Category Archives: Electronics

Review – Logitech K400r Keyboard

Why I bought the K400r

The front side of the K400r.
The front side of the K400r.

My laptop keyboard is acting up so I decided to take it out and clean and look to see if I can find any problems (unfortunately, I could not, so I will have to order a new replacement for that one). I wanted to make sure I had a backup keyboard if that one completely fried after my tinkering. I checked around and finally decided to try the Logitech K400r . The selling points for me:

  • Cheap
  • Has a built in touch pad (incase I ever wanted to hook it up to remotely control my projector from the couch).
  • The batteries are supposed to last a long time.
The Battery Case for the K400r
The Battery Case for the K400r on the left you can see the storage slot for the USB dongle.

What I Like About this Keyboard

Let me start by saying I may be a little biased against this keyboard because I use exclusively full-sized keyboards. My laptops are all 17″ with full-sized keyboards, my work computers all have ergonomic or other wired full-size keyboards. The result is that it is a little bit of an adjustment to switch to this smaller more compact keyboard. I think it is similar to what you might find on a 13-15″ laptop. If you already use a laptop in this size then this should be an easy adjustment.

  • Lightweight
  • Small
  • Good Range (it works flawlessly much further than my Logitech M510 wireless mouse, why? I have no idea, it just does)
  • The touch pad mouse is actually neat and convenient, I wasn’t sure if this would be good or bad when I bought the keyboard
  • The rubber feet on the bottom grip a variety of surfaces well
Backside of the K400r showing the rubber grip feet.
Backside of the K400r showing the rubber grip feet.
  • The convenience buttons are useful, I mostly use the volume up/down/mute, play/pause/rewind and power/sleep buttons. These all worked out of the box simple plug and play with no setup required.
  • A convenient slot to store the USB dongle
  • The keys feel nice and they reflex (raise back up after being pushed) well.

The Bad

Most of the complaints I have are fairly minor and I think with continued use would become a non-issue.

  • First the Shift key on the right hand side of the keyboard just underneath the enter key is tiny. I am used to a full sized shift key and this often results in me changing lines while typing when I attempt to capitalize letters. After a week of use this has become less problematic but it was really frustrating at first.
The on/off switch on the top side of the keyboard.
The on/off switch on the top side of the keyboard.
  • Second, many of the convience buttons (which I really like) are built into the F1, F2, F3 … F12, Scr Lk, Print Scr buttons, this in and of itself is not bad. My gripe is that all of these standard keyboard keys (F1, F2, F3 …) all require your press the FN button on this keyboard. My preference would be to follow convention and make the convience buttons require the FN key. I think perhaps Logitech envisioned people using this more for media than on a laptop and that is perhaps why they put the priority on the convience buttons.
  • The keys are not backlit, you may or may not care about this but from someone who is used to playing in the dark and used to backlit keys this was annoying.

That’s it! Only three complaints. Additionally, Logitech released an upgraded version the K400 Plus which increases the size of the shift key. They squashed the up and down arrow keys in the new design so I am not sure it is perfect but I would certainly like that a little better and probably splurge the difference in price for the newer one if I were to buy this keyboard again.

Final Verdict

This keyboard does what it advertises and it does it cheaply. There are a couple flaws that I observed but if cheap and adequate is your objective then this will get the job done. Finally, if your primary usage is media (audio/video) then all of my gripes may be less meaningful and this keyboard would do an excellent job at a very affordable price.  I say buy if you are getting it for high portability, media usage, or cheap temporary usage while getting your normal rig fixed. If you are looking for a more everyday use keyboard for more traditional computer tasks or for gaming then this is not a keyboard that I would recommend for those purposes.

Logitech M560 Wireless Optical Mouse Review

The Logitech Wireless Mouse M560 is my current everyday use mouse. I use it (the mouse) on a Sager base custom built gaming laptop for both text editing, writing, academics and playing Elder Scrolls Online. My model is black but there is a silver option also produced. The color is flat black with a highly ergonomic grip design.

The back of my Logitech M560 Wireless Optical Mouse. The mouse itself is a nice flat black color.
The back of my Logitech M560 Wireless Optical Mouse. The mouse itself is a nice flat black color.

