Logitech’s series of Bluetooth Easy-Switch Keyboards are the best keyboards to use with most devices, due to the fact that they're a pleasure to type on, are widely loved by reviewers, boast extremely long battery lives, and come in Apple and Microsoft hardware-friendly configurations. They can be paired with up to three different devices at a time and switch back and forth between those paired devices at the push of a button.
Single Use Keyboards Are Lame
A lot of people bite the bullet and buy multiple keyboards to use with the various devices in their lives. They’ll have a keyboard to use with their computer (if they don’t own a laptop,) an external keyboard or a keyboard case to use with their tablet, and maybe one to use with their set top box or HTPC. That kind of thing gets expensive, and wastes money you could be putting towards something awesome.
The smart money’s on owning a keyboard that’s designed to work well with as many of the devices you own as possible.
What Should You Look For?
When you’re shopping for a multipurpose keyboard, you’ll want one that connects via Bluetooth. It’s a widely used protocol that’ll guarantee whichever keyboard you wind up buying will likely be compatible with the vast majority of the hardware you’ll want to use it with.
A multipurpose keyboard should be compact and lightweight. Most any keyboard will work well when you’re using it on on a desk with a computer. But not all of them are sized to be jammed into a backpack or to use comfortably in your lap or the arm of your couch while you veg out in front of your TV. You know what keyboards are sized for that sort of thing?
The ones designed to be used with a tablet.
And the tablet with the most keyboards designed to use with it, due to its overwhelming year-after-year popularity (Android, Blackberry and Windows tablet users: don’t be hating,) is the iPad. To get a feel for what I should be looking for in a good multi-purpose keyboard, I spoke to a couple of editors with an excellent grasp on what features a great iPad keyboard should offer.
Harry McCracken is an editor-at-large with Time, and covers technology for the magazine’s print and online editions. When I was noodling out who I should speak to about iPad keyboards, he was the first person that came to mind, as he’s been using an iPad paired with a keyboard case or external keyboard since 2011 on a daily basis as his main computing solution. During a recent phone conversation, I asked Harry what he felt were must-haves when it comes to buying a decent piece of hardware to type on your iPad with.
“There are a few things I look at,” says McCracken. “You want it to have good sized keys, similar travel and spacing between the keys. No crippling compromises in terms of putting too many functions on one key. You don’t want it to stray from a laptop’s layout.” He went on to explain that when he first started using an iPad to work with on a full-time basis, he was worried that he would constantly have to charge his keyboard in order to use it. “But with the good ones that are out today,” McCracken explains, “you can go weeks or maybe even months between charges.”
I received similar input from Macworld’s Senior Editor Dan Frakes, who’s been using and reviewing iPad keyboards since the tablet was first released back in 2010.
A keyboard needs to be lightweight, have a full sized keyboard with large, well-spaced keys and as few compromises as possible.
“If you’re a touch typist like me,” says Frakes, “and the keys are in the wrong place, you’ll be typing away and you end up hitting things that should be there, but they’re not. So you gotta spend more time correcting errors than you save by using keyboards.” When I asked Frakes what he felt made for a good iPad typing experience, he told me that there wasn’t just one thing that could make or break whether a keyboard was worth picking up. Rather, the typing experience that a keyboard offers is a result of the sum of its parts.
So, a keyboard needs to be lightweight, have a full sized keyboard with large, well-spaced keys and as few compromises as possible. It should have a good tactile feel, excellent battery life and it should be easy to use. In my mind, that’s the sort of functionality you’ll want to get out of a multi-device keyboard too.
In addition to what Harry and Dan suggest, I’d add that you’ll want your keyboard to be easy to pair with all of the devices you want to use it with, and more importantly, you’ll want switching between those devices to be easy too.
The Best Keyboard for Most Devices
Logitech’s series of Bluetooth Easy-Switch Keyboards meet with all of the requirements that we just finished talking about. At the time of this writing, they were priced at $87 for the OSX/iOS compatible K811 version or $68 for a Windows compatible K810 iteration. You can argue that both of these prices are a lot to pay for a keyboard, and you’d be right: You can buy a basic one for under $20, and get a decent one for around $50. But bear in mind, that you’d buy one of these things to use with multiple devices instead of investing in a different keyboard for everything device you own that takes text input. When you see it in this light, an Easy-Switch keyboard becomes a steal. What’s more, it’s almost universally loved by anyone who’s ever taken the time to review it.
Let’s talk about its design.
