Found: A Good Cheap Wireless Keyboard
When the keyboard on my old HP laptop wore out, I chose a good cheap USB keyboard as a frugal alternative to replacing the laptop’s own keyboard. The model I chose – being the frugal sort and not sure how well I’d like an external keyboard – was a Logitech K360. I found it on Amazon for twenty bucks. Not much money to risk, I figured, and it would get me by until the day came when I’d have to get a whole new laptop.
As it turns out, the Logitech K360 keyboard proved to be an excellent choice.
CNet calls the Logitech K360 one of the best tech accessories under $25:
If you’re looking for a replacement PC keyboard, Logitech’s Wireless Keyboard K360 is a good starting point. For under $25, you get a QWERTY powered by 2 AA batteries that uses Logitech’s “Unifying” wireless USB dongle — which also communicates with a Logitech mouse, such as the aforementioned M325. Yes, it’s a laptop-style design without much “travel” in the keys, but it’s a good deal and works equally well with Windows PCs or Macs.CNet, http://reviews.cnet.com/2300-17742_7-10019482-21.html
It’s an interesting keyboard, a bit different than any I’ve used in recent years, but I’ve quickly come to like it a lot. It took a few days to get used to typing on it because it’s got the chiclet style of keys, where each one is in its own separate hole in the faceplate of the keyboard. (My theory is that this might turn out the be a benefit in helping the keys stay in place, but I can’t speak to that yet – time will tell, in a year or so.) Certainly, it feels sturdy and durable, and the touch is light and easy.
Easy Set-up, Plays Well with Others
Beginning to end, from unboxing to typing, I think it took maybe 4 minutes to get my wireless Logitech K360 keyboard up and running alongside my wireless Logitech M325 mouse, both using the same (tiny!) USB plug-in dongle.
Plug it in, turn it on (the required two AA batteries are already on board – just pull the tab that’s designed to keep electronics gear from using power during shipping) and you’re good to go. If you want it to play well with other devices (a Unifying-enabled mouse like mine, for example), you download the software from the Logitech.com site and run it, follow the wizard instructions, and it picks up the hardware you want to use.
Couldn’t be easier; no tech skills required.
Why I Needed to Buy a New Keyboard in the First Place
Lost: One Backpace Key Cap – Repeatedly!
When the backspace key cap suddenly popped right off my old HP laptop’s keyboard, after a few days of getting more wobbly with every touch, I thought my whole work week was done for. Unless you’re a much better typist than I am, that backspace button is vital to saving the world from excess typos.
Fortunately, my friend Dorian talked me through the easy but nerve-wracking task of replacing it. Turns out, the backspace key cap is one of the easy keyboard keys to replace – you can just line it up carefully and press it back on firmly. “Just don’t hammer it,” warned Dorian – and you can bet I took his advice. A firm press, and the key cap snapped back into place. Yay!
Well, that went well for a day or so, then there I was, typing madly along on a deadline, when the backspace key suddenly flipped right off again, leaving me looking at the metallic underside and a little rubber nipple that, if pressed carefully, did indeed put the cursor into reverse. Interesting, but hardly functional.
I pressed the key cap back on again, as before, and that bought me another half-day of work… before the backspace key decided to separate from its moorings once again. My theory is that the tiny plastic clips that hold the key cap in place have been worn out over time, by many hours of hard daily use. Also, I have quite small hands and it’s likely that I’ve been hitting that backspace key at a bit of an angle each time, creating even more wear and tear.
When it got to the point that I had to replace the loose backspace key every half-hour or so, I knew it was time to bite the bullet and do replace the keyboard.
Why I Didn’t Just Put a New Keyboard in My Old Laptop
One option would have been to replace the actual laptop keyboard itself – but there were two strikes against that idea, for me. For one thing, I’ve had to replace a laptop keyboard before, on my earlier laptop, a Dell that time, and the operation wasn’t a lot of fun for a relatively non-technical person.
Oh, it was doable, but I wouldn’t want to repeat the experience. Too many things can go wrong when you’re taking the innards out of any kind of computer – and I depend on having a functioning laptop to earn my living. The risk was just too great for my peace of mind.
Secondly, there was the financial consideration. It just doesn’t make sense to make a major repair on a laptop that’s racing up to four years old. When you use one of these machines for upwards of ten hours a day, most days of the year, anything over three years is more of a product lifetime than it’s reasonable to expect. Frankly, I’m flying on borrowed time with this machine, so it makes no sense to pour any money into it.
So that’s why I chose the second option – to add an external keyboard and just ignore the laptop’s own original integral keyboard.
Why I Bought the Logitech K360 Wireless Keyboard
Honestly, the low price was a major consideration. Knowing I’ll need a new laptop soon enough, I didn’t want to fork out a lot of cash on peripherals right now.
And this one may be compact compared to other external keyboards, but it is the same size as the keyboard on my laptop so the keys are full sized and there is plenty of room for typing. The Enter key is smaller, not the large L-shaped key, but otherwise all is pretty much the same.
Something I like very much is that there are 6 “hot keys” at the top of the K360 keyboard, three to handle video play functions (play/pause, rewind, fast forward) and three for volume control (mute, volume down, volume up). That is in attention to the expected 12 function keys that are, delightfully, programmable.
It feels solid and durable – even the little feet that flip up on the back to tilt it are good and sturdy – and it’s reputed to have a long battery life of up to 3 years, depending on use.
Much more than one would expect from such an inexpensive keyboard!
Also, I Just Really Like Logitech
The Logitech brand was another huge selling point for me. I’ve used all kinds of pointing devices over the years, but nothing beats a Logitech mouse (my current one, ideal for small hands, is the Unifying-compatible Logitech wireless mouse M325) for comfort, reliability, good battery life, and a nice easy motion to the scroll wheel.
The third benefit in going for the Logitech keyboard – as mentioned, it’s got the “Unifying” thing going on, where you can use the free Logitech software to run all your Unifying-compatible devices off one USB plug. That means, the one USB dongle will serve for up to six devices. That’s handy, when you’ve got a limited number of USB ports to play with and you don’t want to drag a around. My mouse came with one of the Unifying USB receivers, too, but they are interchangeable so now I’ve got a spare.
In terms of getting used to using the keyboard, like I say it was just a matter of practice. The hardest thing was getting used to a smaller Enter key than my HP laptop keyboard had, so for the first week or so I was hitting the backslash key by mistake about one time in ten. That’s all better now, we’re down to about one time in twenty for that particular typos – and hey, now I’ve got a working backspace key to easily fix that right up!
Sometimes, Cheap is Good
My biggest concern about going for a twenty-dollar keyboard, obviously, was the fear that it would feel cheap. There’s nothing more annoying than a keyboard that doesn’t feel solid enough to pound away on when the writing mojo is running strong. No trouble of that nature here – the Logitech K360 feels good to use, solid and well made and substantial, just the way we like our devices.
Bottom line, if you’re in the market for a good cheap USB keyboard, take a look at the Logitech K360 keyboard – it might be just what you need.