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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  • Salvor - Monday, May 11, 2015 - link

    Disappointing to me that none of these are left-handed or least ambidextrous, but such is life shopping for peripherals as a lefty.
  • superflex - Tuesday, May 12, 2015 - link

    Visit the Leftorium in Springfield.
    Ned Flanders, proprietor.
  • Ilmarinen - Friday, May 15, 2015 - link

  • Refuge - Monday, May 11, 2015 - link

    So, either Logitech is getting away with highway robbery, or we are buying disposable razors?

    Not to sound like a dick, but I feel like you were way to soft in this one. If the thing is scratching you, why does it almost get the same ratings as the Logitech's? That seems like a massive design flaw.

    Logitech's are over priced pieces of junk, and the Perixx's are disposable razors. Neither are really a solution to the problem, they are just two bad products for a Niche that up until now hasn't seen much attention.

    If you tell them they suck, they might start paying attention. :)
  • Samus - Monday, May 11, 2015 - link

    The Microsoft N9Z-00001 is $25 and kills everything in this list. It doesn't have backlit keys, but it does last a year on two AA batteries making the K8xx presumably lithium battery unnecessary.

    What really bothers me about all the HTPC keyboards now is the lack of Bluetooth for interference-free long range use, and a dedicated sleep button.
  • jann5s - Monday, May 11, 2015 - link

    +1, the microsoft keyboard could have bin in this review as well.

    And i'm looking forward to the new razor turret, but that has not been released yet
  • ClockworkPirate - Monday, May 11, 2015 - link

    I have the Microsoft keyboard, and while quantitatively it's quite good (media/shortcut keys, trackpad gestures), qualitatively I don't like it at all. The keys are mushy, the trackpad isn't a Precision Touchpad for some unfathomable reason, and of course it doesn't connect with Bluetooth.
  • Samus - Monday, May 11, 2015 - link

    It's a $25 keyboard of course the keys are mushy, but granted the key "feel" on the Logitech is snappier (it's a thicker keyboard.) The nail in the coffin is the caps, though. My correction rate on stepped keys is very high.

    With some tweaking the trackpad can be quite good. Turn off "enhance pointer precision" and it doesn't feel so floaty.

    The Microsoft Media keyboard is far from perfect, but I think its substantially better than the K400 in every respect.
  • alexrw - Wednesday, May 13, 2015 - link

    I just got the MS keyboard as well and I agree. It looks better than the K400 but it's quite a lot worse when you actually use it. The track pad is simply erratic in comparison, and because the buttons are underneath, I find it awkward and uncomfortable to click as my finger always hits the plastic rim instead. Keys are ok-ish. The only thing that's better than the K400 is the layout (larger keys on the right side, helps if you type for longer).
  • johnny_boy - Friday, May 15, 2015 - link

    I have the MS keyboard as well. I've had it for quite some time and while it looks nice, it's pretty bad and I wouldn't recommend it. The keys are squishy and the trackpad horrible, at least on linux. They've also designed the pad so that it has that upside-down "natural" scroll and the settings aren't configurable in linux because it doesn't use a standard touchpad driver. The reception on the receiver doesn't seem to be that great either, but I know the 2.4Ghz band here is a bit congested. Not a great piece of tech by any means.

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