Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Logitech Wave K350 Wireless Ergonomic Keyboard Review: Cool Gear

Logitech Wireless Wave  K350 Keyboard: the convenience of a wireless keyboard is hard to pass on today. At the same time, all of us who spend a lot of time on our computers would like to use a keyboard with good ergonomic design, which will delay if not prevent the onset of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, a common type of Repetitive Stress Injury ("RSI") among computer users. Unfortunately, few keyboards, and even fewer ergonomic or wireless keyboards, get very good user feedback: there is too much individual fit required. The Logitech Wave K350 keyboard, however, is somewhat of an exception, and succeeds at many of its key success factors, and its user feedback shows it. User feedback is what we quote in our reviews at ConsumerPla.net.

The Wave K350 keyboard is the heir to the original and well received Wave keyboard. It has a slight wave form across the keypad, which results in approximately 10 degrees of angle in the orientation of the left-hand vs. right-hand keys.  The height if the different keys is different too, and the keys in the middle of the keyboard span are higher than those in the edges, making it easier for the hands to twist up a little bit to reach the keys that are in the middle of both hands' reach. These two features result in less, and more natural, motion for the user's hand while typing. There is a generous gel palm rest across the front of the keyboard. A large number of function and programmable keys are added to the back and the left edge of the keyboard, while a regular numbers' pad is positioned on the right. Four arrow keys can be found between the alphanumeric keyboard and the numbers' pad, along with the usual Home/End/Delete/PageUp/PageDown keys.

The keyboard comes with a truly diminutive USB dongle, a configuration DVD (you can also download what you need, that's what we did), an additional USB cable to relocate the dongle for wireless connectivity reasons if needed (a nice touch, although we did not find it was needed for any of our office set-ups at ConsumerPla.net) and the usual warranty papers. Wireless for the keyboard (and other Logitech devices working with the same transmitter/ dongle) uses standard 2.4GHz technology, which provides more performance than first generation devices.

Build quality
The K350 appears well built, with significant heft, and shows good looks to boot: "well built, with a classy rich look", "very nice looking keyboard", "high quality of manufacture", "Very good build quality","Logitech has made a fine, quality product in this one","I really like this keyboard. It is well built.","Comfortable and well constructed","High quality design","solid build quality"

Wireless Connectivity
The plague of wireless keyboards is poor wireless connectivity, but the Wave operates well in wireless mode for almost all users: "never has missed a key press", "no problems with loss of connection", "I was concerned at first about the reach the absolutely tiny usb dongle supplied with the keyboard would have, but I'm typing a good 10 feet from where it's plugged in and everything works perfectly. Zero delay","mine is plugged into the back of my laptop dock in the bottom slot with zero line-of-sight to the mouse and keyboard.. yet they function perfectly","very responsive... no lag at all. ","solid wireless connection, no lags or misses ", "no key response lag or another other issues that seem to plague some wireless keyboard."

A small percentage of users, however, does have trouble with connectivity: "it randomly loses connection", "it says 2.4 ghz wireless is supposed to give you 30 ft of connectivity, but there should be a disclaimer about that. I have my receiver plugged into the back of my computer, located under my desk (not enclosed). About 10 feet away from the computer, I already experience some lag and decreased signal strength","wireless reception isn't flawless: if I don't type for a while, the keyboard doesn't react immediately to the first keypush. It is almost as if the keyboard is waking up after a period of inactivity","at first I plugged the receiver into the back of my modem and was finding it dropped the reaction time of the mouse and keyboard a little but, but I have a USB extension port on my desk, so I plugged the receiver into it; works flawlessly now","I have it only about 1 foot away from the receiver that is plugged into my USB hub now. Most of the time it's ok BUT then there are times when it just fails to respond at all." Negative feedback on wireless connectivity, however, represents a very small percentage of users, significantly lower than other wireless keyboards we have investigated.

Battery power
Wireless keyboards are battery-powered. The length of the battery charge is a frequent source of complaints. Not for the Wave K350 though: "battery seems to last forever", "long battery life","to my surprise, after several months, it still shows fully charged batteries. I was cynical about the claimed battery life. I never turn the PC or keyboard off. Apparently Logitech's claim about long battery life is not an exaggeration."

