Content consumption using media-streaming set-top boxes (STBs) and home theater PCs (HTPCs) has seen an uptick in recent years. Even as 'cord-cutting' becomes more and more popular, STBs from service providers are also becoming quite interactive. Remote controllers are bundled with all OTT (over-the-top) boxes and Android media streamers, and Media Center remotes are common for HTPCs. However, these limited-function remotes become cumbersome to use as media consumption becomes more interactive (for example, consumers explicitly searching for a movie to play on Netflix).

In our 'Interacting with HTPCs' series, we have been presenting results from our evaluation of devices fulfilling a majority of the criteria below:

  • Wireless operation and optimal sizing (neither the mini- varieties which make typing with large fingers difficult, nor the full-sized combos which come with separate keyboard and mouse units)
  • Integrated touchpad or trackball
  • Good ergonomics and keyboard layout amenable to single-handed operation (common in HTPC scenarios)
  • Adaptability to occasional prolonged typing / computer interaction tasks
  • Acceptable build quality

Availability of a sleep mode for prolonged battery life, 5 GHz communication frequency (instead of 2.4 GHz), integrated rechargeable batteries and support for fancy gestures (in the case of touchpad keyboards) are some of the nice-to-have features. Obviously, given a particular device, some or all of these features have to be traded off for an acceptable price point.

The Logitech K400 is a gold-standard in the HTPC keyboard arena. Its popularity stems from a combination of its feature set and pricing. We looked at it in detail in our first review in the 'Interacting with HTPCs' series. Unfortunately, despite its popularity, the keyboard does have a few drawbacks with respect to ergonomics and key placement. It is challenging to use for extended typing duties. With a better budget, would it be possible to improve the HTPC interaction experience? On the other hand, are there any acceptable alternatives at a lower price point?

In today's piece, we will be looking at four different options with MSRPs ranging from $15 to $100.

  1. Logitech K830 Illuminated Living-Room HTPC Keyboard (MSRP of $99.99)
  2. Logitech TK820 Wireless All-in-One Keyboard (MSRP of $99.99)
  3. Perixx PERIBOARD-716 Wireless Touchpad Keyboard (MSRP of $25)
  4. Perixx PERIBOARD-706 PLUS Wireless Trackball Keyboard (MSRP of $15)

We will first take a look at the features offered by each of these keyboards in detail along with some usage impressions. This will be followed by the comparison of the pros and cons of each of these units on a single page. Note that most of the aspects presented in keyboard reviews are subjective and dependent on the test environment. For example, even the wireless range may vary from one test location to another because the 2.4 GHz channel being used might exhibit interference issues under certain conditions. This could result in improper functioning and range issues. All the four keyboards being considered today are RF-based and operate in the 2.4 GHz band with an advertised range of 30 ft (under ideal conditions). We will not be covering the range factor any further in this review.

Logitech K830 and TK820
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  • Primum - Tuesday, May 12, 2015 - link

    I've been using the K830 for about five months now and have plugged it in to charge perhaps three times so far despite using it as my main keyboard. If I have a gripe it's that something to prop it up with would be nice, but aside from that I'm very happy. I picked it up in January sales for just over £60 after being hesitant to pay full price, though looking back I'd have been happy to pay a little more if I'd had a test run first.

    The keyboard is an identical layout to an 11.3" Asus, so it was familiar and comfortable. (UK model, anyway)

    An interesting point about the function keys - in full screen games alt+F4 works just fine without the extra key press. I'm guessing this is just a software fix, so an option in the drivers as to which defaults would be nice. (I'll have a look to see if there's one already)

    You can always ask for design improvements like a full aluminium chassis, Bluetooth or some kind of stand, but hey. What I'd really like is a 3.5mm jack to make listening to things quietly easier, but I'm probably in the minority there.
  • bhaberle - Tuesday, May 12, 2015 - link

    I have the K830. It is a wonderful keyboard. I have a laptop hooked up to my TV and it performs extremely well. The range is great and I have yet to have to recharge it after five months of use. The keys feels fine to use, the backlit keys are even throughout and the mousepad is a pleasure to use. I hate most logitech products but the K830 exceeded my expectations for my personal use. That said, I would always wait for it to go on sale before buying it. It's too expensive at its non-sale price
  • rtho782 - Tuesday, May 12, 2015 - link

    May I suggest trying out "controller companion" and a wireless 360 controller? I'm using this for my HTPC now (also use steam in home streaming to play games on it from my main pc)
  • DLimmer - Tuesday, May 12, 2015 - link

    I have the K400, and find that, despite the lightweight feel, the durability is incredible. I've dropped it dozens of times and it just keeps working!

    I also have a Bluetooth keyboard from Microsoft:
    While dated (no backlit keyboard), it has mouse capability and media functions built directly into the keyboard. For an HTPC build, it's easily worth about $100. I also use it with my PS3.
  • rtho782 - Tuesday, May 12, 2015 - link

    Yes, I have one K400, but the two newer ones i have are K400r, designed for Windows 8, and have all the F keys on fn+key and their standard functions set to useless gesture controls etc. Such a shame.
  • piasabird - Tuesday, May 12, 2015 - link

    I am using a Logitech KT400r wireless touchpad keyboard that I purchased for about $35. It is not perfect, but I have been using it for about 2 years without changing the batteries.
  • djellison - Wednesday, May 13, 2015 - link

    Nothing on the range of these? For an HTPC keyboard, isn't that a major major issue? It is with the Logitech one I have right now.
  • wiyosaya - Thursday, May 14, 2015 - link

    CommandFusion is another option, but most people will have to program it themselves. With something like EventGhost, the CommandFusion route is easily one of the best (IMHO) - despite having to program it yourself.
  • V900 - Friday, May 15, 2015 - link

    Why anyone would get a special HTPC keyboard instead of just using a tablet or smartphone is beyond me.

    But hey, it's your 50-150$, crowded living room table, and abused 2.4-5 ghz bandwidth!

    Surely even people who usually prefer a regular keyboard, can live with a smartphone/tablet keyboard for the four letters you'd need to type out before selecting "Star Trek" on Netflix?
  • msabercr - Friday, May 15, 2015 - link

    The K830 is the best money I have spent. Im not sure why you would want any other keyboard on this list unless you really craved a track ball over a multi touch track pad (said no one ever).

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