Logitech’s Craft keyboard reviewed

When it comes to keyboards, Logitech’s focus in the last couple years has been firmly in the gaming space. It seems like the company has released a mechanical gaming keyboard for just about every crowd. And while we do love to cuddle up with a good PC game as often as possible, there’s work to be done, and sometimes the keyboard best-suited for gaming isn’t the one for writing and Photoshopping. That’s where Logitech’s Craft keyboard comes in.

The latest productivity keyboard from Logitech grabs the clone-stamp tool and does its best to pick up the best features of Microsoft’s Surface Dial. Sitting in the upper-left-hand corner of the keyboard is what Logitech is calling a “Crown.” Whatever term for a rotating input device you prefer, this knob offers similar twist, touch, and click functionality to the Surface Dial, but with some nice cross-platform functionality. For the privilege of two input devices in one, Logitech asks a hefty $200 at e-tail right now.

Before we dig into what makes the Craft special, let’s talk about how well it works as a pure keyboard. The Craft has clearly been built with a design-sensitive crowd in mind, and it has a definitively Apple-esque sensibility to it. The board sports a thin profile and features concave chiclet-style keys. A bulky aluminum bar runs along the top of the board, and it contains the keyboard’s battery in addition to playing host to the knob at the left edge of the device.

The aluminum bar imparts a slight upward angle to the board’s deck, but that’s all the more height you’ll get. In a move that again reminds me of an Apple keyboard and separates the Craft from your standard PC input device, there is no height adjustment available. Whether that’s a plus or minus will depend on your preferences, but I find that the Craft is already situated at an ideal angle for my tastes. Still, this lack of adjustability might be hard to swallow for some, given the board’s price tag.

Personally, I find the Craft a pleasure to type on. The low-profile, scissor-switch keys have a tactile feedback somewhere between a Thinkpad’s relatively stiff keys and a Macbook Air’s easier action, and it might be my favorite keyboard of this type so far. The shallow keys and low height kept my hands close to flat on the table, so I never had to keep my hands at a strange angle for very long to use this board. Some may miss a wrist rest, dislike the shallow angle, or find the key travel unappealing. These are the most subjective aspects of any keyboard, but if you absolutely hate typing on laptop-style keys, this might not be the board for you.

The typeface on the keys is nice and clean as well, a change of pace from the many other keyboards designed to look like retro typewriters and alien spaceships. Since the keys are backlit through the lettering, there’s no worry about the letter wearing off after a few years of daily abuse. Furthering the Apple-friendly feel, the macOS command and option keys are already printed alongside their Windows counterparts, so folks with multiple machines or those who switch won’t have to remember where they are (even if that becomes natural in time). There’s also a dedicated calculator key. The one annoyance is that the Print Screen key is represented by a camera icon located above the tenkey pad. I won’t lie: the obfuscation of this key had me lost for a little while, though I did get used to it.

Even without the features that set it apart from other keyboards, I wouldn’t mind using this as a daily driver for office work. Since I work and play at the same computer, though, I’d have to keep a second keyboard in the wings for when it’s time to jump into Overwatch. Though the concave keys feel nice in regular use, I don’t find their low and flat profiles and short travel ideal for frantic gaming sessions. I much prefer a regular mechanical gaming keyboard with more typical mechanical switches. Given the subjective qualities of keyboards, though, the Craft might suit some gamers just fine when it’s time to close down Photoshop for the day.

Overall, the Craft’s basic layout and key feel lives up to its premium billing. This isn’t just a board you’d buy for typing, though; it’s all about that dial. Let’s give it a twist.

 

Turn it up

Now, on to the Craft keyboard’s standout feature, the Crown. Like the Surface Dial, this knob is intended to make working with creative software more intuitive so that you can keep your eyes on the project, not the tool palette. Unlike a general-purpose input device, though, the Craft’s dial has some limitations to be aware of.

To explain how the Crown works, I’ll describe a couple examples of my usual workflow with the keyboard. If you select the paint brush in Photoshop, you can tap the Crown to bring up an on-screen visualization of different tool options. From there, you can then select brush size, hardness, opacity, and flow with another tap, and then twist to set your preference. These overlays come courtesy of Logitech Options, Logitech’s non-gaming companion utility. Options has to be installed for these creative profiles to take effect; the dial is useless without it.

The Crown isn’t just useful in creative tools, though. In Microsoft Office, you can use the dial to change theme, alignment, and font size in Word, and navigate rows and columns in Excel. That latter option becomes surprisingly useful when you start digging into big spreadsheets. Depending on the function, the Crown will either use a smooth rotation or automatically switch to a notched mode that gives a satisfying click when it’s activated, a feature Logitech seems to have borrowed from its fancy MX Master mice.