The mouse itself has two thumb buttons on the left side of the mouse next to a comfortable ergonomic indention. These two buttons are easy to push and require very little effort. They reflex (spring back up when released) very quickly allowing the user to quickly press the buttons again and again. The only problem I have with this mouse is with the rear thumb button (the one on the right in the photo below and closest to the user). Let me preface this, I have small hands (my 8 year old son’s hands are almost as big as mine) so this may be a problem related to my hand size. This button is easy to accidentally click and it is initially auto-programmed to minimize whatever window you are in and return you to your computers home screen. This was very frustrating…but I reprogrammed it to something that I don’t mind accidentally clicking in the middle of a boss fight or a heated PvP battle (my microphone) and it is no longer a problem (in fact it makes it super easy to communicate).

The side of my Logitech M560 Wireless Optical Mouse. The two side buttons can be seen as well as the top center button, the clickable scroll wheel which can toggle left and right and the left and right click buttons.
The side of my Logitech M560 Wireless Optical Mouse. The two side buttons can be seen as well as the top center button, the clickable scroll wheel which can toggle left and right and the left and right click buttons.

The front of the mouse has a left click and a right click button. In addition to a scrolling clickable mouse wheel. The scrolling mouse wheel (like many mice today) acts as a middle click button allowing similar function to other 3 button mice with the addition of the wheel function (which by default acts like the up and down arrows on a keyboard). In addition the mouse wheel has left and right tilt features (these by default work like left and right arrows on a key board). Finally there is a small square button behind the scroll wheel which (as I recall) opened it start menu by default (my memory might be off).

The front of my Logitech M560 Wireless Optical Mouse. The left and right click are one solid piece reducing the number of entry points for dirt and dust. Also seen are the central button, and the scroll wheel with arrows to show that the scroll wheel can be pushed to either side.
The front of my Logitech M560 Wireless Optical Mouse. The left and right click are one solid piece reducing the number of entry points for dirt and dust. Also seen are the central button, and the scroll wheel with arrows to show that the scroll wheel can be pushed to either side.

The mouse in total has eight click and two scroll input options that can be easily reprogrammed with the downloadable software from Logitech. It is a full size mouse that is comfortable to handle and has a good texture to the feel. In the photo below you can see how my smaller hands force my thumb slightly closer to that rear button and a slight shift in my thumb position depresses the button.

The side of my Logitech M560 Wireless Optical Mouse. Featuring my hand and the ergonomic thumb hold. It should be noted that with my fat fingers I have had to disable the side button furthest back in Elder Scrolls Online becasue I would accidentally click it and return to my desktop screen. Eventually I will rebind it to something (maybe as a push to talk button for Team Speak or Ventrilo).
The side of my Logitech M560 Wireless Optical Mouse. Featuring my hand and the ergonomic thumb hold. It should be noted that with my fat fingers I have had to disable the side button furthest back in Elder Scrolls Online becasue I would accidentally click it and return to my desktop screen. Eventually I will rebind it to something (maybe as a push to talk button for Team Speak or Ventrilo).

The bottom of the mouse has four large slider pads which provide a frictionless slide when moving it across various surfaces (cloth couch, mouse pad, bamboo lap pad with clear coat, paper and IKEA glossy finish side tables. It has a slide open compartment on the bottom which contains a battery (they advertise the battery should last for two years…but my wife’s Logitech M525 is supposed to be rated for three years and it died after about 4 months, she confessed that she neglected to switch the “Off” button on hers, maybe that explains her result?) and a storage slot for the wireless dongle. I didn’t take a photo of the dongle portion but its a standard Logitech dongle which minimally protrudes from the USB port and doesn’t get in the way for laptop users using a lap pad.

The bottom side of my Logitech M560 Wireless Optical Mouse. The line on the bottom is where the battery compartment opens and the USB dongle can be stored.
The bottom side of my Logitech M560 Wireless Optical Mouse. The line on the bottom is where the battery compartment opens and the USB dongle can be stored.

Overall the Logitech Wireless Mouse M560 is a great well priced wireless optical mouse that functions well for both small tasks like web surfing and data entry and more intensive and responsive activities such as mmorpgs and other gaming activities. If I were buying a mouse for a friend this would be considered. If you have small hands you might prefer the Logitech M510 Wireless Mouse (a fullsize and similarly priced and functional mouse) or the Logitech Wireless Mouse M525 (a smaller mouse designed for mobility). I have reviewed the M510 previously and plan to review the M525 soon.

Logitech M510 Wireless Optical Mouse Review

The Logitech M510 Wireless Mouse is what I use as a backup mouse for my laptop at home. I actually like it a lot it has a comfortable ergonomic grip, a high performance laser and plenty of bindable keys for gamers.

