Hands-on Review – Logitech MX Keys S Performance Combo

Logitech, long known for their gaming gear, have also been big players in the home/office equipment arena too – I’ve used many of their mice over the years and rarely found one that didn’t work well for me. I also became a die-hard fan of their now-retired K750r Solar-powered Keyboard – in my mind the absolute pinnacle of eco-friendly computer accessories. I fell back on the MX Keys keyboard after the solar died, and didn’t regret it at all. And now, I get to play with the next evolution, the MX Keys S, along with the MX Master 3S mouse and the palm-rest that comes with them as part of the Performance Combo.

The first step, after unboxing and marvelling at the sleek and stylish designs and the sheer tactile comfort of the combo’s component devices, is to pair the devices with your machines… and that’s where the one and only ‘irritation spot’ hit for me. No matter what, while trying to pair them with Bluetooth I could not get the keyboard to pair with the PC. In order to authenticate the pairing, the PC will give you a 6-digit pairing code that must be entered on the wireless keyboard… and yet no matter what I tried, the keyboard would not ‘listen to itself’ and accept the pin code. As it turns out, that’s because under Bluetooth pairing, you are unable to activate the keypad – num-lock won’t engage until the PC’s software tells it to… at least that’s how it appears. The answer to my issue turned out to be: tap the num-lock key twice to make sure it is OFF, make sure number-lock is OFF on the PC, and enter the authentication code using the top-row number keys ONLY. If I even bumped one of the keypad keys during pairing, it would fail. Tricky, a little frustrating, and easy to fix if the firmware booted up with num-lock ON by default. After all, it is a numeric keypad first and foremost, so that’s what it should default to… surely?

Anyway, once I was past that hiccup, everything went super smoothly, and I had a nice bonus-perk in that I could use it in VR too! As part of the MX Keys family, it was recognised by my Quest 2 VR rig, and allowed me to use it for data entry while I was in VR. I simply had to pair it with the Quest 2 and viola – I can avoid 95% of my typos in VR and type in a manner that felt natural, since I could also see the keyboard in the VR environment as and when it was required. With the keyboard, and mouse, being able to pair with up to three devices across multiple operating systems, this has to be one of the most versatile and productive bits of kit out there. No more clunky KVM switches, no more dongles using up USB ports that are needed for external storage. Both devices will connect via Bluetooth or the new BOLT transceiver – which replaces the older “Unify” transceiver technology. However, Bolt and Unify are not compatible, so if you use devices on the older tech, you’ll either need to run them both, or upgrade to all-Bolt devices. Or, just stick with Bluetooth if you can and drop all the dongles. (It is worth noting that the new BOLT tech actually runs on a Bluetooth LE platform as well, and is only there because it offers a more dedicated channel and stronger connection than the older Unify tech, which ran on 2.4GHz WiFi technology.)

Comparing the looks of the MX Keys vs Keys S, it would be fair to say they look like the same unit, just with a swap-out on the non-BT connection tech, and to a high degree that would be fair to say. They look much the same, they feel the same to use, they both do the same great job once connected… the only reason to upgrade from the “Kays” to the “Keys S” is if your Keys is out of warranty and needs to be replaced. However, it will prove to be a significant upgrade from any wired or older wireless keyboard of almost any brand. Functionally-speaking, they are both equally wonderful keyboards and the customisations are cute, though they don’t really go far enough. The prime example being that the backlighting is still monochrome cool-blue – no colour adjustment options because they aren’t RGB LEDs… that tech seems to be reserved for their gaming range more than the office range, which is a bit of a shame really, as I use this keyboard in a video-editing suite, which is often in low-light conditions for a reason, so being able to switch it to a red hue would be better for eyes and productivity.

