The Logitech Illuminated Keyboard is one of the best desktop keyboards we've ever tested. So is the Logitech DiNovo Keyboard for Notebooks.
Wait a minute. What's a Keyboard for Notebooks -- that's what it says on the box -- doing on a desktop? Doesn't the name imply some sort of compact or portable device?
Not according to Logitech. The newest member of the company's deluxe DiNovo family (called simply DiNovo Keyboard in the setup brochure and software driver) is a full-sized, non-folding wireless keyboard, only an inch shorter and three-quarters of an inch narrower than the Illuminated model that shares this review. It's obviously a comfortable alternative to a cramped notebook or netbook keyboard, but odds are it won't fit into your briefcase.
Instead, the keyboard is designed for what Logitech calls "a notebook-based workspace," where a laptop's propped up in a stand or docking station (coincidence: Logitech sells several) while its owner uses a full-sized keyboard and mouse. The and mouse part is important because the DiNovo for Notebooks, unlike the $180 DiNovo Edge, has no touchpad or pointing stick that can replace a mouse. In short, it's no more or less a Keyboard for Notebooks than is any other keyboard. Or your Aunt Fanny.
But it's hard to be cynical, because the DiNovo -- like Logitech's other new keyboard, which boasts backlit keys for work in dim or dark rooms -- is really good. After a week of using the board with two laptops, we still find ourselves instinctively tapping and groping for a touchpad below the space bar. But if the company had put one there, we'd probably embarrass ourselves by swooning and awarding 20 stars on our 15-star rating scale and this review would say OMG YOU BUY THIS NOW IS TEH COMFY.
If you're already convinced to buy now, you should know that the Illuminated Keyboard is $80 and the DiNovo Keyboard for Notebooks is $100. Each takes a USB 2.0 port on your PC, but the Illuminated has a cord while the DiNovo has a cordless 2.4GHz receiver. (To belabor the not-for-notebooks thing, it's a typical 1.5-inch USB dongle, not the nearly flush-fitting receiver supplied with Logitech's high-end notebook mice.)
That also means the DiNovo uses batteries, while the Illuminated uses its USB cable for backlight power as well as data input. It's almost a moot point, however: Logitech estimates the life of the four AAA alkalines included with the DiNovo as a phenomenal three years. The fine print states that's for two million keystrokes per year in an office setting, presumably out of reach of Red Bull-crazed, key-hammering gamers.
The keyboards are near twins, with the same layout and same numeric keypad except that the DiNovo abandons the Num Lock key in favor of a Clear key for calculator data entry. The Illuminated Keyboard seen immediately above has a black rubber palm rest, while the DiNovo flaunts a brushed aluminum rest that looks rich but can feel chilly on cold mornings.
Both follow today's ergonomic (and style) trend with exceptionally flat, low-profile designs. The DiNovo's battery-compartment curve props that otherwise slim keyboard at a slight angle, as seen in the photo at the beginning of this article. The transparent-bordered Illuminated model is even flatter and thinner -- eye-catchingly, elegantly thin at just 9.3mm (0.4 inch) high, although old-schoolers can deploy two prop-up feet to give it a slight tilt. P>The Logitech siblings offer the same audio volume and mute buttons above the numeric keypad. Other multimedia controls -- launch media player, play/pause, next, and previous track/chapter -- join assorted program shortcuts as combinations of the function keys and a Fn key between the right Alt and Ctrl keys.
Most of the shortcut commands perform similar tasks -- launching your Web browser, e-mail, or messaging client; bringing Vista's Sidebar gadgets to the front; summoning a pop-up menu to switch among applications. One (Fn+F3) offers a clever trick we've seen done by Logitech mouse buttons: One-Touch Search, which lets you highlight a word or phrase on screen and then press a key to see the results of a Google, Yahoo, AOL, or Live.com search for it.
Logitech's SetPoint software driver lets you customize or reassign these keys in a variety of folder- or Web-page-opening ways, as well as giving you the option to disable mistake- or mischief-makers such as the Caps Lock and Insert keys.
Do you sometimes need to work late into the night, or prefer to work without bright task lighting or overhead lights? The Illuminated Keyboard lives up to its name with backlit, laser-etched keys -- their white glow highlights just each character, not the whole key, for a subtle effect that's attractive enough to make you stand up and back away from your desk to admire it.
The top-right corner key (that opens Windows' Calculator on the DiNovo) cycles through low, medium, and high brightness levels plus lights-off for daylight work. Only the high and maybe, at a stretch, the medium setting looked worthwhile to our eyes. Even at the former, in a moment of supreme nit-picking, we noticed that the LED below the Enter key illuminated only Ente.
The final and most important thing the DiNovo and Illuminated Keyboards have in common is what Logitech calls PerfectStroke engineering, as seen in the flagship DiNovo Edge. We won't pretend to follow the company's technical spiel about precision micro-scissors that distribute force evenly across each key surface, but basically PerfectStroke gives the pair a better, more responsive typing feel than you'd think possible given their ultra-flat form factors.
We said in our Edge review that the unit had the feel of a notebook rather than desktop keyboard, but the best notebook keyboard you've ever laid hands on. This time, we keep wanting to describe it as both soft and firm, silly as that sounds, or at least soft but not the slightest bit mushy.
There's more tactile feedback and deeper keystroke travel than your laptop keyboard provides. It's just a faint bit rattly, not quite silent as Logitech claims, but we frankly found it quickly addictive and suited for setting speed records.
Which of these two keen keyboards is for you? We think its cool-looking lights and slightly lower price give the Illuminated Keyboard the edge, but users who don't care about lights will gladly pay $20 more for the DiNovo's cordless convenience. But one or the other of them is going to be on our desk for the foreseeable future.
This article was first published on Hardware Central.