Logitech K811 “Easy-Switch” Review

Often, reviewers writing for tech sites only get access to a product for a couple of days . In this short time, it’s impossible to find out about all the little quirks tech products like this keyboard have. I’ve been using the Easy-Switch for almost a year now and here’s a review that covers all the pros and cons about the Logitech EasySwitch in (almost) everyday usage and reveals very hacky implementation of just about any OS-Specific functionality that, at a first glance, works, but at the second glance, is simply awkward.

The Device I have is the US version (flat enter key). Apart from the layout, It’s identical to the EU versions, but lacks the “CE” mark on the packaging. The German Customs office wouldn’t allow me to import the K811 I ordered at an online reseller, even after providing a statement from Logitech about the Device being “CE” conform and identical to the EU-Version.  I don’t know what happened to it and I never got my money back. The one i’m using now was bought in a Staples store in Jersey City and got through Airport customs trouble-free in the hand luggage as an iPad accessory. I don’t understand why they make such a difference, since it’s the same device and it doesn’t really matter if it’s boxed or used. I can partially blame logitech for that, however.  Apple, for example, prints the European “CE” mark on keyboards intended to be sold in North America. Logitech, however, doesn’t, so if you’re trying to get a US layout Keyboard in Europe, you might run into a Problem.

The Design of the keyboard is nice and matches the current iMac lineup better than the original Apple keyboard. Unlike the imac’s screen bezel, the black part of the keyboard is just plastic, not glass.

The keyboard comes in a flat box and includes a standard micro USB cable for charging.

Even when using the backlight, which turns on as soon as the proximity sensors sense your hands getting closer to it, the battery life is very good, about a week of normal usage.  While charging via USB, the backlight is always on and the keyboard can be used normally. When the built-in (and not replaceable) battery runs low, the keyboard can still be used for days, but without the backlight. The USB cable can’t be used for the data connection of the keyboard, so it won’t function on a device that has a USB port, but no bluetooth.

Typing feels good, but the keys aren’t as “clicky” as the ones on the flat bluetooth keyboard that comes with the iMac.

Any Bluetooth keyboard can be used on Macs and iOS devices, but the K811 is marketed specifically towards apple users.

Apart from the obvious Mac-Specific Keyboard Layout (⌘ – Keys), just like the non-apple counterpart, K810 it features three hotkeys that can be used to switch between connected bluetooth devices. I use that to switch between the iPad, iMac and iPhone and it works great. The switch isn’t instantaneous since the device needs to reconnect, but is usually done in a couple of seconds.

The keyboard does not reveal its layout to OS X, however. This means, when you connect it to your mac, you’ll be asked to press some keys to allow OS X to learn about the keyboard layout. Given that this is supposed to be an apple-compatible keyboard, this seems a bit kludgy.

Pairing with a new device is straightforward. After pressing the pairing-button on the back of keyboard, the three device selection buttons will flash and after selecting a slot, the keyboard will be visible for pairing on other bluetooth devices.

The downside is that Logitech is using the F1-F3 keys as the switching buttons. This means, the layout has been changed a bit compared to the standard apple Layout. The Next/Previous track keys (for iTunes) were omitted. There is also no Launchpad key.

Here’s a list of the function keys:

  • F1-F3: Bluetooth Device selection
  • F4: exposé (OS X only)
  • F5: home screen (iOS only)
  • F6, F7: adjust screen brightness
  • F8, F9: adjust keyboard backlight
  • F10: play/pause
  • F11: mute
  • F12, F13: adjust volume
  • The eject key is used to toggle the on-screen keyboard in iOS.

The F5 key doesn’t do anything in OS X and the F4 key doesn’t do anything in iOS. It doesn’t even send an “F5” keypress to OS X without pressing the FN-key along with it.

By pressing FN in combination with any of the F-keys, the normal F-key-press will be sent to the operating system, similar to the apple keyboards.

However, Since the functionality is implemented in the keyboard, the FN-keypress isn’t recognized by the operating system. This makes it impossible to use keyboard shortcuts that make use of the FN key on OS X. The Dictation function, for example, is mapped to FN, FN by default, so it can’t be used with the K811. Lame.

Unlike the Original Apple keyboard, the exposé-command doesn’t really tell the OS “exposé”, but rather “⌘ + ↑” which is the default shortcut for exposé. When you changed that shortcut, unexpected things might happen. This is a very hacky solution.

Since the keyboard takes a while to connect, it also can’t be used for keyboard Shortcuts in the OS X firmware that need to be pressed short after the boot-sound. You’ll have to revert to a USB or genuine Apple keyboard for that.

I don’t know what magic Apple does to make this work, but once a genuine apple keyboard is paired with an imac it can also be used on the same machine on Windows using BootCamp.

You can pair the Logitech K811 on a Mac running Windows, but doing so will make it “forget” OS X, so you’ll have to pair it over and over again every time you switch the OS.

Even though typing feels good and the backlight is a nice feature, all these little problems make the keyboard a bit frustrating to use sometimes.

Summary

The Logitech K811 is a great keyboard, but has some fundamental design flaws that make it second choice. I only got the K811 because Apple doesn’t offer a backlit keyboard. If you don’t need the backlight, you’ll be better of with the original Apple keyboard which beats the K811 in every way. It doesn’t need to be configured and the FN-key and key combinations work in a non-hacky way.

It’s also a nice feature that the keyboard can be charged via USB (and there’s no need to switch batteries as in the Apple keyboard), but this is mainly necessary due to the additional power consumption of the backlight. The Apple keyboard without backlight lasts very long and the act of replacing the batteries isn’t much of an issue.

2 thoughts on “Logitech K811 “Easy-Switch” Review”

  1. Hi,

    I’m having trouble pairing the K811 to Windows 10 partition under my Boot Camp…any suggestions?

    My Mac is running OSX 10.11.3

    Cheers

    1. Hey, I know this problem. I think if you already paired it in OS X, the keyboard refuses to pair with the same machine again.

      I only tried it once and didn’t investigate further, however, since I don’t really need it in BootCamp.

      Did you try to use a different device-“slot” on the keyboard? (selected with the F1-F3 keys?)

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