Compared to operating those toolbars and sliders with a mouse or, even worse, a stylus, the Crown provides an intuitive and direct interaction with those aspects of the software. If you’re looking to set a specific brush size, for example, getting that number set is far easier with the Crown than with other input devices. This directness is nice—when it works.

So much of the Crown’s potential is going to come down to software integration, though, and I find that controls that aren’t part of the of the prebaked profiles that Logitech has built for controlling the various applications I use don’t respond to the Craft’s dial at all. is going to be the biggest sticking point for many people, but it’s also Logitech’s easiest thing to improve. Software updates could do a good job of keeping the Craft current if—and that’s a big if—Logitech handles them well. The company has promised long-term support for this board, so we’re hoping its software engineers are exploring ways to make the Craft more useful with time.

A product is only as good as its status in the moment, though. Support for Adobe and Office applications, what I imagine will be the keyboard’s primary companions, is pretty good right now, though there are a few gaps. Let’s hit those first. If you’re on a Mac, the Office integration just isn’t there. It’s not that it’s poor—it’s absent. In Adobe Creative Cloud, there are a couple weird gaps. Lightroom isn’t supported at all, and Premiere’s support is whittled down to timeline scrubbing. Given the popularity of those applications, the limited or lacking support seriously dings the Craft’s creative cred.

Outside of creative applications, the crown acts primarily as a volume control. You can customize the way the Crown works in supported apps to some degree, meaning basically that you can tell it to either use the built-in functionality provided by Logitech, or have it do something general to the OS, like cut, paste, or bring up Windows’ Action Center. These options will be familiar to anybody who has dug into Logitech Options in the past.

Right now, you can’t program application-specific functions to the crown, though, and that’s probably its greatest shortcoming. When I use Photoshop, I spent a lot of time tweaking photos rather than synthesizing images from scratch, so being able to scroll through things like brightness, contrast, and levels and tweak them with the dial would be appreciated. One of the crown’s other shortcomings is that it doesn’t allow, at this point, any customization. Every function the Crown performs is built in and downloaded from Logitech. The company did tell me that it has “an SDK coming soon, which will be open for developers,” so its ultimate value won’t be down to Logitech’s whims entirely.

Adobe CC and Microsoft Office cover a lot of ground for creative and office users alike, but there are countless other apps out there that could benefit from the dial. If nothing else, developers of creative software should be able to evaluate the Craft’s value and integrate its dial into their software without waiting on Logitech’s attention. As we went to press, though, we still hadn’t heard any solid plans regarding this SDK, so potential Craft users are still going to be waiting on the company to open up the Crown to third-party tweaking. If the company doesn’t favor the app you rely on, though, that oversight could significantly reduce the keyboard’s value. When the board sells for $200 to begin with, that could be a big leap of faith.

One nice thing about the Crown in its current state is its cross-platform functionality. Other reviewers have noted that in comparison to the Touch Bar on Apple’s newer laptops and to the Surface Dial, the Craft isn’t quite on par yet. Apple’s Touch Bar apparently has deeper integration with Adobe CC, for example, and the Surface Dial is cheaper than this keyboard at $99, or about half the price. With the Craft, however, you can expect the same behavior in Photoshop across both platforms, and get some of that touch functionality without having to upgrade your Macbook. Whether the compromises of that approach are worth accepting will be entirely down to how rabid you are about a given platform, though.

Aside from the Crown, the Craft sports a couple standout features pulled in from the rest of Logitech’s line. Like other Logitech productivity hardware, the Craft features both Logitech’s proprietary Unifying dongle and Bluetooth connectivity. It can be connected to up to three different devices, each of which you can toggle through with three dedicated buttons on the keyboard. I’m often switching between two computers, and this has turned out to be an incredibly useful feature for me. We’ve enjoyed similar functionality from Logitech’s fancier mice in the past, so it’s nice to see it appear here.

The Craft also supports Logitech’s Flow software. Using Logitech Flow and a compatible mouse, you can switch back and forth between two computers seamlessly, with the mouse’s position determining which system you’re typing on. While the switch sometimes takes a second to set in, this works as described. Users of Synergy will already be familiar with this principle, but it’s nice to have for power users invested in the Logitech ecosystem who might have a Mac and a PC side-by-side.

