Over the weekend disaster struck – I was part way through writing an article when my Apple Wireless keyboard suddenly went haywire, inserting random spacings and characters into the text I was working on.
Actually, it wasn’t entirely sudden – over the past couple of weeks whenever my Mac was woken up after a period of rest the password field would fill with characters and the only way to break the flow was to remove the batteries from the keyboard.
When it started ghost typing on Sunday I tried using it with my MacBook to eliminate the possibility of the fault being on my Mac but that only caused more issues – the second I’d paired the two, the laptop screen brightness turned down to the very lowest level.
Only by removing the batteries from the external keyboard again could I use the MacBook’s own keyboard to return the screen to a usable level of brightness.
Clearly seven years of Monday-Friday and, often, Saturday and Sunday working had proven too much for Apple’s precision engineering and attention to detail design.
Sadly Apple has stopped selling the wireless keyboard and now only offers its new ‘Magic’ model which costs an eye-watering, budget-blowing £99 – a sum I was just unwilling to pay, especially given that the firm has saddled the product with a non-removable, rechargeable battery.
The model I had, like most on the market, uses swappable, standard AA batteries and, as an adult, I get the choice between keeping a spare pair of rechargeable batteries close by, or using throwaway ones. Either way, if I run out of power I can be back to work within seconds just by swapping out the batteries.
But a built-in battery isn’t as flexible. Run out of juice and you’re either forced to stop work or, in a move which removes the whole point of spending £100 on a wireless keyboard, plugging it onto you’re Mac’s USB port to charge while you’re working.
By the way, here’s the problem if you wanted to do that while using the matching ‘Magic’ mouse’:
At least you can charge the new Magic Mouse and use it at the same time. Wait… pic.twitter.com/GuJzw4qnxq
— Mike Rundle (@flyosity) October 13, 2015
So what to do when the brand you normally buy a) shoves its prices up to insane levels and b) makes a product that’s less convenient and unlikely to last as long because it has a fixed battery which will eventually lose capacity?
I could have bought any number of cheap Apple Wireless keyboard clones from Amazon but was put off by the low star reviews many were given and the obviously poor build quality that even the official sales pictures made no effort to mask.
Was there possibly an affordable, well built, big brand keyboard which would suit my needs? Thankfully the answer was yes.
Finishing my article had meant connecting my also-wireless Logitech Keys-to-Go keyboard to my Mac Mini rather than the iPad it was designed to work with.
By the way – if you’ve not heard of the Keys-to-Go it is THE BEST mobile keyboard ever made.
Thin, light, waterproof and simple to pair, it offers a far more comfortable typing position than any of the keyboard cases because, unlike them, it doesn’t clamp on to the iPad and therefore force you to type while looking down on an oddly angled screen.
Also it slips nicely into my rucksack, the battery charge seems to last forever and at least two separate, slightly careless coffee shop servers have been pleased to discover the claims of waterproofness are true. Even when tested by hot chocolate.
So with Apple pricing and designing themselves out of contention, and the cheap Amazon copies not appealing, I had a look at what Logitech could offer and, after reading some reviews, settled on this, the K380:
Unlike Apple’s offering, it is unashamedly plastic but it’s also £65 cheaper – or more if you get it via Amazon rather than Argos as I did because of the pressing need to get on with work.
Anyone else used to the Apple Wireless keyboard may be interested to know that the K380 is virtually the same size and the key spacing, despite the use of slightly quirky round keys, is pretty much identical to Apple’s model too.
This makes it an ideal alternative to the newer Magic keyboard as there’s very little familiarisation needed, though some people might find that the greater key travel and slightly spongier feel takes a little time to get used to.
Because it’s not a dedicated Apple model some of the key functions aren’t replicated – there’s no function key pre-programmed to adjust screen brightness for example, and there’s no eject key.
But given all Macs now lack an optical drive the last of these is unlikely to be an issue for many, and most monitors’ brightness can normally be easily tweaked. For anyone seeing these omissions as ‘deal breakers’, Apple is standing by ready and willing to part you from your cash.
While I’m not fussed by them, I would have appreciated an on-key CAPS LOCK indicator instead of the onscreen and toolbar notification you can set-up using the optional, downloadable settings software.
Non-Mac users can also enjoy the K380 as its designed to work with Windows, iOS, Mac OS, Chrome OS or Android devices and can instantly recognise which operating system it’s been connected to.
Even better, the keyboard has three ‘device’ keys which allow you to assign a specific device or operating system to each of them meaning you don’t need to endlessly re-pair when you want to use it with another computer or tablet.
While it’s inevitably heavier than the wafer-thin Keys-to-Go, the Logitech K380 is light enough that it won’t add much to your bag’s heft and being able to use the same keyboard on multiple devices can only boost productivity for workers who alternate between their desk and the cramped confines of a coffee shop or railway carriage.
Initially, after years of only buying ‘official’ accessories I was wary about buying a non-Apple keyboard but as soon as I opened the packaging and started typing I knew the Logitech K380 and I were going to get along just fine.
It’s not as sexy as the Apple model but it’s a lot more wallet-friendly, more versatile and has a good, reassuring build quality that gives me hope that I’ll still be using it a few years time.