Intriguing concept, flawed implementation
My wife Heather is becoming sufficiently comfortable using her iPad that I suggested she take it as her "computer" the next time she travels. She would need a Bluetooth keyboard with which to type emails. The local flyer of BestBuy that week featured Logitech's new portable keyboard, the K480.
I had read about this keyboard, it intrigued me, here was my excuse for buying one, and now it was available locally, finally. Well, except it wasn't. None of the outlets in our area carried it in stock; a helpful store employed finally located the elusive keyboard at a store an hour's drive away. "I'll order it online," I told me wife.
Three days later it arrived. As the courier handed it to me, I was shocked at the weight of the package. What could be making the keyboard feel like it was filled with lead? I ripped open the environmentally-hostile packaging to find it was the keyboard itself that was filled with lead. Already my head was filling with the thought, "Return it."
Something that felt heavier than an old iPad or new ultrabook would not do for a portable keyboard. The Logitech Web site confirms it: 0.82kg or 1.8 pounds. (My recently purchased Yoga 2 laptop is only 3.0 pounds.) Well, I thought, let my wife decide. She'll be the one using it.
The keyboard has two significant features:
- It can work with three difference devices, memorizing their Bluetooth credentials. You switch between them by rotating the bright yellow dial you see in the figure below.
- The tablet or smartphone sits in the bright yellow rubberized slot at an appropriate angle.
K480's Many Design Failures
Those intriguing features, however, contribute to the keyboard's downfall:
Partial design flaw #1: Bluetooth is a terrible communications protocol for typing. It is too slow, and cannot keep up with fast typists like my wife and me. But for an iPad, it is the only way to connect a keyboard.
The slot creates three problems in real-world usage:
Design flaw #2: The closed ends limit the size of tablet it can carry. My Surface-class 12" tablet does not fit.
Design flaw #3: The slot is the reason for the keyboard's heavy weight: to keep the keyboard from flipping over when a tablet is inserted. The weight is a counterweight.
Partial design flaw #4: An integrated tablet-keyboard design like this one has its pros and cons. By inserting the tablet in the keyboard, perhaps it could be used on one's lap. But having the tablet physically independent of the keyboard has its advantages, such as better ergonomics.
Design flaw #5: And then there was the design flaw that made my wife reject the keyboard: the on/off switch is underneath the keyboard. Being battery-run, the keyboard needs to be turned on and off by (a) removing the tablet; (b) turning over the keyboard; (c) moving the power switch; (d) turning the keyboard right way up; and (e) reinserting the tablet.
Other cordless Logitech keyboards have their on-off buttons on the side, where a glance shows whether the unit is turned on or off.
Design flaw #6: Related to this flaw are the batteries. The keyboard uses two AAA-size batteries, when there is room for AA batteries, which are (a) cheaper and (b) last longer.
So, Logitech lost a sale due to the positioning of a switch. That, and when I showed my wife how light regular cordless keyboards weigh, she was all for returning it.