We’ve seen products like this before from companies such as eZBoard and Saitek. Some enjoy the style while others prefer a full keyboard. Logitech though has their take on a gaming specific keypad with their G13 Advanced Gameboard and it offers some unique features as well as being an interesting product that might not appeal to all gamers but does have a lot of features built in.
The G13 Advanced Gameboard can be described as a keypad for gamers. It’s designed for left handed operation and plugs into your computer via a spare USB port. The unique shape lets you rest your left hand on a firm but comfortable palm rest while your fingers and thumb fall onto the keys and thumbstick. The main part of the Gameboard features twenty-two programmable keys at your fingertips. Going to the thumbstick area, the analog thumbstick is surrounded by two more programmable buttons. You can also setup five different profiles as well giving you even more programming options for each button.
You can use the nice software to program the G13 and it does a great job at giving you an easy to read display on programming the keys. The software shows a layout of the G13 and highlights the buttons you are programming so you can easily tell which one’s being setup. The software also has a nice tutorial to help you with the basics on getting started. Like the G15 keyboard, you can setup profiles so certain functions are programmed for certain games. The Macro Recording utility is also a great tool allowing you to not only setup key strokes in a certain order but to also add delay to them as well. If you’ve used Logitech’s programming software before, you’ll be comfortable with the G13’s and know that it’s a pretty nicely designed set of tools to get your product working the way you want it to.
Once of the great things about the G13 is that you can also do programming on the fly. The G13 Advanced Gameboard features a macro recording key which will let you assign certain keystrokes to a key during a game. Pressing it will put it in program mode so if you forgot to record one or would like to change it to something else without having to go into the software it’s easily done with the hardware. I’ve always liked this feature and I’m very happy to see it make its way onto the G13.
If you are into LANs or play on other computers, you’ll be happy to know there’s onboard memory on the G13 that will store your profiles. This will let you easily go from one machine to another and still retain the settings you are used to. If you need to redo your computer you can be assured your settings will be saved and retrievable from the device.
All the keys are pretty easy to reach for my small hands with the center top and three keys below it featuring a round indentation indicating the center top of the gameboard. For those that use the traditional WASD setup for movement, the G13 Advanced Gameboard does provide a nice physical yet subtle indicator of where these keys are so you can easily tell without looking where your hand is placed in relation to the rest of the unit. The entire keypad area is concaved slightly so that the outer keys are tilted inward a little for easier reach. I did like the physical setup of the keys but it did take me a few days to get used to it. I did get frustrated initially playing Left for Dead but as I got more comfortable with the tilt and spacing of the keys I was back to my ole regular zombie killing self.
Looking at the thumbstick, you’d think it would be perfect to setup as an analog controller like some gamepads on consoles are used. Unfortunately, the thumbstick can only act as a four directional input along with the press as a fifth option. While it feels like an analog stick, it’s really a digital entry component and can’t be used to mimic a joystick. I was disappointed as I would’ve rather have that as an option for the gamepad instead of being a four-way digital input. In reality a four-directional D-pad could’ve been placed here but then the stick does make it easier to access with the thumb.
If you’ve seen or used any of the Logitech keyboards with the LCD panel, you’ll be familiar with the G13 Advanced Gameboard’s LCD display as well. It’s essentially the same allowing you to view various information from your characters stats in supported games, RSS feeds, time, computer performance, and others. The setup us exactly the same with the four keys below and one button on each side. The practicality of and LCD display has been debated as some people ask why you would want to look away from the screen when playing a game. It’s really a personal preference but what I do find helpful is having the time and notifications such as email displayed there. Plug-ins have been developed for the LCD so you might find something useful for you if you do some searching. Something that’s an improvement is the ability to change the color of the LCD in a wide range of colors. You aren’t limited to an amber or a black and white display as you can dial up whatever color you would like through the software. It’s a nice feature as I’ve seen some complaints about past color choices. With this, you are free to change it to whatever you like.
Playing with the G13 Advanced Gameboard, I found the unit to be comfortable and easy to use after a little time of getting adjusted to how it felt. The placement of my hand felt comfortable and I was easily able to reach all the keys I needed. I did find it a little awkward to switch to the main keyboard if I wanted to type a message to someone. In that sense, I found the G13 Advanced Gameboard to be a little more of a hindrance than helpful. Seeing as all the keys are programmable with macro ability, I can’t help but think those that play MMORPGs would benefit more with the setup. They can string long commands together and pull them off with ease with one push of a button. If you are a laptop gamer, you might enjoy the way the keys feel on the G13 over your keyboard laptop as I did myself. Still I found myself going back to the keyboard more so than not but my overall experience with it was a good one on the whole and I have recently rotated back and forth between the G13 and using a full keyboard.
Coming in at $79.99, it’s certainly one of the more expensive products that encompass gaming keypads out there. The software to handle it all is great though and you do get a great number of keys to program. Also, the design lends itself well to being comfortable and allowing all the buttons easy access with your left hand. I’m hoping Logitech finds a way to allow for the thumbstick to be an analog controller in the future though. Overall, the G13 Advanced Gameboard is one of the better gameboards I’ve used and has some really cool features. I will say go to a store that has one on display to put your hand on to see if it works out for you. It’s designed for multiple-genre games so it does have uses across the board.
It's comfortable to use and the programming options are very generous. As an action gamer, I found it to be OK but I can see RPG and MMORPG folks really taking advantage of the ability to customize the buttons in this product. A tad on the expensive side though compared to similar products out there.