Meet the Smart Keyboard. If you’ve ever wanted a full size QWERTY keyboard for your TV, this is for you. It packs all the goods of a Harmony Remote into a wireless keyboard that will be rather tough to lose between the couch cushions.
The Smart Keyboard is designed to work with the Xbox, PlayStation, Apple TV, Roku streamers, HTPC and some smart TVs — pretty much most anything that can be connected to a TV. And Logitech brags that its Harmony products works with 225,000 devices from more than 5,000 brands. The Smart Keyboard will be available in the U.S. and Germany this month for $149.99.
The pros and cons should be obvious. A full keyboard makes searching for and browsing content a lot more natural. It makes on-screen keyboards a thing of the past. But it is, of course, unwieldy.
The Smart Keyboard ships with the Harmony Hub, which gives the whole package wireless capabilities. Through the Harmony Hub, A/V devices can be controlled through radio frequencies or smartphones, allowing for A/V devices to be placed out of sight. The Smart Keyboard can also transmit commands through infrared like a traditional remote.
Setup is done through a smartphone app. This is a stark departure from previous Harmony device’s that leaned on web services to configure its remotes.
The keyboard itself is sold and coated in a sort of rubber-anti-slip texture. It feels solid. The built-in touchpad supports Window 8 gestures and Harmony gestures that allow users to control playback with custom movements.
Keyboards in living rooms are nothing new. Every Google TV shipped with QWERTY keyboards of various styles and sizes including the Logitech Revue and Lenovo has been hawking models for years.
Todd Walker, Senior Brand Manager of Logitech Harmony, tells me that Logitech is positioning the Smart Keyboard as a standalone product. He pointed out that a lot of consumers start out with just a laptop connected to a TV, but slowly add components as they go. The Smart Keyboard can control the PC, but as the owner adds, say, an Apple TV, the keyboard will work with that as well. And since the Smart Keyboard ships with the Logitech Hub, smartphones can also control the entire system. There’s no excuse for losing the remote now.
The Smart Keyboard will appeal more to the media streamer customer than the channel surfer. Traditional TV viewing does not require a QWERTY keyboard to change the channels. But there’s nothing better than a full keyboard to search Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Instant Video.