The ultimate keyboard
The choice of a keyboard is perhaps one of the most telling difference between gamers and more casual computer users. Whereas the rest of the world is happy with the basic key layout and numeric keypad on the side, gamers like to have programmable macro keys and perhaps even other special features on their keyboards. And, of course, marketers and designers of gaming keyboards like to tell us about many other needs and requirements that their keyboards will have an answer for.
The Logitech G19 is the new top of the line gaming keyboard from Logitech. Sized at 49.7 x 22 cm without the wristrest, the keyboard is almost exactly the same size as the G15, but uses the space more efficiently than its predecessor. Instead of the 6 programmable gaming keys of the G15, G19 has 12 – all of which have three possible profiles that are quick to switch between with the M1 – 3 keys above the gaming keys. Another improvement lies in the direction of the LCD display. While the display on G15 was monochrome, g19 offers a full-colour 320x240 LCD that can display video clips, RSS feeds, images, clock and whatever else crosses a talented user's mind. In addition, there are two full-speed USB ports at the back of the keyboard, allowing you to stick your USB sticks there instead of the front of the computer (where they are in constant danger of being pulled out by your toddler/pet/disgruntled wife).
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's give all these features a proper look before the final judgement.
Media controls & gaming keys
In addition to the gaming keys, G19 also has a gaming mode switch that turns off the windows key. This allows you to play your games without the fear of accidentally hitting the Windows key and switching back to Windows desktop right in the midst of some fast action sequence. The media control keys are positioned above the keypad and allow you to adjust the volume in addition to the usual play/pause, stop and skip keys.
Ok, some of you may think that there's no real use for an LCD display on a keyboard. However, G19's display is actually a computer of its own, running an extra-small Linux distro, allowing you to do all sorts of cool things without using your computer's resources at all. The basic set-up (without downloading any extra software from the 'net) allows you to play music files, access RSS feeds, monitor the load on the computer resources, check the time etc. etc. In addition, the full-colour display allows you to browse and play Youtube clips (various feeds like 'top rated', 'most watched' only, not specific titles) and play various video clips on your own computer as well. All Youtube and .mpeg videos play very well, but it seems that the player has trouble recognising AVI videos – resulting in “more codecs needed” whenever you try to open an AVI file.
Given the open source nature of the Linux set-up, I'm sure there will be more programs to use on the display in the near future. At the moment, the most useful features – for me – were the clock and RSS feed (nice way to keep up to date with news while you play games). Game support for the G19 is rather slim at the moment and you will have to settle on the keyboard's compatibility with G15 for now – meaning that you will be able to read the information provided by games for the G15 keyboard, which is usually monochrome info about your hero's stats etc. in games like Dragon Age: Origins, Crysis etc. I spotted no games supporting the G19 specifically, although I'm sure they'll pop out sooner rather than later.
The biggest factor that needs to be considered is the price of the keyboard compared to what if offers in comparison to the older, and more affordable, G15. If you don't find yourself enthused about a colour LCD, you might want to settle for the G15. However, if you are the sort who likes all sorts of blinking lights and colourful effects on your gaming gear, G19 might very well be the ultimate gaming keyboard for you. The coming months will certainly see improvements to the usefulness of the LCD display and may make G19 an even more attractive deal.
Our total score: 9/10