Buying a wireless keyboard and/or mouse doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to get a Bluetooth device. Even with the majority of today’s laptops being built with Bluetooth integration, there are still a great many people who have systems which don’t support the standard.
For that matter, Bluetooth isn’t exactly a consistent standard at all. Not every device is Bluetooth 4.0 capable, just as not every device has the same architecture. Motorola, Broadcom, Toshiba, and even Microsoft have slight differences in their Bluetooth products that sometimes introduce issues for the user. Likewise, not every receiver is capable of holding a signal across the same distance as the next.
It’s for these reasons that companies like Logitech have opted to create their own hardware receiver which utilizes the USB port in order to send and receive signals from their products. This is a proprietary technology, and not everyone wants to give up a USB port to use it.
Advantage of a Wireless USB Receiver
In the case of Logitech, a Unifying receiver enables the user to connect up to six compatible devices to a single receiver. That receiver is small enough to remain plugged into a laptop without risking damage from snags or placing it in a bag. The receiver itself has a great range, which in my home extends across a mid-sized room, and rarely experiencing signal drop during normal use. In fact, after using wireless Logitech products for over a year, I have never had a dropped signal while the device is in the same room as the computer.
Most proprietary receivers share similar connectivity themes, with some variances. Modern receivers work on the same 2.4 GHz channel as Bluetooth, and as such can be susceptible to the same interference by many household electronics.
Advantages of a Bluetooth Receiver
Bluetooth adds the benefit of being compatible with more devices. You can sync many Bluetooth accessories to a number of different devices including tablets and mobile phones. You also don’t lose a USB port in the process, which for many laptop users is a very useful feature. Most Bluetooth-capable devices have their receivers built right in and can transmit data to multiple gadgets at once.
Unlike proprietary wireless receivers, Bluetooth doesn’t require you to carry around an extra object along with your mouse and/or keyboard. It just plugs in and works, with minimal drain to the battery.
In the end, it comes down to preference. I like the stability of a dedicated receiver, but can also appreciate the convenience of a Bluetooth connection. Either way, these are two technologies you should be aware of when buying a wireless device. Not all devices without wires are Bluetooth enabled.
Image: Breahn Foster