The back of the Logitech M510 Wireless Optical Mouse. It's very shiny and I had trouble getting a good photo due to the flash reflection.
The back of the Logitech M510 Wireless Optical Mouse. It’s very shiny and I had trouble getting a good photo due to the flash reflection.

The overall mouse is a glossy two tone black mouse. There are other colors available such as blue.

The side of the Logitech M510 Wireless Optical Mouse. Visible is the ergonomic indention, two side buttons, top left and right buttons and the scroll wheel which moves left and right.
The side of the Logitech M510 Wireless Optical Mouse. Visible is the ergonomic indention, two side buttons, top left and right buttons and the scroll wheel which moves left and right.

In the image above the two side buttons are very visible. These two buttons have a firm recoil and click nicely to let the operator know when they are pressed. They are comfortably located above the ergonomic thumb groove.

The front of the Logitech M510 Wireless Optical Mouse. This is a backup mouse for when the kids hide mine or my wife's mouse. Shown are the front buttons and the scroll wheel.
The front of the Logitech M510 Wireless Optical Mouse. This is a backup mouse for when the kids hide mine or my wife’s mouse. Shown are the front buttons and the scroll wheel.

The scroll wheel on this mouse can be depressed and functions as a center mouse key. It also scrolls allowing web browsing with ease and the scroll wheel can be moved left and right which functions by default as a page forward and page backwards button. Utilizing the Logitech software all buttons can be rebound to other functions as desired.

The side of the Logitech M510 Wireless Optical Mouse. This is with my hand and unlike the newer M560 my hand never accidentally presses these side mount keys.
The side of the Logitech M510 Wireless Optical Mouse. This is with my hand and unlike the newer M560 (which is currently my main mouse) my hand never accidentally presses these side mount keys.

This is a full sized wireless mouse and is comfortable for my hands (which are on the smaller side). My main mouse, a Logitech Wireless Mouse M560, has a bad habit of the side button closest the the user being accidentally clicked. The accidental clicking could be due to my short fingers but I have had to disable that button in my main mouse. This backup mouse however does not have the problem of accidental clicking.

The bottom side of the Logitech M510 Wireless Optical Mouse. Also visible is the compartment that opens to allow access to the battery and the USB dongle storage.
The bottom side of the Logitech M510 Wireless Optical Mouse. Also visible is the compartment that opens to allow access to the battery and the USB dongle storage.

On the underside there are four pads which allow the mouse the easily slide on most surfaces I personally use it on an ergonomic gel pad I love but the mouse works equally well on a wooden lappad and the cloth couch. The bottom of the mouse opens allowing a user to change the battery (which is rated to last for 2 years and was included with the mouse!). Inside the battery compartment is a storage slot for the dongle allowing the owner to not lose the connectivity piece when mobile.

The only reason I got a different mouse is because my one year old toddler eloped with this one and I was on an overnight trip and didn’t have time to look for this one. My newer mouse the M560 and this mouse the M510 are both solid mice to purchase and I would recommend either one. I will be reviewing the M560 soon and you could read that article for comparison if interested.

Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000 v1.0 Review

The Microsoft Natural Ergonomic Keyboard 4000
is the exclusive keyboard at work and as such it will be the only keyboard I review in the near future. In the past I have used many different keyboards at work, college, grade school, and even at home.

The ergonomic keyboard in all its glory.
The ergonomic keyboard in all its glory.

This is a full sized keyboard ergonomically designed for comfort at the desk. The ergonomic features cause it to be a bit bulky so if you are limited on desk space then perhaps a different keyboard would be better. Out of the box it is USB plug and play, with forward and backwards buttons for internet surfing. A scroll button, a home key, a search button, an email button, volume controls and calculator button. I’m addition to those hot keys there are 5 other buttons that can be programmed for other functions.

The back label of the keyboard.
The back labelof the keyboard.

I only use a keyboard at work because at home I use a fullsized (17″ widescreen sager) gaming laptap and my lap desk barely has room for a wireless mouse. With that in consideration if I bought a keyboard tomorrow this is the exact keyboard I would buy (as long as it fit my desk). Microsoft hit a home run with this device and a person can use it comfortably all day with any activity. After thousands of hours of use on multiple identical keyboards the only complaints I have been able to come up with are:

A) The paint wore off the keys before the keyboard wore out…which really is minor unless you need the labels.

B) With a fulltime 24 hours a day 7 days a week work crew banging on these pads all the time. A single one  of 60 has had a spring in the space bar quit providing adequate reflex.

