There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. While some improvements, such as RGB lighting on keyboards, watercooled CPUs on PCs, and even CPUs built directly into a table might seem rather incredulous and even niche, not everything deserves or needs such fancy upgrades, including the ever humble calculator.
Sure, there’s the ever complex scientific calculator used in school for exams, or the software based ones on a computer, smartphone or tablet, and even the simple one in the office used for simple tasks, but did anyone ask for a fancy number puncher?
Well, Chinese hardware maker Lofree seems to think so, with its slightly oversized mechanical bluetooth calculator that doesn’t really add up.
Priced at around S$80 online, the Lofree Bluetooth Mechanical Calculator is actually the company’s second iteration of the device, which was originally a mechanical calculator with no bluetooth. It would seem that the company didn’t get enough feedback or reviews to improve on the first.
For one thing, this is not so much a mechanical calculator, as it is the number pad of a keyboard reassigned as a calculator. This is made abundantly clear with the layout, where the “Equal” key is not located at the bottom right corner of the calculator, for easy access, as that would be the button most used and the one many calculators use a bigger button for.
But since this is a device with mechanical keyboard buttons, it merely uses existing materials to be repurposed as a calculator, which means the MC, M+, M-, MU and MRC buttons that are the norm on most entry level calculators are missing here. Instead, users get the “Num” and “Calc” buttons, which probably exist as actual buttons so they are slapped on this device, with no desire to actually include actual buttons.
Opting for blue mechanical switches, this calculator is loud and definitely delivers the tactile feel we’ve come to expect of blue switches in general. Not much force is needed to trigger a key and users will be able to effortlessly punch in their inputs with relative ease. While the rounded keycaps do definitely take some time to get used to, it does help prevent accidental keystrokes when you’re attempting fast computations.
One clear reason for their use here is because this calculator can connect up the 3 other devices via bluetooth, including having it act as a secondary number pad for a PC. But in order to toggle between default calculator display, and becoming a secondary numpad for a computer, users need to hit the “Num” button to make the switch. But in this mode, the “AC” button, for “All Clear” does not work when connected to a computer, making the entire device moot for multiple lines of calculation.
Considering it’s already managed with a physical switch to toggle between on, off and bluetooth modes, the company could have gone with a physical toggle instead of placing additional keys on the face of the calculator. But since it repurposes existing key caps, it needed to fill those slots with something, so instead of printing their own special key descriptors, this is what we end up with.
Alternatively, we are hoping to see on the next mechanical calculator we review the ability to remap our buttons to our preference. After all, considering the Lofree Bluetooth Mechanical Calculator has a micro USB has us wondering if such flexibility exists in “hacking” the default settings. Being able to do so definitely would appeal to the audiences in which a mechanical calculator would see great reception.
Physically, the profile of the Lofree Bluetooth Mechanical Calculator is also weirdly raised, which makes using the calculator quite an uncomfortable proposition over long periods of time. The calculator will benefit from a gentle gradient to present users having to arc their hands unnecessarily to reach for their digits they require and on most keyboards, it’s that extendable flap located on the underside of the device, which is not found here.
Then there is the incredibly bad LCD display. Viewing the display at an angle is an impossible task as the brightness from the keys seem to bleed into the display, this makes almost all numbers look like an “8” when viewed from the side. It’s a lenticular artwork from hell which is unreadable from all angles except for one. Unless you plan to use the calculator directly straight on, it’s a major inconvenience to look at the display and take this calculator seriously.
But the biggest failure of the Lofree Bluetooth Mechanical Calculator is that this wasn’t built to handle large numbers or calculations. Try punching more than 10 digits at a time – you’ll get an error on the display. Now why would anyone even consider relying on this device for calculations?
Powered with an internal rechargeable 800 mAh battery via micro USB, the Lofree Bluetooth Mechanical Calculator powers off automatically after 4 mins. After using the calculator for a week, the lack of an indicator gives users no idea when the device is due for a charge. While the calculator is unlikely to power down as quickly as a mobile phone, a visual guide would definitely be appreciated.
Sadly, the Lofree Bluetooth Mechanical Calculator is a novelty at best. The intention behind such a device is something that geeks would definitely want to get behind but the terrible execution by Lofree presents an opportunity for other companies to fill that void. We would recommend a purchase as a mean joke.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
What could have been an awesum addition to any geek battlestation, simply falls flat when the core competency needed in a calculator just doesn’t add up.
Aesthetics - 7/10
Build Quality - 7/10
Performance - 5/10
Value - 3/10
Geek Satisfaction - 1/10
User Review( votes)
Gerald currently straddles between his love of video games and board gaming. There’s nothing that interests him more than trying out the newest and fanciest gadget in town as well. He dreams of publishing a board game sometime in the future!