Product: Contoured keyboard control for gamers
Requirements: Mac OS X v10.4 or PC with Pentium processor (or compatible) and Windows XP or Vista, 256MB RAM, 20MB hard disk space, CD-ROM and USB port. GamePanel LCD requires software that supports Logitech GamePanel technology.
Retail Price: $79.99
I’ve been sitting on this review for a while now. This isn’t the fault of the G13, which is a fantastic piece of equipment, but because I’m a Mac gamer. And as those on both sides of the computer gaming fence know, there’s just…well, it doesn’t make much sense to be testing an advanced gameboard with titles such as Diner Dash.
In other words, if you’re a casual gamer, you can stop reading now. This is for those who worry about frame rates and polygons. It’s for people like me who enjoy hard core games, and who understand that our console systems can’t always provide us with the control we need. Wii Remote aside, you just still can’t beat WASD + mouse for first person shooters…especially if the WASD is being mapped to a G13.
The first thing you’ll notice about the G13 are all of the buttons. There are 22 programmable keys, plus a programmable four direction mini-joystick and two mouse-like buttons. And because the G13 offers three game modes, you can program up to 87 buttons per game. This ends up not being practical, though, because memorizing assignments for 87 keys is pretty unrealistic, and because some of the upper keys are just too far out of reach to be of much use. Also, the keys are a bit too close together, but your opinion there will vary depending upon what you’re used to. A nice touch is that four of the keys (those Logitech feels are the equivalent of WASD, I’m guessing) contain concave ridging so you’ll always know you’re at the right spot. Oddly, though, these are at the top of the keypad, which will force gamers to relearn the common procedure of hitting the number keys above WASD to select weapons and such.
If you find yourself in need of all 87 possible macros, the backlit keys do change color with each of the three settings, so a simple glance will always let you know what commands you currently have at your fingertips. Increasing the geek factor, you have the ability to control the color of the backlighting via software. Very cool.
The keys are laid out in a comfortable concave fashion that slopes down from a nice rest for your palm. A textured, rubberized area behind that for your wrist makes this one of the most comfortable gaming devices I’ve ever used. In fact, I liked the feel so much that I considered programming it for general use with programs such as Photoshop CS4, where I’m generally not messing with the keyboard aside from selecting tools.
Just past the keys, Logitech has built in a 160×43 LCD screen that can keep you up to date with information such as health and ammo, and can relay in game comments from other players…provided you’re playing a game that supports it, of course. This wasn’t of much use to me, as I usually had no idea what it was trying to tell me. Gamers more serious than I will probably make sense of it, though. Positioning also comes into play with this. In my set-up, checking the LCD on the G13 pulled my attention too far from the monitor, and that’s just never good when playing games.
So, that’s the set up. Let’s talk about programmability. The G13 has enough memory to allow for storage of only three ready-to-play profiles. If you tend to work your way through just a couple games at a time, that’s not a problem. But I review games, so I’m constantly switching back and forth. In addition, there are a couple games I always like to have ready for quick gaming sessions. This means I have to frequently remove and restore gaming profiles. It’s not a terribly frustrating process, but being able to store five to ten profiles would be a welcome change.
To the right, you’ll see a list of the Mac profiles currently supported by the G13 (obviously, there are too many PC games to mention here). It’s kind of an odd collection, really, but you can program the system to work with your games of choice. As I mentioned earlier, it’s not a painful task, although it does take some time. Even if your game’s profile is already supported, you’re still likely to want to tinker with it.
Although the G13 is aimed directly at those playing games such as Call of Duty 4 and World of Warcraft, I found it just a useful for games such as Neverwinter Nights. I’ve never liked the placement of the camera keys, and have to slide my keyboard way out of position to use them. Now, I can map all of that to the G13 and not have to rearrange my desk or place my hands in awkward positions just to play the game.
More importantly, the G13 makes gaming possible on laptop computers. The lack of a full keyboard on my MacBook pretty much kills most games, especially the tiny arrow keys. With the G13, I get better control than I did with the full Apple keyboard of my previous iMac, so I’m back up and running better than ever.
That being said, the G13 Advanced Keyboard comes in at a hefty $80.00, so you’d have to be really into gaming in order to even consider it. If you’re a gamer with a laptop, the G13 is a necessity. If you’ve got a full keyboard, it’s simply a luxury. I can’t imagine the G13 will ever really improve your gaming performance, but it will certainly make it more comfortable, and that could make it worth the price if…you know…those Diner Dash sessions are running three hours or more.
Buy the Logitech G13 Advanced Gameboard