Review: Logitech Cordless Desktop S530 Laser Mouse + Keyboard Set
Pros: A sleek, Mac-matching wireless keyboard and laser mouse set with easy, dedicated iTunes (and other Mac) buttons, featuring an impressive degree of access to core media features from either peripheral. Both accessories are comfortable in the hand, and use battery optimization technologies to provide great longevity.
Cons: Wireless transmission range is unimpressive by comparison with existing alternatives; other than laser in mouse and battery life, core included technologies aren’t as impressive for the dollar as their packaging.
As with several other iPod/iTunes-related items we’re adding to the site today, Logitech’s Cordless Desktop S530 Laser Mouse + Keyboard Set for Mac ($100) is an accessory that we liked enough to briefly review, but have opted not to rate for now because of the lack of similar items to compare it against.
We’ve liked Logitech’s wireless keyboards and mice for a while, but models that cosmetically match our Macs have been few and far between; even if they’re electronically compatible, the company’s black and silver PC models scream “Dell” rather than “Apple.” Hence, the S530 set - a pairing of a slim, comfortable S530 wireless keyboard and a MX600 wireless laser mouse, both in white with silver and gray accents, linked to your computer by a matching USB dongle. The package also includes non-rechargeable batteries for the keyboard (2 AAA) and mouse (2 AA), and CD-based software that’s equally easy to install and upgrade with the company’s frequent Control Center updates.
The only reason we’re covering this keyboard - a silly one, admittedly - is that it’s the company’s first to include buttons specific to iTunes, a first step towards even more sophisticated keyboards that we expect to see for Mac owners later this year. In addition to a largely Mac-familiar keyboard layout, S530 actually includes several dedicated iTunes buttons, including one for the application, track forward/backward buttons, play/pause, and volume up, down and mute buttons, all on the keyboard’s right side. Logitech’s software enables the buttons automatically, such that installation of S530 eliminates your need to pull open iTunes or a helper application to toggle between songs with an iPod shuffle’s basic level of control. Additional buttons on the right give you one-click access to Spotlight and iPhoto; Mail and Safari buttons are on the left. Previous keyboards could, of course, map these features to other buttons, but it’s handy to have them all in one place here. We also liked the feel of the keyboard and its keys; this is a comfortable alternative to Apple’s Mac pack-ins.
Similarly, Logitech’s included MX600 laser mouse feels much better than your average mouse, in equal parts due to comfortable sculpting and its laser technology, which we found precise when the whole system was functioning properly. It also includes volume up and down buttons, a mute button, and a unique tilting scroll wheel, plus two additional Internet forward/back buttons on the side. Despite all of the different buttons - the tilting scroll wheel alone can be depressed, tilted left or right for horizontal scrolling, and rolled up or down for vertical scrolling - we’ve not experienced any accidental button presses over several weeks of testing. An inconspicuous light on the mouse’s front lets you know if the battery is low, which thanks to advanced power management is a far less common occurrence (six months, claims Logitech, which we’d suspect is accurate) than we’d expected from non-rechargeable batteries.
The one and only issue we’ve had with the S530 set is regrettably a big one. We’ve tested its RF (radio)-based USB dongle on two different Macintoshes, in each case finding the transmitting range to be surprisingly unimpressive, even by comparison with an older Logitech wireless keyboard system we’d been using. Logitech apparently opted to omit its superior 2.4GHz or Bluetooth wireless technologies from the system, and as such doesn’t aggressively promote the distance performance of either of the components. While the company includes a “USB stand” that claims to improve the dongle’s range or offer “better accessibility” - which it does to the extent that placing the dongle behind, on the side, or in front of your Mac’s built-in USB port is inconvenient - we still found the reliable transmitting distance to be shorter than we’d prefer, several feet rather than longer. This wasn’t convenient in our office or media center testing environments.
What we’re expecting next from Logitech has the great potential to go much further than S530 - PC owners already have the MX5000, which addresses the wireless performance issue with new Bluetooth 2.0 technology, and takes a major step forward with two features - an integrated LCD display which works like a three-line version of the original iPod’s screen, and a touch-sensitive control pad to control media functions. Of course, we want a Mac version. The convenience of superior wireless, music display, and button technology can reduce or eliminate your need to use your computer’s screen for certain features, permitting you to navigate your music and movie libraries from across the room. Even when sitting at a desk, you won’t need to open the iTunes window all the time to change tracks. Until and unless Apple develops superior remote controls for iTunes, this or something like it will be exactly what we’re looking for.