Logitech Cordless Desktop S530 for Mac
Something for your Mini, sir?
First UK Review It's been some years since I used a desktop Mac so as a PowerBook user, I've grown accustomed to working on a flat keyboard without the benefits of a numeric pad and a full array of function keys. Having used Logitech's new wireless S530 keyboard and mouse combo, however, which not only granted me the freedom to sit back from the screen, but gave me larger, more typing-friendly keys, I may find it hard to go back...
But to begin at the beginning. Opening the S530's box reveals a single-sheet installation guide. Beneath it you find the keyboard, kitted out in white and silver-look plastic the better to match Apple's desktop and mobile Macs. There's a similarly hued mouse in the box, along with the USB wireless receiver and its neat white docking cradle. For once, batteries are included - there's a pair of AAA and AA Duracells in there, one set for the mouse, the other for the keyboard.
Installation could barely be more simple: fit the batteries in mouse and keyboard, plug the receiver into a spare USB port, press its Connect button then, in order, the Connect buttons on the mouse and keyboard. Immediately, Mac OS X recognised both devices and, after answering the OS' question about whether it was a US, European or Japanese keyboard, I was up and running.
All the standard keys and mouse buttons work at this point, courtesy of Apple's own keyboard and mouse software, but there are plenty of other buttons on both devices, all activated by installing Logitech's Control Center (CC) software. CC calls up Logitech's Device Manager application, which allows you to configure all the extra keys just by selecting them, choosing a behaviour from a pop-up menu and fine-tuning the action. Changes are implemented immediately.
It's easy and intuitive, and it doesn't take long to adjust as many or as few of the default behaviours to suit. Alas there's no way to attach an AppleScript to, say, not only run Mail, but force it to check for new messages. You can turn your scripts into applications, of course, and set the keyboard's buttons to trigger these, but it's a slightly clumsy solution, running one application to call up a second.
In addition to the standard keys, the S530 provides, on the left-hand side, power, email, and home keys, an up-and-down rocker, and a backspace button. On the right-hand side are controls for Spotlight, music playback, iTunes activation, iPhoto activation, a volume up-and-down rocker, and a mute key. I'm not sure why the volume controls are below the iPhoto key and not up with the music controls, but that's the way it is. All the keys, on both sides, are customisable except for the music and volume controls.
Alas, the non-standard buttons were poorly printed, with icons not only not centred on the button's surface but often set at angle, all of which leaves the keyboard looking cheap.
Physically, the keyboard is quite thin, though the keys have a good travel to them with almost no springiness to the board as a whole. The downside is it's not as quiet as, say, a notebook keyboard, but in the office, it certainly failed to make its presence felt above the clatter of keyboards being used by other Register hacks. The rake is very shallow - Logitech describes it as "ultra-flat" - but that's the trend these days, and it's certainly a better angle than the notebook's own, flat keyboard. You'll definitely want to flip out the two legs built into the base of the keyboard - I'd have liked to see them extend even further.
I've never been a fan of wrist-rests, but the one built into the S530 is better than most I've tried. It gives you something to rest your palms on without feeling like they're being lifted up above the keyboard.
Over to the mouse, one of Logitech's now discontinued MX 600s. Contoured to fit the hand - well, a right hand; if you're left-handed this mouse isn't for you - I found the mouse very comfortable to use - much better than Apple's own rodent. It moves smoothly on four pads, and has enough weight to give you something to push against without feeling heavy. The scroll wheel has a ratchetty feel - it's not a smooth as the ball on Apple's Mighty Mouse, for example, or some other mice I've tried - but it's not unpleasant. Pushing it right or left provides a horizontal scroll control.
The scroll control is limited to small, medium or large increments, which in the TextWrangler text editor amounted to one, three or six lines of text, respectively. In Photoshop, with a document displayed at full size, the increment was 16 pixels no matter what. I'd have preferred a greater degree of control - and a wheel that was not only as quiet when pushed forward as when rolled back, but also one that felt smoother.
In use, it felt good, whether in Photoshop, Finder, text applications or games. Inevitably, you'll want to tweak the rodent's sensitivity to meet your personal taste, but Mac OS X's own System Preferences pane provides sufficient scope for that.
The mouse has volume controls to the left of the left button, and a pair of up and down arrow keys positioned just above the thumb rest. This time, the volume controls are customisable, so you can set them to the kind of things you might want to do with a mouse, such as activate Exposé functions or Dashboard.
Both the keyboard and the mouse operate using proprietary radio transmissions in the 2.4GHz band. I'd have preferred a Bluetooth connection, if only to free up a USB port, though if you use your Mac's Bluetooth link for other things, such as a PDA synchronisation or mobile phone hook-up, you'll appreciate the extra receiver.
Wireless means both devices need their own power sources, and Logitech claims both sets of batteries last for up to six months - typically even longer - thanks to power-saving modes that kick in when you don't use a device for a certain period. You can see this with the mouse - leave it for 30 seconds or so and when you push it, there's a tiny but noticeable lag period before the cursor moves. That said, if you're typing, it comes back up immediately, and it catches up sufficiently quickly that you never feel it's being unresponsive.
I found I could easily use the mouse at over 3m from the receiver in Reg Hardware's radio-noisy office, and I'd expect better performance in a 'quieter', home environment.
At £60, the S530 isn't badly priced. Apple's own Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, the first set Mac owners looking to go cordless are likely to consider, together cost just under £80, and they lack the palm-rest and the extra buttons on the mouse. Apple's keyboard looks better, it's true, but Logitech's mouse is far more comfortable to hold and use. The S530 is a particularly good choice for Mac Mini owners, especially if you're considering living-room usage. This rig lets you sit back on the sofa and surf.
Logitech's Cordless Desktop S530 for Mac isn't the best looking keyboard and mouse set I've seen, and some elements - such as the nonetheless useful special-function keys - make it look cheaper than it is. But it works well, and Logitech's software makes re-configuration of the keys' behaviour a doddle.
What made this set for me is the MX 600 mouse which, while it may like the ultra-high resolution that gamers or Photoshop folk prefer - they'd want something like the MX 1000 - it's a good balance between price and performance. ®