Today’s average computer/device user is rocking a smorgasbord of devices, each with their own operating systems, special keys, and all the things that make simple interoperability more difficult than it need be. For some, the goal is to keep things nice and simple, and that means cutting back on redundant peripherals and proprietary attachments. For the true multitasking power user this can only mean one thing: keyboards. because touch screens just don’t cut it.
Apart from a few cosmetic and OS-related differences, there isn’t much difference between one keyboard and the next, so why not have something that works with everything? Heck, most USB and wireless keyboards play nice between Windows/Mac/Linux environments, barring a few key functions (and function keys), so how difficult could it be?
Logitech’s K480 Bluetooth Multi-Device Keyboard attempts to answer those very concerns with a relatively inexpensive set of keys that plays nice between competing systems with the flick of a dial. No, really, with a dial.
So can Logitech help bring these disparate devices into relative harmony without much fuss? Can they bridge the impossible divide between multiple platforms for the manic multitasking master? Probably not, but let’s take a look.
There isn’t much to say about how the K480 looks on the surface – it looks pretty much like any other mobile keyboard from Logitech. A 11.77” tall x 7.68” wide x 79” thick matte body (available in black-yellow or white-gray coloring) looks and feels about right for a decent $49 keyboard, with an adjustable knob for syncing up to three devices being the only outlier, apart from the set of sync buttons labeled, playfully, “PC” and “i”, on the top-right.
Awkwardly, the power switch is on the bottom next to the battery slot, which houses two AAA batteries (thankfully included). As per these type of reviews, Logitech claims they’ll last a full two years, and I’ll have to take their word for it.
At play is the typical QWERTY layout you’d expect from a mobile keyboard, with a top-row of function/media keys and smaller space/function/control/etc keys making everything fit in the smaller space.
Sitting just below the curiously large top bezel is a rubberized slot ready to cradle your device (or devices) in place – just as long as they’re half-inch thick (or less). This won’t be an issue for most Apple and Samsung phones/tablets, but there’s still plenty of compatible devices out there too chunky to slide right in (you know who you are).
Some will, undoubtedly, complain about the lack of a charging function nestled inside the cradle, but I wasn’t expecting one. No doubt a future version will feature this, most likely with a higher cost, so take that as you will.
And speaking of chunky, the K480 looks and feels unnecessarily heavy at 1.81 lbs – nearly double the weight of the iPad Air. Moreover, despite the surprisingly large size and heft its layout doesn’t feel like a good use of its real estate.
No, the real function of the K480 is to implicitly work with Windows, Mac, iOS, Android…pretty much everything that you can connect a Bluetooth keyboard to. Pairing was fast and painless to whatever device (or devices) you’ll be syncing. Simply turn the knob to one of the free slots (1-3) press and hold the sync button you’ll need (PC for Windows, Chrome OS, Android, etc, and “i” for all the Apple stuff) for three seconds, tap your device’s appropriate Bluetooth connect button and you’re ready to multi-type like a champ.
Another neat feature is that the K40 auto-maps its keys to what platform you’re using at the time, as long as its a supported OS (essentially PC/Mac/mobile), though as with most smaller keyboards you’ll have to perform some finger gymnastics to use them correctly.
The real-world selling point of a multi-device keyboard would be to swap between devices to quickly tap out messages, emails, and perform heavy document editing without having to use the touchscreen. Good in theory and long overdue, but even the K480’s good intentions can’t see past each platform’s inherent software issues to accomplish this.
With my device cradled I used iMessage and Google Hangout messages on my iOS device to answer/reply quickly, but actually sending things still required my fingers to leave the keys and touch the screen to send things. For longer messages and emails (and rants) there’s no denying that having real keys is a bonus, but not so much in small doses.
Also, not all keys works out of the box of every platform (now that would be something). For Windows/Mac users to take full advantage of what’s possible with those multi-labeled function keys you’ll need to download an extra software bundle that enables all those multi-mapped function keys to work properly.
But beyond how it looks and functions, how’s the K480 work as an actual keyboard? Pretty great, actually, but that’s hardly surprising considering Logitech has practically perfected the craft by now.
I actually like the raised chicklet-style keys, and my top typing speed nearly matched by top speed using a larger keyboard. Better still – and this is critical – was how accurate key press to type was, meaning lag between strokes was a non-issue. I can’t tell you how often I’ve tossed inferior Bluetooth keyboards to the wind, productivity ruined. Not the case here, so type away with confidence.
As a proof-of-concept device Logitech’s Bluetooth Multi-Device Keyboard makes a good case for having a single device that works across a variety of systems, devices, etc, without having to fiddle much. But its scrunched size, lack of numeric keypad, and mobile-styled layout make it a tough choice for desktop power users while the heft, lack of keyboard cover (to protect those precious keys from dirt and other worldly hazards) make it impractical as a mobile keyboard.
With three available slots for platform-specific Bluetooth syncs, a spacious cradle, supreme battery life and a pretty good typing experience there’s definitely an audience – a very specific one – for what it’s attempting to do. But that audience isn’t me, as the compromises between desktop/mobile environments make it difficult to recommend to anyone other than super power-users who absolutely need what it’s attempting to do.