Product shootout: A comparison of six media center keyboards

Summary:When the Bluetooth inside David Gewirtz' media center laptop died, he used it as an excuse to get and test six media center keyboards and see which would stand up to the rigors of couch-writing. The winner may surprise you.

Logitech Wireless Touch Keyboard K400

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Image courtesy Logitech.

I am writing this article on the $39.99 Logitech Wireless Touch Keyboard K400, which I honestly thought would be a winner. Its distinguishing characteristic is its Windows 8-ready multi-touch touchpad that's built into the still-compact keyboard.

But... this keyboard is very annoying to use. I really like the multi-touch scrolling of the trackpad. It's comfortable for my arm and dragging down with two fingers is quite natural --- until the keyboard goes rogue. Even just doing a simple drag, the keyboard will sometimes go where it wants to go. Often, when I take my fingers up off the trackpad, the keyboard will decide to scroll the page up or down quite a distance. The de-bouncing is just not robust on the trackpad.

The keyboard is also uncomfortable. The keys are a little too tight, and worse, the space bar sticks so I often have to push harder and feel a double-bump as the space bar is hit. I'm less than 1200 words into this article, and my thumb actually hurts.

Finally, even though I didn't touch the trackpad at all during the article, it's decided (probably as a pinky hovered over it) to delete paragraphs a few times. It might be nice for occasional typists with smaller hands, but it's not for me.

Logitech diNovo Mini

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Image courtesy Logitech.

It doesn't look like the innovative but pricey $150 Logitech diNovo Mini is offered by Logitech anymore, although it's still available for sale online.

Obviously not intended for long-form writing like this article, we found it useful to quickly pick up and type in a Web address, or login to the system. That said, we also haven't used it for a few years because it also needs a charger. Once it ran out of a charge, remembering to keep it on the charger was a pain. More to the point, when we'd pick it up to use it, it would often not have a charge -- and not be usable until we waited for it to charge, at which point, we'd no longer need it.

An innovative novelty, but for the price, we see why it didn't last.

Apple Wireless Keyboard

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Image courtesy Apple.

We have three of these $69 Apple Wireless Keyboards in the house. One is hooked to my Mac mini the the studio and two have been the workhorse keyboards in front of our Windows 7-based media center PC. I have one other Apple keyboard (the wired version with a number pad) in front of my iMac, but since I rarely use the iMac, I never got around to replacing that keyboard.

Of the three Apple Wireless Keyboards we have, although they look identical, two of them require only two AA-batteries, while the oldest requires three batteries. On a Windows PC, the control key is the command key, and the keyboards have no dedicated delete-character-to-the-right key.

Even so, and even after looking at an entire range of keyboards that were sexier, offered more features, or just simply weren't yet another Apple product, we're sticking with these chicklet keyboards and returning the others (even if the lettering on some of the keys has worn off after a few years of constant use).

They've worked reliably for years. My wife likes how they can hook over the edge of her lap desk. They're light. They run on the batteries for quite a long time, and they don't hurt to use.

So, as much as I wanted to find something better (and, had it not required a USB charging dongle, the Logitech Bluetooth Illuminated Keyboard K810 might have been that), it seems that our trusty Apple Wireless Keyboards are still standing in this massacre of a product shootout.

Topics: After Hours, Consumerization, Microsoft, SMBs

About

In addition to hosting the ZDNet Government and ZDNet DIY-IT blogs, CBS Interactive's Distinguished Lecturer David Gewirtz is an author, U.S. policy advisor and computer scientist. He is featured in The History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets, is one of America's foremost cyber-security experts, and is a top expert on savi... Full Bio

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