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Most useful as HTPC keyboard
on July 25, 2012
Logitech seems to want to create a device that is small enough as a home-theater PC remote but still big enough as a regular PC keyboard & mouse. Does cutting it both ways work for Logitech? This is currently the #1 best-selling keyboard at Amazon, so maybe it does.
Most people would likely use Logitech K400 as a HTPC remote to be used on the living-room couch. A HTPC remote differs from a regular remote in that it is more "PC-centric". It is made for computer users who want to view their media on their HDTVs and sound systems, while still sticking to their favorite Windows or Mac interface.
The K400 is light, weighing only 1.1 lbs, lighter than an iPad, so it should be couch-friendly. Its wireless range is good, as I have no connection problem within 20 feet away from the PC.
The touchpad is fine for basic mouse clicks and navigation. It has no scroll zones, and it doesn't support a lot of gestures. You can single-tap for left mouse click, single-tap-and-hold for drag, and double-tap for scroll, and that's it. There is no gesture for right mouse click or middle mouse click (many laptops can do this). You cannot drag-lock, and that means when you drag something on the screen, your finger has to be always on the pad. To adjust the speed of the mouse movement, you can use your operating system's control panel or Logitech's Setpoint utility, which is not included in the package but can be downloaded at Logitech's website.
You also cannot two-finger-pinch-zoom on the touchpad like you do on iOS devices, MacBook, or newer PC laptops. And that brings me to another topic.
When you use the K400 on a couch looking at your TV screen, suddenly you realize you are not as close to your TV as you are to your PC, and you need to magnify the screen. Windows 7 and XP do have a built-in Magnifier utility (look under Accessories, Accessibility). But you have to run and control it manually with regular mouse clicks and drags and/or keyboard shortcuts. Fortunately, Logitech's Setpoint utility lets you launch a program with a hotkey, so at least you can launch the Magnifier utility with a touch of a button. I hope in future K400 models, Logitech would add a pinch-zoom gesture a la iPhone/iPad that would make magnifying easier.
As a HTPC remote, this keyboard surely has far too few built-in media keys. It only has mute, volume up and down keys at the top. Obviously, you will have to rely on the hotkeys of your media applications to control playback. Logitech seems to believe that HTPC users may actually prefer to do that. In my case, they are right. I've been using PowerDVD on the PC for a long time and I'm very much used to just pressing F, B, N, P (hotkeys for forward, rewind, next chapter, previous chapter) instead of using dedicated media keys. There are also many special functions accessible only via hotkeys, such as Blu-ray's red, blue, green, and yellow buttons. So I'm very comfortable being without dedicated media keys. For those who are not used to media playback on a PC, this is not a convenience, and, thus, this keyboard is not made for them.
Is this keyboard good for gaming on your HDTV? I have no problems playing Diablo III, adventure games, casual games, or any games that don't require precise mouse control. Playing first-person shooters that require accurate aiming, however, could be problematic, as K400's touchpad simply isn't as precise as a more sophisticated gaming mouse, such as my Logitech G5. You can get by with certain first-person games, like Portal 2, which is more forgiving to your aiming accuracy.
Is this keyboard good for regular PC work? It feels more cramped than a laptop keyboard, mainly due to the much smaller Enter, right Shift, Backspace, and Control keys, which are the most used (that's why they are usually made wider). And the lack of a numeric pad, not even an Fn-extended numeric pad, would further hamper an office user. Other often-used keys like Home, End, PgUp, and PgDn also need to be Fn-extended (meaning you need to press the green Fn key plus another key). In short, if you do office work or need to do long periods of typing, pass this over and get a regular keyboard instead.
For casual PC work on a couch, such as surfing the web, sending a few emails, shopping online, etc., this keyboard does fine.
In short, the Logitech K400 is good as a HTPC keyboard for media playback and casual PC activities. I have been using it for just such purposes and have decided to keep it despite all the aforementioned shortcomings. I have tried alternative HTPC input devices and they have not worked out well. I've used iPhone apps such as the highly-touted "Mobile Mouse Pro" as well as hand-held mini HTPC keyboards, and found that I really needed a near-full-size keyboard that is also small and couch-friendly. The K400 seems to fit the bill.