Technology

Logitech Pop Keys reviewed: reliable wireless mechanical keyboard with a divisive style

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Enlarge / The Pop Keys mechanical wireless keyboard from Logitech.

Andrew Cunningham

(Ars Technica may receive compensation for sales from links in this post through affiliate programs.)

Mechanical keyboards can be intimidating to newbies. The sheer number of options – keyboard size, switch type and manufacturer, keycap style and material, etc. – can make it difficult to know where to start. And yet, once you use a mechanical keyboard, there’s a lot to love, from the excellent key travel and typing feel to the satisfying clack-clack of the switches to the customizability of the keycaps.

As mentioned in our Razer Pro Type Ultra review, good wireless mechanical keyboards are still hard to come by. That’s doubly true if you’re looking for one from a more established company that offers US technical and warranty assistance, as well as well-maintained, actually useful software. That’s why I’m excited to announce that Logitech is expanding its mechanical keyboard lineup with the $ 100 Bluetooth Pop Keys keyboard.

The Pop Keys is definitely not for everyone. The high-contrast, highly saturated color palette, rounded typewriter-style keycaps, and dedicated emoji keys will instantly put off people who just want a keyboard-look keyboard. The quality of the keycaps also leaves a lot to be desired. But as a mechanical entry-level keyboard or as a mechanical alternative to other Logitech Bluetooth keyboards like the price-conscious K380 or the MX Keys Mini, it’s an aesthetically striking option with reliable connectivity and a decent feel.

Typing feel

  • The Pop Keys uses TTC Brown switches with a very subtle tactile bump.

    Andrew Cunningham

  • Logitech promises up to 36 months of battery life on two easily replaceable AAA batteries, which is frankly preferable to a built-in battery that doesn’t last that long and wears out over time.

    Andrew Cunningham

The pop keyboard is reminiscent of Logitech’s cheap, simple K380, another round key multi-device Bluetooth keyboard. The K380’s scissor switches are on par with a decent, not great, laptop keyboard; it is not as stable as Apple’s Magic Keyboards, but it is also a third of the price. And that’s the K380’s appeal – it’s decent, it’s rock solid, reliable, a pair of AAA batteries can last for years, and it costs $ 30.

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The Pop Keys takes this basic template and adds mechanical TTC Brown switches (Logitech doesn’t say what type of switches it uses, but it’s printed on the switches if you look). As with the Razer Pro Type Ultra, a mechanical keyboard for the mass market offers, among other things, the ability to select the switch you want. I think browns are a great choice for a lot of people, and they’re what I personally use on the MagicForce Smart 2 and Varmilo VA87M – they’re tactile switches with a more subtle bump that helps reduce noise, and that’s what I think they deliver nice, clicking mechanical feeling and a nice sound without being obtrusively loud.

The Pop Keys is very similar to a mechanical version of the Logitech K380 keyboard (although it costs three times as much). Enlarge / The Pop Keys is very similar to a mechanical version of the Logitech K380 keyboard (although it costs three times as much).

Andrew Cunningham

Technical data at a glance: Logitech Pop Keys
counter TTC brown
Keycaps ABS Plastic
Connectivity options Bluetooth 5.1 or USB-A Logi Bolt dongle
Backlight None
Programmability Emoji buttons and most of the function buttons via software
size 12.65 x 5.45 x 1.39 in (321.2 x 138.5 x 35.4 mm)
weight 1.7 lbs (779 g) with two AAA batteries
guarantee 1 year
Price (RRP) $ 100
Other perks Bluetooth pairing with up to three devices, including Logi Bolt dongle

However, compared to the Gateron and Cherry MX Brown switches in the other mechanical keyboards I use regularly, the bump in the Pop Keys’ TTC Brown switches is terribly subtle, to the point where I wondered whether it actually used linear switches at the time i used it. Now that I’ve been using it for a few days, I can definitely feel this tactile bump, and it’s doing its job – I don’t have to press the buttons to register presses. But if you’re worried about not liking the keyboard because brown switches don’t have enough bump for you, the pop keys might disappoint.

The choice of keycaps from Logitech also leaves a lot to be desired. I don’t talk so much about the rounded shape of the keys – although this takes some getting used to, and even after a few days of typing, I still make more mistakes than on a typical keyboard – and more due to the ABS plastic that is used for the keycaps will. The slightly textured ABS plastic is more prone to wear and tear compared to more durable PBT keycaps, and gets shiny, smooth, and slippery over time, and Logitech also printed the legends on the keys instead of pouring them into the plastic. The printed legends on the keycaps on my K380 haven’t worn out after a few years of intermittent use, but I would be more concerned about them if I used them every day all day.

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Good software, reliable pairing

The Logi Options app provides software programmability for the emoji buttons and most of the function lines.Enlarge / The Logi Options app provides software programmability for the emoji buttons and most of the function lines.

Andrew Cunningham

As with the K380, the Pop Keys can be paired with up to three different devices via Bluetooth, and the keycap legends cover both Windows and macOS / iOS / iPadOS layouts. If Bluetooth isn’t responsive enough for you or you just want to connect the keyboard to a fourth device, Logitech includes one of its Logi Bolt USB wireless dongles so you can connect up to six compatible Logitech keyboards and mice that support one use wireless connection with lower latency. The Bolt dongle can also pair the Pop Keys with a fourth computer if the three Bluetooth connections are not sufficient for you.

I’ve never had a problem with the Bluetooth reliability of a Logitech keyboard, and the solid, low-latency connection is one thing that sets the Pop Keys apart from other wireless mechanical keyboards I’ve used. I experience random disconnections on multiple computers while using Magicforce Smart 2. Although this keyboard is a bit cheaper and overall feels better than the pop keys, I treat it effectively as a wired keyboard most of the time.

Logitech’s software is pretty good when it comes to keyboard software too – better than the barebones or nonexistent software for importing no-name keyboards, but also slimmer than Razer’s bloated Synapse package that does it all. The Pop Keys keyboard is not programmable via hardware DIP switches or firmware customization, so you will need to rely on the software for any keyboard customization, including mapping the correct emoji characters to the emoji keycaps.

  • Assign individual emojis to each keycap or use them as normal old buttons for up / page down etc. or use them to execute common key combinations with multiple keys or to invoke OS functions like Mission Control or Task View.

    Andrew Cunningham

  • Buttons can be programmed per app.

    Andrew Cunningham

If you have absolutely no use for dedicated emoji keycaps, the good news is that these four buttons (usually for a combination of the Page Up / Down, End, Insert, Home, or Print Screen buttons on a typical 75 percent keyboard certain) can be programmed to do pretty much anything, including function as other emojis. I wish Logitech had added some keycaps for the traditional functions of these keys in addition to the additional emoji keycaps so that people who want these keys to do normal things can do so without spoiling the keyboard’s appearance. But ultimately, if you are satisfied with the rest of the choices Logitech has made here, working with keys whose legends do not match their functions is a shortcoming.

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