Since Gryph wanted us to do reviews once upon a time and because RocketMad has been sitting on this one and not sharing, I figured I'd write up a review. As anyone who was foolish enough to give me their Instant Messenger account is already well aware of, I recently acquired a Logitech G15 Keyboard
There are not words to describe the wonderfulness (yeah, it's a word...wanna fight about it?) of this thing. The invention of sliced bread could quite possibly fall by the wayside and the next best thing be referred to as "the best thing since the G15".
So what makes it so great?
First off, you can disable the Windows key (and right click key) with a switch. Sure, you can go into the registry and disable it or simply pop off the keys themselves, but that's added hassle when you go back to "normal" computing and those keys might have served some sort of use. Now, a flick of a switch for gaming removes the possibility of getting knocked to the desktop and another flick makes it just like every other keyboard. A simple idea, but one that took a while to come about.
Next, the keyboard contains it's own LCD screen. The default apps include a media manager for various mp3 players (Winamp, Musicmatch, iTunes, etc.) as well as a clock and a performance monitor which shows RAM/CPU usage. The beauty of the LCD is that it's open source development, allowing people who are so inclined to develop their own applications to utilize the screen (presuming programming knowledge of course). Of serious note to ATFers would be the TeamSpeak plugin
that takes information about the channel and server name as well as players entering leaving and who is currently talking. Sure, you can get something like Teamspeak Overlay to show you in game who's talking, but that's another thing on the main screen and also draws more on the hardware (since overlays are more graphic intensive). Now, the information is still readily accessible without the clutter. For those so inclined, the newest Ventrilo client (currently beta) also includes support for the G15 keyboard. Wonderfully useful feature, since I can recognize most people by voice, but for the handful I can't it's just a glance down and I'm done.
For the night owls out there, all the keys and the LCD are backlit. In blue. Why's that so great? Ever been up late (or really early) and been unable to turn on the light for fear of waking a significant other? Now you can simply turn on the backlight and see the keys clearly in the dark. While you SHOULD have learned to type by touch, in gaming it's nice to be able to verify where your hands are. Also, it's nice for locating the proper key in the next big feature, and probably the coolest of them all...
The keyboard includes macro buttons. 18 keys, with a switch between 3 banks for a total of 54 possible commands. The true beauty of this is that the keyboard driver monitors what process is currently running and loads the appropriate profile. That means you can have a macro for your messaging program, such as simply sending the message "lol", as G1 (the first function key) and immediately switch back into WoW and it will know to use the WoW G1 macro when you hit it again. Outside of the notfications displayed on the LCD (which you can turn off), the transition is entirely seamless.
What can those macros do? Anything that the keyboard could do for input. Surprisingly, the most useful thing is that they can also be put to actual productive use. I had work buy me one for the office (yes, they like me enough to buy me a keyboard that is clearly labeled "gaming") and I set up macros in IE to streamline the administration of a regional e-learning suite. Normally, it's a pain to try and do it with the keyboard, since it's 30+ presses of tab to get there. Now, it's a single button push and at least three times as fast as doing it with the mouse. The level of customization you can do since it's just keypresses is nice too. I wrote a macro at my boss's request to fill in our e-mail host name (which is obscenely long), add a role from a menu and then submit the form. It's also great for any options in applications that don't have shortcuts, such as having an Outlook macro that will delete an IMAP e-mail message, purge deleted messages and then confirm the dialog box that pops up. One push, message fully deleted.
How easy is it to make those macros? Fairly, depending on what you're doing. The biggest drawback here is the lack of an edit functionality for the keypresses (like adding a forgotten keystroke) or the lack of an easy way to find it at the least. With longer macros it really sucks to slip and hit the wrong key at the end of a long chain and have to go back and redo it (though you can delete an entirely wrong key...problem is when you meant to type Gryphon and instead type Grpyhon). However, the commands are all executed at computer speed (read - effectively simultaneously) so you can take 5 years to record it right and it will still work blindingly fast. The macro I cited above was about 30 keypresses total and took me a minute to record from the "what keys do I push" phase to the finished and mapped to a button phase.
Now, the question Gryph had and many others I'm sure, is it possible to create multi-spell macros for WoW? Yes, it is possible as you can input delays between keypresses, such as a 2.1 second delay for the universal 2 second cooldown. Is it a useful thing? Not really. They're only useful in circumstances where you can predict that you'll have the ability to follow through to the end of the macro. Since PvP is entirely random in how things play out (like getting stunned by a rogue in the middle of a fight), it's near entirely useless there. For some classes it's good for an opening set of moves (such as charge/hamstring for a warrior), but all in all the multi-spell macros don't really work that well. I wrote one for a hunter alt that cast hunter's mark, sent the pet to attack and then cast concussive shot, serpent sting and arcane shot. It worked, but in addition to making the game really boring, I saw how the smallest bit of lag can throw the entire thing off since the keyboard doesn't know that WoW slowed for .4 seconds and inputs the commands as ordered. As I said to Gryph, when you're creating those macros either the timing is so fine that lag will render it worthless or there's so much cushion that you could hit the keys faster yourself. The inability to cancel the macro and/or see macro progress is also a liability (such as if the mob moved out of range of the hunter as in the case above...if you move back into range on the serpent sting it will still fire...which may or may not be what you want to happen at that point). That's not to say the keys are without use in WoW, you can replace any /command macros (such as Skillet's point/laugh macro) with one of these, freeing up the internal macro slots for better things where you can access more of the WoW stuff. You can also end the tedium of pre-level 54 group buffs by writing a macro that targets each group member in turn and casting the buffs since you'll generally be in a quiet area at that point.
Tack onto all of that stuff that the keyboard includes 2 USB ports for low power things (like mice and headsets) and it becomes even more useful.
All right, so it's great and wonderful, but what's the downside? Well, for starters it's a BIG keyboard. I mean BIG. Compared to the "standard" 104-key layout, it's got effectively an extra number pad on the end. It's also a lot taller, especially with the LCD open. If you're using a keyboard tray, be very cautious as it might swallow it up whole. If you use the keyboard on the desk it includes a palm rest which is all right, but also makes it even bigger (roughly a third to a half again as tall as a normal keyboard). If you're like me at home and use it in your lap though, it's best to leave the palm rest off (duh), it's not attached with the most rugged of clips.
The other downside is the cost. $80 is a lot for a keyboard. Sure, there's a LOT of stuff it does over and beyond a cheaper keyboard, but compared against the cost of a top-tier game and a used or second-tier game...hard to say it's the best value. Obviously, I have two now and after seeing what it's useful applications are my boss is thinking of one for herself (she's not at all a gamer either), so there are people out there who think it's worth the money, but each person has to weigh the benefits against the cost.
Outside of being big (may or may not be a problem) and the cost (Didn't you just get some money for Christmas?), this is a keyboard I can recommend without hesitation. It'll take a bit to adjust to the new layout with it's added size and your hands being over keys, but not the right ones...for you touch typers. Now that I've had a bit to work with it, I really like the feel of the keys. We'll see how long that lasts...
Anyway, the Silver rating is: