Review: Logitech Bluetooth Easy-Switch Keyboard for Mac, iPad + iPhone
As a developer of accessories for Apple devices, Logitech has two major strengths: audio and input products. While it has recently become a major player in iOS-focused speakers and headphones, Logitech has long excelled in developing keyboards, mice, and trackpads, frequently unveiling innovative new options for PC and Mac users. In recent years, it has debuted long-lasting solar-powered Mac keyboards, slim versions for iPads, and even keyboard cases -- all noteworthy -- so it's no surprise that Logitech has come up with another compelling alternative: the Bluetooth Easy-Switch Keyboard for Mac, iPad + iPhone ($100).
While some users may wonder what’s “innovative” about the Bluetooth Easy-Switch Keyboard, the answer is simple: within a nearly identical footprint, it does even more than Apple’s vaunted Wireless Keyboard, all while being thinner and easier to pack. Measuring 11.4” wide by 5” deep by a tapering 0.3” to 0.5” thick (versus Apple’s 11” wide by 5.2” deep by 0.17” to 0.7” thickness), the Bluetooth Easy-Switch Keyboard manages to include both a rechargeable battery and key backlighting in its frame without requiring the circular bulge found on Apple’s keyboard. A power switch is on its right side, a micro-USB port is on its back, and a Bluetooth pairing button is nestled on its bottom.
Uncharacteristically, Logitech makes no claims as to the battery’s longevity on its web site or packaging, leaving the key details hidden in its instruction manual. According to the company, a three-hour charge provides 10 days of use with the backlight on for two hours a day—not fantastic numbers, but not shocking given the power consumption of lighting systems. However, with the backlight off, the keyboard can run for “about one year” on a single charge, a major improvement over most Bluetooth keyboards on the market. Logitech includes a nicely cord-managed micro-USB cable that can be used to power and charge the keyboard while it’s in use. While additional battery life in backlit mode wouldn’t hurt, most users will find the Bluetooth Easy-Switch Keyboard’s longevity to be otherwise remarkable; in any case, it’s a lot better than unscrewing the side tube to swap AA batteries for Apple’s Wireless Keyboard.
Only the pickiest users will have issues with the keyboard’s backlighting system. Logitech includes five levels of lighting: “off” plus four different levels of dimming. At their brightest, the keys have crisp white central character illumination, with a little off-angle undercarriage glow that isn’t objectionable. Apple’s best laptop keyboards have more granular lighting controls, and the glow surrounding the keys isn’t as obvious at off-angles as on this keyboard, but virtually no one will care, particularly since Apple’s own Wireless Keyboard has no backlighting at all.
And as the product’s name suggests, there’s an “Easy-Switch” feature that does as much as the other additions to justify this keyboard’s existence. The first three function keys are labeled Bluetooth 1, 2, and 3, enabling a user to switch between three different Bluetooth-capable devices with little more than a single tap. By “little more,” we mean to say that you’ll need to perform a one-time pairing with each device—a process handled effortlessly with the aforementioned pairing button on Easy-Switch’s bottom, requiring a seven-key security confirmation on Macs, but not on iOS devices. After that, you just tap Bluetooth 1, 2, or 3, and within a second, the keyboard’s ready to type on whichever device you’ve selected.
To say that the Easy-Switch feature works well is an understatement. Moving from device to device is so effortless—apart from the need to reposition your cursor on whichever screen you’re using—that iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch users will no longer have any excuse for poor typing with this keyboard around. Logitech’s keys are nearly identical to Apple’s in size, a tiny bit more rounded at the corners, and if anything, a little more springy and responsive. We found typing on the Easy-Switch Keyboard to be a joy, instantly adjusting from using Apple’s Wireless Keyboard without issues, and composed this entire review on it without any unusual issues or errors. Substituting the Easy-Switch Keyboard for Apple’s Wireless Keyboard is painless.
This isn’t to say that the Bluetooth Easy-Switch Keyboard is perfect, as Logitech has made several trade-offs in this product. While the industrial design is almost entirely unobjectionable, using a silver and black color combination that nicely matches past and current iMacs, there’s a far more substantial use of plastic than Apple: the silver aluminum portion is smaller, paired with glossy and matte black plastics that make this accessory feel lighter, though thankfully not unstable, thanks to anti-slip rubber feet on the bottom. The lighter, less deluxe chassis comes despite a $30 premium over the Wireless Keyboard, a considerably higher price tag than the pricey but solid-feeling Apple accessory. And finally, there are some very modest changes in function key performance: you’ll need to use Logitech software to enable a Mission Control key on Macs, and you’ll lose a little iOS-specific function key functionality, too.
Separately or collectively, none of these issues is fatal to the Bluetooth Easy-Switch Keyboard’s rating: this is a highly recommendable accessory. Judged on its merits, this is an excellent keyboard: beyond its attractive industrial design, responsive keys, and slender profile, each of the three critical features that distinguishes it from Apple’s Wireless Keyboard would arguably be a draw for some users without the other two. But taken together, the integrated rechargeable battery, backlit keys, and super-simple multi-device pairing make this as close to an ideal computer-slash-iOS keyboard as we’ve yet seen; it’s great enough for a desktop, and equally compelling as a travel accessory. Unless Apple comes up with something similar or better, or you strongly prefer a keyboard built into an iPad case, this should be at or very near the top of your list of typing options.