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There’s a lot to like about the Logitech K480 Bluetooth keyboard. It switches quickly and smoothly between computer, tablet and phone. You can use it to jump from one operating system to another without your hands ever leaving the keyboard. It does all this at the twist of a dial.

If you own a mix of hardware from different brands and running different operating systems, it makes a lot of sense. On the other hand, you can do better than if every digital device in your home is just Android or Apple.

In testing I found the keyboard works well with almost everything. I tried it with an iPad, iPhone, Android phone, Android tablet, Macintosh and a Windows PC.

Almost everything…

It didn’t work out of the box with my Windows Phone or Blackberry and I didn’t spend long trying to force the issue.

The K480 looks like a keyboard. Not a regular keyboard: It’s smaller and squarer than most. The design has a faint whiff of Fisher-Price about it. By that, I mean it fat and chunky with rounded corners and rounded typewriter keys.

There’s a groove set above the keys which acts as a stand for tablets and phones.

A dial set in the right of the case just above the escape key has three settings, marked 1, 2 and 3. You use this switch the keyboard control between devices. You have to remember which number is which, but that’s no big deal. Flicking the dial moves keyboard control seamlessly between the three pre-set options.

This isn’t the greatest-ever keyboard. Logitech makes a number of better ones. If you type all day it’s not for you. There isn’t even a full set of PC keys. But you wouldn’t buy this as a typist’s keyboard, it’s all about the device switching.

I can touch type on almost anything, including the sometimes maligned 2015 Apple MacBook keyboard. Although I could, at a pinch, touch type on the K480, it’s action didn’t feel as good or flow as well as, say, the excellent Logitech Ultra-thin Keyboard Cover for iPad Air.

Practical, not portable

The other downside is the keyboard barely scrapes a pass mark for portability. At about 800g it weighs more than my iPad. It’s a little too thick and long to slip in a bag with a tablet. Again, you’d choose this if you think device switching trumps mobility.

One odd feature is the K480 needs two AAA batteries. Logitech says the batteries will last for two years. I’ve no idea how true that is, but after two months the batteries in my keyboard are going strong. On the whole I prefer rechargeable devices, but buying two AAA batteries every couple of years is no hardship.

Conclusion: The Logitech K480 Bluetooth keyboard is a smart answer to a specific problem. It does what it sets out to do with style and it’s affordable. You can buy it for less than NZ$100.

It hasn’t taken Logitech’s Ultimate Ears brand to carve out a niche as maker of stylish, rugged Bluetooth speakers. It helps that the speakers in the UE range look good and perform well yet sell at affordable prices.

At the time of writing the most affordable model in the range for New Zealanders is the distinctive-looking UE Roll. You can find it on sale for a shade under NZ$150.

We’ve had one at home for over a month and it has become the go-to casual speaker when playing music from computers, tablets and phones.

Strange looking, in a good way

The UE Roll is a curvy, flying saucer-shaped disc. The speaker sits under a fabric cover with large embroidered plus and minus symbols. These symbols tell you where to find the volume controls. As you’d expect the plus sign cranks up the sound, the minus sign reduces it.

My UE Roll is mainly grey with fluro pink embroidered symbols. There’s a bungy-type cord on the back in the same shade of shocking pink. There are plenty of other colour combinations to choose from.

The UE Roll has a diameter of around 135mm and is 35mm thick. If you’ve got big pockets it will just fit. It also fits comfortably in my hand, although that might not apply to everyone.

Versatile

The elastic cord on the back hooks on a rubber lug most of the time. You can use it to attach the speaker to, say, the handlebars on a bike or to a belt. I use the cord to hook the speaker on the car sun shade while driving.

Physically the UE Roll portable and tough enough to carry to a picnic or to the beach. It can take a little punishment, so it would be ideal for raucous children. Logitech says the speaker is waterproof, I’ve used it in an Auckland rain storm, which didn’t do it any harm.

Why we like the UE Roll

The UE Roll ticks all the important boxes. It looks good, is dead simple to use and has decent sound, enough to fill a room. We also like the fact that it’s robust, that it doesn’t cost much and that it uses rechargeable batteries. Our previous portable speaker chewed through the Ever Readys.

The sound is good enough for casual listening. Hi Fi fans wouldn’t want to place a comfy chair in front of the UE Roll and settle back for the Brandenburg Concerto or a Miles Davies album. On the other hand it is great for playing rock music or reggae while chopping vegetables in the kitchen.

Where it misses out is the low, rumbling bass sounds. Everything else is lovely and clear. Hi-hats chink away, the top end sparkles. There’s enough here for your ears to notice the difference between MP3 tracks recorded at 160kpbs and 320kbps — that’s not something I can hear on my computer’s built-in speakers.

If you’re not happy with the pre-set sound range, there’s an app for tweaking the equaliser settings.

Audio cues

My favourite feature is the audio cues you get. Hit the plus and minus symbols at the same time and a voice tells you how much power is left. Connect or disconnect the speaker to hear an on-off click.

One of the most impressive features is the Bluetooth range. We run Logitech’s Z600 speakers at home. They struggle when driven by the MacBook in the study, it’s five or six metres away and separated by two walls. The UE Roll handles it perfectly. Indeed, most devices can punch out Bluetooth sound to the UE Roll from anywhere in the house without interference.

Battery life is respectable. We get about eight hours from a single charge. There may be a connection between the Bluetooth range, the speaker loudness and the drain on the power supply, although it’s not something we’ve noticed in practice.