Reviewers are pleased with how easy the K350 is to set up, a task that is not always easy with wireless keyboards: "plug the tiny USB adapter into your computer, and it is instantly set", "set up was as simple as inserting the unifying receiver and making sure the keyboard's batteries made contact", "Logitech software to pair the keyboard to my already existing adapter was easy to use and worked the first time", "Simple simple simple installation","Good documentation and online help", "it took less than 5 minutes to download and install. So far, I have not found that program to be bloated with unnecessary features and settings like so many other supposedly required hardware applications","easy installation."

The K350 gets rave reviews about its ergonomics. It is worth reading some of this feedback: "I find the ergonomic design very comfortable", 'the ergonomic shape is perfect - not ridiculously spaced out like the Microsoft one, but not flat like a cheap keyboard",  "so comfortable and easy to use", "it is ergonomic (that wave design really fits my hand nice)", "I wanted something with a curve to it - but not one of those awful split allegedly ergonomic keyboards. This fit the bill perfectly", "comfortable. The wave shape and the slightly upturned keys make it easy to type for an extended period. Additionally, the wrist rest here is slightly padded and very comfortable as well", "the ergonomics isn't overkill", "I like the slight wave design and wrist rest is very comfortable", "as for the comfort of the layout, I've never had better"," It is amazingly comfortable, reducing strain on your hands.","the Wave shape of the keyboard also helps relive stress on your wrists as well","contoured curved key design is amazing for comfort","I was looking for a good comfortable keyboard, and this is the best one Ive found.","This one is ergonomic which is great. Unlike some Ergo ones I have tried this one has just a slight angle which is much more comfortable","the slight curve design is a great compromise between standard keyboards and ergonomic keyboards. It feels comfortable and natural to me, and I've been typing on ergonomic keyboards for years. It also works well for my wife, who is more used to using standard and laptop keyboards. ","it feels like my fingers are taking a vacation when I switch from any other keyboard to this one. This Software Developers says, this keyboard rocks","I like the wave layout of the keyboard","love the wave design, fast and comfortable","my wrists and arms are never in stress due to the great ergonomics","excellent and comfortable keyboard."

It should be clear, though, that the Wave is not a extreme ergonomic keyboard. The feedback clearly shows that it works well for average users who are not deeply affected by RSI. But the curve of the keyboard and the height differences in the keys are not as pronounced as in those true ergonomic keyboards such as the Goldtouch or the Kinesis, which are typically used by people with significant RSI issues.

Some RSI users actually rate the K350 high: "I have nerve damage starting from my neck down to my fingers. The comfort in this keyboard is much better then the curved Microsoft keyboard. I have small hands so the split keyboards never worked for me. This keyboard is a great blend of ergonomics and comfort. But if you have pain in the wrists, arms or neck and need a solid, ergonomic, comfortable keyboard then this is your best choice", "I looked hard at getting a Goldtouch Go!, Kinesis Freestyle, and MS Ergonomic 4000. I tried the 4000 out at BB. The keys were hard to push and the build quality wasn't there. I could see that all the complaints about the hard-to-push spacebar and other keys were spot on. The ergonomic split design is great, but what's the point if your hands hurt from having to exert too much pressure to push a key? ... Also, reviewers mention that ...[The Go! and Freestyle] keyboards are relatively fragile and tend to break over time, requiring constant replacement.. I thought this [K350] was a better decision than going with the Go! or the Freestyle, for my needs."

However, to other users, it is clear that the K350 represents a compromise between ergonomics for RSI and standard look-and-feel. It is probably reasonable to say that the K350 is an excellent choice for the general population and for some with slight RSI issues, but that those with deep RSI issues might want to look further into more specialized keyboards: "great compromise of ergonomics and price","the padded wrist wrist is comfortable to me but would potentially get in the way if you use a pull out keyboard drawer.", "I don't think the wave design makes a big difference on the wrist strain, but it does conform to differing length of your fingers better. If you want the maximum ergonomics benefits, then I would get the kind where the keyboard is split into two sections." "wave design isn't as ergonomic as a split keyboard, but it's not bad and feels comfortable. The gel palmrest is high quality and comfortable"

