It seems I only post here about peripherals. We’ll see if that trend continues…

Recently I decided it was time to downsize my keyboard. The way I work with one hand on the keyboard and one on the mouse, I was finding the distance between my hands hurting my arms and shoulders. Time to hit the market. I could have gone with the standard Apple Wireless Keyboard, but with more interesting options around I decided to give the Logitech K760 a whirl.

Logitech K760 product shot

The Logitech K760 tries really hard to looks a lot like a standard Apple Wireless Keyboard, only with a big, light-absorbing forehead.

 

I’ve generally had good experiences with Logitech peripherals – I like their mice (since my last peripheral post, I’ve gone back to a Logitech mouse), and on top of the fact that this was a Mac-specific keyboard with solar recharging, this Bluetooth keyboard had a nifty little trick: the ability to quickly switch between three different Bluetooth devices. Perfect for composing text messages to my non-iMessage using friends, or entering tricky passwords on my iPhone without having to re-pair devices back and forth.

When it arrived I was super excited. It felt so much easier on my body to not have to spread my arms past cursor keys and a number pad to use my mouse, and being able to switch between devices quickly was divine. I discovered a few caveats, though, which I tried to overlook:

1. Keyfeel

The shape of the keys is subtly different from Apple’s, which I’m quite accustomed to. The keys are a bit smaller, and feel more square – it was simply harder to hit the keys, and required more force. The texture is also a bit powdery. Subtle, but I figured I could get used to it given the other features.

2. Minimal media control

The standard Mac keyboard has a few handy media control buttons that allow you to control media programs (chiefly iTunes) with one touch – one each for last track, play/pause, and next track. Because it uses the first three function keys for Bluetooth client-switching, The Logitech K760 has just one; for play/pause. If I had to choose just one, that would be the right choice. But the last/next track keys are more useful than I thought, and I didn’t notice that drawback while shopping. It was a disappointing discovery to make. Again, I figured I could live with this given the other strengths.

3. Dodgy key-chording

Another action the K760 doesn’t support is switching modifier keys while using key combinations. I noticed this the most while using Apple’s task switcher. Something most Mac users do pretty frequently is hit Cmd-Tab to switch apps. In addition, some Mac users might be aware that Cmd-Shift-Tab lets you traverse your launched apps in the reverse direction:

Screen recording of Mac OS task switcher in action

I do this a lot.

 

“No… problem?” I thought to myself.

But after about a month, the shine really started to wear off. The keyboard started to get unresponsive, and at times would spit out straight gibberish on my screen in place of my keystrokes. I checked for interference, I tried using other devices… all the standard checks. Still happened. Especially with the X, C, and V keys, which is awesome when you’re trying to cut and paste.

Even loopier, it would start to cycle through to the other Bluetooth devices. All of a sudden it’s trying to type on my iPhone when I’m trying to type on my Mac.

4. WARNING: Long customer support failure story about to follow. Skip ahead if you like.

“Fine,” I thought, “still within warranty.” I got in touch with Logitech via their online support. Their first reply was a standard form response asking me for the usual details, despite already having entered them elsewhere. NBD, I’m pretty numb to having to repeat myself with support agents now. But I was a little annoyed with their troubleshooting requests:

-It might be an encryption issue and we might need to establish a new connection:
copy and paste this link for the unifying software

http://www.logitech.com/en-us/support/software/6254?section=downloads

[extra steps deleted]

Um, this was a BLUETOOTH keyboard. No Logitech Unify receiver in sight. Totally useless, and possibly something that could have added more crap to troubleshoot.

-Plug in and test the device on another USB ports of the computer. If it is connected through a hub, try connecting directly to the system ports to verify the hub has not failed. 

Again, no USB receiver in sight. BLUETOOTH KEYBOARD, Logitech. Get with it.

-If you have multiple devices plugged into the computer, isolate the issue by temporarily removing other USB devices on the computer and test the device.

Facepalm. OK, fine. Just to be sure there are no device conflicts. Nope. 

-If it is possible, please try the device on other computer. This is to check if the issue lies on the USB ports of your computer.

Well, the beauty of this glitch was that it was taking care of this troubleshooting step for me by switching devices on the fly! Even so, I tried it on another machine. Still wonky. I requested a replacement, and sent all the relevant documentation. Hurrah, a favourable response!

Thank you for contacting Logitech again and for the updates.
I have processed a replacement for you.
Your Logitech Wireless Solar Keyboard K760 for Mac will be delivered in 7 to 10 working days. ( Just an estimated period )
You are not required to return the faulty unit.
The replacement will continue the warranty of the original device.
If you will need my help in the future, just let me know, I’m just an email away.
I will be tagging your case as solved.

I decided to recycle the keyboard, and use my old keyboard until the new one arrived. A few days later, I received a less-favourable response:

Thank you for contacting Logitech and for the update.We are sorry to inform you that our warehouse did not release your replacement as they have confirmed that the device was purchased from an un-authorized reseller which means that it does not have a manufacturer warranty. Please contact the seller and claim for your replacement. We are sorry for the inconvenience.

Alas, the keyboard was gone, and the return period with the Amazon seller had passed. Given all this tomfoolery, returning to another K760 just didn’t seem all that appealing. I started looking again for deals elsewhere. Enter my old favourite Mac accessories supplier, OWC.

Screen capture of OWC's website

Not the prettiest site, but a wonderful company.

The Matias Slim One

Matias Slim One (Mac) product photo

Oh, hello.

I’m not sure why I didn’t consider the Matias Slim One initially. I can think of a few reasons it would have appeared less appealing: it supports one less device – one via USB and one via Bluetooth, instead of three via Bluetooth. It doesn’t have the solar panel/wireless coolness of the K760. I’d also never used a Matias peripheral before.

But a quick look around Matias’ other products on OWC’s site, and you’ll find some keyboards that look really well-crafted. And the Slim One’s function-key allocation makes a lot more sense. OWC had a sale on them, so I give it a whirl.

It just arrived today, and here are a few reasons I already quite like it:

1. Keyfeel

Not as good as Apple’s, but way closer.

2. Media control

I’m pretty fickle with musical choices. I work to music. Being able to skip (or repeat) tracks without switching contexts makes me happier and more productive (but not fitter, I guess).

3. Key chording is back

I made that video above using this keyboard.

4. It comes with an iPhone stand

MiniRizer product photo.

Nothing fancy, but it gets the job done and it’s adjustable for maximum glare-evasion. Sadly, it doesn’t leave a lot of room for a charge cable to plug in. A thoughtful pack-in for a device geared to people who have an iPhone next to their keyboard.

5. Search key

The Slim One adds a ‘Search’ function key that activates Spotlight on Mac or iOS, which makes the keyboard that much more useful on iOS – now I can launch apps.

In conclusion…

Getting the Slim One, in my brief experience, feels freeing and comforting after years with the standard Apple keyboard and my brief frustrating period with the K760. Here’s hoping it lasts!