Summary: Sporting a larger, higher resolution color LCD, configurable backlit keys, and reconfigured G-keys, Logitech's G19 offers a host of improvements over its predecessor, the G15. But is it worthy of its lofty price tag? Decide for yourself in our review!
Peripherals designed explicitly for gaming have a pretty long history in the technology sector, going all the way back to the first Razer mouse released in 1999. Since then, many manufacturers have begun developing mice, WASD pads, and even keyboards designed with gamers in mind. Only one company however, has actually designed an LCD into the keyboard, the most common of input devices.
Logitech's G15 was released back in 2006 and has slowly but surely built up support not only in big-name releases like World of Warcraft and Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, but also in more functional applications like Ventrilo and Everest. The G15 remains popular amongst enthusiasts as well, thanks to 3rd party applications like LCDStudio which allow you to easily make your own visual plug-ins.
Logitech is prepping to release their newest gaming keyboard, the G19, and have made some interesting improvements to the G15 formula. Let's take a quick look at some of the features of the G19 before we delve a little deeper into what sets this apart from its older sibling.
The biggest change on the G19 is the 320x240 color LCD situated on a handy swivel in the center of the keyboard. Logitech has included some interesting applications with the software that lets you see just how good the LCD is. They include an RSS reader, CPU/Memory utilization monitor, picture viewer, movie viewer, email notification, and even a YouTube application that lets you browse a simplified version of the site. Audio is played through your desktop speakers.
Colors and visuals are surprisingly clear and crisp on the LCD and the addition of color certainly sets it apart from the monochrome display featured on the G15. However, when you combine the color LCD with the customization of the keys' backlight, the G19 ends up looking like something you would see on Pimp My Keyboard.
The G19 uses Logitechís LCD Manager software to control any applications for the display, while their Game Profiler software is where you can customize macros and functions. Letís take a look at the LCD software and included plug-ins.
Plug-ins can be set to rotate automatically as long as the corresponding application is active, or if a change is detected using Logitechís proprietary Klever-Vu software. Users can also quick swap between applications on the keyboard by pushing a button on the G19 itself.
The default plug-ins included with the G19 far surpasses what was included on their previous LCD keyboards. Logitech has built-in support for email notification, a nice performance monitor, RSS reader, clock, as well as a movie viewer and even a YouTube plug-in. While some of the usefulness of a few of these applications can be questioned, you can become quickly reliant on others just as easily. The performance monitor is great for tracking overall system utilization, while the media viewer makes it quite easy to keep track of what tunes are playing during a gaming session.
The big seller on the G19 however isnít Logitechís support, but rather that of 3rd party software and games. When the G15 launched, it took at least a year for native support to find its way to the keyboard, nullifying the benefits of the LCD. Thankfully, the G19 is able to output the same display, meaning that if your favorite application or game already supports a G15 LCD, it will also support a G19.
Games such as World of Warcraft, F.E.A.R. 2, and Age of Conan added LCD support a while back and the G19 functions perfectly with them. Ventrilo also makes use of the LCD, as does Everest, making the display function as an in-game temperature display for all your major components.
While weíre happy the G19 wonít languish due to lack of native support from software developers, the problem is that most of the support is built around the G15. This means most of the images displayed on the G19 are monochrome and scaled down to 160x43. Also, some of the information can be either useless or redundant. Quite a few shooters, like F.E.A.R. 2, just display an ammo and armor counter. We understand we canít fault Logitech for this issue, but we do hope developers update their applications to make better use of the higher resolution and full color capabilities of the display.
The game profiler software allows you to pre-program macros and setup profiles that become active if an executable is detected. The G19 also retains the ability to record macros on the fly by pushing the ĎMRí button the keyboard. This puts the G19 into macro recording mode and the LCD displays pertinent information until the ĎMRí button is pushed again.
The profiling software also allows you to set the color of the backlight based on which macro mode button is active. This gives you 36 possible macros per game profile, more than enough for a majority of your games. The ability to identify each macro mode by color, and knowing which game profile is active based on what you are playing, ensures that you can easily hit the proper macro for the situation you are in.