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  • The Night Owl Review: Logitech S 530 Cordless Desktop Keyboard and Mouse

    February 25th, 2006

    Night Owl Rating: ★★★★½

    There are lots and lots of keyboard and mouse combos that’ll operate on your Mac, but most were really designed for Windows, and you often feel that the makers made them Mac compatible mostly to throw us all a bone or two. But the fact that the Mac mini ships without input devices, and the growth of Mac sales in general, has apparently encouraged some companies to try to build special products for the platform.

    In the past, I’ve heaped praise on keyboards from Matias, such as the tactilepro, a modern rendition of the original Apple Extended Keyboard, and the USB 2.0 keyboard. I’m also a huge fan of the original Logitech MX1000 Laser Cordless Mouse. Up till now, I wasn’t quite as pleased with the touch and other design elements of Logitech’s keyboards, but that’s poised to change with the company’s $99.99 Cordless Desktop S 530 Laser for Mac.

    Did I say laser? Yes, the stylish keyboard and mouse combo includes a neat silver and white sculpted laser mouse that puts the Apple Mighty Mouse to shame. The keyboard itself sports a silver band at the top and bottom, and uses low-profile key switches similar to those you find on a high-quality laptop, though the touch is somewhat better than the one on a PowerBook or (based on my brief encounter) the MacBook Pro.

    Comfort is enhanced by the built-in and non-removable palm rest. Unlike a product that also used laptop-based key switches from Kensington, the Logitech S 530 is a full-sized keyboard with a reasonable amount of separation between the standard keys, navigation keys, and the numeric keypad. There is also a full complement of F keys at the top, though they are reduced to narrow rectangles. A set of 15 small media keys adorn the sides, and they come programmed for standard Mac functions, such as running iTunes and launching iPhoto. Additional keys invoke such functions as Tiger’s Spotlight feature, your browser’s home page and your favorite email software. There’s even a separate Eject key, and, as a unique touch, a rocker switch for vertical scrolling, and a Back button for the browser.

    The laser mouse, configured as with most devices of this sort, for right-handers, has side buttons for volume levels and browser navigation. The clicking scroll wheel can, like the Mighty Mouse, also be used for horizontal scrolling, but it operates far more effectively, with superior comfort in nearly all respects. You can also double-click on the wheel to invoke open an item, but you have to exert a little more pressure to activate the switch than I prefer.

    You can use the supplied Logitech Control Center software to remap the various buttons to your taste and configure the speed of the various scrolling functions. If you don’t install the software, you’re stuck with the standard keys and mouse buttons.

    Aside from the laser mouse, the technology isn’t terribly advanced. The S 530 uses standard batteries, though it promises superior power management to extend the lifecycle for up to six months. I haven’t, however, used the products long enough to gauge how long batteries survive in heavy use, but the level indicators on the keyboard and mouse are designed to flash when you have 10 days to replace the batteries. A USB-based mini-receiver picks up the signals, and there’s a desktop insert that supposedly enhances the the sensitivity to maximize its useful range. You might wish for Bluetooth, but the wireless receiver should be sufficient to handle the signal for any normal distance. I moved the keyboard back about six feet, for example, and it seemed to function acceptably.

    As keyboards go, the feel is excellent; soft, smooth, accurate, snappy, without any of the languid character that afflicts some of these devices. I found myself growing used to it quickly, although folks who prefer to flex their finger muscles as they pound away on a keyboard may be disappointed. My only quibbles are the tiny media keys, which seemed designed for fingers far more petite than mine. My digits, by the way, are long and relatively thin, good for piano playing, but not terribly useful for dribbling basketballs. I expect you will encounter difficulties with those extra keys if your fingers are relatively thick.

    Mouse motion is superb and precise. In fact, I had to slow down tracking speed somewhat because the cursor runs so fast. The laser mouse’s shape is similar to the MX1000, although somewhat narrower. The extra buttons fall comfortably to my hand, which isn’t always a given for such products.

    As with most of its devices, Logitech offers a five-year limited warranty on the S 530, but it seems to be built solidly enough that you shouldn’t have to worry about breakdowns. All in all, I’m quite impressed with the Mac version of the Logitech Cordless Desktop. Microsoft is prepping its own Mac-oriented mouse and keyboard combo for a summer release, but right now the S 530 is the one to beat.

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