Feel/ Keys
A good keyboard needs to be good to type on. The K350 scores extremely high with the very large majority of its users, who rave about the comfortable feel and the silence of the action: "key action to be light and butter smooth", "keys are in the right place & easy to type error-free", "The typing is silent and very enjoyable", "the key are very quick and responsive. I just have to press the and they click (a nice, quiet sound) into life",  "excellent key touch: slightly firm, positive feedback, and keys solidly in place", "It has a nice feel when I'm typing", "there is a 'soft' quality to the keys, which I really like and as a result, typing is quiet (great for taking notes while on the phone).", "quiet. The keys don't make much sound, so the folks in the cubes around me aren't bothered by my typing","the feel of the keys is solid and the bounce-back is perfectly tuned,"Everything feels natural and keys have a good, solid feel to them"," The key strokes are smooth--though full keystrokes--I prefer a slightly smaller keystroke but that is preference. There is a nice soft feel at the end of the stroke. There are three elevation options--I like the middle one and that is nice to have the options between flat and fully elevated","I also found that I was able to type 10-15% faster than a standard keyboard. Every single button feels great, going to replace every keyboard I have with this","the Logitech keyboard feels like the perfect device for typing.","keys are full-sized and relatively easy to push","keys are pretty quiet"," the keys are easy to reach and locate even in low light","so easy to type with. Keys are just right, slightly on a curve but not too much that you have to get used to them and not much pressure is needed on the keys","super quiet."

A small minority of users has issues with the keys, finding them slightly narrow, too mushy or too stiff, or, in general, not suited to speed typing: "the keyboard was just not comfortable to type on. Compared to more standard keyboards, the keys are significantly narrower and taller. I often found myself accidentally hitting keys adjacent to the ones I intended to press. Other reviewers have mentioned the "squishy" feel of the keys","feel nice but types so slow","compared to my other Logitech keyboard, the keys are a little stiffer and I have to apply a little more pressure to get keys depressed."," like nearly all keyboards now-a-days, a tiny bit mushy","keys feel slightly mushy (at least compared to Thinkpad keyboards). They could use more "springiness" and be even easier to push. Maybe I need to break in this keyboard." This negative feedback affects a small percentage of all reviews.

Wireless Transmitter
The wireless transmitter is a surprisingly small USB plug-in card: "it uses unifying, the usb receiver is super tiny", "USB connector is super small and very powerful", "unifying receiver is tiny and convenient","tiniest receiver ever."

Single transmitter for several wireless devices
Logitech introduced the Unifying concept approximately two years ago. Compatible wireless devices may all use the same wireless dongle, freeing extra USB ports for other uses:  "uses the universal feature from Logitech, so it shares the same nano-dongle as my mouse, thus using only a single USB for both", "unifying software works perfectly - two devices using one USB receiver","unifying receiver options--especially with a unifying mouse can really minimize desktop clutter","the unifying wireless receiver is very nice","Paired with my Logictech Anywhere mouse I use the unifying receiver and use only 1 USB port. Love that!","look for the word Unifying with Logitech products","unifying USB receiver allows me to use both my mouse and keyboard with a single USB wireless receiver - great!"

The K350 comes with a large number of programmable keys and functions, and surprisingly easy to use set-up software."all sorts of programmable keys on the top, which I use all the time","very easy to customize the keyboard to your liking", "very programmable. There are a large number of programmable keys, many pre-programmed, that allow you to customize the keyboard to the way you work. One button push and I've got my development environment up and loading!",  "Programmable keys and additional software a plus", "easy to program keys to do what you want", "programming options are great.","I was skeptical over its being easy-to-use. Wow, was I wrong ... after installation I was able to use it immediately and it's sooo easy","keyboard is extremely customizable." Very few users report programming glitches: "not all the pre-programmed keys work for every computer. Don't know why, but the pre-programmed key for the battery status and web search just seem to do nothing. Word, Excel, zoom, and audio keys all work perfectly though. No big deal, as they're re-programmable, but odd, none the less."

Layouts for keyboards, in general, do not have a single absolute standard to follow. As a result, all keyboards always find a small number of users for whom layout is not optimal, or simply not what they expect. We feel that the K350 layout could have benefited from being a little more standard in its positioning of function and optional keys. While most people like the K350 layout, some have complaints about areas where the keyboard could have been more standard or slightly differently laid out:  "the function buttons are nice", "it's very smooth, and has all the custom buttons you could ask for... ", "simplified layout with less buttons", "the keyboard shape and key arrangement is very comfortable and easy to adapt to in a short amount of time", "I would have preferred more separation between the left and right halves of the keyboard....until I got used of it, I kept hitting the G instead the H key and vice versa....not a problem after I got used of it", "only problem for the keyboard is the keys could be a little bit bigger", "Keyboard spacing may be issue for some people with smaller hands. Graphics on up and down arrow keys just wrong. Delete home and end - key placement not as comfortable as older designs","the function keys along the top have a different feel to them",""PgUp, PgDn, Home, End, Ins, Del" key cluster is in a non-standard configuration which renders it pretty useless if, like me, you use these keys in your daily work."", "A little hard to get used to the layout, especially if you use the function keys a lot."

