FOX 11, Los Angeles - If you favor chiclet keys, and hardware that is equal parts form and function, Logitech under its Logi brand just might have the keyboard you're looking for.
When Logitech told me about their new Craft keyboard, I thought it a pretty compelling idea. In a time when you have content creation tools so readily available, and Microsoft pushing their creative platforms, a keyboard of this kind would like to earn a place on your desktop. It does quite a bit, and with great elegance. Let's check out the hardware first, even though it's the software which is the centerpiece of the Craft.
The Craft is a fairly compact keyboard, with island style keys that have slightly recessed surfaces and key travel similar to that of Macbook Pro keys, pre-butterfly era. That is to say, they have a satisfying feel which doesn't feel like you're slamming your fingers into the desk like the new Mac keyboards but less travel than a mechanical keyboard. It's a full-size keyboard with numeric keypad and a plethora (yes El Guapo, a "plethora") of function key options which serve your needs when you connect iOS/Android/Windows devices via one of three Bluetooth keys. Yes, that's right. You can use Logitech's Smart Switch technology to connect up to three different bluetooth devices and easily switch between them. I'm quite enamored with this feature as it allows me to sit at my desk at work and easily type on my computer, respond to text messages on my phone, or type on my iPad all from one place without the need for extra dongles or equipment. In a world of "productivity tools" which purport to help you be more efficient, this simple feature actually delivers.
Being that you can use the Craft across multiple devices with Smart Switch technology, Logitech included numerous function keys which are OS specific and change context depending on which device you're currently connected to. Adding to this well refined piece of hardware is the proximity sensor which automatically wakes the keyboard backlight when your digits approach its scalloped keys. The only criticism some users may have as they approach those keys is the lack of a palm rest or the inability to tilt the keyboard via those collapsible feet you find on competing products. What you do get on the underside of the keyboard are rubber feet which help give this hefty keyboard a reassuring stability on your desktop. But, if you're looking for a bit of tilt, you're going to have to get crafty.
The only part of the hardware which I found a bit disappointing was battery life. I've been using the Craft, along with the MX Master 2S which has seemingly endless stamina, but I find myself having to plug up the Craft more often than I'd like. Expect to have to plug in at least once a week depending on how you use the keyboard. That's not horrible at all, but I'd like to see longer life for my use-case in the creative space.
The crowning achievement of the Craft is the jog wheel in the upper-left hand corner. Logitech actually calls this the Crown, and along with the Logitech Options software, it opens up a host of customization options in how you interact with the apps on your Mac or Windows computer. Using the utility you can customize the keyboard itself, by application, and you can customize the Crown. The Crown can be turned, pressed or utilized via a "press and turn" action. The default setting, for instance, on a Windows computer is that when you turn the nob it will adjust the computer's volume. Pressing the nob activates play/pause functionality if you're listening to music or watching a video, and press and turn will also control volume. Again though, you can change how the Crown functions. For example, you can set it so that across all applications when you press and turn, it can control: volume, brightness, media control, switch applications, or have no functionality. Where this becomes highly functional for people creating media is in applications like Adobe Premiere Pro CC or Photoshop. I use Adobe Premiere Pro CC daily and have the Crown set to zoom in and out of my editing timeline when I turn it. I've set the "press" functionality to a keystroke assignment so that whenever I press it, it performs the same action as pressing the space button on the keyboard. Press and turn activates volume control.
The Crown can also be context sensitive. If in Photoshop, it can change functionality based on the tool you're using. And if you forget how you've mapped the Crown, a simple tap on the top of it will bring up an on-screen icon showing you its current functionality. The only thing you'll have to decide for yourself is if the crown and other features provide enough usability to justify the Craft's retail price of $199.99.
At the same time that I tested the Craft, I was also treated to some hands-on time with Logitech's MX Master 2S wireless mouse and their MX Sound premium bluetooth speakers. I say, "treated" because the MX Master 2S mouse is the best bluetooth mouse I've used to date. It was delightful in almost every way. The fit is perfect for the size of my hands. The rise of the mouse, it's shape, pretty much conforms to what my hand would do if I just plopped it down on a desk with no mouse under it. Then there's the "wing" on the left side of the mouse. It's like a thumb rest, but with a button that is very difficult to activate accidentally. It adds to the ergonomic mix because it slightly elevates your thumb, seemingly keeping it "in line" with the height of the rest of your hand instead of resting on the desktop. The mouse is chalk full of features and buttons. In addition to that button in the thumb position that I already mentioned, there's a thumb scroll wheel, and two buttons on the thumb side, along with a total of four buttons on the top of the mouse. On top you get the traditional left and right click buttons, but you also get a clicky scroll wheel and a small button right in the middle of the left/right click buttons. The scroll wheel is a joy to work with as it has a clutch design which you can turn on and off.
All of the buttons on the mouse are programmable via the same software that drives the Craft keyboard, Logitech Options. Best part of this mouse's hardware is the battery. Or, rather, the battery life. I honestly can't tell you how long it is because I've charged it so infrequently that I haven't really measured. There are three LEDs on the left side of the mouse which show you battery status, but I rarely look at them. That's also because the Logitech Options software will give you an onscreen alert when your device's battery is running low. Other nice component of the Master 2S? Multipoint connection. You can connect up to three devices at once.
The MX Sound bluetooth speakers, though bluetooth enabled, are not wireless themselves. You can connect bluetooth sources, such as a smartphone, to the speakers to play their audio through them but the speakers themselves must be connected to each other and to a computer via wire. Additionally, you're going to have to plug them in to power them. Plugging in is not a bad thing though as it enables the full sound you're going to get out of speakers this size. These won't be an audiophile's dream but the quality of sound you're going to get will work for most uses, though if you're a heavy music listener there are options which may provide more robust lows and clear mids. That said, the MX Sound will make your overall internetting/streaming/#PCMasterRace daily living a bit more enjoyable.
My only complaint with the speakers is that the extra ports which enable you to plug in headphones or any other source via an AUX input are on the rear of the right speaker. First world problems, I know, but I'd love to see them engineer some way to place those two ports on a more accessible part of the speaker. Maybe along the top, or built into the protruding speaker port on the right of the speaker.
All three piece together make for a beautifully refined computing experience, you'll just have to decide if the cost of ownership works for your wallet. For me, out of all three, the MX Master 2S is an instant "yes."
Disclosure: Logitech provided me with a review unit of all devices discussed, for the purpose of this review.