Gamers form highly personal attachments to their keyboards and mice, because finding the perfect peripheral can favorably impact the ratio between triumphant victories and humiliating defeats. After all, if you’re dropping several grand on a new gaming PC, or even several hundred to upgrade the one you have, doesn’t it make sense to also buy an accessory that can give you an edge on the latest interactive blockbuster?
However, for discerning players, we’re not sure Logitech’s G19 is the right choice when it comes to cutting-edge keyboards. The device comes loaded with features, including an integrated color LCD that must account for a big chunk of its (gulp!) $200 price tag. But that fancy display doesn’t amount to much more than conspicuous bling. In addition, we’ve also pounded many a board that felt a lot better under our mitts than this one, and sell for a fraction of the price.
In our opinion, it doesn’t matter how much—or how little—a keyboard costs if it doesn’t feel solid under our fingertips, and the G19’s keys come across as though they’re floating on a bowl of mashed potatoes. There’s enough resistance that we never accidentally activated a key by simply resting our fingers on the keyboard, but applying only moderate pressure to its midsection caused the entire device to flex.
Logitech added a number of new keys while increasing the G19’s dimensions only slightly. It’s about 1.5 inches wider and 1.75 inches deeper (the LCD juts out from the top) than the typical keyboard. Snapping on the detachable wrist rest adds another three inches to the keyboard’s depth—it’s the G19’s designers’ token nod to ergonomics. You can elevate the top of the keyboard by flipping out a pair peg legs, but the keys themselves are straight as an arrow and flat as a pancake. Some gamers prefer this type of design; others prefer a split down the middle that allows their wrists to rest at a more natural angle.
Logitech G19 Keyboard
Logitech wisely didn’t mess with the traditional layout while adding their new keys though. Your fingers will find the Function keys where they expect them to be; the Insert, Home, Delete, End, Page-up and Page-down keys are in their usual two-row block; and the arrow keys are in their familiar inverted “T.” The Enter, Backspace, Shift, and Caps Lock keys are appropriately oversized as well, and there’s a numeric keypad on the right-hand side to boot.
Logitech added a second set of 12 function keys—labeled G1 through G12—on the left-hand side of the keyboard, however. Each of these keys can be programmed with three custom macros, so that one key press can send a sequence of up to 36 key press signals to the computer. Custom macros can be recorded on the fly, or you can use the provided PC software to assign keystrokes, macros, scripts, or functions (Calculator, Web browser, Email, etc.) to each G-key. You can then save these configurations as profiles that are automatically loaded when an application starts (or that remain persistent no matter what app is running).
Logitech G19 Keyboard
Logitech has also created specialized profiles for more than 60 games—including Command & Conquer 3, Crysis, Fallout 3, World of Warcraft, and World in Conflict—that consist of pre-recorded macros that can be assigned to any of the G-keys. If you’re playing Crysis, for instance, you can move your left hand a short distance to activate your night vision, switch from a vehicle’s gunner seat to its driver seat, or perform any of the game’s 45 other actions. We found that we were able to perform these actions much faster with the G19 than we could with a traditional keyboard where the commands are assigned to letter keys all over the keyboard. And we never had to take our right hand off our mouse (southpaws might have a different experience).
The keyboard’s keys can be backlit with three color choices—green, blue, and violet—available at a button press. If you don’t like any of these shades, you can create your own from a seemingly infinite palette. Oddly enough, you can’t turn off the LCD without also turning off the key backlighting.
The novelty of having a display integrated into your keyboard wears off quickly. The tiltable LCD is bright, crisp, colorful, and delivers good resolution for its size (320×240 pixels). Logitech has created a number of applications for it, but none that wouldn’t work better on the much larger screen that’s right in front of you.
The clock/calendar, stopwatch, and CPU utilization monitor are moderately useful, but the YouTube client, photo and video viewers, POP3 monitor, and RSS feed programs amount to a lot of flash and very little substance. And as you’ve probably guessed, the LCD draws more power than any USB port can provide, so the keyboard comes with its own supplemental power supply. This slim wall wart didn’t consume more than its allotted space on our surge suppressor, but it didn’t provide enough juice to the keyboard’s two USB hubs to power our admittedly piggish 250GB Western Digital Passport portable hard drive, either.
Logitech G19 Keyboard
Other Features and Conclusion
Gamers have cursed the Windows menu key ever since it was introduced—way back when Duke Nukem 3D was everyone’s favorite first-person shooter. The G19 has a handy switch that disables it so your gaming won’t be interrupted if you tap it while reaching for something else. We also like the built-in transport controls for Window Media Player, the barrel-shaped volume-control wheel, and the handy mute button (that’s something that should be on every keyboard!)
Not everyone will find the G19’s mushy key action as distasteful as we did, so we can’t let that weigh too heavily in our bottom-line opinion. The price/performance ratio, on the other hand, is just way out of whack. As much as we like this keyboard’s gaming-oriented features, the LCD just doesn’t add enough value to justify the exorbitant price tag.
- Highly programmable
- Integrated media-player controls
- Kill switch for the Windows menu key
- Turning the display off also turns off the keyboard backlighting
- Mushy tactile feedback