When One Serves Three
While the ease and portability of an iPhone, iPad or other smartphone/tablet makes it super convenient to use on the go, performing any kind of typing outside of short texts, tweets and Facebook posts can be cumbersome and tedious. Accessory manufacturers have recognized this and there are a number of options for external keyboards available, both wired and wireless. Switching these keyboards between devices can be just as painful so Logitech has seen fit to address that problem with a keyboard that allows the user to switch between devices in seconds. Appropriately designated as the Easy-Switch (model K811) keyboard, it can connect up to three devices at a time for use between any of them with just a key press.
Retailing for just over $110 (MSRP $99), this iOS and OS X aimed keyboard connects via Bluetooth to iPhones, iPads and even Macs with Bluetooth capability. Although they make a Windows friendly version (model K810), this one works just fine on Windows 7 & 8 and in fact, this article is being typed on the Easy-Switch keyboard on a Windows 8 desktop machine. The real difference between the two is the K811 version features the Apple command and option keys while the K810 version has the Windows and Alt keys. The K811 version also has some of the function keys along the top are specific to iOS like the home button found on iOS devices and has a silver aluminum surface surrounding the keys. This version even plays well with Android devices as shown in our overview video which we've posted on the next page.
Logitech Bluetooth Easy-Switch Keyboard Features
- Easy-Switch between Bluetooth devices instantly
- Reliable Bluetooth connection
- Laser-etched keys
- Auto-adjusting illumination
- Hand proximity detection
- USB rechargability
- Power Management with power switch and indicator light
- Inspired by Mac with aluminum design
- Sleek and ultra-thin
- Compact and Wireless
- Logitech Incurve keys
- Logitech PerfectStroke key system
The keyboard simply comes with a setup guide, the obligatory safety, registration and warranty guide, and a USB cable for charging. This cable come complete with attached cable stays for an orderly way to stow it for later use since charging is only required sparingly with a battery that lasts 10 days to up to a year depending on usage.
As compared to Apple's keyboard, the feel and layout are very similar. Apple's wireless keyboard is basically the same size as the Apple wired keyboard if you chop off everything to the right side of the return key, so essentially the size of the Logitech K811.
K811 Usage And Final Thoughts
This was the first time I felt compelled to do a little video to better show the functionality It's the first such attempt at a video overview so I'm not very practiced at narrating while also playing Vanna White. Forgive the mediocre results!
Hopefully the video displayed the ease of use both configuring the keyboard and using it with multiple devices. It really is quite easy and painless, even for those not as technical-minded. Those needing that little bit of extra help can follow the nice guides Logitech provides on their support site for this product.
As you can see from the image above, the keyboard has a very thin profile, as do the keys themselves. The overall dimensions are 287mm (11.30 in) wide x 127mm (5 in) deep x 10mm (0.39 in) high and it weighs a mere 337g (11.89oz). While small and light, it has nothing to protect it should you throw it in a bag with a bunch of other stuff. Being aimed at mobile devices, we'd like to see Logitech offer at least a carry bag to protect it from scratches during travels. It seems to be fairly solidly built being mostly comprised of hard plastic and aluminum so it should stand up to the normal wear and tear that comes with being carted around in bags and such. Logitech covers their workmanship with a three year limited warranty in case something does go wrong. Obviously, dropping it down a flight of stairs or spilling coffee on it is probably not going to be covered.
From this view you can see the Incurve (Logitech's term) design where the keys are slightly concave so as to fit the curve of fingertips for improved comfort and the keys all have rounded edges as well. The on/off switch is located on the right-side edge of the keyboard and simply slides back and forth. Orange is visible when it's turned off and you can see green coloring in the switch cavity when it's on.
As you can see in the video, switching between devices is a simple matter of pressing the above keys where a wireless connection symbol with alight in blue when active. Aside from this, the remaining operation of the keyboard is, well, a keyboard. It's relatively comfortable to type on, very much like the Apple keyboard so if you are used to those you'll barely notice a different. With the low profile, the typing action is different from that of a more traditional desktop keyboard so users that are more used to that setup may need some time to adjust. There's also no built in mechanism for raising the height of the top of the keyboard although those used typing on an laptop should be used to this typing plane. Still, for longer typing sessions, it's worlds better than trying to type on a flat screen, especially that of a small device like an iPhone. All of the key mechanisms work very well, even if partially hit thanks to Logitech's PerfectStroke key system that distributes the force of the press to the entire key for consistent performance. The extended function buttons like the 'home' and app switching buttons help users better navigate the iOS interface without needed to go back to touching the screen. It has an unobstructed range of up to 33 feet which is way more than you should need for typing as you'll need to be close enough to the device to read what you're typing.
In darker settings, there's no problem being able to see all the keys as they light up beautifully. Bear in mind that the backlight is probably the biggest battery drain so if you use it a lot, plan on recharging a bit more. Logitech's specifications state the the 10 days of battery life is based on usage for 2 hours daily with the backlight on full. Not using the backlight and switching it off between uses can extend that period to up to a year although we certainly haven't had the opportunity to put that claim to the the test. A battery indicator light will turn red when it's time for a charge and if battery levels become critical, the backlight will cease to function until recharged. A full recharge takes about 3 hours which is pretty efficient given the time it takes to drain it.
Overall, the Logitech Easy-Switch keyboard (K811) performs exactly as promised although it may be perceived as a bit pricey given what Apple is asking for their version of the keyboard; however, the Easy-Switch offers more such as the switching function, backlighting and rechargeable internal battery. While the MSRP is $99, the cheapest we could find it at online retailers is just over $110 as supply hasn't quite reached all retail outlets yet. As mentioned, we'd love to see them throw in a carry bag or case to minimize damage on transit. There's also no way to replace the battery once it finally fails to hold a charge although that seems to be par for the course anymore in the increasingly "use and discard" society. While I own a number of mobile devices (both iOS and Android), I've honestly never felt the need for switching between them with a single keyboard. I guess I really don't perform a lot of writing on them, saving those duties instead for my MacBook or PC. Of course, that's my world and there may be a lot of other people that will find the functionality incredibly useful. Even without the switching function, it's a great keyboard and feels better in use than a number of other non-Apple iOS specific keyboards I've used and very comparable to Apple's own keyboards (which is a positive). In the end, my complaints are merely nitpicks and Logitech has designed a really great keyboard, worthy of recommendation.
Legit Bottom Line: If you have the need for a physical keyboard for your iOS or OS X device, the Logitech Easy-Switch Bluetooth keyboard is an excellent choice with the benefits of being able to switch between devices with a single key press, long battery life, and customizable backlighting.