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Some of you may not be aware of such a device as a ‘gameboard’. For those uninitiated, a gameboard is a device sitting to one side of your keyboard designed to allow for better gaming through improved ergonomics and extended functionality. This is the sort of extra functionality that could make the difference between virtual wins and losses in competitive digital gaming. The difference between the pwner and the pwned. Sequenced actions can be triggered with a single and hopefully easy-to-locate key press. Move and fire at the same time. Drop out of the sky on your enemies and execute complex maneuvers with ease. Sound worthwhile? If you’re a gamer, I can assure you it is. The G13 is Logitech’s latest entry into the gameboard category, and having now played with it for a spell, I can say with some confidence that it’s the most advanced gameboard that I’ve used.
When I pulled it out of the package, the first thing that came to my immediate attention was how HUGE it was. I guess I should’ve expected it, it’s really just the size of any other pad with the screen extending off the far end. My desk isn’t tiny, but there was some futzing I needed to do to make this thing play nicely alongside my keyboard and mouse. The next thing I noticed was how seriously low the profile was on this beast. Not much thicker than a normal keyboard, your hand will sit comfortably on the rubberized palm rest when in use. I was a little disappointed that the palm rest didn’t have a little more cush to it, but I haven’t experienced any discomfort while using it, and it likely wouldn’t be as durable if it were more padded anyway.
After running the installation CD and plugging it in, I was presented with a pretty cool flash intro that ran me through the basic setup features. Within a few minutes, I had adjusted the backlight color and had migrated the basic setup of my personal gameboard into the G13. I was also disappointed that the color picker for the backlight didn’t translate well into the colors I saw on the G13. It works well with the pre-picked colors, and there’s a good enough variety there for most folks to be alright with the outcome, but I was looking for something specific and couldn’t manage to get it even close to the orange I was shooting for.
For more similar products, check out our SteelSeries Apex Raw gaming keyboard review, Razer Orbweaver Elite mechanical gaming keypad review, and our Logitech G910 gaming keyboard review.
Loading up a game to take it for a spin, I noted that the buttons are quiet, responsive, and can handle as many simultaneous key presses as you can manage. In fact, I read somewhere that every one of the 25 programmable keys could be used at the same time without an issue. Given that the average user (myself included) has only 5 digits to press these keys, I feel the need to wonder if anyone will ever really need to take this to the limit. I can verify it does work with 5 buttons at the same time; and honestly, anytime something is stout enough to handle 5x what conventional usage would dictate, the lower the likelihood you’ll see a failure.
Although, if this keypad won’t work for you, you probably want to look at mechanical switch keyboards, like the G815 vs G915 models. You’ll often find these keyboards are wired for quicker response times. That said, if you prefer to do without wires, especially if you’re using a gaming console, check out how to connect a keyboard and mouse to an Xbox.
The 25 programmable buttons allow for some serious flexibility, and as I began molding them to my own usage I started to realize something: in the case of the G13 flexibility doesn’t come without some shortfalls. The main keyboard area has 22 of the 25 buttons over a ~6-inch x 2-inch area, where I couldn’t help but get lost over and over again. Lots of buttons mean having more options at your fingertips, but it could also mean I sit my character down to eat some delicious pie when my intention was to cast a spell at an enemy. Not insurmountable, but one should definitely make some time to get used to it if you have a tournament coming up soon, or to avoid looking “slow” in front of your teammates. The other 3 programmable buttons are located near your thumb; including a joystick you operate with the aforementioned thumb, keeping your other four digits from needing to stray from their normal position.
Aside from the overwhelming sea of buttons, the ability to program a new macro on-the-fly while in the middle of playing a game is super easy to use. This is important if you’re the creative type and an idea strikes you in the middle of an intense session. Normally you’d open up the configuration software and make your changes; with the G13 you can instead punch the macro program button, set up your macro, and get to use it right away. Excellent feature, even if it’s not used regularly.
As far as the LCD display is concerned, this is the reason some people will want to upgrade from whatever they’re using now. In World of Warcraft, for example, there’s a custom screen, which displays your character or PVP battleground statistics without needing to open those screens inside the game itself. Another program included can display metadata from whatever your mp3 playback jukebox happens to be. The popular ones are supported, but I’d check first if you use something less common. My biggest gripe with the media app was the lack of documentation on the functionality. For some reason I felt like I should be able to skip tracks, or play/pause a track without viewing the player itself; there just wasn’t any data to tell me one way or the other! Through some heartache, I was able to find somewhere on the net that the app was never intended to do this, but could instead call up a playlist on command. At least now I can call up ‘Africa’ by Toto at the press of a button. Better than nothing, right?
I’d say the coolness factor of the screen alone is worth the price of admission when compared to competing products, but the additional functionality of this gameboard will give gamers of any type a more immersive experience for sure. Not to mention fending off carpal tunnel for a few more years!
Want one yourself? Available here for $80