What’s not good?

There’s little to dislike here. The weak spot is the bass sound quality, but for the price, less than NZ$150, the sound is more than good enough.

Some people might not be happy that the UE Roll can’t double as a speaker phone — there’s no built-in microphone. Others might whinge about the lack of controls to step through a playlist. You can find devices with both these feature, but you’ll pay a lot more.

And that’s the key to the UE Roll, you get a great deal for the asking price. We like it so much we’re going to buy some more to give away as presents.

Apple’s iPad Air is thinner, smaller, lighter and more powerful than earlier iPads.

Smaller means third-party add-on makers like Logitech either have to rework existing keyboard cover designs, come up with something new or miss out on potential business.

Logitech chose the first option. The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad Air is suitably slim and lightweight. It is less than 10mm thick and a little over 400 grams.

The keyboard fits snugly as an iPad Air cover and protects the screen but not the rear of the tablet.

Like a laptop

At NZ$129 it seems expensive yet it turns the iPad Air into a powerful device. The pair can do 90 percent of the work a laptop does yet in a smaller, elegant package.

Together an iPad Air plus Ultra-thin Keyboard weigh a rounding error under 800g. If you want a comparison, for what it’s worth that’s about 120g less than a Microsoft Surface 2 coupled with the Type Cover 2.

When used as a cover, the keyboard attaches to the iPad with magnets like a conventional Apple cover. In keyboard mode, you sit the iPad in a groove just above the keys and then connect the two with Bluetooth.

Bluetooth pairing is simple, you just press a button then change the settings in your iPad’s settings.

Cramped typing, but that’s not too bad

My only criticism is that the tiny keys feel a little cramped. That’s mainly a function of the size and in practice, I can type away with only the odd miss-key.

Logitech says the battery lasts for six months. I’ve only had the keyboard three months and it still chugs away so we’re not near testing that limit yet.

Overall, Logitech has come up with an elegant pairing. Its close to what I’d imagine Apple would come up with if it created its own keyboard for the device.

How much do I like it? Immediately after testing this model, I went out and bought another Logitech Ultra-thin Keyboard for my other half’s iPad.

Smartphones are versatile. They can do most of the things desktop computers do, although perhaps not always as well. And on top of that you can use them to make voice or video calls.

Logitech p710e

Most phones have a loudspeaker mode, so you can sit them on the desk to speak while you work or allow colleagues in on the conversation. It works, just about.

For people who expect to do this more than once in a while there’s the Logitech P710e. The company calls it a Mobile Speakerphone and it expects people to use it for impromptu phone or video conferences.

It’s a small box with a decent speaker, good audio characteristics and a slot to hold your mobile phone. There’s echo cancellation and noise cancelling built-in, so the sounds are high quality. I tested the phone on a call using Vodafone’s HD Voice and the results were crystal clear and loud enough to fill a small room. You’d certainly be able to use it from a small boardroom or a hotel suite.

The P710e is optimised for Lync and designed to work out of the box with Skype. There’s also Cisco certification.

It uses Bluetooth to connect and can pair with eight devices, so you don’t need to constantly reset it.

There are Bluetooth phone loudspeaker devices on the market designed to play back music. This isn’t one of them, it’s been designed and optimised specifically for voice.  It’s definitely a tool and not a toy.

It would be fair to say the Logitech P710e is a niche product for a niche audience. However, for people who need the device it’s likely to be something of a life saver. At around $170 it could quickly pay for itself if you need to make lengthy calls while on the road.

logitech c930e web cam
Logitech Webcam C930e

Two trends mean there’s a good chance you’ll soon be doing a lot more video conferencing. First, New Zealand is getting a fast fibre network. That makes video a more practical proposition.Second, the rise of unified communications. This is where all business communications combine so that everything goes through a single consistent user interface. Among other things, you may see the integration of email, telephone calls, instant messaging and video conferencing. There are popular tools to do this from companies like Cisco and Microsoft.

If you want video conferencing you need a computer along with loudspeakers or headphones to hear incoming messages, a microphone so you can talk back and a camera. Some devices come with all three built-in. For the rest, there’s Logitech, which offers a range of add-ons to make video conferencing and unified communications practical.

Logitech’s Webcam C930e is one of the best add-on video cameras you’ll find. It  mounts on a laptop screen or on a monitor. It can also sit on a shelf or a desk. There are microphones either side of the lens to catch stereo sound. There’s a privacy shutter so you don’t have to worry about being caught unawares.

Installing the C930 is about as simple as these things can ever be. So long as you have a USB 2.0 port and either a PC running an OS later than Windows 7 or a Mac running OS X 10.7 or later, it will automatically find and install drivers. All you need to do is plug the thing in.

The camera comes with Logitech’s own technology that automatically deals with whatever light conditions it finds. It also has autofocus. The result is clear sharp video images at full HD 1080p  resolution. Sound is good too, there’s built-in noise cancelling.

I tried on on a MacBook Air and it immediately presented itself as an alternative to the built-in video camera. The image was crisper and the software did a decent job of adjusting the light conditions – although the built-in camera does that too.

It’s hard to find much wrong with the Webcam C930. My only complaints are minor. The camera only has digital zoom, this is convenient in use but means images can quickly get grainy if you get close to the full 4x zoom. And that privacy shutter easily unclips – read that as ‘it could get lost’.

There are cheaper alternatives to the Logitech Webcam C930e, but at around $170 it’s a quality product that delivers in spades.