Review: Logitech DiNovo For Mac – Style With Substance

Over the years, I’ve used a wide variety of Apple and 3rd party keyboards. Some, like the venerable Apple Extended II are worth their weight in gold. Others, like the early Apple USB keyboards are barely worth the colored plastic they’re molded from. Everyone agrees that a good keyboard can improve both comfort and accuracy but everyone seems to have a different idea about what a good keyboard actually is. Personally, I believe a good keyboard is one that improves comfort and accuracy while reducing error and fatigue. It must feel solid and precise instead of cheap and mushy and if it looks nice while doing all that, so much the better. After spending some time with the Logitech diNovo Mac Edition wireless keyboard, I can confidently say that it’s a very good keyboard that combines solid construction with high style. If you enjoy using a laptop keyboard, you’ll feel right at home with the diNovo. If, however, you prefer a more contoured, old-school design, the diNovo may not be for you. More about that later.

The first thing you notice upon opening the box is that the DiNovo is not just an attractive keyboard, it’s a real stunner. Its low profile design is done in a glossy, piano-black finish with textured matte black keys and a sizable palm rest of brushed aluminum which definitely adds to the upscale feel. Also included in the box is a small USB 2.4GHz receiver, a basic User’s Guide and a CD containing the Logitech Control Center software.

Setting Up and Install Keyboard Drivers

Set-up is fast and incredibly easy. You simply have to plug the mini-receiver into a USB port, remove the plastic pull tabs from the keyboard battery compartment, turn the keyboard on and hit the f12 key. That was all that was required to get the keyboard operational. The final step is to install the Logitech Control Center software from the enclosed CD. The installer creates a custom control panel inside OS X system preferences and from here you can remap function keys, control default function key behavior and monitor battery level. One minor annoyance was the fact that the software installer didn’t provide any specifics about what it had just installed. Unless you open the rather lengthy ReadMe file that accompanies the software or have used Logitech products before, you might never know these controls exist or howto go about accessing them.

The diNovo has several noticeable differences from the last generation of Apple keyboards. The most obvious difference is that the diNovo has more function keys, a total of 19 in all. Each function key displays the icon of the software or function it controls and they stretch across the entire top of the keyboard. In fact, 17 of the 19 function keys come pre-assigned. More about that later. The eject key has also been moved from its traditional position in the upper right hand corner of the keyboard to a new location directly above the backslash and delete keys. Finally, the Help button has been replaced with a “fn” key that toggles the function keys between controlling features of the OS and controlling features within specific applications.

The diNovo keyboard makes use of what Logitech calls its PerfectStroke system which basically involves replacing the single plunger-type key switch used in most keyboards with a more advanced scissor switch which uses a set of collapsing supports similar to a pair of scissors to distribute the downward force of a keystroke more evenly across the surface of the key. This added support translates into less wobble and makes for very precise key action. In my own tests, I found that the diNovo does require a bit more downward pressure to initiate a keystroke, but this firmness also helps to reduce the typos caused by accidental contact. For those who normally use a soft touch keyboard, it may feel a bit odd at first, like you’re having to press more deliberately, but the discomfort quickly fades. I can also say that there does seem to be some initial tightness in the key action which i’m glad to say has faded over the last week or so.

In day to day use there is much to like about the diNovo Keyboard. The PerfectStroke system does impart a very solid and precise feel to the key action which I definitely like. Wireless performance has been consistently solid with no discernible lag or problems with wi-fi interference. Although I’m not yet used to relying on them, I like the inclusion of additional function keys to launch Mac specific applications like iTunes, Apple Mail & Safari. It’s always great to see a Mac product that really tries to deliver a more integrated Mac-like experience, and I think Logitech should be applauded for not simply sticking a Mac label on top of a generic Windows keyboard. God knows, there’s enough of that around. I also appreciate the addition of a separate numeric pad, something noticeably absent from Apple’s own wireless keyboard. I know this is in no small part due to the influence of laptop computers which don’t have them, but I personally think it’s a shame to be without one since they make numerical entry and calculation so much easier. I’m glad to see that Logitech included one.

User experience of Logitech with Mac

There were unfortunately, a few things I was less enthusiastic about. The first is the size of the function keys themselves. I simply don’t care for downsized keys. They may be a necessity on laptop computers where space is limited but on a desktop keyboard, I prefer everything to be full-sized. Call me a Luddite.

Also, it’s disappointing that each Logitech device requires its own USB mini-receiver. If you decide to add a wireless mouse to the diNovo keyboard, you’ll need to sacrifice another USB port to add another receiver. I’m hoping that the day will come when a single receiver can handle multiple devices. It would be a blessing for everyone.

Finally, while the sleek low-profile design of the diNovo certainly looks great , its faithful reproduction of the laptop keyboard style means there is no curvature to the keys and no height difference between the rows. If you prefer working on a laptop keyboard, you’ll feel right at home here. As for me, I’ve always preferred a more contoured feel and I find that a sloped surface is personally more comfortable for me. Compared to classic keyboards like the IBM model M, the Apple extended and the Mattias TactilePro, the diNovo feels a bit like typing on a flat board, albeit a sexy and solid one.

In the final analysis, a keyboard is only as good as it feels to you. Despite my fondness for old-school ergonomics, the diNovo wireless keyboard for Mac does work well for me. Despite a few minor quibbles, it’s beautiful crafted and a joy to use. At $99, it’s not cheap, although a quick check of retailers shows it can be found for less. The diNovo is also more expensive that Apple’s own wireless keyboard, but the combination of additional function keys with a full-sized numeric pad is worth the additional cost. A desktop keyboard, in my opinion, should offer all the bells and whistles, and the diNovo keyboard for Mac certainly does that and does it in spades. It’s a great alternative to an Apple keyboard and if you’re in the market for a new keyboard, it deserves serious consideration.