iPads and even iPhones are OK for banging out a few lines (aka ‘word processing’), sure, but if you seriously want to bash out some words, a real keyboard is the only answer. Unfortunately, it’s an expensive solution if you require one for each device – Mac, iPad, iPhone. That’s the issue the k480 tries to address, with its switchable Bluetooth pairings. It works for Mac, Windows, iOS and Android, so either device combo you have is catered to: press ‘PC’ at top right of the keyboard for Windows/Android and ‘i’ Mac/iOS. So it won’t work for you if your device menagerie of choice is a mixed platform one.
If you are using the k480 with a Mac, you’ll notice the Start, Alt and Ctrl keys have ‘opt’ and ‘cmd’ (Option and Command) under those words in grey. There are single-purpose Control and Function modifier keys, too (marked ‘ctrl’ and ‘fn’).
The keyboard is ’80s retro-futurist in white with rounded-edge keys, or in black with an almost flouro yellowy-green slot above the number keys. It looks like it should be on the set of UFO or Space 1999. It is relatively thick top to bottom (about 20mm at the thickest, top edge and 16mm on the spacebar side).
This thickness allows a mobile device to sit in a slot along the top as a kind of de facto laptop. You can fit in an iPad mini, portrait, along with the smaller iPhone 6 (even when it’s in an Apple case) alongside each other. I found the angle and space for comfortable typing about right, which explains the physical size of the keyboard. To pair it with a Mac, turn it on underneath (two AAA batteries are preinstalled under a panel on the underside) and hold in the ‘i’ key for three seconds so that the little blue LED to the right of the ‘i’ key blinks (three seconds) and then you can pair it the usual way via System Preferences>Bluetooth.
The keyboard appears in the Device list and click ‘Pair’. Whatever that number is on the number dial at top left, switching that to another changes the connection – in other words, it disconnects the Mac.
To connect it to something else, change the number on the three-position dial, open Settings on the iDevice, tap Bluetooth, hold that keyboard’s right-top button in for three seconds, it appears as ‘Keyboard’ in the Bluetooth list and choose it to pair. From then on, choose the right number and that device is connected, the others aren’t.
For the Mac, the keyboard feels feels a bit weird, kinda ‘buttony’, as if you are really pressing buttons instead of depressing keyboard keys. It’s funny that when you flip the switch to the iPhone pairing then type on the keyboard it feels totally different, because you are no longer typing on virtual keys on glass, you’re typing on real keys nice and far apart, which is quite liberating. So in an odd way, it feels better for iDevices than it does for a Mac.
Conclusion — What seems great for iDevices seems a bit clunky for a Mac, compared to an Apple keyboard anyway, but it will suit those more used to a Windows keyboard layout. However, the switchable aspect works a charm and it might be the device you’ve been craving for your digital life, since it’s not too pricey.
What’s great — Easy to pair, easy to switch, liberating having a keyboard work with two or even three iDevices, so you could also get one keyboard and pair it with three people’s devices, assigning them each a number. Then let the fighting over who has the keyboard begin!
What’s not — Doesn’t actually feel that great to type on.At least it’s not expensive.
Logitech Bluetooth Multi-device Keyboard k480, NZ$79.70
System — Bluetooth wireless computers or mobile devices which support external keyboards (HID profile), including Mac OS X, PCs running Windows 7, 8 or later or Chrome OS; iPad/iPhone iOS 5 or later and Android devices with Android 3.2 or later. Internet connection (for optional software download).
Available from — Electronics retailers. More info from Logitech.