For the last year, I had been using Amazon’s Bluetooth keyboard for iOS devices with both my iPad and iPhone, but some weeks ago it quit on me. Well, two crucial keys quit working: the space bar, and the “h” key. So I thought it was time to move the Logitech Easy-Switch K811 keyboard from the “wish” list to the “buy” list. And it’s turned out to be a very good decision.
At more than twice the cost of the Amazon keyboard ($80 vs $30) and $10 more expensive than Apple’s own Bluetooth keyboard, though, the EasySwitch K811 is an expensive keyboard. For me, two main features — and a slew of other minor features — make this not just a good buy, but an excellent one.
Let me start with the two main selling points: fast and easy switching among up to three Bluetooth devices, and backlighting.
The model is named “Easy-Switch” because it literally makes switching between three devices fast and easy. I typically use my MacBook Pro in clamshell mode, connected to a large monitor and a wireless keyboard and mouse. And when I’m at my desk, my iPad and iPhone will be plugged in most of the time, just charging, or monitoring some kind of service like Messages or the Google Hangouts app. And every now and then I’ll pick up one of them to tap out a reply. Which is a perfect setup for the EasySwitch, since it can pair with all three devices, and lets me easily type out text on any of the three devices I choose.
Pairing is straightforward and quick. I just paired the laptop, tablet, and phone in quick succession, assigning the first to the third Bluetooth pairing keys in that order as well. A typical work day for me would be to use the K811 paired with the laptop most of the time, and swicth to the phone to answer text messages when they come in. The switch from one device to another happens quickly — maybe just two or three seconds. You just tap the key corresponding to the device you want to use, and an indicator light above that key flashes briefly, then disappears once the connection is established.
Mac users should get the K811 model, with it’s Mac and iOS-specific keys, while Windows and Android users should get the K810 which, for some reason, is about $20 cheaper than the Mac/iOS version.
The second, outstanding feature for me is the backlighting. Backlighting for keyboards is one of those features that you miss only when it’s not available to you anymore — as on the Apple Bluetooth keyboard. Portable computing means working anywhere — from dimly lit corners of hotel lobbies to coffee shops with “artistic” lighting — and in many of those situations, a backlit keyboard comes in really handy.
The backlight isn’t always on; it fades away after about 10 seconds of inactivity. But the K811 has a proximity sensor built in that turns the backlight back on once you bring your fingers to the keyboard once more.
The rest of the features that round out the excellent feature set are the built-in battery, physical power switch, an elegant design, and durable build (or so I hope.)
The built-in battery means never having to swap out batteries. And in over a month of use, with the keyboard turned on during most of the working day, six days a week, I’ve only charged it once. It had not yet displayed the low-battery prompt, but I was going out on a week-long trip and I just wanted to be sure that I had a full charge before leaving.
The On/Off switch is on the right side, and is so much better than the tap-to-turn-it-on and hold-to-turn-it-off switch of the Apple Bluetooth keyboard because this one clearly shows when the keyboard is on and when its off, and you can’t accidentaly hit the switch and turn the keyboard on, as it happens every now and then with the Apple one.
IN terms of physical dimensions, the Easy-Switch keyboard is just a bit wider and a bit taller than the Apple Bluetooth keyboard, and sits flatter — no battery “hump” at the far end to raise the keyboard to a more comfortable angle. Still, it only took a while for me to get used to typing on a flatter surface. The keys are a bit different — they are slightly smaller in surface area, more concave, and with more space between the keys. Again, it took a bit of getting used to, but I was up and running at my normal typing speed in a couple of days. The iOS-specific controls are also different, and some functions have been removed (forward/backward media control buttons, as well as the buttons dedicated to __) to make way for the three Bluetooth pairing keys and for the backlighting controls. After more than amonth of use, I don’t miss them at all. YMMV, of course.
I’ve been impressed with the design and longevity of other Logitech devices I’d purchased in the past years, starting with the Mouseman Traveler, up to the Mini Boombox. And so I’m also hoping this one lasts me for a long time (the Apple keyboard has been in daily use for more than three years, without any problem at all). I also like the black-keys-on-aluminum look much better than Apple’s white-keys-on-aluminum design, as the keys stand out better, and don’t get (or at least don’t look) grimy.
The extra conveneince of being able to move quickly from one gadget to another makes the Logitech Easy-Switch K811 Bluetooth keyboard worth the extra cost.
Price and avaialbility: Sadly, only available abroad (Amazon.com is one such source), for $80 + tax, for now
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