To be fair, I’ll prelude this review by pointing out that I only bought the K480 because my first choice, Incase’s Origami Workstation, doesn’t ship to Israel. This isn’t to say I didn’t have expectations: Logitech’s keyboard boasts an average rating of 4.2 stars on Amazon and has received generally positive verdicts in other reviews.
The goal with an iPad setup was being able to leave the expensive, heavier MacBook at home on most days. Already in my arsenal were Rain’s mStand and Apple’s wireless keyboard. After crossing out the Origami, it was time to find a different keyboard-compatible case, or a combo proposition.
The criteria (in this order) were weight, comfort, size, and look. If you’ve read other reviews on here, then you know I also aim for pragmatic setups: those independent of future purchases.
The Logitech K480 debuted in September 2014 and was marketed as “the computer keyboard that also works with your tablet and smartphone”. It’s an agnostic’s wet dream, promising to not only work flawlessly on Windows, OS X, Android, and iOS — but also make switching between devices frictionless.
It currently retails on Amazon at $48, available in white or black.
Weight & Portability
The first thing you notice about the K480 is its weight. As I removed it from its package, my hope was that the cartons accounted for most of what I was carrying.
The K480 weighs 820 grams, or 1.81 pounds.
One could argue I should’ve known this by looking at the specifications. And I did. But like most people, not only could I not translate that number meaningfully, I also did a poor job in estimating its significance by testing against lighter or heavier objects.
iPad mini + K480
13″ rMBP (late ’13)
The iPad-K480 carry is 419g lighter than the MacBook. While this difference isn’t insignificant, there are two factors the calculation above excludes: the additional weight of an iPad case (if one is used), and the fact that the rMBP is among the heavier laptops within Apple’s current lineup.
There is one very valid argument to be made for this keyboard’s weight: it needs to bear the weight of at least one iPad without things getting shaky.
Reading other reviews, you may notice some complaints about this keyboard’s appearance. Indeed, compared to Apple’s, this one looks a bit…economic. But in fairness, how many other keyboards don’t? The K480 isn’t a sexy device, but I think “cheap” is a little harsh here. Its plastic build might make it look a bit toy-ish, but this doesn’t translate to inconvenience, or ostracism.
In hindsight, I would’ve gone with the black version of the K480 instead of Logitech’s definition of “white,” as I find the latter to be somewhat dull. No biggie.
The dock is about 27 centimeters (10.62″) long; enough to fit both an iPad and an iPhone in portrait mode. The device-slot is deep enough to hold any iPad without completely covering its home button.1 The rubberized inner edges mean you can plug the iPad quickly and firmly — fearing neither a fall or a scratch. However, this also dictates that you’ll have to remove most cases if you want to be able to dock it.
Because multi-device support is one of this keyboard’s biggest selling points, the slot’s width isn’t ideal for the iPad. In portrait mode — my preferred for writing — I feel the mini leans back a little too much, which doesn’t allow me to lean back comfortably enough. I’m not sure why, but when the iPad is docked horizontally, things get much better.
The viewing angle isn’t as bad as I’m making it sound — it isn’t bad at all — but neither is it perfect.
Ergonomics & Key Build
The above becomes more of an issue when you take into account one additional factor: the flat K480 sports an unadjustable base that sits 20mm above surface, providing a somewhat problematic typing angle.
But the keys..
The keys are where Logitech messed it up.
The first thing you should know about these keys is that they are loud. Not typewriter loud, but definitely the closest to that that I’ve heard from a keyboard. This can be good or bad depending on your taste, but I wouldn’t use the K480 in a classroom or bedroom.
More importantly, the keys are excessively round. If this was a stylistic decision, then may the Lord have mercy on Logitech’s designers. But stylistic or not, there are practical ramifications: keystroke misses and mistypes. The keys seem too far apart, and the space between them is often disorienting. I can’t tell with certainty whether the travel distance is longer compared to other keyboards, but the fact the keys protrude as far as they do makes me instinctively press harder.
The ergonomic experience with the Logitech K480 isn’t great. I don’t know how it compares to other iPad keyboards — and this is important to keep in mind — but while using it, I can’t help but feel I’m adjusting either my neck’s or wrists’ posture uncomfortably.
The switch dial is well-designed and offers just enough resistance to avoid accidental switching. I would’ve liked it to the right side, in-place of (or near) the pairing buttons, but I figure lefties would say the opposite.
What isn’t up for debate is the power switch location: Logitech has decided to put it on the back of the keyboard. It’s somewhere around the upper left side, not overly perceptible. If you’re energy conscious, you may find yourself a little annoyed by this.
But you have to be especially energy conscious to care about the power switch. Logitech claims two AAA batteries should last two years assuming “two million keystrokes/year in an office environment”. Eight months in, and my K480 isn’t showing any kind of slowness associated with battery drain. Take this testimony with a grain of salt though, because these days I rarely couple it with the iPad, and instead use it daily with my HTPC.
Pairing and Multi Device Support
This is where this one shines.
Thanks to its pragmatic key-mapping, which was well thought out, the K480 makes for an excellent cross-platform device. It does so without overly sacrificing cleanness or creating confusion.
Pairing new devices is a breeze on all operating systems; so is switching between paired devices and replacing paired slots. OS X and Windows controls work just as expected, and more importantly, so do the iOS controls on the top row. This makes multitasking on the iPad more plausible.
This section isn’t brief because it lacks importance, but I simply have nothing but positive things to say. Logitech gets an A+ here. Period.
I’m much less romantic about tech gear nowadays, so when I’m writing about one, I tend to focus more on aspects that I dislike and assume you’ll deduce that everything else works fine.
The Logitech K480 is an excellent multi-device keyboard. Those who use different operating systems will appreciate what it has to offer. Strictly as an iPad companion, however, this keyboard isn’t exactly a match made in heaven. I’m not sure whether I stopped carrying it because of its ergonomic shortcomings, or due to my own unrelated challenges with writing.
- The home button shouldn’t be of concern anyway, since it’s one of the custom-mapped functions on the top row. ↩︎