As someone who works at their desk 90 percent of the time, I’m a sucker for anything that improves the look of my workspace. If you’re tiring of black plastic and brushed metals, you might be interested in the latest toy that arrived at my doorstep a couple of weeks ago: Oree’s Board Essential wooden wireless keyboard.
For $150, you get a handcrafted Bluetooth keyboard made entirely from a single piece of wood, with custom configurations for Windows and Mac/iOS. And this isn’t Oree’s first rodeo, it’s been in the business of making quality equipment for a while now. But is worthy of your desk? I put the Essential through three weeks of use to find out.
The compact Essential is practically identical to Oree’s Board from 2013, but has an arguably better finish that lets the wood grain shine through more prominently. Looking closely at the pictures from our previous review, it seems like the French company has also managed to improve on the engraving and cutting processes for the keys.
Whether you’re glancing at the Essential for the first time or examining it closely for the 100th time, you’ll be impressed by the impeccable craftsmanship on this baby. I love little details like how the keycap letters that feature an elegant serif font and are precisely engraved, and the subtly rounded corners that make this a delight to touch, even when you’re not typing.
The company says it responsibly sources maple and walnut from family-owned farms forests in Eastern France, so you can rest assured that you aren’t hurting the planet too much with your purchase. The tone of my maple review unit is beautifully rich, and it’s a joy to feel the grain beneath my fingertips.
Now for the bad news: the Essential doesn’t have any legs, so you can’t adjust the height or angle at which it rests on your desk. That’s a bummer for folks who might be used to a taller keyboard. I’m a mechanical keyboard guy myself, and this device’s shorter profile does take a while to get the hang of.
When it comes to typing comfort, the Essential is comparable to most membrane-equipped keyboards, with a bit more travel than a laptop keyboard. It’s pleasant enough with a fair bit of feedback – just don’t expect it to hold a candle to any mechanical keyboard you might have used before.
The device pairs with your desktop or phone over Bluetooth without any fuss, and shortcut keys like those for controlling volume and media playback work right out of the box.
For the most part, I enjoyed typing on the Essential while banging out a couple thousand words a day at work, but it’s worth noting that the experience is marred by the lack of dedicated Home, End, and Page Up/Down keys on its compact layout. Additionally, you might find it more comfortable to use with a gel pad that raises your wrists a bit.
Touch Slab Trackpad
Oree also sent across its matching $150 Touch Slab wireless trackpad, which looks beautiful alongside the Essential. Its clever design allows it to double as a numpad – you can simply swipe from the bottom to switch between modes.
The number keys are engraved onto the trackpad – but the treatment on my review unit was so light that I had trouble spotting the digits on it most of the time. Between that and the lack of any sort of haptic feedback, I found myself avoiding using the numpad functionality on the Slab.
No feedback also means that folks who are used to a mouse may have trouble getting used to it – it’s a bit more of a usability niggle than if you’re switching to an Apple trackpad which does offer some amount of feedback. But boy, these beauties sure do look good on a desk together.
Should you buy the Essential?
If you like well crafted gear and are looking to trick out your workstation, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more elegant option than Oree’s Essential. It works as well as a membrane keyboard should and its finish has held up to my greasy fingers for the past few weeks, so I’m happy to recommend it as a personal indulgence or a gift for that special design connoisseur in your life.
As for the Touch Slab – it’s certainly not a bad product, and it does complement the Essential nicely. But it’s not the best trackpad you can buy, and it’s certainly not the best numpad by a long shot. At $150, it’s also a bit pricier than I’d like for a niche accessory like this. So, in my mind, the only way it makes sense is if you’re looking to pair it with the Essential.
Find the Essential over at Oree’s site for $149, where it ships within roughly two weeks, or find it on Amazon for $165 in the US. The Touch Slab is also available for $149 on Oree’s site and for $160 at Amazon US.