DiNovo Edge Mac Edition Keyboard

Ever since Logitech released the Windows-only diNovo Edge keyboard, back in 2006, many Mac users have wished for a Mac version. Sporting great key feel, lots of special features, and a beautiful design, it was a drool-worthy input device--and, at US$200, came with a jaw-dropping price to match. Two years later, Mac users finally got their wish. Thankfully, the diNovo Edge Mac Edition is just as much of a standout keyboard. And get this: at $160, the Mac Edition is actually $20 cheaper than the current price of the Windows version. (You can thank Apple for including Bluetooth in every shipping Mac for that one; Windows users pay for an included USB Bluetooth adapter.) And while it's still expensive, if you spend hours each day using your keyboard, the Edge may well be worth its premium price.

Style and substance

Let's get this out of the way: The diNovo Edge for Mac has no numeric keypad. If you absolutely need a keypad--and judging from the reaction to Apple's Wireless Keyboard when it was released, quite a few people feel they do--this isn't the keyboard for you. But if you don't need a numeric keypad, read on, because Logitech's latest Mac offering is quite compelling.

The diNovo Edge's top piece is cut from a single piece of polished Plexiglass; the non-removable wrist rest is finished in brushed aluminum; and several of the controls and buttons feature amber-backlit indicators. Overall, it's among the most attractive keyboards I've used, although the glossy surface does show fingerprints, smudges, and dust. (Logitech tacitly acknowledges this fact by including a small polishing cloth in the box.)

At just over 16 inches wide and 8.4 inches deep, the diNovo Edge is considerably larger than Apple's own Bluetooth keyboard, but far more functional, thanks to a number of special-function buttons as well as a unique, circular touchpad Logitech calls a TouchDisc. Just over 1.5 inches in diameter and located in the lower right corner of the keyboard, this touchpad serves dual purposes. First, if you move your fingertip across it, the touchpad works much like a laptop's trackpad, moving the mouse cursor across the screen. Two tactile buttons below the touchpad serve as left- and right-click, respectively. There's also a cursor button on the left edge of the keyboard that serves as a second left-click button.

The touchpad isn't a substitute for a dedicated pointing device: it's on the small side, requiring multiple swipes to transverse most displays; the round shape doesn't match up well with rectangular screens; and there are no multi-touch gestures. Still, it's useful if the diNovo Edge is on your lap--if, for example, you're taking a break from sitting at your desk, or if you're using the keyboard with a Mac in a home-entertainment system. (Having an additional left-click button on the left side lets you hold the edges of the keyboard in your hands and use your thumbs to move the cursor and click.)

The touchpad's circular shape stems from the pad's second purpose: scrolling. If you place your fingertip on the tiny nub at the top of the circle and then move your finger around the outer edge of the pad, the active window will scroll horizontally--to the right if you're moving your finger clockwise, to the left if you're moving it counter-clockwise. If you start at the nub on the right-hand side of the touchpad, the window will scroll up (if you move counter-clockwise) or down (if you move clockwise). The faster you move your finger around the ring, the faster you scroll. Once you get the hang of this scrolling feature, it works well.

You can control the acceleration of scrolling, as well as the tracking speed for mouse-cursor control, using the Logitech driver software (discussed below). A tactile ring around the touchpad glows amber to indicate that the pad is detecting input. You can also disable the touchpad completely by pressing the left mouse button and the Fn (function, not to be confused with F1, F2, etc.) key together; this also disables the other touch-sensitive controls, noted below.

The diNovo Edge is less than half an inch thick and completely flat except for the gentle tapering of the wrist rest. This gives the keyboard an ergonomic advantage over many other keyboards: contrary to popular belief, if your chair and desk are set up properly, you want your keyboard to be flat, or even angled a bit away from you, not angled with the rear higher than the front. (If your setup is such that you really do need such an incline, the Edge provides two pop-out legs in the rear.)

Speaking of ergonomics, it's also worth noting that by omitting a numeric keypad, the diNovo Edge lets right-handers place their mouse, trackpad, or tablet much closer to the main area of the keyboard, reducing the reach required to use those devices.

The key to a great keyboard

Keyboards generally use either of two types of keys. Dome-style keys, traditionally found on desktop keyboards, are relatively thick and require a good amount of travel (the distance the key must move to be recognized as a keystroke). Scissor-style keys, found on most laptops and on a growing number of desktop keyboards, offer a lower profile and require less travel (and, often, less force), but often lack a good tactile feel. The diNovo Edge's keys are a unique hybrid: they have scissor-style mechanisms, but they're a bit thicker, and require a bit more travel, than most laptop keys. Logitech calls this technology PerfectStroke. Whatever the marketing name, the diNovo Edge's keys are among the best I've used. There's absolutely no mushiness; instead, you get a near-perfect amount of initial resistance and just the right amount of travel. And the slightly concave key tops help touch typists keep their fingers on the correct keys.

