Bauer Lite Review

my thoughts

keyboard by: Omnitype
Photos taken in House by alex

Intro

The Bauer Lite is here and we’re going to talk about it.

Before we get to the board itself, let’s address the elephant in the room: Yes, Omnitype took a while to get the Bauer Lite to market. Yes, the Omnitype did miss the absolute prime market for injection molded keyboards. Yes, Omnitype is facing a tougher entry-level market now than just a couple of years ago.

But if we’re going to mention those issues, let’s also mention these points: Omnitype didn’t take anyone’s money beforehand knowing the design wasn’t ready. And they didn’t open a group buy while they tweaked the design. The Bauer Lite is meant to be an in-stock keyboard and if this is what it took to make that happen, well that’s fine by me.

Anyway it’s here, so let’s see if Bauer made something worth considering. Please remember, Omnitype (the maker of the Bauer line of keyboards) is a sponsor of my Twitch channel. This does not change what I think about the board nor does it affect my view. These are my opinions and Omnitype had no input about this review nor is it paid for.

EDIT – Nov 23rd 2023. I have received final product models and I am adding it to the opening paragraph of this article. All my other thoughts are unaltered and you can still read them. 

Note: There are a few affiliate links on this page, they give me a small kick back when you use them which helps fund reviews like these! 

Update - Production Models

Omnitype sent over final units of each color and top for me to look at and to show me how they took all the feedback mentioned in the final review to heart. 

First off, the polish and finish of the plastic is near perfect now. Nearly all the injection moulding marks that were visible have also been cleaned up. Also new is the Omnitype logo on the back of the board, which I feel doesn’t detract from it’s aesthetic. The packaging was finalized and all the accessories Omnitype said they would add, have been including in the box.

Another small note is the feet are not as slippery, it seems these new feet have a bit of grip on them which is what I was hoping for.

The board sounds and feels amazing. I’ve built three of these boards up and will admit, I do not think this board is meant for people who value the sound of tactile switches, but more so people who enjoy linears. It excels with linears and has been on my desk since I built this red copy. The best part about all of this is that the price is exactly what they had mentioned, $119.99 USD. They do offer some special edition units at another price point, but the base model is that price listed above.

This board is a clear winner. Again, I don’t know and probably wouldn’t recommend this board to tactile enjoyers but for everyone else, this is a dream and the pricing is wonderful, too. The board comes out Friday Nov 24th on Omnitype’s website as an in stock unit.

 

 

New Photos of the Final Production Unit // Fuji X-HS2

Example of the logo on the back // Fuji X-HS2

Example of visibly better finishes // Fuji X-HS2

Okay this one is just because red looks so good // Fuji X-HS2

What's New

When I spoke with Omnitype, they said the board was designed for people who wanted the Bauer aesthetic, but not the Bauer price tag. In fact, Omnitype’s direct quote is, “We set out to create a board that provides a high-end experience at a low-end price.”

At a glance, the Bauer Lite hit the nail on the head: It uses design cues from the Bauer, adds much needed quality of life changes, comes in some very (to me) enticing colors, and does it at a starting price of $119 US (at the time of this writing).

What quality of life changes am I talking about? Well, there’s guided areas for gaskets, revamped top gaskets, easier installation, and the injection plastic’s minor imperfections don’t detract, but add to the character of the board. Oh, and you get a very detailed build guide book which is pretty awesome.

Some example colours of other samples I received // Fuji X-HS2

Example of blemishes on my prototype unit // Fuji X-HS2

Future Notes

Omnitype let me know the Bauer will have a few changes for the better compared to what I received. Currently the bottom rectangle on the purple board I got has a polished finished that is more see-through than the rest of the textured board.  The polish is not final and it should be resolved come time to purchase. In the box there will also be some added tools to help you build the board. I also didn’t get those but it should be basic things like tweezers and maybe a screw driver.

Example of new gasket tabs on top frame // Fuji X-HS2

Bauer’s gaskets now have a slot to align with // Fuji X-HS2

Build guide book example // Fuji X-HS2

My Experience

And, yes, there are still some areas that could use attention: The screws aren’t magnetized. If you have even only built one keyboard, you know (or soon will) the screws are tiny and can fall into areas a bit difficult to get to (in my case with the Bauer Lite the screws fell into the back screw wells and it required a little more poking around than I’d like to get to them). I’ve been told the screws were supposed to be magnetized, so I hope that gets sorted before shipping.

And the feet. This is a light board so grippy feet are essential to stop the board from sliding around your desk, but these feet felt more like mouse skates (the opposite of what you want). Omnitype is going to look into this. My review unit did not have the backspace, but that should be present in the final unit. And keep in mind the hotswap layout is rather fixed, so what you see is what you get. Make sure to take a look at whatever compatibility you are after can be met by the hotswap version of the PCB.

This board sounds good and, despite being plastic, doesn’t sound hollow. Now, it is plastic so deeper tones do push forward and you should know if you like that kind of sound signature. I am keen to try this with an internal weight, and yet I don’t think it’ll change the sound all that much. I would like to see an aluminum plate or even FR4 offered as an option. Unlike other plastic boards, the Bauer Lite doesn’t rely on foam or silicone inserts (not that there’s anything wrong with using those). This keyboard has a well-implemented gasket system, so expect a firm typing experience that absorbs shocks well. I think it feels really good.

Side profile of the Bauer Lite // Leica M11

Top down Shot of the Bauer Lite // Fuji X-HS2

Bottom Line With Some Thoughts

The Bauer Lite is an attractive board for the following reasons: Great price, sounds good, feels good, and doesn’t look like every other aluminum board that’s been coming out as of late.

The competition is stiff: The Mode Envoy has a brighter sound and a much softer typing experience. But it costs $70 more. The QK and Meletrix are also good boards and offer a bit more in the way of customization with foams, flex cuts/no flex cuts. And the QwertyKeys and Zoom offerings are also worth checking out. But none of that takes away from the Bauer Lite.

The Bauer Lite is simply a great gateway into customs for someone who does want an in-stock board and perhaps some people’s “one and done” board. 

As a side topic, I wanted to talk about this whole “relevancy” issue when it comes to keyboards. I’ve seen some chatter about whether a board is still relevant after “x” amount of time. But let me tell you, when it comes to keyboards, relevancy is a total non-issue. This is a hobby that’s all about personal preference, and while there may be trends that come and go, I don’t think any board can truly be considered irrelevant.

In the same breath, you could argue that all custom boards are irrelevant since you can pick up a perfectly functional one on Amazon for under 20 bucks Canadian. But I feel that’s missing the point entirely. The beauty of this hobby lies in the different paths people take to find their enjoyment. Whether it’s a plastic board based on the Bauer or a top-of-the-line CNC’ed custom, everyone’s got their own taste, and that’s what makes it so damn cool.

Let’s not get too caught up in this whole relevancy debate. At the end of the day, this is a hobby, and it’s all about having fun and expressing yourself. So let’s respect each other’s preferences and keep on typing.

Bauer Lite pictured with GMK Dual Shot // Leica M11