Glyph Lefkowitz (glyf) wrote,
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Review: Logitech G15 Gaming Keyboard & Logitech G7 Gaming Mouse

The first step is "I don't have a problem, I can stop whenever I want", right?

This week I purchased some "gaming" input peripherals, because "gaming" has come to mean "good" in the eyes of peripheral manufacturers. I wasn't disappointed by that assumption.

G7 Gaming Mouse

Logitech really has no competition for mice. My previous mouse, an MX1000, was, when I purchased it, by far the best mouse I'd ever used. My only complaint about it, aside from the "doesn't work well on reflective surfaces" problem that many optical mice have, was that it was getting to the point where the (internal, non-replaceable) battery was run down all the time, and the transmitter / stand was slightly warped after much usage, so the contacts no longer directly lined up where they were supposed to and I had to spend 20 minutes fiddling with it every time I wanted to get it to charge.

Given this previous problem with stand-charger-based mice (the MX1000 is not the first wireless mouse I've had this happen to) the G7 was impressive right out of the box. There are 2 battery cartridges: one stays in the charger at all times, one is in the mouse. That means the charger is smaller, doesn't have to be located on my desk, and when the mouse does need charging, I have 30 seconds without a mouse instead of an hour and a half. The charger, while itself small, also has a tiny, detachable USB transmitter, making it a cinch to pop this mouse into my laptop bag for short trips.

What else can a mouse do? Comfortable in my hand: check. Tracks smoothly: very check. I have no objective way to measure it but it certainly feels at least as smooth as any other mouse I've used. Works on glossy surfaces... check? Color me impressed, it worked on at least 3 different surfaces, including my Wacom tablet, that caused my MX1000 grief. It still gets upset if I put it on a mirror, though.

The feature that impressed me the most, and that gives it a real claim to being a "gaming" mouse, was that it has a speed shifter. This never would have occurred to me. Two buttons under the scroll wheel increase and decrease the mouse's speed (in hardware, so it works with linux) from "slow" to "fast" to "crazy". Playing Quake 4 this weekend, this feature was super-handy when getting into an armored vehicle that slows down the mouse to simulate a feeling of weight . Even using regular applications, it's handy; with 2560 pixels to cover on my desktop from edge to edge, it's nice to be able to crank up the speed, rocket over to my left desktop, slow down to pinpoint emacs's title bar, then speed up again to yank it all the way over to the right.

G15 Gaming Keyboard

In a word: huge.

This keyboard is probably the largest that I've ever seen, let alone used or purchased. The IBM model M, named the "desk-dominator" for its unnatural size, is 492 mm x 210 mm (19.4” x 8.3”). This thing is 546mm x 267mm (21.5” x 10.5”).

So far though, the size seems to be worth it. It has the best tactile response I've gotten from a membrane keyboard ever, blowing even the previous front-runner in that category, the Eclipse, out of the water. I can routinely do slightly better than usual in gtypist, even after only having used this keyboard for a day. The "squeak" I've mentioned in previous reviews is completely absent.

The basic layout is a no-nonsense PC-104 key, Everything in the right place, with escape offset slightly - I find I don't mind, but I suspect die-hard Vim fans will likely have a more intense reaction, whether they love it or hate it.

It also includes some special features, which are an annoyance on many keyboards, but which I am generally pleased with on this one. It has a standard set of media keys and a volume knob, all of which worked out of the box on Ubuntu. There's also a switch to turn off the "windows key". It's handy when playing games on Windows; although obviously not a terribly useful feature in Linux when Windows => Hyper and won't magically break you out of a running game. Nevertheless, it works in Linux as well.

It also features backlit keys, a first in a Logitech keyboard. The backlight is subtle, and when it's off, the keycaps are almost black. There's a switch to toggle it on and off, and between two levels of intensity.

The G15 also includes 2 USB ports, which is a welcome addition, and something I've wished every USB keyboard has done since I stopped using a Mac as my primary machine. I now have somewhere convenient on my desk to plug in my USB SSH key and camera. Unfortunately Windows seems to (wrongly?) believe that the keyboard hub doesn't have enough power to drive the thumb drive. Linux powers it without complaint. There are also 2 small grooves to run wires under the keyboard, which is great as they allow me to run my headset cable underneath the keyboard without it rocking slightly where it balances on the cord.

The special "G" keys on the left side of the keyboard are the main attraction. On Linux they are just repeats of F1-F12 and 1-6, which isn't great, but at least the keys provide some default behavior and they're not totally dead, as many special keys are. Since I regrettably must boot into Windows for the majority of gaming these days anyway, this lack of functionality didn't disappoint me too much.

On Windows, with the included driver software (which I will note, did not ask me to reboot!) the G key functionality really shines. They can be bound to any other key, or any sequence of keys, including delays. There is a Macro Record (MR) button which allows you to quickly and easily configure any key to be a timed sequence of keystrokes. This means that in World of Warcraft, I can script a sequence of attacks, including cooldown times, simply by hitting MR, a G key, doing the attacks, then the MR key again to finish. Unfortunately it's unlikely that this functionality will be useful in anything other than a MMORPG, but given how useful it is there, I think it's worth the extra few inches of desk real estate.

Finally, the keyboard also includes an LCD display. I wish I had more to say about this, since it seems like it could be a really killer feature, but the included applications are really sparse; a clock, a CPU meter, a volume meter. I'll be watching g15mods.com to see if anything interesting comes out (not least of which, Linux drivers).

Overall

The G7 is definitely the best mouse I've yet used, gaming or no; I think I'd recommend it to anyone looking for a good wireless mouse.

I can't be quite so unequivocal about the G15, but I'm still pretty pleased with it. The tactile response is good; the frame is incredibly sturdy, it looks cool, if massive, the USB ports are handy and the G-keys are really useful in the place where they're supposed to be, to wit, a video game. The jury's still out on the LCD display, and lack of linux support is always a problem with funky features, although offering the Windows SDK on the CD with the keyboard was a nice touch.
Tags: keyboards
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