The K810 and K811 iterations of the keyboard both measure 12” x 5.7” x 1.3” in size. By comparison, Apple’s Wireless keyboard measures 12.8” x 7.3” x 1.4” in size. So the Easy-Switch is a little bit smaller, but it’s keyboard is by no means compromised. Like the slightly larger Apple Wireless Keyboard, the Easy-Switch offers a full-sized QWERTY keyboard and a complete row of twelve function keys. Logitech’s included everything you’d find on a modern laptop keyboard here, and it’s done so without shrinking the keys down to an unreasonable size. Despite the fact that I type with the Das Keyboard and Apple Wireless Keyboard for hours at a time daily, I found that I was able to touch type with on both the Logitech hardware almost immediately and was up to my full regular typing speed in well under 30 minutes. The angle of the keyboard and the ravel of the keys reminds me of typing on a MacBook Air–and that’s not bad.
The Easy-Switch Keyboard comes with specialty keys that’ll work with most of the things you own. If you’re a Mac user and buy the K811 version of the keyboard, you get Option and Command keys, as well as keys for accessing Mission Control and a pair of keys that’ll allow you to adjust your screen brightness. There’s also keys that’ll let you eject a disc from your computer, pause or play your music and fiddle with your Mac’s audio volume. The audio keys and track control will also work with any modern iOS device (iOS 4.0 and up.) Additionally, anyone who wants to use the K811 with an iOS device will be happy to know that it also comes with pre-programmed a pre-programmed Home key.
The K810 Windows version of the keyboard offers similar functionality to what you get out of the K811, only Microsoft flavored. The Alt, Control and Start keys you rely on to use your PC are all there, along with other Windows mainstays like a delete key, print screen and one setup to allow Windows 8 users to access their System Tray. In addition to this, the K810 also comes with the same audio and track controls as its Apple-centric counterpart does.
The keyboard is illuminated. You can increase or decrease the keyboard’s backlighting level with a pair of the Easy-Switch’s function keys. After a few minutes of inactivity, the Easy-Switch will automatically turn the keyboard’s backlighting off. But, and this is cool, the keyboard will light up again as soon as it sense your hand near is near it. It’s also possible to turn the keyboard off entirely, thanks to a switch in its side: A nice feature to have for anyone that plans on throwing the Easy-Switch into their bag to take with them.
It has a long-lasting battery. Logitech says that the battery inside of the K810 and the K811 can provide between 10 days and a full year of power before you’ll have to recharge it, depending on what level of backlighting you use and how much you type. Over the past four months I’ve been using an Easy-Switch keyboard, I’ve found that I typically get about two and a half to three weeks out of a single charge, even with the backlighting turned all of the way up for a good chunk of the day (My office is in our basement.) I’ve also tried using it with no backlight on at all to see how much of a hit the battery takes from backlighting. I got another four or five days out of it before the battery ran dry. The keyboard’s battery recharges via Micro USB, and it allows for passthrough useage. So you can keep using it while it’s charging, even if the battery is dead. That’s a definite win.
The Easy-Switch Keyboard is easy to pair. Make the device you want to use it with discoverable, push a button on the underside of the keyboard, and then select one of three function keys on the top left side of the keyboard. BOOM: You’re in business.
The K811 or K810 can be paired with up to three devices at a time. To switch between devices, all you have to do it hit one of those three function keys we just talked about. So, if you wanted to, you could use the keyboard to crank out an email on your laptop, click a button to switch the K811’s input over to your iPhone 5 to rattle off a quick text message, and then switch back to working on your email with another second button press. Fancy.
There’s no shortage of love for either the K811 or the K810.
9to5Mac’s Seth Weintraub gave took the Apple-friendly K811 version of the keyboard for a spin and said “Overall, the Logitech Bluetooth Easy-Switch Keyboard K811 is the best keyboard I’ve found so far for the growing amount of Apple devices in my household that utilize a Bluetooth keyboard. We no longer need separate keyboards for each Apple device that we have (which are growing ever more popular), it is light, rechargeable and has backlighting. Apple should make this keyboard.”
Shane Richmond of the Telegraph UK called the K811 his “favourite new gadget,” noting that the keyboard was so much better that Apple’s Wireless keyboard that he couldn’t wait to switch.
TUAW’s Steve Sandle was similarly impressed by the Easy-Switch and said, “I give the Logitech Bluetooth Easy-Switch Keyboard a big double thumbs-up with frosting on top. Seriously, the keyboard’s backlighting, feel, and ability to switch instantly between devices makes it a winner in my book.”
On the Windows side of things, CNET’s Rich Brown gave the K810 four out of five stars and said “I can imagine using this keyboard primarily with a tablet. I can see swapping it between a tablet and a desktop, or perhaps among multiple tablets. It would even make a great living-room keyboard thanks to its tidy, unobtrusive design.”
