The Woo-dy is a great feature-packed keyboard with a minimalist key count. Just make sure you buy the model with a battery so you're not missing out.
Once nearly forgotten, mechanical keyboards regained popularity with gamers and other people for whom precise key action is important. Now, they’re everywhere, to the point that they are practically a dime a dozen. For a mechanical keyboard to stand out, it has to do something special.
The Woo-dy keyboard does that in a few ways. It has a wooden base, customizable RGB lighting, and the versatility of either Bluetooth or USB connectivity. The question is, does this make enough of an impression for the Woo-dy to stand out? The answer: absolutely it does.
Woo-dy is available to pre-order on Kickstarter now from $99, with delivery slated for February next year.
What’s in the Box?
Our review unit arrived in a basic-looking box, and as is usually the case with keyboards, there wasn’t much inside. Obviously, you get the keyboard, but Woo-dy includes some useful tools for customization.
You get a detachable USB cable, which uses a type C connector on the keyboard end and the standard full-size type A connector on the other. In addition to this, the box contains a keycap and switch pulling tool.
Instead of the cheap plastic keycap puller included with many of the other keyboards I’ve seen, this was the standard plastic and metal type you’d find in a computer toolkit.
Build Quality and Design
One of the biggest draws of the Woo-dy is its wooden base. I’m not sure if this is facade or if the wood is chambered. Either way, the keyboard isn’t exactly lightweight, but it wasn’t nearly as heavy as I had been expecting. This could be due to the aluminum alloy used in the rest of the construction.
The Woo-dy is available in two finishes: cherry and walnut. For our review, we’re looking at the cherry, which is the lighter of the two finishes. Either way, the build quality appears to be quite good. Whether it is a facade or not, the wood appears to be a single solid piece, not various pieces glued together.
This seems to be the case with every aspect of the keyboard. It feels solid from the keycaps to the switches, both of which we’ll touch on in their own section. As for the keyboard itself, there is never a feeling of flexing underneath the pressure of your keypresses, something I’ve noticed on other keyboards before.
Drivers and Software
You don’t need drivers to use this keyboard, as you might expect from any keyboard made in the last decade or more. The included software is akin to what you would expect to find with a gaming keyboard. You get macro support, for example, which is great if you use it.
Most of the focus of the software is on controlling the various aspects of its lightning. This ranges from what the usual lighting is to adjusting lighting on the fly by assigning functions to hotkeys. The software offers more control than many users will ever need, but it’s nice to have the extra functionality if you find you do need it.
The RGB LED backlighting on the Woo-dy is capable of displaying 16.8 million colors. Both the photos and videos of this keyboard, either those I’ve taken or those shown on the Woo-dy Kickstarter page, don’t really do it justice. To truly appreciate it, you need to see this keyboard in action.
We’re not just talking about static colors here, either. You can set the keyboard to pulsate and “breathe” in various colors or patterns. That’s just what is built into the Woo-dy–theoretically, you can program the lighting to do much more.
Switches and Keyboard Feel
The Woo-dy aims for ultimate customizability when it comes to how the keyboard actually works. When ordering, you get your choice of keyboard switches. These aren’t Cherry MX switches, but are instead Gateron.
If you’ve ever bought a mechanical keyboard that uses Cherry switches, you’ll find functional color equivalents here. The blue switches are the most tactile and “clicky,” while the red ones are smooth and require little force to activate. Brown switches are somewhere in the middle, with a smooth tactile click that is less pronounced than blue.
Our review unit came with brown switches, which I would consider the safe choice for most people. If you’re only going to use the keyboard for typing, you might want to consider blue. On the other hand, red may be a better choice for gaming.
I have the most experience using blue switches, and I’ve never been a fan of red switches. With the brown switches, I was able to adapt to typing on the Woo-dy within a matter of minutes. Keyboard feel can easily throw me off if something doesn’t feel right, but fortunately, that was far from the case here.
If there is one point against the feel of the Woo-dy, it’s that the F and J keys lack the “home row” markers found on most keyboards. That said, the feel of the ABS keycaps is so nice that I could see why the designers wouldn’t want to mar them with a little plastic nub.
