Due to its unusual layout, I find this Owlab spring keyboard to be somewhat divisive. Earlier, I had purchased the AVA, a keyboard designed by Muji of Sneak-box to maximise symmetry in an Alice layout. Despite my disinterest in symmetry, I joined the group when I realised that the right shift would be replaced by arrow keys. The Owlab Spring is an excellent keyboard, and despite my reservations about its launch, it will likely become my primary typing device.
A few Internal Characteristics:
The PCB and the plate are mounted in the Spring using a leaf spring. In contrast to popular methods like top mount, where pressing can feel especially stiff due to the plate being secured by screws, this allows for a lot of flex (also described as giving) when you press down on the switches. The flex is noticeable, but it isn’t bad enough to make typing uncomfortable. Owlab spring keyboard Choosing a different plate could affect that significantly. An FR4 plate was chosen because it is more malleable than aluminum but less so than polycarbonate (Polycarbonate).
When compared to gasket mounting, which uses a dampener like Poron foam to sandwich the plate between the top and bottom casing, leaf-spring mounting provides significantly more wiggle room. My experience is that the plate has a greater impact on the flex/give than the mounting style itself does. Compared to this leaf-spring-mounted keyboard, one could argue that using a POM plate in a gasket-mount keyboard provides even more flexibility.
This keyboard’s construction is more challenging than average because of the leaf springs. Nevertheless, thanks to Wolak’s comprehensive construction manual, I had a pleasant experience and no problems at all. The plate of the keyboard is supported by eight pieces of Owlab spring keyboard (made out of Beryllium copper), as the name of the keyboard suggests. Theoretically, this should result in a smooth and relaxing time while typing.
Aspects of the Outside:
Even though Owlab provided a rainbow of color options from blue to purple to red to silver I settled on Black Chroma. This case is of exceptional quality. As an added touch, the case’s corners have been beveled rather than rounded off completely. To keep the cable connector out of sight, it has been recessed into the case, where it can no longer be seen. Traditional, Owlab spring keyboard aesthetically pleasing, case designs have the top half of the enclosure hanging below the bottom weight. As a result, the top and bottom cases look seamless from above, but the side panels reveal the upper case’s cover of the lower one.
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Qualities Of Tone And Touch:
Normally I’d go into detail about the sound of the switches in this particular setup, but Owlab keyboards are most well-known for their use of PE foam. The foam is placed between the switches and the printed circuit board (PCB), resulting in a “marbly” and “poppy” sound that is hard to achieve with simple switches. The good news is that this foam can improve the sound of a keyboard, but the bad news is that it also makes all keyboards employing this foam sound quite similar to one another.
Owlab spring keyboard constructing the linear version, I opted to utilise Creamsicle switches. The Creamsicle is a linear Franken switch made by inserting a POM long-pole stem into the casing of a JWK linear switch. Since a new housing, I believed the Original Aspirations would do, as they are also a JWK linear but are made from a different plastic blend. It’s important to remember that the switch stem is shorter than usual, meaning less overall travel compared to standard switches. While this may annoy others, I like the break from utilizing boring old lines.
I went with Pewter switches since I wanted a tactile setup. I had a lot of trouble with the leaves and didn’t like the friction from the Cherry housing when I tried some broken-in MX Browns. The Pewter switches were an improvement since they reduced typing resistance and were more comfortable to use. Light tactiles are among my favorites, and they did not let me down. They’re less grainy than other tactiles I’ve tried, but there’s still enough push to keep things interesting. Because of the excessive leaf ping, I had to lubricate the leaf at the point where the stem legs touched it.
Love the Alice layout as much as I do, but I’ve found that not having access to the arrow keys has led me to stop using the Lubrigante keyboard I had previously developed. The elimination of the right shift and the introduction of this new arrangement was a logistical dream come true. Because I seldom use right-shift, having it relocated to the arrow keys is a huge time saver. Owlab spring keyboard right-shift-free Alice arrangement has swiftly replaced my previous favorites, the macro cluster on the left and the ergo. It’s great for lengthy sessions of typing or gaming because of its ergonomic design.
VIAL, the application Owlab suggests using to set up the Spring’s layout, also has a cool feature that lets you design a macro called Tap Dance. In essence, you may assign several actions to the same key. Those with a pressing need for a right-shift may program the up arrow to function as a right-shift while the device is in hold mode, but return to its normal up arrow behavior when the device is tapped.
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Some Last thoughts:
If you’re looking for a new keyboard, the Owlab Spring may be your best option. Although the leaf-spring mounting is not brand new, I would like to see it become more common in standard-layout keyboards as an alternative to the currently dominant gasket mount. Owlab spring keyboard foam produces an overall sound that is quite close to what one would expect from a keyboard made of PE foam, but which is nevertheless pleasant to the ear. A person’s preference for the design’s layout, however, should be the deciding decision in whether or not they purchase such a product. I can see how someone who often uses right-shift may find this unfamiliar, but for a light user like myself, it’s ideal.