One of the biggest reasons to buy this kit is the addition of Logi-Flow – a way to cross-connect systems on different operating systems via the accessories. If you want to move a file from your PC to a Mac, you can simply ‘copy’ on the PC and ‘paste’ on the Mac. How exactly it does this is not exactly clear, but it works and that is the key point. It also allows you to shortcut the swap-between-machines process too. Once you have set up the Logi-Flow software on the machines, you can tell Logi-Flow the physical relationship too – do you have the PC on the left and Mac on the right, or vice versa? Then, when you move your mouse to the edge of the screen nearest another machine, you will get switched to the other machine automatically. This will only save you a few seconds… each time… which can add up to a lot over an average working week. The only thing is that the software does not support drag’n’drop across systems… and that is totally understandable when you think about why. Not a negative, just a heads-up.

One of the updates not directly controlled by the Logitech Options+ software that auto-installs when the hardware pairs successfully is the F3-F7 function keys. On this unit, they control, in order, Brightness Up/Down, Voice-to-text dictation (which requires you to enable online speech recognition in the Settings), emojis (F6) and Microphone Mute. On the older keyboard, brightness up/down was controlled by F6/F7, and F3-F5 had other functions relating to multiscreen etc. While this new set of actions is more in line with home use than office use – though who hasn’t slipped an emoji into a work email now and then – it seems to be more about keeping in touch with the pulse of things and convenience rather than any real productivity boost. Whether that is positive or negative is entirely up to the user.

Because the MX Keys and Keys S are, for all intents and purposes, the same device, I won’t go into the details of why this is such a comfortable delight of a keyboard to use – feel free to read the other review if you want the low-down on that. The inclusion of a palm-rest in the kit will help those for whom the design isn’t quite meeting their OSH needs. However, the Master 3S mouse is another story altogether. It’s the first of its kind that I have used, and it was a simple matter to come to really enjoy it. However, it is only available in right-hand style, due to the thumbrest flaring out from the base of the left side, so if you are a left-handed mouse user, Obi-Wan said it best, “This is not the [device] you’re looking for.” Alas, that is a design choice that every manufacturer defaults to, so it’s not fair to say it is a Logitech issue at all.

That aside, the mouse comes with eight buttons and two scroll-wheels. When your hand is on the mouse, your index and middle fingers are on the main buttons as normal, with a scroll-wheel in between. As is quite common, the scroll-wheel is also a button. Behind it is a small, discrete button that toggles the scroll between step-by-step (clicks and scrolls about 3 lines per click) and freewheel (silent and free-scrolling – great for those insanely long end-user agreements you have to “accept” in order to do whatever it is that app does.) Between the thumb’s resting spot and your index finger, you’ll see two more buttons – previous/next by default but easily reconfigured to almost anything you want via the OPtions+ software – and the second scroll-wheel. By default, this is set to ‘Horizontal Scroll’ which will be a boon to users of large spreadsheets in particular, but also image and video editors who need to move around a large image or video timeline. Now, there’s one more sneaky button that you simply won’t notice unless you look carefully in the Options+ app – and that’s UNDER your thumb – the left-most edge of that flared skirt is also a ‘Gestures” button, which works most effectively if you use Virtual Desktop. However, I don’t, and so it was a great surprise to me that the button, upon being pressed, actually did something really quite useful for me – I run a 4-monitor rig, and still end up with windows I need hidden beneath others… so a quick tap with the side of my thumb and suddenly each monitor shows a tiled set of the windows open on that monitor at the time. This makes it so much easier to find an app when I need it. Naturally, you can choose to assign this button to a different function, but its default setting is a goodie.