Over at PC Magazine, the K810 earned an Editor’s Choice Award from Brian Westover, who said “All in all, the Logitech K810 Bluetooth Illuminated Keyboard is a stylish-looking mobile keyboard, but the collection of features sets it above the rest. Swappable Bluetooth makes it perfect for use with multiple devices, across multiple operating systems, and smart features like intelligent backlight, proximity triggered Bluetooth connectivity, and built-in Windows 8 functionality make it an easy pick to replace the previous Logitech Wireless Illuminated Keyboard K800 as Editors’ Choice for wireless keyboards, and is the top Windows 8 keyboard we’ve seen.” Similarly, the K810 version of the Easy-Switch Keyboard also recieved excellent reviews from PocketLint and Android Police.
But despite how much everyone seems to like Logitech’s Easy Switch Keyboards, they do have a few points that might not sit well with you. Like I said earlier, they’re comparatively expensive to many of the other keyboards out there. I say that, yeah, it’s expensive if you’re just looking for a keyboard to use with your computer. You can find a keyboard for around $30 that’ll provide you with a decent typing experience. But consider everything that this keyboard can do, and how many devices you can use it with, frustration free. Convenience commands premium prices and in this case, it’s worth it.
If you do most of your computing on a laptop, the typing angle will feel completely normal to you.
Some people might not like the flat typing angle that you get from the Easy-Switch Keyboard. It feels very similar to typing on an Ultrabook or like I mentioned earlier, a Macbook Air. But I think only those that routinely work with chunky desktop keyboards will notice this. If you do most of your computing on a laptop, the typing angle will feel completely normal to you. Additionally, neither the Mac or the Windows version of the keyboard come with a number pad. But that’s a small sacrifice to make considering the rest of the functionality that you get out of this thing.
Personally, I would have liked to have seen more iOS-specific keys on the K811, ones that’d let me skip tracks in my music, or copy and paste. And I’m sure that users of the K810 would have enjoyed having more function keys aimed at using the keyboard with their Android or Windows hardware, I guess. But c’mon. Nothing’s perfect. The Easy-Switch series of keyboards are designed to work well with as many devices in your home as possible, and given the quality of the typing experience it provides, the excellent build quality, long battery life and the insane ease with which you can switch between the devices you use the keyboard with, I think the small compromises that Logitech asks us to make in order to make use of the K811 and the K810 are more than reasonable.
Apple’s Wireless Keyboard was our last pick for Best iPad Keyboard. It offers a great typing experience, sturdy design and all of the OSX and iOS function keys a Mac user could ever hope for. It’s about $20 cheaper than the K811 keyboard is too. But it doesn’t have backlit keys, it runs off of AA batteries instead of a rechargeable cell and is quite a bit heavier than the K811 is, so you’ll notice it in your bag if you decide to take it with you and use with your tablet. Also, it’s a pain in the ass to use it on multiple devices, especially if those devices are all in the same room and keep trying to link up with the keyboard. That said, I used an Apple Wireless Keyboard for years. It’s a great piece of hardware, so long as you just want to use it with one thing at a time.
You could opt to go with Logitech’s Wireless K760 Solar Keyboard. It costs $63, offers the same three device connectivity as the Easy-Switch keyboards do and, because it’s solar powered, you’ll never have to worry about charging its battery. But the the K760 has deeper dimensions than the K810 and K811 keyboards do, so it’s not as portable and it doesn’t offer a backlit keyboard, so it’s not the best choice for those looking to use it with their home theatre system or to do a bit of work in low light.
The same goes for the company’s K400 Wireless Touch Keyboard. It’s a Bluetooth Keyboard with a built-in mousepad that makes it a solid choice for use with a HTPC, and it only costs 30! But here’s the thing: You won’t always want that built-in mouse getting in the way when you’re using your keyboard with your tablet, phone or a set top box, and most of us will have a better mouse or trackpad to use with our computer than the one provided by Logitech here. Additionally, it’s not great at switching between devices like the Easy-Switch Keyboards are, and it doesn’t have a backlit keyboard and there’s no Mac iteration of the thing.
Amazon makes a great little Bluetooth keyboard that both Dan and I have used and like. Their AmazonBasics Bluetooth Keyboard with Mini Travel Stand for iPad, New iPad Mini, iPhone costs $30. Like the Easy-Switch keyboards, the AmazonBasics is lightweight. And if you’re planning on using it with your an iOS device, there’s a full complement of shortcut keys to help make getting work done on the go a little bit easier. That said, the keyboard’s a little bit more cramped than the one you’ll get with an Easy-Switch or Apple Wireless Keyboard. Additionally, there’s no Windows version of the AmazonBasics, it’s a pain to switch it between devices and it doesn’t run on a rechargeable battery. Instead, it’s powered by a pair of AA cells.
Wrapping it Up
Because of the fact that it’s available in both Mac and WIndows configurations, is lightweight, provides a great typing experience and can be set up to easily switch between and be used with up to three different Bluetooth items at a time, I don’t think, for now at least, that you’ll find a more capable keyboard to use with most of the devices you own than a Logitech Easy-Switch Keyboard.