I've been teasing you all with a surprise topic for a little while now, and here it is! OMG a hardware review in The Creamy GUI Center! That sound you're hearing are minds being blown across the planet! Ok, well maybe it's not that radical of a topic; keyboards, mice, and other peripherals are a vital and often overlooked part of the user interface. So this week I decided their time has come as we take a look at the Logitech G series keyboard. And who knows, maybe I'll sneak in an addon or two for good measure. I can't stray too far from my roots can I?
The three flavor flavs
Yeah boy! The Logitech G series of keyboards comes in 3 different varieties. The G11 which features 18 special macro keys, multimedia controls, and back lighting. The G15 which includes everything the G11 has and a flip up little LCD screen which you can show a variety of different information on. And a redesigned version 2 of the G15 which has a sleeker look where the screen is integrated into the chassis instead of flipping up, different colored lighting, and unfortunately a reduced number of macro keys scaled back to 6. While the v2 "G15 Refreshed" model (as Logitech calls it) has a sleeker look, many gamers felt it was a step backwards due to the reduced number of macro keys. Apparently Logitech's reasoning was that the extra macro keys made it difficult to fit on some user's desks. (See my commentary below on this issue.) Unfortunately the v1 G15 has been discontinued, but can still be found on some retailer's shops until supplies sell out, leaving the G11 model the only one widely available with the full 18 macro keys.
The G11 model without the screen is the version I own and used for this review, so unfortunately I don't have first hand experience with the LCD screen. I did do a little research on what kind of information can be displayed on it though. Beyond the typical "widget' style information such as email notices, your system's resources, and instant messaging information, Logitech allows people to extend the functionality by writing little programs for it. A good repository of user written programs can be found at G15 forums and G15 Mods. As far as WoW related stuff, I found programs for it that shows your character's stats, whisper tracker, auction updates, and the handle of who is currently talking in your Teamspeak or Ventrilo server. That's about the extent of my knowledge on the LCD screen given I don't have access to it. I encourage my readers who do to share in the comment sections on useful WoW oriented applications they use.
Using the macro keys
You can assign a variety of functions to the macro keys. At its simplest you can assign it a keystroke or combination of keystrokes, but the complexity ramps up from there. You can assign key macros, launch a program, have they key type a block of text on one button push, or even get complex by writing functions in the script editor. You can assign your keystrokes or macros two different ways. You can use the software when you want precise control on delays between key presses and assigning how long the pause is in between repeated macro loops. You can also press the record key (MR key) to record your macros on the fly in game. If 18 of these special keys aren't enough you have 3 banks you can flip through using the selector keys above the macro keys. All of this is plenty enough reason for purchase if you're in the market for gaming keyboard/pad, but the functionality skyrockets when combined with a few addons.
Two addons I found that really work well with gaming keypads are OPie and Bindpad. Actually these addons work great without a special gaming keyboard or peripheral, but really shine when paired with one. Bind pad allows you to bind a spell, ability, or macro directly to a key (or key combination) allowing you to bypass having to put the action on a hot bar. There's a few addons that do that, but to me Bindpad distinguishes itself from the others with its graphical layout. You can quickly see every action you have bound to keys all in one place, so you won't accidentally use the same binding twice. Bindpad also has a tab for general bindings used for all your characters, and a tab specific to a character. And it you run out of the macro slots that Blizzard provides you, Bindpad lets you make more using its own slots.
OPie was featured in an Addon Spotlight not long ago, so I won't go into a detailed review (but chances are high I will at a later time as I love this addon). It's easy to see how OPie in combination with a gaming keypad is a winning combination. On my Shaman for example, I have a macro key devoted to each element which brings up a totem selection ring. Totems that I need to quickly plop down in the heat of battle get their own key. I adore this setup as I can get to everything quickly and efficiently. This is what we interface fanatics live for!
Overall I really like the G11 keyboard. It's made me a better player as it's even easier to access all my spells and abilities. And with more on the way in WOTLK, hot bar space is getting limited so having the extra keys is handy. I don't understand Logitech's reasoning behind scaling back the amount of macro keys on the G15 Refreshed model. Sure the keyboard takes up more room than an average sized one, but when you factor in the size of a gaming keypad paired with a normal keyboard the space taken by the G11/15v1 is less. Also with having the macro keys being part of the keyboard instead of another peripheral means you have to move your hand less distance to hit the keys, resulting in faster reaction time.
So all in all did you like seeing hardware being featured in today's column? Would you like to see more? I do have several gaming keypads available to me, and if you guys are interested in them being reviewed in the future, let me know in the comments! See you next week!