Typing After Dark
Illuminated Keyboards are a growing fad among computer peripherals. Computer monitors often look best when kept in the dark, and the elimination of screen glare or the need to raise monitor brightness means that using a computer in a dark room often results in less eye strain. Typing in a dark room, however, presents its own challenge, as the markings on most keyboards become invisible. An illuminated keyboard, however, illuminates the markings on each key, making it easy to use in dark places.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the illuminated keyboard is the main selling point of the Logitech Illuminated Keyboard. But there is more to this keyboard than back-lit keys. The Logitech Illuminated Keyboard’s simple, slim design clearly hopes to make a strong impression on the user. But does it succeed?
Aesthetics and Build Quality (4 out of 5)
The Logitech Illuminated Keyboard is one sexy piece of plastic. Its slim profile gives it a modern, expensive look. It is very much the PC’s aesthetic equivalent to the slim keyboards used by Apple computers. The keyboard itself is mostly a semi-gloss black which provides enough sheen to appear attractive but not enough to show excessive finger-printing. The keyboard is bordered on three sides by a small, transparent piece of plastic which is included for style only. The bottom of the keyboard includes a built-in matte black hand-rest which is the keyboard’s only fashion failure. It looks good when new, but it seems to pick up the natural oils in the palms of the user’s hands. This causes some portions to look slightly darker than others after a few months of use. The back-lighting is awesome – I still occasionally take a moment to gawk at how awesome the keyboard looks in a darkened room.
The build quality of the Logitech Illuminated Keyboard is average. The keyboard itself is extremely solid. The keys do not wobble excessively and do not feel loose when a hand is brushed across the full length of the keyboard. The stylish extras are more problematic. I had the chance to take a hold of a model that had been used as a sample for several months and found that the transparent plastic had become loose at the edges. A look at my newer unit confirmed that the plastic does not seem well secured and will eventually begin to separate from the keyboard itself. The small legs which can be used to prop the keyboard up also concern me. They are extremely thin and feel like they will break if even moderate pressure is applied.
Features (2 out of 5)
Being sexy apparently comes at a price, as the Logitech Illuminated Keyboard’s slim frame contains less features than one would normally expect. Notably absent are any additional USB connections. I feel that the importance of USB on a keyboard is somewhat over-rated, but it is also common enough that the absence is noticeable. The keyboard has some programmable functions, but they require the press of a function key and function button on the bottom row of keys. This is not much easier than double-clicking on the desktop icon to launch whatever function has been bound to the keys.
The illuminated keys themselves are one of the better implementations of the feature available on any keyboard. The back-lighting is not perfect on all keys, and a few of the function keys are not fully lit. That said, the lighting is extremely clear and distinct and offers four levels of brightness. The back-lighting’s plain white color may seem bland, but it is appreciated. Many illuminated keyboards on the market are considered gaming keyboards, and they include various colors like red and purple rather than a clear, professional white.
Typing Feel and Ergonomics (5 out of 5)
While the Logitech Illuminated Keyboard’s most obvious feature is the illuminated keys, the keyboard also stands out from the crowd by providing a keyboard feel which is unusual for desktops. It seems quite obvious that Logitech is copying the famous Thinkpad keyboards which have been praised by laptop users for years, and their clone is successful. Comparing the keyboard directly to the keyboard of a Thinkpad R61 revealed that the keyboard feel is similar. The Logitech keyboard is quiet yet firm. The keys are raised and separated enough that definition between keys is high, yet smooth enough that moving fingers rapidly between keys does not feel rough. The key presses themselves are delicate and reassuring. There is very little audible feedback, but the tactile feedback is superb.
As a result, using the keyboard for long periods if a pleasure. In fact, the Logitech Illuminated Keyboard is the most pleasurable keyboard for long-term typing I have ever used. This is largely because of the tactile feedback already mentioned. The keys provide a large amount of travel, but they do not require an overly firm press. Those who type quickly will find that their hands glide effortlessly across the keyboard’s surface. The bottom row of keys, however, are strangely raised in comparison to the other keys on the keyboard, a feature that never feels 100% natural. This quirk is the only flaw in an otherwise excellent typist’s keyboard.
Value and Verdict (3 out of 5)
There is very little that the Logitech Illuminated Keyboard does wrong. It looks excellent, can be used at any time in any lighting condition, and provides an excellent typing experience. That said, the Logitech Illuminated Keyboard doesn’t have perfect build quality, and its features beyond illumination are lacking.
And that’s what makes the Logitech Illuminated Keyboard’s biggest flaw become apparent – it’s price. The MSRP is $79.99, and most retailers seem to keep within $10 or $15 dollars of that price. There are plenty of decent keyboards available for $20 or $30 dollars, and many of them offer more features (besides the illumination). The price of this keyboard also puts it up against gaming keyboards. The G15, which provides good typing feel, tons of macro keys, illuminated keys and a LCD screen, can often be found for only $10 dollars more, and at some retailers is actually cheaper.
This makes the Logitech Illuminated Keyboard something of a niche product. Specifically, those who own Thinkpads and want a similar typing experience for their desktop will quickly fall in love with this keyboard. It replicated the quiet, highly tactile feel of those keyboards almost perfectly. Those who want a great typist keyboard and are willing to spend a premium for it will also find this keyboard a good buy. The average user, however, would be better off with a cheaper media keyboard such as the Logitech Access or one of Microsoft’s wireless multimedia keyboards.