Already a force to be reckoned within the gaming mice niche (as the previously reviewed G9 mice can attest), Logitech is trying its hand on the gaming keyboard market – for the second time. Their G15 gaming keyboard is being re-released with a new design, fewer programmable keys and more support for popular games like World of Warcraft. It’s a hybrid product – to use the word that’s making waves in the automobile industry – since it can be used either for gaming or for serious work, without the need of changing keyboards each time you want to play or have to do some spreadsheets. The programmable keys can be assigned to gaming functions (spellcasting, changing weapons, and invoking powers) or to open media players and check the email. And the LCD display is back from the previous version, allowing the user to see relevant gaming information (health bar, ammunition capacity) and which MP3 is being played.
Figure 1: Logitech G15 gaming keyboard.
[nextpage title=”The G15 Keyboard”]
We already said that the G15 is not a new product per se, but a re-release. The previous version, dating from 2005, was bigger due to the 18 programmable keys in three different modes – which gave the user a total of 54 button options. That was way too much and nobody used them to their full extent. That made the keyboard too big a mess of keys. The new G15 is more compact, with only six programmable keys in three different modes (giving the player 18 options) arranged vertically on the left side of the keyboard. A game mode switch disables the Windows keys, avoiding the risk of them being accidentally pushed during gameplay.
The previously mentioned LCD display got smaller but is now integrated to the keyboard’s main body. The old model’s LCD lifted up and was prone to breaking if you were that kind of gamer who takes his keyboard and mouse to tourneys and lan houses. The new one is surrounded by the usual multimedia keys (play/pause, stop, back, forward, volume control) and also buttons to interface with the information displayed on the screen.
There’s also a pair of USB ports and some narrow trenches cut underneath the keyboard to route the wiring. The wrist rest is made of cheap plastic and makes the G15 even bigger. Due to lack of space in our test table and the wrist rest not being that comfortable, we ditched it.
[nextpage title=”Keys and LCD Configuration”]
As soon as you plug in the keyboard, the G15 starts searching for installed supported games in your machine, like World of Warcraft and Battlefield 2. The GamePanel Manager software helps the user configuring the macro keys to his liking. You can transform a complex game command like hitting Control+T+1 into a single keystroke. That way you can manage a variety of games within the profile system, saving a particular key configuration tied to a particular title. You can also have a “work” profile, using the G1 to G6 keys to several applications like Windows calculator, email server, Photoshop etc.
Figure 5: GamePanel Manager software.
The LCD works alongside the games, providing information like character stats, health bar, powers available and stuff like that – depending on the level of support provided by each game. Outside gaming environment the display is kind of useless, since it monitors RAM usage and tells the time (booooring….). Fortunately Logitech provides a public software development kit so several programmers can release their own applications for the G15 LCD display. The site G15mods.com stores several of such third party applications for free. Some have a dubious usefulness (like a virtual pet like the 90’s tamagochi craze), but others are pretty good, like a bandwidth and email monitor. Installation is pretty easy (just run the mods) and you can manage the applications through the GamePanel Manager, choosing which to leave active and which to abort.
[nextpage title=”Playing with the G15″]
“Here’s where the fun begins!” says Han Solo while being pursued by Imperial star destroyers in Star Wars. We put the G15 through trial by virtual fire by playing Battlefield 2 after configuring the programmable keys to our liking – mainly quick weapons change, team communications, and fast ducking to avoid enemy shots. It all worked out pretty well but you have to keep the changes in your mind because there’s no visual clue to them. Other gaming keyboards like Ideazon’s Zboard have specifically tagged keys, but they’re not that useful besides gaming. It takes time to get used to the newly programmed keys but their response is good, as is the rest of the keyboard, especially the WASD cluster (used to move the virtual soldier in first person shooter games).
The backlit keys are a great feature especially for those who love playing in the dark, either at home for fun or in darkly lit lan houses. We’d like to think that we’re too good to look at the keyboard searching for the right keys when playing (yeah right), but the backlighting is useful for a quick check up, especially when getting acquainted to a new keyboard.
Figure 6: Playing in the dark.
The G15 is a good keyboard for those who play and work in equal terms. Hardcore gamers may complain about its size – especially due to keeping the number pad – but it’s the price you pay for having a hybrid product. The function keys could be better located since we usually hit the G6 key while reaching for the left control. And we missed an instructions manual. Backlighting is a great feature, and so is the inclusion of two USB ports. The LCD display is good for gaming, but you have to download third party applications to be useful during work usage.
[nextpage title=”Main Specifications”]
- Connection: USB (6 ft. cable)
- Style: non-ergonomic traditional keyboard
- Wrist rest: detachable
sions: 20.2 x 8.8 x 1.9 inches
- Normal keys: 108
- Programmable keys: 6
- Programmable macros: 18
- Modes: switchable (work and game)
- Pre-programmed games: World of Warcraft and Battlefield 2142
- Two USB ports
- More information: https://www.logitech.com
- Average price in the USA*: USD 95.00
* Researched on https://www.shopping.com on the day we published this review.
- More compact than previous version.
- Versatile: good for gaming and work alike.
- Backlit keys help working/playing in the dark.
- USB mouse can be plugged into it.
- Game mode switch prevents accidental pushing of Windows buttons.
- LCD display useful for giving gaming information.
- Cheap wrist rest makes the keyboard even bigger.
- Too big to be carried around to lan houses and tournaments.
- LCD display needs third party applications to be useful during worktime.
- No instructions manual.
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