A Gorgeous Retro-Futuristic Road Warrior’s Keyboard

The Lofree Flow is a slim aluminum mechanical keyboard with Bluetooth connectivity, gasket-mounted plates, XDA keycaps, hot-swappable switches, and a Poron base layer that costs $129 on Kickstarter. While this is an excellent travel and office keyboard, a few minor bugs may give potential buyers pause.

lofry’s keyboard

We love the retro-futuristic design ethos of the Lofree. Their products look like futuristic utopias imagined by 1950s science-fiction illustrators. At times whimsical, the designs emphasize smooth edges, minimalism and sometimes quirky features. His first keyboard, crowd-funded in 2017, resembled a mechanical typewriter. While aesthetically pleasing, the original Lowfree Dot keyboard had some quirky features, such as a Shift and Enter key that used two mechanical switches instead of a stabilizer.

In some ways, Lofree’s designs emphasize aesthetics over function. But is Flow a great keyboard or is it a victim of the old axiom, “too much style, not enough substance”?

design and build quality

The Flow in my possession is not a final production model, but rather a pre-production early batch that was sent out to reviewers. Thus, it may not be indicative of the final product. And, really, there are a few issues that mar this otherwise excellent design.

One of the minor qualms we have is the position of the rubber feet on the back of the keyboard. Instead of expanding the chassis to create a minimum tenting angle of 3.8 degrees, Loughrey featured two brass-colored metal rods. However, the bars are fixed and cannot adjust the tenting angle. It’s also worth noting that competitors like the Keychron K3 have adjustable tenting angles.

World’s thinnest mechanical keyboard?

The two thinnest keyboards are the Whistle LP85 or the Keychron K3, which measure in at just over 17 mm and 22 mm thick, respectively. However, the Lofree Flow technically matches or beats both by a slim (punishment) margin at 17mm. However, the Lofree’s keyboard cheats a bit by placing its 2,000 mAh-sized battery in a bulge located on its underbelly. While the bulge at the rear increases the thickness of the Flow to 24.5mm, it’s functionally thin.

Overall, the Flow’s design is sleek, compact and elegant. But how did they manage to squeeze so many features into such a compact build, without using optical switches and including gasket-mounted stabilisers? In high-end keyboards, there is a compromise between features and thinness. Most keyboards tend to be bulkier and larger depending on what is packed into it.

The secret is that the Lowfree is using Kailh’s new low-profile mechanical switches.

Cal Pom Low-Profile Switch

Kailh’s new low profile switches offer a smaller profile than competing options from Gateron and Cherry. They are also smaller than some optical and Hall-effect switches. Kailh’s Polyoxymethylene (POM) switches are also compatible with Cherry-MX keycaps, which means better long-term upgradeability and customizability.

There are two types of switches that come with Flow. If you buy a white model, it will include linear “ghost” switches with 50 grams of actuation weight. The black model comes with “Phantom” tactile switches, with a 45-gram actuation weight.

The one advertising bullet that didn’t quite sit right with us was in the description of the POM switch. Kailh describes its POM switches as having “self-lubricating” properties. This is technically a misnomer, as POM is not lubricated. Rather, POM is one of the lowest friction plastics after PTFE.

It is often referred to as an engineering plastic, and is often used on gears, pulley wheels, and other moving parts. On a keyboard, the POM is usually used on the stem of the mechanical switch. This is because the stem is exposed to excessive friction.

The use of massive POM for both the rear and upper housing is unnecessary because the stem makes contact mostly with the upper half of the housing, rather than the bottom half where plastic-on-plastic friction is less likely to occur. Also, Cal uses a fair amount of lubricant on the stem and housing.

Leave a Comment