Makers PC gaming peripherals are in the unenviable position of having to meet gamer’s simultaneous demands for top-of-the-line products and innovative products that offer new and better ways to interact with technology. Finding the balancing point between these two concerns is a tricky business. For example, Logitech G19s gaming keyboard showcases the latest trend, the inclusion of an integrated display, providing a way to track and monitor in-game information or chat with teammates without monopolizing precious screen real-estate. It’s an interesting idea we’ve seen once or twice before, but it’s not quite clear whether this will be an improvement that sticks, or a gimmick that fizzles out.
The Logitech G19s made for gamers, and it’s evident just from looking at the keyboard. Instead of a plain looking key-covered slab, the keyboard has extra buttons and features sprouting from every spare bit of surface area. In addition to the usual keyboard and numeric pad, you’ll find integrated media controls, including a roller knob for volume adjustment. On the left end of the keyboard, you’ll find 12 programmable macro buttons to the left of the standard keyboard, similar to those seen on the Editors’ Choice Corsair Vengeance K90 or Logitech’s own G710+ Mechanical Gaming Keyboard. Each key can be programmed with up to three different macro commands, swappable at the touch of a button.
The keys themselves can be customized, with adjustable backlighting that lets you pick any of 16 million RGB color options. You can also set the backlight color to change when you switch the keyboard into gaming mode. An integrated gaming mode switch disables the Windows key to prevent any accidental keystrokes from pulling you out of your game, and shifts from one mode to another with a sliding switch, so there’s no fear of switching modes with mistaken press of a button. Plus, by assigning a different backlight color to the game mode, you’ll immediately know which mode you’re in.
The keys themselves are molded plastic, coated in a UV coating to protect the keys against fading, with laser etched keycaps and two-colors—while most keys are black, the WASD and arrow keys have a silvery-grey colored keycaps for easier recognition. The keyboard also offers 110-key anti-ghosting, and six-key rollover, which will handle the multiple keystrokes of combos and rapid-fire attacks without stuttering.
The G19s has a plastic chassis, similar to that seen on the recent G710+, but instead of accenting the black plastic with orange, the G19s uses deep blue. On the underside of the keyboard, molded into the plastic chassis, are channels for managing cords for mice or headphones. A detachable wrist rest provides extra support for those who want it, and has a hydrophobic coating to resist smudging. The light plastic construction of the keyboard and wrist rest may not be to everyone’s liking, but it wasn’t a noticeable issue during my testing.
What was noticeable, however, was the style of key switch. Instead of using mechanical key switches—like those seen on the Corsair Vengeance K90 or the Logitech G710+—the G19s utilizes silicone membrane switches, which provide a markedly different feel. Unlike mechanical switches, which offer crisp tactile feedback, light actuating force, and register a keystroke with only a partial key press, membrane switches have a mushy feel, and require pressing each key all the way down, bottoming out the key well. While this may not be problematic in the short term, it makes for a slower, less comfortable experience, and requiring more effort for each keystroke will have an effect when you’re playing League of Legends for three or four hours straight.
The G19s has plenty of gamer-friendly features, but the most notable is the built-in LCD display, what Logitech calls the GamePanel. Through the small display you’ll be fed a steady stream of information, from game stats to system data, VOIP information or video playback. The display is built into the keyboard with an adjustable angle hinge, so you can set the angle of the small screen to your liking. It’s not the first gaming keyboard we’ve seen with an integrated display—we’ve seen similar in the Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 and the Razer DeathStalker Ultimate—but it is by far the most affordable.
The keyboard uses a lot of juice running that display, so the USB cable used to connect it to your PC also includes a connection for an AC power adapter—yes, you’ll need to plug your keyboard into a wall outlet. Making up for this fact are two USB pass-thru connections on the keyboard, letting you plug in two additional USB devices without having to snake the cables around to plug into your desktop tower.
Logitech gives you plenty of ways to tweak and customize the G19s, and it does all of this customization through Logitech’s Gaming Software 8.45. The downloadable software lets you tweak the lighting, record and edit macros, and select from pre-programmed profiles for a wide range of current games. The software is Windows-only (Windows 8/7/Vista) though, so Mac and Linux gamers are out of luck.
I tested the G19s keyboard both at work and play, and it was competent in both. As mentioned earlier, the use of membrane switches instead of mechanical does result in a slower, less efficient typing experience, but nothing too egregious—it simply puts the G19s on the same level as any other non-mechanical keyboard.
As a gaming keyboard, the G19s does especially well when the programmable macros are brought into play. MMOs, like World of Warcraft or DOTA 2 are ideal, while first person shooters, with their point and click actions, hardly use them. Recording macros is very simple; simply press the MR (Macro Record) button on the keyboard to begin recording a macro, and press it again to end recording. When tested in game, the performance was decent, but those who rely on rapid-fire attacks and flurries of activity may find themselves slowed by the membrane switches.
The integrated display suffers from the same problem as those on the Razer DeathStalker Ultimate and the Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E. 7, namely that the display is out of your immediate field of vision, requiring you to look away from your monitor in order to focus on a smaller image. It seems like several of the major game peripheral companies are experimenting with built-in keyboard displays of late, but it’s a niche concept that has yet to really gain traction. Unless you earnestly want that extra display, your money might be better spent on a high-performance keyboard sans screen.
While the Logitech G19s does check off several items on any gamer’s checklist, like programmable macros, customizable lighting, and an integrated display. What it’s missing, however, keeps it from getting a strong recommendation. The decision to use membrane switches instead of mechanical will turn away many discerning buyers, while the plastic construction and the required AC adapter will put off even those who aren’t picky about key-feel. As a result, the Corsair Vengeance K90 remains the Editors’ Choice for gaming keyboards, while the slightly more expensive Razer DeathStalker Ultimate is our recommendation for those demanding an integrated display.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc