While gamers have plenty of specialized mice and keyboards to choose from, sometimes you want a device that gives you a little more control. Sometimes, you just don’t want an entire keyboard. For times like these, there is the Logitech G13 Advanced Gameboard, a separate gaming keypad that gives you all of your WASD controls, programmable macro keys, and quick-fire commands, without the bulk of a keyboard and with the added comfort of a use-specific design. If you’re looking for a way to step your gaming, this could be it.
Design and Features
There are two main concepts behind the G13 and similar gaming keypads, namely that you can have all of your programmable buttons at your fingertips at all times without a full keyboard, and that a device designed specifically for this use can offer better ergonomic comfort and more control than even high-end gaming keyboards. In the pursuit of these goals, the G13 has four main parts to its design, a keypad, a wrist and palm rest, an analog mini-joystick, and a digital display.
The whole device measures 1.3 by 7 by 10 inches (HWD) and weighs 1.3 pounds. With grippy rubber feet, the G13 is very stable, so it won’t slide or tip from the frantic pounding it might take in the midst of a match. The G13 connects through a wired USB 2.0 connection, and the 7-foot cable should be more than enough, even if you need to snake it down and around and behind to plug into an out of the way CPU tower.
The keypad portion of the G13 is well designed, with 22 programmable macro keys arranged so that your fingers will naturally fall into the correct playing position. The individual keys are contoured, with four dimpled keys in the center which default to the ubiquitous WASD buttons unless otherwise programmed. In addition to the sculpted keycaps, the entire keypad is curved to match the arc of relaxed fingers. The keys also have adjustable backlighting with a rainbow of colors to choose from. Compared with even the best gaming keyboards, like the Editors’ Choice Corsair Vengeance K90, with 18 programmable macro keys, the G13 offers even more controls in a much more comfortable design.
Following the curved contours of the keypad is a built-in wrist and palmrest. Coated with a textured soft-touch rubber surface, the palmrest should be comfortable during longer gaming sessions, and stave off the carpal tunnel that regular keyboards can inflict on heavy users. Where your thumb rests, you will find a miniature analog joystick and two action buttons. For those who want analog control rather than push-button WASD, the joystick may just what you’ve been looking for, but I never could manage the complex task of simultaneously using the joystick with my thumb and the keypad with my fingers.
The G13 also has a small backlit LCD display that is used for on-the-fly macro recording, monitoring system data, including CPU and RAM usage, and stopwatch or countdown clock for timing maneuvers. You can even use it as an RSS reader. Six more buttons are set just above the keypad, below the LCD panel. You have a backlight on/off button and mode button for the LCD. Three of the buttons are for saved programmable keymaps—letting you save three separate sets of functions for all 22 keys—and the fourth is a Macro Record button.
The G13 comes with a software disc containing both the device drivers and Logitech’s GamePanel for editing profiles and macro commands, as well as adjusting the backlight color. You’ll need to install the software before use, since there is no plug and play functionality. The G13 also has onboard memory, which saves your profiles, keymaps, and macros, even when you take the gamepad from one PC to another. You will, however, still need to install the software to the new PC before use.
In actual use, the G13 was comfortable and useful, though there were a few rough spots. The sheer number of buttons means that the G13 comes with a significant learning curve, as well as pre-game setup. Programming macros is pretty quick, and Logitech does offer dozens of preset keymaps that load up automatically, recognizing the game and adjusting accordingly. These presets may not be to your liking, so you’ll still want to spend some time tweaking things to get the right. Hardcore gamers may not mind the prep time, but less dedicated folk will be turned off by it. The thumb-joystick is also clickable, but this feature may as well have been absent. Between the angle of my thumb during use and a stiff click mechanism, it was pretty unclickable in reality. Finally, while the LCD is readable in low light, thanks to the backlit display, it’s far enough from the monitor that attempting to read it became a giant distraction.
Aside from these issues, the G13 was very usable, and offered both better control and more comfort than a regular keyboard can provide. The controls became more intuitive once I relearned what was where, and though my thumb was never quite coordinated enough for the joystick, the keypad did improve my gameplay.
While there are gaming keyboards out there that try to offer similar levels of control and comfort, like the Editors’ Choice Corsair Vengeance K90, or gaming mice covered in buttons, like the Logitech G600 MMO Gaming Mouse, nothing offers the level of comfort and control that a dedicated gaming keypad can offer. The Logitech G13 Advanced Gameboard is a niche product, to be sure, but it’s a good one.
Compare the Logitech G13 Advanced Gameboard with several other keyboards side by side.
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Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc