Sometimes you don’t need a bunch of flashy lights and mechanical keyswitches to make a keyboard good. Sometimes you just want a keyboard to look nice, and to feel nice to use. Maybe your PC lives where a PC usually doesn’t — not on an office desk, but next to a TV in your living room or out in an open-plan study. Maybe you appreciate the finer things more than
The circa-$200 Oree Board Essential — which is a further refined, further pared-back version of Oree’s previous wooden keyboards — has both USB and Bluetooth connections available, with an internal battery that recharges whenever you’re typing away while directly connected all the while. You can use it plugged in if your PC doesn’t have Bluetooth, but that spoils its minimalist beauty; think of it as a wireless keyboard first and foremost.
The Board Essential starts out as a single piece of wood; it’s the unibody Apple MacBook of computer peripherals. And I’m sure you’re already cynical about that, and rightly so — but know that it’s not a veneer and it’s not a compressed chunk of wood pulp that’s formed into a keyboard shape. At its atelier in France, Oree uses slices of walnut from Isère and maple from Doubs and hollows them out, mostly by machine but finished by hand, into two halves with keycaps from the same piece.
Each keyboard is varnished with a flat, colourless finish that protects it from the oil of fingerprints and unintentional splashes, too. You can get the Board Essential engraved with custom text — as much as you want, really, lasered onto the back, like a secret dedication to your lover but on a keyboard. It’s hard to describe the amount of effort that has not-so-clearly gone into the creative process for each one of these.
When it comes down to it, the Board Essential is just a keyboard. It’s just a laptop keyboard, with membrane keys that click softly as you tap them, without any particularly precise feel. It doesn’t do anything special beyond control your music volume or skip tracks back and forth with its function keys; it’s made for typing, and you can type on it, but it’s art in an almost absurd way, more than it’s actually an input device for your computer.
I use the walnut Board Essential wirelessly, on my ash Ikea LISABO coffee table, next to a curved bamboo tablet-slash-remote-control holder. It’s a symphony of different woods, all slightly clashing but slightly matching too. It makes me feel a little bit fancy as I tap away and browse the ‘net on the PC that’s hooked up to my TV. Importantly, from a distance the Board Essential just doesn’t look like a keyboard at all.
I’m still searching for a wireless mouse with a long battery life that looks as good as the Board Essential does. I’m considering getting the Touch Slab to complement my walnut keyboard — touchpads aren’t as intuitive as mice for me, a longtime desktop user — but each time that I use the Board Essential, I get closer to making that my next purchase.