Logitech K480 multi-device Bluetooth keyboard

Smartphones, tablets, and PCs form a clan of devices designed to be used with separate keyboards, physical and virtual. But what if one keyboard could be used to control all of them as a way of saving space and perhaps time?

That’s the promise of Logitech’s K480, a formidably robust Bluetooth keyboard that allows the user to switch between PC, tablet and smartphone using a simple three-position dial. The design even provides a slot to simultaneously hold the tablet and smartphone at the required angle while connected to a PC.

It’s so obvious, it’s surprising nobody’s thought of it before.

Pairing the device with the supported platforms through Bluetooth is easy enough - Android, Windows, Chromebooks and Apple are all on the list, Windows Phone 8 being the single exception.

It looks clever, it is clever but then the question crops up - what problem is the K480 solving? The simplest answer is that it is at heart a space-saving alternative to a conventional PC keyboard that can also tame a tablet and smartphone. Once set up, the user can enter text on a tablet, smartphone and PC from the same keyboard position without having to fiddle with individual interfaces beyond opening the right app.

Some deskbound users will value this outlook as long as the K480 doesn’t make too many compromises when used as a simple keyboard. On that score it’s a mixed bag. The design if impressively ‘planted’ on the desk, weighing just over 800 grams (1.8 pounds), more than enough to stop it from bouncing around. The circular keys themselves have a decent amount of travel, feedback and are well spaced, without doubt better than any laptop keyboard.

As for key placement and layout, this is where people will start to pick one or two small holes, starting with the small left shift key. The Windows ‘start’ button is in the right place if not well labelled while the design does manage to fit in a blizzard of function keys for up to five different operating systems quite well.

At first this is confusing to the eye but Logitech provides a neat online guide that shows which keys relate to which function on a given platform. Then it occurs to you that perhaps the real need isn’t for a multi-device keyboard at all but one that can do all of this while being portable, something the hefty K480 isn’t cut out for.

At going on a kilogram, you simply can’t lug this around comfortably and it’s also not especially small either at 299mm x 195mm x 20mm. Given the amount of empty plastic above the keyboard, the design could easily have been made smaller if Logitech had seen portability as a need.

In the end this is a missed opportunity because aside from that the K480 is well a well-executed and fairly-priced piece of technology (street prices are around £40-£45). Although you can understand why Logitech designed it this way (it has to be heavy and deep enough to sit well on a desk) it’s a shame because being able to transport it to and from home and work would be useful.

Another issue is the angle of the screen cradle is too shallow when devices such as smartphones or tablets are left inside bumper cases, which means they have to be removed. This is a bit of an ergonomic drawback in an age when most people use a protective case of some sort.

Supplied for review in the UK by eBuyer.com, which sells the K480 for £45. US buyers are looking at around $50 from equivalent channels.

OUR VERDICT

At first the K480 looks like a good idea but the use case is mainly for people with very little desk space and who need to regularly access two or three devices at once and who find small screens a fiddle. Other people would be better to invest in a light tablet/smartphone keyboard instead.