I make my living on a keyboard. In fact, you could argue that the keyboard is the most important tool I use aside from the computer itself. Keyboards are also starting to play a more important role in the living room. I took a look at one keyboard designed specifically for a living room environment: the Logitech k830 illuminated living-room keyboard.
Smart televisions, cable boxes, DVRs, and devices like Apple TV or Amazon’s Fire TV allow you to search for content. Some even enable you to access and surf the Web. Scrolling back and forth one letter at a time or typing on a telephone-style number pad where you have to cycle through letters to find the one you want are very inefficient methods of interacting with these devices. I won’t candy coat it: it sucks.
The Logitech k830 keyboard is designed to solve that problem. It is more compact than a standard full-sized keyboard, and it contains a few special features that make it uniquely suited for using on your lap while kicked back on the couch.
Rather than using AA or AAA batteries that would have to be replaced frequently, the k830 uses a lithium ion rechargeable battery. Logitech claims the keyboard works for about 10 days on a full charge. When you need to give it more juice you just connect it to a PC or other power source using a microUSB to USB cable (included in the box).
When you’re not actively using the keyboard you should turn it off. Assuming you’re only using it for a few minutes or even a few hours at a time that “10 days” of runtime can actually result in weeks or months between charges. I used the keyboard for about three weeks and I never had to recharge it.
The k830 works wirelessly with your TVs and gadgets. It uses Logitech’s proprietary Unifying wireless technology—the same technology Logitech uses with its wireless keyboards, mice, and touchpads for the PC. Communication requires that you plug the tiny Logitech Unifying receiver into a USB port, so whatever device you plan to use the keyboard with must have USB HID capability and an open USB port. Be careful because many TVs and devices have USB ports that work for things like viewing pictures from a USB thumb drive, but are not compatible with a device like the Unifying receiver.
Because it uses the same Unifying wireless technology, it actually works with PCs as well. I use a Logitech k800 wireless keyboard and t650 wireless touchpad in my office so I already have the Unifying receiver connected to a USB port on my Surface Pro 3 docking station. When I turn the k830 on in my office, it immediately connects and I am able to type on the keyboard or navigate my PC using the k830 touchpad.
Most of the time I’m watching television the room is dark—or at very best it’s poorly lit. That would make it difficult to see most keyboards, but the k830 is backlit. The keyboard and controls such as the volume up, down and mute buttons are individually lit so you can see what you’re typing in a dark room.
Using the k830
I liked using the k830. It is light enough that it doesn’t seem cumbersome, yet solid enough that it doesn’t feel cheap. The weight distribution is even—something I can’t say for my TV or cable box remotes—so it’s easy to handle.
Aside from the aforementioned illumination, another unique feature that makes this keyboard well-suited for the living room is the placement of a button on the back left of the keyboard that acts as a left mouse button. There are also left and right mouse buttons below the trackpad surface where’d you expect them, but the extra button lets you comfortably hold the k830 in two hands and navigate the trackpad with your right hand while you select things with your left hand.
The keyboard is compact by nature because the k830 is designed to be portable and fit comfortably in a living room environment. That also means it does not have a separate numeric keypad like you typically find on a standard full-sized keyboard. The trackpad itself is smooth and responsive. I didn’t notice any lag between my swiping the trackpad and the movement of the onscreen cursor.
Room for improvement
My only real complaint about the k830 is the quality of the typing experience. As I noted above, I use a Logitech k800 wireless keyboard all day every day. I am typing this review on the k800. I love the feel and responsiveness of the keys on the k800. The k830 is a whole different story.
It is partly a function of the fact that the keyboard is more compact, so the spacing of the keys is different than I’m used to. There isn’t much that can be done about that. The other issue is that the keys are flat and square. That makes it more challenging to hit individual keys, and much more likely that I’ll accidentally mash more than one at a time.
That isn’t a deal breaker in my opinion. It’s mostly a matter of getting used to it. Besides, I wasn’t trying to write a 1,000 word article using the k830. I’m just typing short queries so I can find episodes of Breaking Bad or Orange is the New Black.
The k830 has a list price of $100, which is a bit steep, but you can buy it from Amazon for $80. Overall it beats the hell out of scrolling through one letter at a time, and I recommend you take a look at it if you frequently search content on your TV or entertainment device.
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