Personal computers were born in the plastic age, so there’s something beautifully retro about seeing PC peripherals crafted from wood.
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The Orée Board is a Bluetooth wireless keyboard, closely modelled on the current Apple Wireless Keyboard, only built around a wood platform and with wooden keys. It’s a delicious idea, putting something altogether more natural, organic and tactile on the desk rather than the usual sterile plastic and metal.
Two different wood finishes are offered, a dark walnut or light maple. You can choose from various language layouts too: US, UK, German, Canadian English, Canadian French and Swiss.
It’s designed for both PC and tablets, with certain keys specific for each platform, depending on whether you choose Mac/iPad or Windows key layouts.
The typeface that appears on each keycap can be Didot (classic serif in upper case), Fedra (san-serif in upper case, like that on Apple’s keyboard) and MrsEaves (a lower-case modern serif).
We thought the walnut finish with Fedra on a UK layout looked best on the company’s website and requested a review sample. The maple finish with MrsEaves and US layout that arrived was not so much to our taste; but the real problem were the usability issues that made this keyboard too awkward for us to use for any longer than we needed to write this review.
The quality of the wood and its finish are excellent, each key not only accurately cut to size and well-placed within its cutout, but also carefully arranged so that the keys are positioned correctly, with the original wood grain flowing naturally from key to key.
Orée Board keyboards are crafted and assembled by hand by French woodworkers
Key legends were a little feint on our sample but legible enough. Other markings were less clear on the function key line – the Mac/iPad keyboard is a hybrid keyboard for two quite different platforms, so we see the Macintosh Command key either side of the Spacebar; but also the iPad shortcuts such as Search on F2 and Lock on F5.
There are three small LED holes on top, the first to indicate Caps Lock, the second lights while pairing and the third to show low batteries. The keyboard is powered by two AAA batteries, accessed through a long hatch underneath.
Orée Board: In use
Using the Orée Board was not as comfortable as we hoped for such an attractive offering. Paired with a MacBook on our desk, the first issue was with the keycaps’ lack of regulation bumps on the home keys of F and J. This made locating keys by touch nigh-on impossible without frequently looking down.
When we did start typing, the keyboard would wander around the desk. The maple version at least is exceptionally light at 332g and has a very smooth finish underneath. There’s nothing to secure it in place – no rubber strip or feet on the underside to prevent it slipping. We could have resorted to Blu-Tack to hold it down, but instead found ourselves pressing the keys differently to guard against all the movement, which proved quite tiring.
The all-important key-switch action we found relatively soft, directly comparable to the Apple Wireless Keyboard although the flat-top keycaps here were more wobbly atop the membrane switches than we prefer.
It’s a very quiet action though, even quieter than the Apple blueprint keyboard, although a slight warp to the wood meant the keyboard would rattle on the desktop a little as we typed.
Our typing accuracy suffered using this keyboard, with somme characters appearing twice and others – especially W for some reason – needing extra taps to print. Double spaces were a frequent occurence too.
We also experienced connection issues. The Orée connects via Bluetooth and uses a recent Broadcom BT 3.0 chipset; however we found on occasion that it would not wake our laptop from sleep. And several times over a feew days of testing the keyboard would spontaneously lose its Bluetooth connection, before then reconnecting itself.