Yeah, so Saturday morning I knocked a cup of coffee clear over my keyboard, ruining half of the keys. I took at as a clue from the gods of geek consumerism and hit Fry’s that afternoon to purchase a $99 keyboard: The Logitech G15 (the one with the LCD screen).
It was a decision between the Razer Tarantula and the G15. I preferred the way the Tarantula looked, but the LCD functionality won me over. I know that there are probably hundreds of reviews for it out there, so I will try to focus on the little nuances and quirks that aren’t commonly mentioned. I’ll take pictures and include them later if I remember.
Construction & Features
The G15 is a nice looking (every key is backlight with a blue glow) and solidly built keyboard. It’s relatively large, at around 1.5x the size of a standard board. So, if you use a small tray or have a desk with limited room, check to make sure that there will be space. It’s also significantly heavier than other keyboards, which is nice. I like a device with some weight to it. The keys are relatively soft, quiet (not clacky), and feel great to type on, but that’s based off of my personal preference. I would recommend finding a store with one on display and testing it out first before considering a purchase.
In addition to the standard keyset and the LCD screen, there are 18 keys to the left, broken up into three 6-key chunks that can be customized using a macroing system. Above the extra keys are 3 togglable states, adding up to a total of 54 extra buttons.
General word of caution: The software allows you to record complicated macros. Be careful because people have been banned for misusing them. As a general rule of thumb, if you can’t do it using WoW’s in-game macros, than it probably IS an exploit. I would stay away from the timing macros (bypassing the global cooldown for example is against the EULA).
There are two USB ports on the top of the keyboard. Unfortunately they are USB 1.1 and somewhat underpowered. Though sufficient for running devices like thumbdrives, you probably won’t be able to connect your iPod or web cam.
The wrist rest feels sort of cheap (it’s a plastic attachment). It is adequate and comfortable, but it would have been nice to say, have something more solid and permanent, similar to what I had on my old keyboard (Microsoft Ergonomic 4000). The cable management grooves on the underside of the keyboard are also marginally useful, since they aren’t large enough to fit thicker cords (my gamepad mostly).
The LCD Screen and Profiles
By default, the LCD will rotate between 5 displays: A clock showing time & date, a system performance meter showing CPU & RAM usage, a stopwatch, a media player controller (start, stop, pause, forward/back), and a POP3 email monitor. You can customize what to show and not show as well as disable/enable the auto-rotate in the settings. It’s worth noting that you cannot directly bind the G keys to things outside of the Logitech software (they don’t function like normal keys).
- The POP3 applet doesn’t natively work with Gmail because it doesn’t support SSL. In order to get it to work, you will have to install an SSL Wrapper (Stunnel or whatever, google it).
- Most popular media players support the G15. If it doesn’t work out of the box, there’s usually a plugin/driver available.
- In order to get the media buttons to work in Winamp: Go into preferences and enable global hotkeys.
- You will need to keep iTunes unminimized in order for it to work with the controls (not docked into the system tray/taskbar that is).
- The WoW applet displays basic character information, battlegrounds statistics, and whispers received. The character information is marginally useful. It shows basic stats, melee stats, durability and bag slots. It would be nice if there was a way to customize it (to say, display caster and healer relevant information). Betting that there’s a mod out there somewhere.
- I haven’t tested the battleground support, didn’t get any PvP time in this weekend.
- The whisper logging is awesome. I’ll usually leave WoW logged on, with all sounds off, and minimized while working on other things at home (working includes watching DVDs and surfing). The G15 will list the names of the last 4 people who sent you a tell, so I don’t have the urge to check WoW every few minutes for whispers.
- The LCD will display a list of people who have tried to contact you. I get a fair amount of whispers and frequently go AFK, so the tell logging was nice!
- Ventrillo 2.3.3 Beta adds G15 support! No more, “who the hell just SAID that?” situations.
- There are a good number of G15 mods available now. I would check out G15 Forums, by far one of the best mod communities out there.
Though the WoW options aren’t all that super useful, I just can’t express how damn awesome it is NOT to have to lose WoW focus in order to check what song is playing, switch songs, unminimize Ventrillo to see who said what, etc. The G15 is a bit pricey, so if you are just looking for a vanilla keyboard, $80 to $90 might be a bit expensive. If you are in to new geek toys or are just looking for a way to pimp your desk, look no further: This is an excellent keyboard, two thumbs up!