The original G15 is still one of my favorite keyboards and the one I primarily used for gaming today. At CES 2009, I got a glimpse of the G19 keyboard during the Digital Experience event a day before the show opened. Needless to say, the LCD screen caught my eye. Fast forward two months and here we are with the keyboard in hand. So, is the G19 worth $200?
The G19 keyboard is the latest evolution of keyboards from Logitech for gamers. Most people should be familiar with the G15 out there and the G19 shares many of the same features. Given that I won't go into too many details as you can read my past review on the G15 but I will go through some things again. Logitech's G19 keyboard is a full QWERTY keyboard in a traditional design. Those looking for more ergonomic shape will have to look somewhere else. The keyboard isn't as wide as the G15 but it's still on the larger side. The keys on top are spaced well enough apart but have a smaller surface to hit compared to say Microsoft's SideWinder X6 keyboard. Even though the key tops are a little smaller, I didn't have any problems typing on the G19. Right of the keyboard are the traditional arrow keys and Insert, Home, End, Page Up, Page Down, Pause, Print Screen, Scroll Lock, and Delete keys. To the right of those is the numeric keypad.
On the left side are twelve programmable keys, less than the original G15 but double of what the current G15 has. They are organized in banks of four and in three groupings. Like the past, you can do complex macros or simple key presses for your favorite games. Using the control panel, you can setup your keys within three profiles. They can also be game specific as well. What I usually do is use the on the fly macro recording feature to record key presses and macros in real time during a game. These are saved between sessions so while I'm not a big macro user, I do use some for games such as Team Fortress 2 when playing as the Engineer. For MMORPG and RTS players, the macro recording and profile switching can really be convenient while it probably won't benefit the FPS gamer as much. There benefits though to non-gamers which I will get into a little bit later.
Like the G13 Gaming Keypad, the G19 features adjustable colored backlighting. Within the control panel, you can select a color for each profile and you're not limited in what color you want. There are some preset colors you can choose from but you can also open up the color panel and select from a wide range. One neat little feature is that if you have a G13 as well, you can synchronize the color between both products so changing one will also change the other as well. You can turn this off of course and have different colors for each individual component but it's also easy to have both products emit the same color by using one color picker. For the G19, not all keys will change color as the ones above the main keyboard will stay amber except for the backlight toggle button. You can't change the brightness of the lighting but I found them to be at a good brightness and not too distracting. If a color is too bright, just change it to be a little darker. There is a switch to completely turn the backlighting off but this also turns off the LCD. I would've liked to have the ability to turn off the backlighting but keep the LCD on but perhaps a software upgrade will let you do that.
On the upper right portion of the keyboard are the media centric keys. From there you can control your media applications giving you easy access to fast forward, rewind, stop, pause, and play. Below the media keys is the volume control. Just spin it up or down to adjust the volume. The volume knob continually spins allowing you to adjust the volume in any direction no matter how loud or soft the system sound already is. To the left of the volume knob is the mute button which is big making it easy to hit when you are in the heat of action and need to quickly turn the sound off.
Included with the package is an extended wrist rest that snaps into place on the bottom of the keyboard. There's a cutout for the Logitech logo to show through and adding the wrist rest extends the keyboard a little making it more comfortable to type on. Underneath the keyboard are some channels that will help clean up cables as you can weave them in the grooves to help organize the cables a little. There are also two small feet that can extend to help tilt the keyboard up a little. Even with the feet out, the keyboard is still low profile, which is something that some might like or some might not. I found with the feet extended, the tilt of the keyboard was about at the minimum angle where I felt comfortable typing.
The thing that will stand out the most on G19 is the 320x240 color LCD that sits on a rotating bar. You can tilt the screen on various angles. Up close, the screen is pretty sharp as the pictures really don't do it justice. Like the G15, the G19's LCD acts as an information display but with the inclusion of higher resolution and color it does a little bit more. The top of the screen is protected by a nice thick piece of clear plastic. Unlike monitors where pushing on the LCD produces distortion, you won't be able to press down on the LCD screen on the G19. Because it's in full color now, all the applets that you are used to on the G15 or G13 that came standard have been updated to be a lot more visually stylish taking advantage of the nice LCD screen. For example, the resource monitor has a nice gauge showing you what percentage that each core is currently at and a color progress bar for the ram being used. The increase in resolution from the G15 LCD makes applets more Vista or OS X like being more visually appealing.
Now, the LCD screen may be small but Logitech has included a nice YouTube applet that will let you play videos on the LCD screen with the sound coming from your speaker or headset. Motion looked smooth and the picture quality is pretty amazing for such a small screen. I didn't see any ghosting or weird images whatsoever in my viewing of various videos. What's really cool is that you can open up the video in a browser with just a few button pushes in case you wanted to see it on your monitor instead. There's also a way to open YouTube URLs on the LCD as well. Now, you probably won't spend a large amount of time watching YouTube videos on the little screen but it's a neat demonstration of the capabilities of the LCD screen.
Because the LCD screen can now have more complicated applets, there's now a directional pad with an OK button in the middle to the left of it to let you control some of the actions on the screen. For example, I can cycle through the various YouTube sections and videos using the D-Pad. For going through RSS feeds, I can use the D-Pad to go back and forth between stories and hit the OK button to bring the news item up on my screen in a browser. Having that D-Pad will give developers an opportunity to create some pretty unique and more interactive applets seeing as there's now a nice control for the display. It's a great addition and maybe one that will make the LCD screen more effective as applets take advantage of it.
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