The Logitech G15 keyboard is squarely aimed at gamers, but everyday users will like some of the design touches that have been incorporated. The soft blue backlighting and integrated flip-up LCD screen are features we wonder how we lived without, and the layout shows obvious signs of responding to customer feedback. The gaming macro keys round out this all-around king of keyboards. While the key pressing was slightly soft for our tastes, regular typing tasks were not a problem
Features and Use
There has been a recent barrage of keyboards and mice from all the major players. Most of these new input devices are geared toward gamers and media center users. The choices run the gamut: From wireless to ergonomic, from Bluetooth enabled to pointer integrated Frankenstein-like keyboards. Logitech leads the pack, having introduced more new input devices in the past few months than in the previous three years combined. One that will no doubt catch everyone’s attention is the gamer-geared G15 keyboard. The glowing behemoth of a device is a force to be reckoned with. While it is not wireless, nor does it sport the remarkably useless keyboard mounted scroll wheel, it does contain the first multi-line programmable LCD screen. Intrigued? We were.
Out of the box, you get the keyboard, removable wrist rest, install CD and quick start guide. The G15 is wider than most keyboards in order to accommodate a number of programmable buttons along the left side. The top edge sports what look like handles, though why these are necessary is a mystery. Close to the center of the top edge are two USB ports, along with grooves in the bottom surface for running wires. The housing is a metallic light blue, which matches the backlight well. All tolled, the G15 looks mammoth on a desk, but elegantly technical, and not awkward.
Gaming keyboards are nothing new, and neither are backlit keyboards. But the G15 is the first offering from one of the major input device players that has breached this niche market. What makes a gaming keyboard? From what we could tell, backlighting. That’s pretty much all. The G15 delivers with a soft blue backlighting that makes the edges and characters on the keys glow. The spacing of the LEDs under the keys is nearly perfect, but we did note a couple of keys that had very slight distortion (the ? key looks more like a :). The backlight can be turned off for a more professional look, should the owner decide to switch from 1337 to l@m3 mode.
Even though the keyboard is large, there is little wasted space. The G15 oozes with functionality and features. Most notable is the large, blue backlit LCD screen at the top. The LCD can be flipped down, again for a more professional look, or opened to expose the screen and media keys below. The LCD can be programmed to display different information by game developers, such as ammo, chat, etc. The default use while navigating through Windows is to cycle between displaying one screen with the date, time and an analog clock, and a display of CPU and memory usage. We didn’t realize how useful this was until we had a chance to experience it. As of the time of publication, there is a small community of G15 fanatics that is still in its infancy and assembled around G15forums.com. There is a program called LCDHype that can be used to create scripts for added LCD screen functionality. How truly useful the LCD will be is yet to be determined, but the prospects are great.
The second major feature of the G15, and the reason it is gi-normous, is the large set of programmable macro keys along the left side. Three sets of six macro keys adorn the side, along with three mode keys. The mode keys switch the set of 18 macro keys to a different set of macros, effectively making the keyboard capable of supporting 54 macros. Is this overkill? Not really. As any gamer knows, in any one game you can have different modes of play or different characters. Having the ability to switch between sets of macros is almost essential. In addition, the software supports profiles, which means that the macros are entirely game dependant. Open up World of Warcraft, and the LCD proudly displays, “World of Warcraft profile activated.” We found with City of Heroes, we had to switch back to Windows and then to the game for the profile to be correctly loaded (most likely due to the game having a separate loader, which dupes the software). Macros can be recorded using the software application or in-game with the macro record button.
The media keys are your usual, standard keys seen on many keyboards now: Play, pause, stop, forward, and back. The center wheel spins to adjust volume. The media keys are relatively old hat for Logitech now, and support for media players is widespread. As an added bonus, the LCD will display track information for most players.
One of the stranger features of the G15 is the gaming mode switch. Such a broadly named feature should have wide-ranging effects, optimizing the keyboard performance to standards never before seen in gaming peripherals, right? This one just turns off the Windows key. We were slightly underwhelmed, even though it is a useful feature. The mute button is placed outside of the media space, where it can be accessed when the LCD is closed.
Image courtesy of Logitech
One thing Logitech has improved over the past few years is the quality of their software. That is apparent with the great configuration utility included. We found it to be very stable, and experienced no stability problems or unusual behavior. The included application allows the user to set up macros and adjust a few simple settings such as the time between LCD screen displays. The software ships with several profiles for popular games, which most gamers will probably discard for their own custom settings. The macro functionality adds a layer of productivity to the G15 as well. You could add a profile for any program, essentially making every program instantly scriptable.
On the tactile side, the G15 is a solid keyboard for everyday use, but does feel slightly “mushy.” There’s no satisfying click of the keys, but the spring back and elevation are comfortable. The wrist rest is more show than functionality, having no padding and being relatively flimsy. Some gaming keyboards sacrifice aesthetics for ergonomics, adding oddly shaped gaming pieces to the keyboard. The G15 is more of a keyboard for the avid gamer that doesn’t want to explain their input device to a casual onlooker.
The Logitech G15 is simply the keyboard to beat. The aesthetics, functionality, and uniqueness make the competition look like a child’s toy. While the full functionality of the G15 LCD has yet to be realized, even the simple programs are useful, and Logitech deserves kudos for the fact that it’s there at all. The macro keys are simple to program and arranged in a manner that makes them useful for everyday applications, and even more so for gamers. Simply put, the G15 draws a lot of attention, and it deserves it.
- Integrated LCD screen
- Macro keys
- Slightly soft keys
- Large overall size