The gaming keyboard is hands-down the best and external LCD platform that you'll ever blow two Benjamins and up to four AC outlets on.
The successor to Logitech's iconic G15 is finally here, and though it pickpocketed my wallet on the way back home, there's a sense of compassion for the Logitech G19 charm and tender glow. Read on this review to find out the macros, color LCD applets, custom backlighting and a power supply through this in-depth review after the jump.
Logitech sought to address many of the issues raised by gamers about the G15s when developing the next-gen G19, and by all measures they have succeeded in doing so. First up is the footprint: measuring 19.5 inches wide, the Logitech G19 retains the "petite" design of the second generation G15 in order to fit inside keyboard trays and not encroach on mousing surfaces. Though there's only a 2" difference between the G19 and behemoth G15 v1, the difference is most definitely one to be appreciated.
The G19 uses the same dome-switch technology that's likely to be found in the very keyboard you're using now - quiet, but believed to be mushy at times. Despite this technological setback, the G19's keys still feel very responsive and not as mushy as your typical office keyboard. Still, Logitech could further improve the G19's gaming feel by using mechanical Cherry or buckling spring keyswitches like the classic IBM Model M keyboard. Nothing beats the clackers.
The keyboard's layout was scored well in familiarity, maintaining the classic three-column layout for the arrow keys, PrtScr row and six-key Ins/Del group. The only noticeable layout change has been to the Escape key, now positioned flush with the left edge of the main keygroup and not offset as is typical with other Logitech keyboards. That much takes some getting used to, but isn't enough to cause frustration.
On the underside of the keyboard is a series of trenches for cable routing that can help manage cable clutter from mice, gamepads and headphones. Trench exits are located on the top, sides, and bottom of the keyboard with a groove cut out in the detachable wrist rest. Unfortunately the trenches have hardly changed from their earlier G15 incarnations, making them practically useless if the keyboard is propped up using the rear feet; there still aren't any sliding clips to hold cables in place.
The media keys have been moved from the center of the keyboard to the right corner in order to accommodate the taller LCD profile, thereby eliminating a large portion of the unused space found in the G15. The standard variety of Play/Pause, Stop, and Next/Previous buttons are all here and angled in such a manner that they're pointed straight at you instead of the ceiling - a nice touch. Underneath the playback buttons are the volume controls which consist of an oversized mute button and a non-ratcheted volume roller similar to what's on the G35 headset. The keyboard's roller is an improvement over simple volume up/down buttons, but is still lacking compared to the original G15's volume wheel due to its low resolution and non-continuous movement.
To the left of the media controls on the G19 lie the backlight on/off button and indicator lights, which are oddly-yet-intuitively positioned according to proximity of the keys they represent instead of the classic Num/Caps/Scroll Lock arrangement. It's also here that you'll find two powered USB 2.0 ports, perfect for syncing MP3 players or plugging in any combination of portable speakers, mice or gameboards without encountering that dreaded "USB power exceeded" error message.
Of course, the one downside to having a powered USB hub is the need for a supplemental power source, and Logitech really dropped the ball when it came to the keyboard's power supply. If the last outlet on a strip isn't available, then the wall wart AC adapter is best suited for power strips with outlets aligned in a row instead of a vertical column. Not only does the adapter take up the outlets directly underneath its bulk, but on some power strips it also can also block the above ground socket as well! By detaching the AC adapter from the 'Y' junction it's possible to use the keyboard without power but then the LCD, backlighting, macros and USB hub functionality will be disabled.
One criticism of the keyboard in other professional reviews and felt the need to address is the lack of analog headset pass-through jacks found on a handful of gaming keyboards from Razer, SteelSeries, and Saitek. However, headset jacks would not only add to the thickness and inflexibility of the G19's already-wide cable, but also but be redundant considering that most gamers already have front audio ports on their towers - that's a standard feature even on the cheapest Dell and HP desktops.
Gaming Mode and Multi-Key Input
The first gamer-centric point of interest on the G19 is the aptly-named "Gaming Mode" switch, effectively disabling the Windows and Contextual Menu keys on demand to prevent minimization of a game during that one crucial moment. (It's always a crucial moment). Indeed, a toggle switch is certainly more elegant than the alternative of prying those blasted keys from the keyboard.
The next gaming feature is one that's more likely to be appreciated by the hardcore FPS junkie, and that's the ability to press virtually any combo of six keys at once. All you really need to know is that when certain groups of keys are pressed, the matrix circuitry of older keyboards would generate a phantom keystroke also known as ghosting. Newer keyboards somewhat addressed this issue by blocking phantom keystrokes, but were still limited to pressing only 2-5 keys at once instead of the maximum six allowed by USB. The original G15, for example, was unable to press the '1', '2' and '3' keys on the numpad at the same time.
Logitech advertises the ability to press any combination of five keys at once on the G19. In the tests using the Keyboard Viewer built into OS X, no matter what combination of keys pressed, the keyboard would always register all six. Using modifier keys would allow this number to climb as high as 10. So why is this handy? Well, the next time you hit jump, you'll actually jump instead of being blown up by a rocket.
Illuminated keys has long been a staple of the gaming keyboard, and the G19 is no exception. The entire keyboard to include the Game Mode switch is beautifully backlit through laser-etched keys, and can be configured to shine in almost any color via an RGB mixer that's built into the drivers. LAN party-goers will surely appreciate the ability to match their keyboard with their gaming rig's lighting scheme.
There's no real brightness control to be had for the backlit keys; the only way to configure this is by tweaking with the black level. The backlighting and LCD can be quickly disabled, however, by pressing the toggle switch to the right of the screen, which is great if you sleep in the same room as your computer. Up to three colors can be programmed into the keyboard - one for each M-key that's used as a toggle. This is useful for heavy macro users who need to be reminded which set of macros is currently available for execution, e.g. red for killing and white for healing. Though there's no multi-zone lighting as there is on Saitek's Cyborg keyboard, curiously enough Logitech chose to limit the M-keys, LCD controls and indicator lights to a single color: orange.