If you’re reading Giz, then chances are that you’re the sort of person who has a box, or boxes, in your house full of old tech. Clunky wired keyboards, speakers from an old desktop PC, and dozens of adaptors, leads and plugs for peripherals that have long been rendered redundant. And the chances are, many of them are made by Logitech.
It turns out though that Logitech isn’t about making stuff that is ugly but cheap and reliable any more. The company has been quietly undergoing a strategic shift over the last few years. In fact, we dare even say it: Logitech is cool now.
Over the last few years, the company has been shifting from being what it calls a “product company” into being a “design company”, and to prove its point, from having previously outsourced all of its design work, it now employs around 100 designers - including Chief Design Officer Alistair Curtis.
So what’s the most recent fruit of all of this labour? The company’s most recent release is the Craft Keyboard - a device which looks a million miles from the preconceptions in my head about the company.
The Logitech Craft Keyboard
I can’t claim to be an expert on pitch and other keyboard-specific jargon, but having used the device for a week now, it certainly delivers a nice typing experience. The keys are nicely spaced, and the keyboard itself is nicely weighty - meaning that it won’t slide around on your desk. All of the keys have backlighting too, which is presence detecting. So if you prefer to work in the dark, like a hacker in a stock photo, all you have to do is wave your hands over the keys and they’ll light up.
It’s a full-sized keyboard - so includes a full keypad. It's even still got scroll lock, despite no one having ever pressed it since 1985. There’s also the very helpful new addition of a button dedicated to taking screenshots.
Essentially, it looks alarmingly slick for something carrying the Logitech brand name.
Oh, and that thing on the top-left? That's the crown.
On the top-left of the keyboard is a rotating dial - which is definitely called a crown and not a knob. I found this a particularly intriguing proposition. Like Microsoft’s Surface Dial, I wonder if this could be the start of something big when it come interacting with our devices.
Logitech claims that the crown will give you “complete creative control”, and perhaps unsurprisingly, the first apps to support the new form of input (via Logitech’s own “Options” software) are all apps aimed at creating: Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Suite. Oh, and Google Chrome.
This means that if you’re in Photoshop, and you want to quickly switch between different tools, you can switch between them without fiddling with menus. In Excel, you can cycle through different styles of chart for your data. And if you would rather the Crown did something else - either when it it twisted, when it is clicked in or when it is clicked in and then twisted - you can customise the actions in the Logitech Options app.
In Chrome, the crown defaults on tab-switching, but I found it more useful to send custom key presses: Page Up or Page Down, meaning that I could lazily scroll my way down long pages.
On the strength of Chrome and Photoshop alone, I think the crown seems pretty useful - unfortunately, I don’t regularly use any of the other currently supported apps. (And Logitech itself says the Craft doesn’t support Office on Mac yet).
My hope is that Logitech will open up an API - to enable either other app developers or hobbyists to code their own support in various apps. It’s easy to imagine how, for example, it could be ideal for scrubbing through footage in Final Cut Pro, or skipping about on Spotify. It certainly feels like it could be revolutionary - but it just needs more software support.
The crown isn’t the only trick the Craft has up its sleeve though. One of the coolest features is called “Easy Switch”. If you want to run two computers side by side and want to use the same keyboard (and the same Logitech mouse, which you’ll have to buy separately), you can simply install the Logitech Options software on your other machine, and it’ll then use your network connection to create what feels a little like a dual monitor setup: If you swish your mouse off of one screen it’ll appear on the other, and you do stuff on both. You can even drag and drop files between the two. Software has been around which can handle this for several years, but none have so far made it as easy as Logitech.
Ultimately, the Craft keyboard is a very decent option if you want something sitting on your desktop that looks nice and slick - and has lots of future potential. This isn’t cheap and ugly. It looks cool. Because Logitech… is cool.
The Craft keyboard is available now, for £119.