It's not everyday you get invited to see a keyboard made out of wood, but today was one of those days. And when you do get the call to see a keyboard made out of wood, you'd be pretty silly to turn it down.
The idea behind the Orée Board is to provide tablet owners with something a bit different to pair with their devices. As funny as that sounds, it made sense to us. Plastic is, after all, a pretty boring material, and with tablets becoming more and more popular, people want something light, portable and different. After all, there are no prizes for pulling out the same generic lump of plastic.
The keyboard is Bluetooth, so it's compatible with a wide range of devices, and uses a 3.0 chipset, which gives exceptional battery life, as well as being a lot more reliable than older chipsets. That's important, because the last thing you want is an unreliable keyboard.
We have to say that the keyboards themselves are very impressive. They're hewn from a single piece of wood, using a secret production process. The keys are laser etched, giving them a real depth, as well as a darkness that makes the letters more visible. We were told the process is being altered as we speak, to give the letters a slightly darker tone on a maple model.
The trees are from a place in the French Alps called Jura, and the wood itself comes from trees that grow above a certain altitude, this is how the company gets the high-quality wood it needs to make these keyboards. Much of the building is done by machines, but to get the perfect finish each must be finished and assembled by hand.
We asked the obvious question too: "Will there be a mouse?" Julien, the founder, wouldn't be drawn, but he did tell us there would be more wooden objects coming, and that there were plans to launch several different devices each year. You can guess what they might be - we can see tablet cases and all sorts with matching materials.
There's also a protective case being developed. Details were a little scarce, but we were promised it would look good, and help support a tablet too. We were also keen to find out how the keyboards were protected from dirt and wear. The answer is that they are varnished with a subtle finish, which is mostly invisible but that should keep the keyboards looking fresh for a long time.
We tested the keyboard and found that it was a very pleasant experience. Pairing was no problem at all, and the typing was actually very nice. Orée tells us that this is aimed at tablet users, and we usually find those tablet-specific keyboards to be a bit lacking, and certainly not capable of high-speed typing, but the Orée was different, and we actually managed to get our typing speed up to normal levels. Impressive stuff.
Indeed, much of this article was written on the Board, and we have to say, we're a lot more impressed than we expected to be.
The Boards cost 125 euros each, which works out at about £100 at current exchange rates. Business is starting to pick up, so if you want one, you might need to get an order in now, or you'll be waiting a while. We'll have a review as soon as we can get hold of one to test longer term.