Missing NumLock/ Caps Lock indicator
More than a few users would like to see a visual indicator to verify whether NumLock and Caps Lock are on or off. For a wireless keyboard, the issue is difficult to resolve, since a light will directly impact battery life for the keyboard: "in order for you to see that if caps-lock or num-lock are on, or to use the neat buttons on the sides (play music, etc) you need to have a program running in the background. The actual keyboard itself works well without this (just start typing to see if you are in caps-lock), but it is frustrating that you should require another memory-chugging program in the back just to do things that are advertised in the keyboard","my only complaint is that there is not indicator light when the cap-lock or num-lock is on","I do wish it had lighted symbols to let you know if caps lock is on or num lock is activated. That makes it more of a pain when putting in passwords."

Less functionality for the Mac
Logitech shows the K350 are Mac-compatible, and it can indeed function on a Mac - but beware the fact that some programming functionality will not be available, particularly for programming keys: "I've read in some google searching, that this keyboard wouldn't completely work with a Mac. I took the risk and can't regret it. It's an awesome keyboard for my MacBook Pro. Good keys size and positioning, very efficient cushion base, apparently very well constructed and beautiful (and it has some minor Mac keyboard icons on ALT and Windows keys","only available for Windows XP, Vista, and 7","this DOES work with mac","as some pointed, you cannot use the Logitech software to configure the extra keys with user defined actions on the Mac OS X, but a lot of them works without any software or extra driver. Just plug the (very tiny) usb receiver and you'll get the "Next", "Prev", "Play/Pause", "Stop", "Vol Up", "Vol Down", "Mute" and "Turn Off" buttons working. The ones that should be dead are the "Settings App", "Photo App", "Music App", "Media Center", "Calculator", "Zoom Up", "Zoom Down" and "Switch App."

Large size
The primary con for this keyboard is its size, not unduly large (about the same size as the Microsoft Comfort keyboard), but still large enough for some to complain about it: "it's large and a little on the heavy side, 19 x 10 inches, so it can hog desk space and is not easy tossed aside", "big - because of the wave shape and extra programmable keys, as well as the wrist rest, this keyboard is very large. If you're putting it on a keyboard tray, measure first.", "on the larger side, with the attached padding and miscellaneous buttons","the keyboard is loaded with programmable convenience keys, resulting in a large footprint. I use 3 or 4 of these keys so the volume of them is overkill for me; maybe not the case for other users. With fewer convenience keys the footprint could be reduced","this keyboard is big! Bigger than it really need be"," It's very large compared to the Mac keyboard, so make sure you have space for it and look at the measurements."

Lack of backlighting
Wireless keyboard have a hard time with backlighting, since they are typically battery powered. Several users requested backlighting on the K350:  "the only thing I wish for is backlit keys in a wireless keyboard."

The K350 is one of those rare products with an outstanding customer satisfaction index. These are some of the conclusions drawn by its users: "Overall, if I needed to buy another keyboard today, I'd buy another one of these", "surprisingly excellent product","this is a keeper for me, and I am picky on my keyboards","it's comfortable, convenient, and customizable, which are really the only things you need when looking for a keyboard. ","in the 23 year I have used computers, this is far and away the best keyboard I have ever used","Everything I wanted and needed in a keyboard. Easy to use, ergonomic and a well designed","very easy to connect, works perfect, is very comfortable, the quality is fine", "overall, I think this is a wonderful keyboard, and one of the best out there","it's easily the best keyboard I've owned."

Better than the anecdotal evidence provided by these great user reviews, the K350 shows excellent feedback statistics, with 84% positive reviews and a likely error of up to 6% ( 125 positive reviews over 148 total, across Amazon, Newegg, TigerDirect and the Logitech home site). Wireless ergonomic keyboards are notorious for the poor statistical reviews, in particular around ergonomics and wireless connectivity. The K350 scores extremely well, at the very top of its category. In fact, we have recently adopted it as one of our standard office keyboards at ConsumerPla.net.

We recommend the Logitech Wave K350 wireless ergonomic keyboard to any user without significant, established RSI issues, with the understanding that, based on your personal dimensions and usage patterns, it may or may not be a perfect fit, but that it is statistically likely to work well with you.

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