The mouse itself is a good size – probably slightly too big for small hands and conversely slightly too small for big hands, but only just. It wouldn’t take long for anyone to adapt to it unless their hand size sits out at the thin ends of the bell-curve. I have hands slightly bigger than the national average, and yet I still find this mouse really comfortable to use and the high domed shape stops my hand from falling into the evil Claw of Pain that it does when I am forced to work with a mouse too small for me. The button to swap between paired devices is located on the bottom, along with the power switch, and both are out of the way but accessible when needed. NOTE: The power button may be an issue for those with long, or very short, nails due to the recess depth. I was also quite impressed by the battery life of the mouse – with a lot of my time spent either writing articles or editing photos and video, I usually expect any stated battery lifespans to be about 30% longer than I actually get. With the older MX Keys keyboard I had, I always had the backlighting set to maximum, which resulted in good but not great gaps between charge cycles. I was expecting the same here, with both units, and so far I have managed to pass the benchmark I set, and am rapidly approaching the benchmark given in the specs, despite having all the power-chewing features wound up to their highest settings. That’s pretty impressive, and kudos are due to Logitech for packing in the power where it is most needed, while still making room for the fancy extras.

When it comes to getting the best features, there is no alternative but to install the Logi Options+ software. That’s where all your configuration is going to happen, and it’s very similar to the G Hub software that controls the Logitech G range of hardware. So similar, in terms of functionality, I am surprised that they haven’t been merged into a single, all-encompassing package to facilitate firmware updates and reduce the number of services running in the background and chewing up processing resources. That aside, there is no doubt that having this application is a must – there’s simply too much benefit, to avoid installing it. It handles possibly the single most useful feature in the kit – Smart Actions.

Every gamer, programmer and Photoshop user will know this feature, as “Macros” or “Actions”. The ability to press a single key or simple key-combo and launch a series of tiered instructions without further intervention is wonderful. If the first thing you do when you boot up the machine is to open your music app, check emails and browse the latest news, you can easily craft a script that will do that all for you with the press of a user-defined key. At the time of writing this, the feature is still a work-in-progress, and does suffer some severe limitations – mostly imposed by the OS – but there is hope that future iterations will have increased functionality. In the meantime, it still does a good job and will be of more benefit than most people would realise. There is a lot to unpack once you get it installed and start to configure it, so be sure to take your time and check out all the options. With some patience, you’ll be able to fine-tune performance to suit your style, and thus get the very best out of this excellent bit of kit. If there is one hardware-related missed opportunity, it has to be the BOLT dongle – there’s simply no little stash-pocket on the mouse or keyboard for it… so you either chuck it in a drawer and risk losing it, or you leave it in the box and store a lot of unnecessary airspace. Having a stash-spot in the mouse seems to be the most likely, and with so many of their other mice having such a feature, there’s no reason to doubt that it could have been included in the design somehow.

Overall, while not a huge upgrade from the MX Keys, it’s definitely the combo to consider if you are upgrading from older, outdated tech. I would love to say that switching to BOLT is future-proofing, but in all honesty, it’s hard to say that these days, with the rate of evolution in the consumer-tech sector. It is well worth exploring if you want a sleek and stylish, matching set of user-input devices. The ability to connect across hardware and operating systems – including ChromeOS and Linux, two OSs that had little to no support in previous iterations of the MX series – is a radical leap forward in office productivity. It is very new to the market at the time I write this, so keep an eye out for ‘launch specials’ from big-chain retail stores that can afford to trim the price a bit more than the smaller retail shops.


Posted in partnership with: KIWIreviews.nz

Disclosure Statement: This unit was supplied by Logitech expressly for the purposes of review. No fee was offered or accepted for this impartial review.

Combo Includes: MX Master 3S, MX Keys S & MX Palm Rest

MX Keys S is crafted with a low-profile design and an optimum keyboard angle that encourages better wrist posture and reduces joint strain. The MX Master 3S is designed with a tilt angle that lets you keep your arms in a more natural posture while ideally positioned buttons allow for quick and intuitive navigation.

Key Features:
~ A Combo For Speed And Precision
~ Duo Engineered For Productivity And Comfort
~ Fast Fluid Precision Typing
~ Speedy Scrolling
~ Smart Illumination Made Smarter
~ Automate Repetitive Tasks
~ Multi Computer, One Flow
~ USB-C Quick Charging, Long-Lasting