The key layout is also very good. The main area of the keyboard provides a standard layout with true Mac modifier keys (Control, Option, and Command) in their proper locations. The one minor tweak is that the inverted-T set of arrow keys is shifted a bit to the left compared to Apple's full-size keyboards, due to the position of the Edge's touchpad; as a result, the right-hand modifier keys are shifted a bit to the left, as well. However, I didn't find this to be an issue, even while touch-typing. I also like that Logitech has made the modifier keys and space bar slightly thicker than the other keys; this makes the modifier keys and space bar easier to press, especially when contorting your hands to execute various keyboard shortcuts. The function keys (F-keys, F1 through F12) are also properly arranged--separated from the top row of numeral keys and arranged in groups of four. Far too many keyboards these days (Apple, are you listening?) jam the F-keys into a solid row, flush against the top row of the main keyboard area.

Above the arrow keys is the traditional Home/End/Page Up/Page Down/Delete pod. Missing is a Help button--a welcome omission, in my opinion, as it's rarely used and often hit accidentally. As a result, the Delete key is twice as large as the others, making it easier to press quickly. On the other hand, I'm not a fan of the non-standard position of the Home key above the Delete key.

Made for Mac

In addition to the standard keys, the diNovo Edge includes a slew of special buttons and features, most Mac-focused. Along the left-hand edge are a true Mac power button; Play/Pause, Back, and Forward buttons for iTunes, QuickTime Player, and DVD Player; and the aforementioned mouse button. The playback buttons work even if your media player isn't the active program; so, for example, you can control iTunes playback while browsing the Web. Whenever you press one of these playback buttons, a matching symbol lights up next to it to confirm the press. Unlike most of the keys on the keyboard, these are slightly recessed so you don't hit them accidentally. (One minor complaint is that the playback buttons are oddly arranged, with Play/Pause on top, Back below it, and Forward at the bottom. I would have preferred Back, Play/Pause, Forward--the order in which they appear on nearly every software media player and hardware audio component.)

Along the right-hand edge, above the touchpad, is a nifty touch-sensitive strip for controlling volume. Slide your finger up the strip to raise the volume; slide down the strip to lower the volume. As you move your finger up or down, amber-colored lights follow it to confirm the action. Just below the volume strip is a Mute button; just above the strip is a dedicated Front Row button. Both also provide backlit indicators.

Among my favorite features is the Caps Lock key--or, to be more accurate, the Caps Lock indicators. Whenever Caps Lock is engaged, an audible beep sounds; a lower-pitched version sounds when Caps Lock is disabled. You can also configure the Logitech software to display a Caps Lock indicator in the menu bar and/or as an onscreen display that fades in and out. No more accidentally typing in all caps because you didn't realize you'd pressed Caps Lock.

Finally, like Apple's recent keyboards, the Edge's F-keys--more of them, in fact, than on Apple's keyboards--serve double duty. With Logitech's driver software installed, F1 through F12 adjust screen brightness down or up; invoke Expose; activate Dashboard; launch Mail, Safari, iTunes, or iPhoto; activate QuickLook; enter Spaces; switch to Cover Flow (in the Finder); and activate Spotlight, respectively. As with Apple's keyboards, you can choose whether or not these actions require the use of the Fn key, located at the end of the F-key row.

These button features are useful, but the Logitech software also lets you customize the actions of each F-key, as well as the Power and Front Row buttons. Each can be configured as a keystroke, a modifier key, or any of the special functions listed above. Other options include launching an application; opening a document, folder, or URL; taking a screenshot; switching applications; or zooming the screen. You can even configure the keyboard's special keys and buttons based on application--so, for example, a key can do one thing in Photoshop and another in the Finder.

Although Logitech's driver software has had its share of detractors in the past, during more than a month of use with a Mac Pro and a MacBook Air, each running OS X 10.5.4 and then 10.5.5, I didn't have a single conflict or problem.

Charge up the wireless

The diNovo Edge connects to your Mac wirelessly using Bluetooth. Setup was simple and problem-free, and unlike some other Bluetooth peripherals I've tested, Logitech's keyboard never lost its connection, even when the computer was asleep or shut down. A physical power switch lets you extend battery life by turning the keyboard off when not in use; again, after I turned the keyboard back on, the computer immediately recognized it.

The Edge includes a built-in lithium-ion battery that, according to Logitech, provides a month's worth of power from a two-hour charge. If you forget to charge the keyboard and it runs out of power, a quick five-minute charge will get you through the day. The Logitech software shows the current battery level and the estimated time remaining on the current charge; a battery-icon indicator on the keyboard itself lights up when the battery charge is getting low.

You charge the diNovo Edge using the included charging dock. The only drawback is that the dock is designed such that the keyboard sits upright while charging. This means you can't charge the keyboard in its normal position (flat) on your desk; you need a separate location that can accommodate the length and height of the keyboard.

Macworld's buying advice

Logitech's diNovo Edge Mac Edition is a standout keyboard thanks to its great key feel, very good layout, useful special features, and attractive design. Its biggest physical drawback--the lack of a numeric keypad--won't affect everyone, and, in fact, offers ergonomic benefits for right-handers. Although it's pricey, if you spend many hours at a keyboard each day, I highly recommend taking the Edge--and its scrolling touchpad--for a spin. You just may find yourself willing to splurge.

Dan Frakes is a Macworld senior editor.

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