Recently as part of my efforts to turn my Surface 3 into a “desktop PC” I needed to get a keyboard. My requirements were that it had to be wireless, cheap, and actually good for typing on. After about 30 minutes of intense researching, I eventually picked the Logitech K480, which turned out to be a fantastic choice because it offers so much more than I’d bargained for. In fact, this entire review is written and edited on this keyboard (it wouldn’t be a proper keyboard review if I didn’t, unless I hated the keyboard, which I absolutely don’t.)
The Logitech K480 retails at $65 (SGD), but I got the black version BNIB (brand new in box) and sealed for $40 from a fellow Carouseller. In fact, there was a $35 one that was also BNIB and sealed, but that was the white version and I didn’t really think that’d fit the aesthetic established by my black monitor and black mouse.
The design, in terms of how it looks, isn’t too bad. The neon yellow adds some fresh colour to the black. Other than that, aesthetically, it doesn’t look like a particularly handsome device, unlike an Apple Magic keyboard or even one of Logitech’s pricier offerings.
What its design does really well, however, is in function: allowing you to place your phone or tablet in an upright position so that you can see it as you type. It works with just about any phone, it seems, and most tablets (some may be too long on one side though, so you may have to use Portrait orientation for longer ones). Your device is angled at about 50-55 degrees from the horizontal, which I personally find to be a good angle to work with. I’m a rather tall person though, so your mileage may vary. Unfortunately, you can’t alter the angle at which your device is placed
A good Bluetooth keyboard should run for a long enough time that charging it/replacing its batteries is not inconvenient. The K480 fulfils that requirement splendidly. It runs off 2 AAA batteries, making it easy to find replacement batteries should you need them, but if Logitech is to be believed, you won’t need replacement batteries for about 2 years. For those who care, they derived the 2 year figure by looking at average word lengths and the fact that it can apparently last 2 million keypresses. But honestly, if it can last 6 months I’ll be a happy man.
More importantly, let’s talk about its wireless capabilities. The K480 is Bluetooth-enabled, which means you don’t have some small USB dongle that will take up space and a precious USB port. Plus, it allows you to switch easily between different connected devices easily. This is pretty nifty. After a painless pairing process (it’s really easy and quick), you can just rotate a dial on the top left of the keyboard to disconnect from your current device and reconnect to the one that corresponds with the number on the dial. I’ve tried it, and it takes about 1-2 seconds to switch control over to the other device. Up to 3 devices can be connected simultaneously, which is a good number as I can’t fathom many people needing more than that. One for your computer, one for your smartphone and one for your tablet? You can even prop up both your tablet and phone should you want to, but in that case your tablet has to be a rather small one, and in portrait mode.
It works with Android, Windows, ChromeOS, iOS and MacOS, and offers two keyboard layouts depending on whether you’re using an Apple or non-Apple device. This means on the left you’ve got your Start button, which will be the Alt Opt button if you’ve paired it with an Apple device, and you also have the Alt button which will be Cmd for Apple devices. On the right, there’s also an Alt/Cmd button and a Ctrl/Alt Opt button.
It also features function keys with useful buttons like volume and playback controls, a search button, a screenshot button and the Android navigation buttons (some of which also work with iOS such as the home button).
Last, but not least, we go into what it actually is like to use it as a keyboard. And at $65, you’d be hard-pressed to find a wireless keyboard that even works as well as this in terms of functionality. (Unless of course we’re looking at the K380, the K480’s younger sibling which doesn’t have the yellow indentation that props up your phone/tablet. The K380 also allows you to switch between 3 devices on the fly. For what it’s worth, the K480 was the same price as the K380 on Carousell for a brand new set (oddly), which is actually why I chose the K480.)
It’s a full-sized keyboard, and the keys are chiclet-style keys, sort of like MacBook keys (the older MacBook, not the Butterfly keyboard one) but rounded like iPhone app icons. They are also concave, following the curve of your finger, which I personally find nice. This concavity makes it very comfortable to type on, and makes it also feel good when I rest my fingers on the keys. Accuracy when typing on it is great, and I barely have any issue with accidentally pressing a key when I intended to press another. That’s because there is ample space between keys to separate them, which is something the Surface 3 keyboard does not have. (The Surface 3 keyboard has keys that are much larger, yet with no gap in between keys I found that accidental presses were more frequent). The keys have great travel, of about 3mm, but I think this really comes down to individual personal preference. As a person who has used laptops most of his life, I don’t actually like traditional desktop keyboards with lots of travel. Yet I don’t like the new MacBook’s Butterfly keyboard, because there’s hardly any travel (that said, apparently one gets used to it, and I haven’t had the opportunity to do so).
As for an overall experience of using the K480, I feel very comfortable typing on it. I don’t fret about typos much, or about having to press harder for the key to register. It’s not extremely portable (it’s bulky but light) but if I don’t have to bring around my Surface, I find it convenient to bring it around. So far, I’ve used it on trains and buses. In fact, right now I’m on a coach back to Singapore from KL, and I’m typing this on the K480 using Google Docs on my Redmi Note 3 (5.5 inch display). I also wrote my previous article on digital paper solutions using this setup, on the 6h-long coach ride to KL. Of course, I did all the images and formatting on the computer, but all the typing is done using this setup. And despite the roar of the coach’s engine and the bumping of the bus on the road, I’m finding it easy enough to be focused on writing this review. That can’t happen if I’m wrestling with the keyboard, so I take it as a good sign that typing on it is really natural and fluid.
There are just a few things I’d improve on if I could.
One is that typing is actually rather noisy. The loud “click” sounds of each key being pressed do melt into the background, but I think that if many K480s were used in the same room, the noise might be unbearable.
The other is that there’s no trackpad of any sort. Granted, if you want that, Logitech does sell keyboard with that feature. And the lack of a trackpad makes the K480 more compact. Still, I feel that there is enough space for a trackpad to be squeezed in, perhaps above the keyboard. Or, it could just allow for simple swipe gestures like left, right, up and down to be made into keys. That might make navigating the phone or tablet interface a little easier, so that you don’t have to keep lifting up your hands to scroll or navigate the multitasking menu (you can, for example, get into the multitasking menu using the dedicated key, but you need to swipe on your phone screen to actually navigate to the right app and choose it). That said, you can still navigate your phone using your hands, so it’s not too big of an issue.
To wrap up, it offers incredible battery life, a seamless pairing process, a great feature of allowing you to switch between controlling 3 devices effortlessly and quickly, useful keyboard functions and great cross-platform compatibility, and it’s an excellent keyboard in its own right, without even considering all the special features. A few minor grips about the noise of the keyboard and the lack of a way to navigate the touchscreen through the keyboard don’t detract from the overall experience of using it, and what it promises to do, it does fantastically.
Another very similar product is the K380, which is essentially the same as the K480, but without the indentation for your phone. Here are some pictures:
Anyway, at $65, the K480 is priced fairly, given that it’s an excellent keyboard for your desktop that is also useful for your phone and your tablet, but at $40 from Carousell (there are still others at that price, by the way. And yes, brand new in box) it is an absolute steal. Even if you’re only looking for a good wireless keyboard, I would still recommend you to get this, or the K380. It’s cheap yet incredible; what more could you ask for at this price point?