Additionally it has legs that can be folded out to raise the rear of the keyboard and the grip pads on the bottom prevent the keyboard from rubbing on the surface and prevent the device from sliding.

The bottom line is that this is the keyboard I would buy and I don’t need to test any others because it is optimal and very well priced.

Microsoft Wheel Mouse Optical USB

At work we have about five Microsoft Wheel Optical Mouse devices. These are ultra cheap wired optical mice the light up red light on the back is stylistically nice.

This is the Microsoft Wheel Optical USB mouse.
This is the Microsoft Wheel Optical USB mouse.

This mouse doesn’t offer much ergonomically providing slightly less ergonomic comfort than the Microsoft Comfort Optical Mouse 1000. The actual curvature of this mouse is somewhat superior to the comfort model providing for slightly better hand comfort on the top. The sides are slightly less indented then the already meager indentions of the Comfort model.

The side view of the Microsoft Wheel Mouse.
The side view of the Microsoft Wheel Mouse.

The reinforcement plastic around the scroll wheel is split (unlike in the comfort model) and this allows the structure to flex when the buttons are pressed producing a very flimsy feel.

The front view of the Microsoft Wheel Mouse USB looking closely the dark circle halo around the scroll wheel is actually two pieces giving the mouse a more flimsy feel.
The front view of the Microsoft Wheel Mouse USB looking closely the dark circle halo around the scroll wheel is actually two pieces giving the mouse a more flimsy feel.

As for the bottomside of the mouse it actually slides much better and tracks on multiple surfaces much better than the more expensive Microsoft Comfort mouse. In the actual functioning catagory it seems to be a better product even if it feels more flimsy and has fewer ergonomic indentions.

The bottom side of the Microsoft Wheel Optical USB mouse.
The bottom side of the Microsoft Wheel Optical USB mouse.

Overall, this mouse is functionally superior to the Microsoft Comfort mouse. It is less comfortable overall (not by much). It feels more flimsy in its construction but at the price point you could break a few and replace them without sweating it too much. My personal recommendation is to upgrade to a better mouse but as far as cheap mice go this one will do the job.

Microsoft Comfort Optical Mouse 1000 Review

We have a bunch of Microsoft Comfort Optical Mouse 1000 at work and I figured why not write a review on them. It is a cheap bottom tier Microsoft wired optical mouse and labelled as “Comfort Mouse”.

A view at approximately 45 degree angle from the user side of the mouse.
A view at approximately 45 degree angle from the user side of the mouse.

 

It is marketed for use on any surface. It has a left click and a right click and finally a clickable scroll wheel in the center. Aesthetically I kinda like the grey and black contrast with the gray halo around the scroll button and the contoured lines around the sides.

This image shows the grey halo around the central clickable mouse wheel.
This image shows the grey halo around the central clickable mouse wheel.

This mouse (we have about 60 of them) has performed quite reliably considering it is bottom tier. The comfort level is OK (at best…it can and has been used for 8 hours), but I prefer something more ergonomically designed like Logitech Wireless Mouse M560 that I recently purchased to use on my laptop at home (I will probably write a review on the Logitech in the near future once I have tested it a bit more).

The side of the mouse where stylistic lines and very minor and hardly noticeable ergonomic indention (only a few mm).
The side of the mouse where stylistic lines and very minor and hardly noticeable ergonomic indention (only a few mm).

The mouse also has more friction than I prefer it seems to rub (quite a bit) on the solid wood surface of the desk. It performs well enough on a mouse pad though and not so well on paper.

The bottom of the Microsoft Comfort Optical Mouse 1000.
The bottom of the Microsoft Comfort Optical Mouse 1000.

Overall, for a desk or an office this is not a bad mouse. It works reliably and tracks well. For a laptop or for gaming or anything more intensive than light desk use then a different mouse will probably serve you better.

Kensington Expert Mouse Optical USB Trackball Review

The Kensington Expert Mouse Optical USB Trackball is a large trackball mouse. The model number of the device reviewed is K64325 and a price range of new mice currently runs from $75-$100. The mouse has a large ball in the center with a scroll wheel (that spins) creating a sort of aesthetic outline for the ball. Surrounding this are 4 large buttons which can be assigned to various functions. The device attaches to the PC via a USB cord. The whole device has a decent amount of heftiness and feels really solidly built. Underneath the trackball is a light sensor similar to a non trackball optical mouse.

Kensington Expert Mouse (Model # K64325) top side with wrist support pad attached.
Kensington Expert Mouse (Model # K64325) top side with wrist support pad attached.