Like so many other Logitech keyboards, the Function keys can be customized to some degree in the Logitech Options software, as well—but this is another spot where the keyboard falls short. The board has a dedicated Fn key that allows you to switch between the standard F-key functions and the custom functions. The Fn layer should open the entire keyboard up to customization options, but it doesn’t. Instead of allowing the user to assign custom functions to every key on the board, this layer only applies to the F1 through F12 keys. Logitech also put the media keys up here, so if you start customizing this row, you may end up losing those controls. I’ve lamented this narrow customization range on many of Logitech’s recent keyboards, and the Craft is no different.

The biggest downfall of the Craft, though, is its battery. Perhaps because of the extra circuitry needed to operate the Dial and keep the backlighting illuminated, this isn’t like Logitech’s own G613 keyboard or one of those others that’ll last six months on a pair of batteries. No, you’ll get about a week with heavy use, or less if you use it heavily. The keyboard charges fairly quickly through its USB Type-C port, but you’ll need to keep that cord handy in one of your desk drawers, as it’ll come out often. Furthermore, the battery isn’t replaceable, so if it starts to give out in a few years, you’re likely going to be going back to that wired life or shopping for a new plank. Turning off the backlighting will extend the board’s life between charges, but it’s still going to need that charge frequently. With that in mind, it’s hard not to wonder why Logitech saw fit to make the Craft wireless in the first place, short of making for a cleaner desk.

 

Conclusions

Logitech’s Craft has big ambitions for the humble keyboard. With the multi-function Crown, the Craft promises more direct control over a range of creative functions in popular applications. Unlike proprietary tools like Apple’s Touch Bar and Microsoft’s Surface Dial, Logitech’s all-purpose knob promises to take that control cross-platform. At $200, the Craft has a professional-grade price tag, too.

For a device aimed at creative activity, however, I was surprised by how narrowly the bounds have been drawn around the Crown. Instead of serving as a general-purpose input device, the Crown relies heavily on application-specific profiles to handle tools like Photoshop’s brush and formatting tools in Microsoft Office. If the company hasn’t developed a profile for your particular workflow or a function of an application you use, you’re out of luck until Logitech’s developers lay the foundation. Some extremely popular creative apps, like Adobe’s own Lightroom, don’t work with the Crown at all, and others, like Premiere, only get rudimentary support from this dial.

To be fair, my creative impulses stop at Photoshop and Office to begin with. Even so, I wish the Crown could manipulate more of the controls I rely on in Photoshop today. Logitech has promised an SDK that might make that kind of deeper integration possible, but the company has yet to make that tool kit available, and application developers will have to take up the mantle even when that SDK does become available. The short wireless battery life and a limited number of customizable keys further hem in the creative freedom that the Craft would seem to promise.

If we look beyond the Crown, the Craft certainly nails the fundamentals for a well-designed and high-quality device. I enjoyed the fine key feel, classy backlighting, and clean typeface of the Craft’s main keys, and the cross-platform key labeling is a nice touch for a board that might move among Mac and Windows machines in a busy creative environment. The subdued style and high-quality materials of the Craft won’t look out of place in even the most design-sensitive environments, too. The Craft’s multi-machine wireless profiles and broad wireless connectivity support make it all the more versatile.

Still, for $200, Logitech is asking creative professionals to make a major investment in a software-defined future that may or may not arrive for the Craft. When this keyboard’s defining feature rests on whether that future comes to pass, we’d give the Craft a little more time to mature before integrating it into our creative workflows.

Comments closed
    • Major-Failure
    • 2 years ago

    Logitech: $100+ input devices with rubber starting to peel off after a mere 6 months of use.

    I love my Logitech Illuminated keyboard for the typing feel and how quiet it is, but after 2 years the palm rest looks horrible and you can’t clean it without making it worse.

    • TheRazorsEdge
    • 2 years ago

    Nice to see the recommendation was withheld due to promised but undelivered functionality.

    If software is part of the product, it should be delivered in the box at the time of purchase. Why should anyone wait for months with their fingers crossed, hoping that the corporate managers are willing to continue development?

    Tired of incomplete or beta products.

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 2 years ago

    Seems like a waste of a product. Not that this sort of thing isn’t cool but for the price this is not as premium a product as they want you to believe.

    Good review BTW.

    • Chrispy_
    • 2 years ago

    I said it when this product was announced and I’ll say it again now:

    This is a cheap membrane keyboard ($25-50) and a jog dial which you can buy separately and position somewhere more convenient. At $50 you can get dials with the same fucntionality as the Crown on this keyboard, for for $100+ you can get far superior products that are used by professional video editors.

      • Voldenuit
      • 2 years ago

      Yes, but how many of those are sold at Walmart?

    • Kretschmer
    • 2 years ago

    Why not just buy the dial?

      • mcarson09
      • 2 years ago

      That was my first thought too.

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