Are the Missing Keys a Problem?
Looking at photos of the Woo-dy, you may notice a few missing keys. Depending on the keyboards you’re used to, you may notice a whole lot of missing keys. This takes the stripped-down approach of many keyboards further than its competitors often do.
It does away with not just the number pad, but also the Function keys. People haven’t used the F-keys as much as they used to in many years, but they have morphed into multimedia keys on many keyboards. You won’t find those on the Woo-dy either.
That still wouldn’t be much of a problem for many people, but the Woo-dy goes further still. For example, the tilde key is entirely missing. For gamers, this likely won’t be a problem, but if you’re a programmer or a system administrator who spends their day writing shell scripts, that missing key could prove to be a problem.
The Woo-dy addresses this problem via extensive use of the Fn key. This doesn’t just turn the number keys into proper function keys though. Hit Fn + Escape and you get your Tilde key back. This key also adds multimedia key support, lets you control backlighting, and even controls the Bluetooth functionality.
The Woo-dy seems like a keyboard that is meant to plug directly into your computer, so that was the first way we tested it. Response time is ultra-low, but even over Bluetooth the response time is advertised as 4ms.
N-key rollover is something keyboard manufacturers often advertise without actually supporting. Maybe they assume that users will never actually hit the key limit. In testing the Woo-dy, I loaded up a few different methods of testing rollover, and my physical ability to hit keys maxed out before I ever hit any sort of limit. This is a major plus for gamers.
Using the Woo-dy keyboard in Bluetooth mode is fairly simple. It supports up to three separate connections, mapped to Z, X, and C on the keyboard. Hit Fn + Space to turn on Bluetooth, then hold Fn plus the button you wish to assign to a connection and the keyboard will enter pairing mode.
I tested the keyboard on both Windows and Mac computers in wired mode, and with iOS as well in Bluetooth mode. I never ran into any problems getting Bluetooth to work.
The only problem I encountered at all was that plugging the keyboard into a computer doesn’t automatically disable Bluetooth. In this case, all I had to do was press Fn + Space to turn Bluetooth off and the keyboard worked just fine.
If there is something the Woo-dy keyboard doesn’t do out of the box, there’s a good chance you can make it do so. This applies to nearly every aspect of the keyboard.
As with any mechanical keyboard, you can replace the keycaps with any you happen to prefer. You can also replace the switches, so if you order the keyboard with brown switches and decide you’d prefer the feel of blues, you can swap them in.
You could even swap in certain switch types on the arrow keys while you use others on the letter keys. Even better, they’re hot-swappable, so you can try this all out while the keyboard is plugged in. You may not even need to, but it’s nice that you can. It’s also easier than building your own mechanical keyboard, but with most of the benefits.
Using the software, you can also set up custom key mappings. Even better, the Woo-dy has internal memory to remember your preferences. This means you can set the keyboard up on a Windows machine, then plug it into your Mac and hit a macro to swap to a more Mac-friendly layout. You don’t need to install the Woo-dy software on your Mac at all for this to work.
Should You Buy the Woo-dy?
The short answer is yes, the Woo-dy is absolutely worth buying, but you need to know what you’re getting.
And you’ll need to hurry. The Kickstarter runs until the end of September, with delivery due in February next year. The Cherry model with battery is available at an early bird price of $119; the Walnut option costs an additional $20.
You have various options for finishes and switches, and these can help you customize the keyboard to your liking. There is also a bigger consideration here.
Woo-dy offers two base keyboards: one with a built-in battery and one without. You absolutely want to go for the option with the battery. Sure, you can power the keyboard with a power pack to make it partially wireless, but who wants to do that? Even if you’re positive the Woo-dy will never leave your desk, the extra options afforded by the battery are worth the extra money.
Battery considerations aside, the Woo-dy is a capable little keyboard with a great look. At first I thought the missing keys would get in my way, but I came out of the review realizing how little I actually used them. Serious coders aside, that will likely be the case for you as well. It’s not gaming-focused in the way that some of our favorite gaming keyboards are, but it will do any job you throw at it quite well.