It's not often that I write hardware reviews. When I do, it's a special piece of hardware that inspires me to do so. Such is the Logitech Multi-Device Keyboard K480. How can a keyboard drive me to actually pull a review out and lay the cut straight? Simple. As you might expect, I use a lot of Android devices throughout the day. However, I'm not a millennial or a tween, and my thumbs haven't evolved into that special place where they can type 90 words per second on a tiny smartphone or tablet keyboard. To that end, I need a bit of help. When I saw the K480, I had a feeling that I'd found multi-mobile keyboard nirvana.
I was write ... er ... right.
What this keyboard does (and does perfectly) is allow you to associate up to three different devices (Android, iOS, Windows, Mac) and switch between them with a quick spin of a dial. And this keyboard isn't like the first-gen Bluetooth keyboards — this thing works to perfection. With a full QWERTY keyboard and keys for Home, Menu, Back, Search, Volume, and Screenshot — the K480 makes interacting with your smartphone or tablet as easy as typing at your laptop or desktop.
I'm going to break up this review into two sections:
- Ease of pairing devices
- Typing experience
Before I get into the review, I should mention the cost. I purchased the K480 from Amazon for $49.99 (USD). Was it worth it? Every single penny. This keyboard has made my job exponentially easier. I've never been good at or a fan of typing on smartphones and tablets. Now that hurdle has been completely erased. With that said, let's dig in.
Ease of pairing devices
Since the K480 allows for the pairing of up to three different devices, you'd expect the process to be a bit of a challenge — but it's not. I'll show you how to pair a Verizon-branded LG G3 smartphone to the keyboard. Here's the process:
- Turn Bluetooth on your device to On
- Switch the keyboard to On (small slider on the bottom of the keyboard)
- Switch the keyboard dial to 1 (if this is your first device to be paired)
- Press and hold the PC button (on the keyboard) until it rapidly blinks (as opposed to the initial slow blink)
- When the Logitech entry appears on your Android device, tap it
- When prompted, enter the pairing key (Figure A) on the Logitech keyboard, and then hit the Enter key on the keyboard
Type this random string on the keyboard to pair with your device.
That's it. Your device should now be paired and will work with the keyboard up to 30 feet. You can repeat the process for two more device (making sure to switch the dial as you pair with the new devices). For each device, you'll get a new random string to enter on the K480 — this allows for the easy "device dialing" to switch between smartphones and tablets.
Ease of pairing is one thing — you may spend a couple of minutes max on pairing all three of your devices. The true telling factor of a keyboard is how well it works. The Logitech K480 is outstanding, with maybe one caveat.
First, the good.
The layout of the device is almost perfect. The only change I would have made is to move the home button to the start button — but that's just personal preference. I would imagine most users will be pairing the keyboard to smartphones or tablets — both of which do not make use of the start button. Instead, most will make use of the home button (which is associated with the F1 key).
Outside of that, the key layout is spot on.
The pocket that holds the devices is also well designed. I was a bit skeptical of its ability to hold a smartphone in place (Figure B) while in use. Thankfully, the rubber gripping does a great job of keeping all devices in place.
A side view of the K480.
The one caveat to the k480 is the key action. It's not light. If you're used to, say, a chicklet-style keyboard, you may find the keys a bit hard to press. I typically use a Kinesis Freestyle keyboard or a Chromebook Pixel — both of which have the perfect action for me. When coming from such a keyboard, the K480 takes some getting use to. I would imagine, after extended use, the keys might lighten up a bit — but I wouldn't count on it.
Is the finger-strengthening action a detractor from the device? Not at all. Even with the heavy-handed key action, the K480 is a complete delight to use (especially over having to type on a smartphone or keyboard). In fact, I'd say this particular keyboard makes it possible for me to actually work on books or TechRepublic posts with nothing more than a smartphone.
Business implications and conclusion
This is simple — if you're on the go, you have to travel light. If you'd like to carry a keyboard to use with your mobile devices, this baby might perfectly fit that bill. The only drawback with travel is that the keyboard doesn't come with a carrying case (something easily remedied). But if you're looking for a keyboard that allows you to stop and work quickly (and with more accuracy and efficiency than the smartphone keyboard allows), this is your device. The K480 is a small investment with a huge payoff.
Do you prefer to use your mobile devices with attached keyboards? If so, which keyboard do you recommend? Share your experience in the discussion thread below.
Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com.