A week with: The Orée wooden keyboard
As thick as a plank (not in a bad way...)
Windows and Mac compatible
Bluetooth 3.0 chipset
Maple or walnut construction
What is it?
This review is being written on a wooden keyboard. Earth-loving techies have already had a bamboo smartphone from ADzero and there's a London-based outfit making bamboo bikes (as featured in on these pages earlier this year goo.gl/ahnygb), but this particular piece of wooden kit is hewn from a single piece of QWERTY-friendly walnut or maple.
It's made by a French firm called Orée, which has ditched black plastic keys and even the shiny white and chrome loved by Apple users. Instead it sources its materials from a forest near the Jura mountains in the Alps.
The idea behind Orée is to move away from impersonal materials and towards eco-friendly ones, so the wood is harvested sustainably, each board is assembled by hand and the keys are laser-etched. The result is that it feels warmer and more pleasant to touch than an Apple or standard PC product, which, frankly – at £130 – it bloody well should (Orée is based in France, but ships to the UK).
Obviously the wood grain and colour pattern differs from keyboard to keyboard. That's part of the charm, though, and you can even choose from a selection of pretty illustrations from a Spanish artist, including a neat set of birds and plants to run above the function keys at the top of the board.
What does it do?
Everything a normal keyboard does except with the soundtrack of the forest, well, nice wooden tapping sounds. It's offered with either Windows or Mac/iOS key layouts and runs on a Bluetooth 3.0 chipset which means it should run for several months (I'm several weeks in) on two AAA batteries.
Is it any good?
Pairing it to your machine is easy – my test model did occasionally lose connection and require attention – but the best bit is the sensation of typing – it's lovely. The key action is positively finger-tapping and soft to touch, which is a refreshing change from my black HP board at work. Orée says the board is primarily aimed at tablet users – who are currently poorly served by naff tablet-specific boards – and it's fairly easy to get up to a good typing speed. One concern would be how well the wood would age. It is given a fine varnish, but only time will tell how well it keeps keyboard dirt at bay.
That said, it can't be worse or more unhygienic than most plastic boards.
Is it worth the money?
In French, Orée means "at the edge of the forest" or "at the brink of something new". That's rather fancy for a keyboard, but then again not every board can claim that it was designed by award-winning designer Franck Fontana and produced with the help of Christophe Della Signora, of Compagnon du Tour de France, the most prestigious cabinet-making group in the country. It's certainly a pretty and pleasing thing, but whether it's worth the high-end price tag depends on the value you put on design in everyday objects.
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