The trackball itself accounts for what feels like more than half of the weight of the device. It has an attractive grey color with silver speckles and moves with high accuracy and precision. Moving the ball makes almost zero noise and it is easy to get accustomed to the scrolling which allows for very fast and accurate operation.

Kensington Expert Mouse (Model # K64325) bottom side with wrist support pad attached.
Kensington Expert Mouse (Model # K64325) bottom side with wrist support pad attached.

The scroll wheel surrounding the mouse turns freely but maintains enough resistance to prevent accidental over scroll.  Aesthetically the position of the wheel around the ball is great and the functionality and usability is there as well. Scrolling the wheel produces a slight noise but its not bad.

Kensington Expert Mouse (Model # K64325) top side without wrist support pad attached an adult hand to show size.
Kensington Expert Mouse (Model # K64325) top side without wrist support pad attached an adult hand to show size.

The four buttons are large (so you can easily operate without fear of accidentally pushing the wrong button). I did experience a slight tendency to accidentally rub the ball with my hand when pushing the buttons on the top of the mouse. This resulted in the on screen cursor moving slightly on the screen which was irritating to me. I surveyed the other people using the mouse and found that they did not have similar complaints. Perhaps my hand or mouse ball technique needs to be developed further. I imagine with longer use of this mouse my technique would modify and it would be no problem.

Kensington Expert Mouse (Model # K64325) the trackball itself.
Kensington Expert Mouse (Model # K64325) the trackball itself.

Overall the mouse is aesthetically pleasing, has 4 buttons + scroll wheel, operates quietly, has very smooth and accurate responsiveness and seems to be very well built and durable. The only complaint I had with the mouse will hopefully go away.  We have about 40 of these at the office and they seem to be very consistent in their production with all mice seeming identical both in form and function. I have not used the device for gaming but in the office it functions great. It can be purchased with an optional wrist pad that  adds additional comfort. 

Kensington Expert Mouse (Model # K64325) under the trackball the optical sensor can be seen.
Kensington Expert Mouse (Model # K64325) under the trackball the optical sensor can be seen.

Overall the Kensington Expert Mouse Optical USB Trackball is a solid choice for a good quality trackball mouse.

Logitech H540 USB Headset

We (my wife and I) just bought a new Logitech H540 USB Headset for playing Elder Scrolls Online. Previously we had a wireless bluetooth headsets and they were functional for video chat. However, when we tried to utilize them for a  mmorpg and join in a ventrilo or a team speak chat they were problematic (we suspect driver issues). As a result my wife eventually got frustrated and asked me to by her a new headset. After much research and price comparisons this is the one that was selected.

The Logitech H540 USB headset I purchased for my wife.
The Logitech H540 USB headset I purchased for my wife the mute and volume controls can be seen on the exterior of the earpiece.

The reason this headset got purchased is because it was reasonably priced. The headset was USB and thus not susceptible to the recent problems we had experienced with the Bluetooth headset. It had easy to access buttons on the exterior of the ear piece. It also had noise canceling capability. The ear pads were nice and plush providing for increased comfort.

The drawbacks to this particular model are that it is in the midrange of the bulky catagory. This is probably more of a preferential factor. Second, it has a cord…yeah I’m definantly a consumer …don’t like a cord because it is in the way, and don’t like wireless because it is more prone to errors. Finally, the microphone piece is a little short for my taste. My personal preference would be for it to be extended another inch or two and have a flexible tip that can be bent towards the front of your mouth.

I prefer the bent mouth piece that extends to the front for several reasons. First, it allows more direct access to your speaking. Second, as a result of the more direct access to speaking on many voice chat software systems you can increase the threshold for voice activated speaking. This means that background noise (like kids, TV, dog, etc…) will be less likely to falsely trigger the voice activation when you’re not speaking.  Overall, I think this headset does pretty good at producing quality input of your speech despite the mouthpiece being further away. It also does a decent job on the voice activated front but I imagine an better microphone apperature would be even better (but then it would get in the way of sodas and French fries….).

I am a fan of Logitech peripherals in general because the company reliably produces a good arrary of products of various cost levels (not super high end or super low end) and their products tend to work as advertised and provide good value for the cost. Over the years I have used dozens of Logitech products (wireless remotes for entertainment centers, mice, headsets, microphone, webcams) and I can think of only one product that I was unhappy with based on the price I paid relative to the quality I received.

If you are looking for a wired USB headset under $50 then Logitech H540 USB Headset is worth a look.