REVIEW – I’m back with another keyboard review, which has an aesthetic some of you may recognize. My first experience with a mechanical keyboard was an IBM Type M. I found a stack of them to be thrown away years ago and snagged a couple as a goof. The keyboard was huge and weighed a ton. Some of them had the PS2 connectors while some had the much larger mini-DIN plug. At this time, USB keyboards were everywhere, and being the geek I am, I wanted to use one of these as a USB keyboard. Yes, there were adapters available and I could’ve gone that route, but I found an article online that showed the pinouts of the connectors and a USB adapter so I ripped both apart and soldered the adapter straight to the PCB of the IBM Type M. I used that thing at work for quite some time until my office mate threatened bodily harm if I didn’t find a quieter keyboard. Yeah, David! I’m talking about you! I really liked the old buckling switches and the design, even though it was way too big for my desk setup. So, I retired it but always loved the simple design. Today I bring to you a keyboard that harkens back to that design and brings it into the present with its feature set, the Lofree Block 98 mechanical keyboard. So, if you’re a keyboard nerd like me or just like the looks, read on to see if it deserves a spot on your desk.
What is it?
The Lofree 98 Block is a 98% wireless mechanical keyboard with multiple connection options, layers upon layers of foam, and full POM TTC linear switches.
What’s in the box?
- Lofree Block 98 mechanical keyboard
- USB A to 90-degree USB C cable
- 2.4 Ghz USB A wireless adapter
- User manual
- Warranty card
- QC certificate
- Switch Type: BLOCK Switch, Full POM by TTC
- Structure: Gasket
- Number of Keys: 98
- Number of Multifunction Keys: 13
- Knob: Volume & Connection
- Hot-swappable Support: Yes
- N-key Rollover Support: Yes
- Backlight: White-LED
- Backlight Modes: 14
- Compatible System: macOS/Windows/Android/iOS
- Angle: 4º/ 8º
- Mode: Bluetooth 5.0, 2.4Ghz or Wired(Type C)
- Case: ABS
- Keycap: Dye-Sub PBT
- Battery Life: 2000mAh
- Charging Time: 2.5 hours
- Working Time (all lights on): 10 hours (lab test result)
- Working Time (all lights off): Up to 80 hours (lab test result)
- Size: 384 x 126.5 x 19.5 mm
- Weight: 1090g
Design and features
The Lofree Block 98 sports a 98% keyboard layout, so Numpad users rejoice! Although it doesn’t sound like much, the 2% difference in size does make this keyboard more comfortable to use for those of us who prefer smaller layouts.
The colorway of the Block obviously pays homage to the IBM Type M keyboard I mentioned before, with its two-tone beige design. Some may call this boring, but I like it. This would fit perfectly into an office setup without looking like you’ve Razerfied your desktop. There is a little splash of color with its Hermes orange knobs and feet, a nice touch in my opinion.
And speaking of the Razerification of all things PC-related, there are LEDs for backlighting in the Lofree Block, but they are white only. Thank you! Anything else would destroy the look.
The case is made of ABS plastic and has a texture to it similar to the Type M, so it even has the feel to it. Although it’s plastic, the keyboard has a good weight to it, even with no weight installed.
The keycaps are dye-sub, PBT caps, so no shine. There’s little to no texture to them, so they can feel a bit slick, although I had no problems with that while using the LoFree Block 98.
The key switches are full POM switches, said to be customized by TTC. Does that mean they’re exclusive to the Block 98? I’m not sure, but they are hot-swappable, so if you’re unhappy with them, just change them out.
Being full POM is pretty cool since this type of plastic is self-lubricating. It also makes the key switches very durable for a long life. If you’re familiar with Delrin, it’s a type of POM plastic. The switches are linears, which I don’t particularly care for. It would’ve been nice to have a tactile option.
The Lofree Block 98 offers three different connection modes: one wired and two wireless, Bluetooth, and 2.4 GHz. For 2.4 GHz, you have to use the included dongle. Thankfully, Lofree provided a home for the dongle, so you don’t have to worry about losing it. Another nice touch is that the dongle is flush with the case when inserted. It sounds like a minimal thing, but I’ve reviewed others where it pokes out enough to get banged up if traveling. Kudos to Lofree.
The two knobs look nice and function as a volume knob and connection profile selector. Both have positive feedback when turned, though not as crisply as I like. They still feel good though. The knobs are also plastic with no texturing. I would’ve preferred some knurling or texture of some sort, but I’m nitpicking here.
The Lofree Block is Windows and Mac compatible. They’ve installed a switch on the upper rear edge to switch between the two.
Finally, there’s plenty of noise dampening in the LoFree Block 98 mechanical keyboard. Just look at this. There are gasket pads, PORON and IXPE foam, and an undefined foam padding layer.
I’m 75% layout guy. Anything bigger, and I feel like I’m reaching across the room to access certain keys. The Lofree Block 98 mechanical keyboard is considerably larger than that, but for some reason, it felt more comfortable than any other keyboard with a Numpad.
The LoFree Block 98 isn’t what I would call thocky, but that’s subjective. It has a very nice, soft poppy sound I think David would approve of. It feels good to use, but I can’t help but wonder how much more I would like it with a nice set of tactile switches in it.
What I like
- The design
- Connection options
- Good sound
- Simple white backlighting
- Dye sub PBT keycaps
- 90-degree USB C connector
- Onboard dongle storage
What I’d change
- Give me some texture on the keycaps and knobs
Lofree has added another great keyboard to its lineup. The Block 98 mechanical keyboard will be added to my keyboard rotation, especially when I feel nostalgic for my old Type M. Yes, there are less expensive mechanical keyboards, but you get what you pay for. The Lofree Block 98 isn’t expensive for what you get and has a classic minimalist design. Does the Lofree Block 98 tickle your fancy? If so, get yourself over to Lofree’s site and check it out.