excellent and quoted at up to 40 hours. I typed on the keyboard for a week with the backlights turned off. My use didn’t make a dent in the remaining battery life indicator.
The PBT material used to make the Block’s keycaps is incredibly hard-wearing. These keys won’t go shiny after just a few days of use. The legends are printed using dye-sublimation and appear wonderfully sharp and easy to see.
Lofree is also selling a matching mini wireless mouse with the Lofree Block. The mouse has wonderfully tactile mouse buttons that look like keycaps. They can even be replaced with custom keys, just like the keyboard. There’s also a similar LCD panel on the mouse that lets you set the DPI of the mouse and the method of connection, which can be Bluetooth, Wireless RF or wired. The mouse may be a bit small for some people’s hands, but it’s a satisfying rodent to use and tracks very well.
Verdict: If you love retro keyboards, then the Lofree Block is bound to appeal with its 1970s retro chic. The compact size and full numeric keypad make it ideal for spreadsheets and gaming. There’s a complete set of function keys and multimedia keys that work perfectly with macOS. However, the best thing about this mechanical keyboard is that it’s a dream to type on with keys that sound deadened and provide satisfying tactile feedback. Mechanical keyboards don’t get much better than the Lofree Block. Highly Recommended.
Pricing & Availability: The Lofree Block is available to order now and costs $169.95 / £132.95. The Lofree Block Mouse costs $69,99 / £55.06. Forbes readers can claim a 10% discount by using the code: Forbes10.
More info: www.lofree.co
- Material: ABS.
- Structure: Gasket.
- Number of keys: 98.
- Multifunction keys: 13.
- Switch type: Linear.
- Hot-swappable: Yes.
- Sound damping: Silicone.
- Shaft pad: IXPE foam.
- Bottom pad: Poron.
- Connection modes: BT x 3, USB-C, 2.4GHz RF dongle.
- N-key Rollover Support: Yes
- Dimensions: 384 x 126.5 x 19.5mm
- Weight: 1090g.
- Lube: Factory.
- Battery capacity: 2,000mAh.
- Battery life: Up to 40 hours.
- Backlight: White with 14 effects.
- Sensor: PAW3805.
- DPI Range: 800 – 4000DPI.
- Polling rate: 500Hz.
- Battery: 650mAh.
- Battery life: 75 hours of continuous use.
- Autosleep: 1 minute.
- Material: PBT/ABS/PC.
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0/Wireless 2.4G/Type C.
- Weight: 105g.
- Dimension: 108 x 68.5 x 42.5mm.