Logitech, once one of the very best in PC gaming peripherals, kinda just skulked out of the market, leaving people like Steelseries and Razer to take over. Now they’re back in a big way with a new range of their “G” branded gaming peripherals. One such peripheral is their top-of-the-line G19s keyboard, which packs a wealth of functionality in to it that you didn’t know you even wanted.
One such bit of technological frivolity is an adjustable 50mm by 38mm LCD screen. Of course, this is really nothing new for Logitech; their G15 keyboard pioneered the concept of a second, keyboard-mounted screen to offer additional information. Back then, the screen was an amber, pixelated LCD though – and hardly of much use. In the new G19s though, it’s a full colour, sufficiently-high resolution screen that’s capable of so much more.
You can display images, play movies from your drive, or straight from YouTube, check RSS feeds or POP3 email accounts, show your PC’s CPU and GPU usage along with their temperatures or time things with a handy stop-watch, all in real time. It also allows you, in a small selection of supported games, to see things like ammo counts, health and all the other stuff you’d generally look to your main screen’s HUD for. Right in a little LCD screen, on your keyboard.
It’s really rather amazing, immeasurably cool stuff. For exactly 8 minutes. You’ll watch a YouTube video on the tiny screen, see your ammo count down, or watch an email alert and it won’t take very long for you to realise that all of this is just better on your actual screen. You’ll also struggle to find more than a handful of games that actually support the thing. That’s the keyboard’s biggest selling point – and right at the beginning of this review I’m telling you that it’s something you’ll barely use. That’s not a good sign.
Nope, and it gets even worse. Because it’s such a bright, somewhat crisp little screen, it sucks an awful lot of power; far more than you’d get from just a USB port. So yes, you’ll need to actually plug the keyboard in to a power outlet to get it to work. That power isn’t being used purely for the screen though; the rest of the electrical juice is used to power up the lights under the keyboard. In what’s becoming a bit of a trend in gaming peripherals, the G19s allows you to set the colour of the under-key illumination -and the software allows you to set the colour of the keys using any one of the 16.8 million colours the human eye can apparently perceive. As somebody who is male and not an interior decorator, I’m convinced that number is closer to 12. It’s neat, but hardly something you’ll buy a keyboard for.
Another of the keyboard’s high-end features is a bank of programmable “G” keys to the left that allow you to set up macros and shortcuts and make your life easier in certain games – but even that comes with a caveat; you’ll have to retrain your hands because they’re where your brain expects critical PC gaming keys like Tab, Shift and Ctrl to be. On the top left is another set of “M” keys that allow you to create different profiles that you’re able to switch on-the-fly. You can have different illumination settings for each profile, which is neat as you barely have to glance down to see which profile setting you’re on.
Of course, being a high-end keyboard means it’s got the usual range of multi-media keys you can use to set your volume, stop your porn playing when you mom or wife walks in or skip tracks or whatever else it is you kids do with your fancy new technology these days.
As far as build quality and aesthetics go? It looks kind of gaudy, in my opinion. It’s largely made of plastic, accented here and there with bits of aluminium – but it’s large and unsightly, and just not what I’d consider to be an attractive keyboard. It’s got some decent cable management, with channels in the bottom that you can use to tuck away your cables (much like Darryn does with his own cables when he does his “Vaginaman!” bit) and two USB 2.0 pass through ports for a headset or a mouse or whatever other USB peripheral you need instant access to. It’s ugly, and that’s still not its biggest problem.
For a high-end, expensive keyboard – the thing’s running at a ludicrous R2499 RRP at the moment – the lack of mechanical switches is pretty unforgiveable. Yes, it’s a rubber-dome membrane keyboard, the sort of tech usually reserved for cheap keyboards. To that end, the keys feel really mushy, without that satisfying “click” you get from a decent mechanical keyboard. And for twice the price of just such a keyboard, the Logitech G19s is terribly difficult to recommend.