Yesterday, Logitech announced that they’ll be releasing the G13, a gameboard keypad peripheral designed to streamline PC gaming by allowing one-handed access to dozens of programmable keys. It’s akin to niche controller products like the Belkin Nostromo Speedpad or Zboard Fang. Well, it just so happens that today we got a shiny new G13 delivered to our office, which we were more than happy to playtest. Read on to find out what we thought of the device.
Physically, the G13 is impressive. It’s got a nice heft to it, and just generally feels very solidly-built. Given the punishment we sometimes inflict on our keyboards during heated (read: losing) games of Left4Dead, this is a definite plus. The G13’s ergonomic design feels very natural under the hand, with a traction pad that keeps your palm right where you want it. The keypad is molded with curves along both the horizontal and vertical axis so our fingers rested comfortably on the board no matter which keys we pressed. The keys have just the right amount of travel, although they’re packed a little tightly for our tastes.
When you plug the gameboard in, the mini LCD screen and the (pleasantly subtle) LED backlighting turn on. You can change the color of both with the included software, and we’re not ashamed to admit that we amused ourselves for a few minutes by clicking around the onscreen color wheel and watching the G13 change backlight color in real-time.
The G13 packs 22 keys on the main board, plus two mouse-style buttons and a bindable analog stick located under the thumb. There are three mode buttons above the keys which switch between profiles, changing the binding of the keys and the color of the backlight. All told, you can bind up to 87 different macros onto the G13 at once.
Logitech’s gameboard also includes the little “GamePanel” LCD screen familiar to anyone who’s used one of the company’s G15 keyboards. The screen can show your system’s CPU and RAM usage, can be used as a clock or a timer, and can monitor your email and RSS feeds. If you play a game that supports the GamePanel , you can also have it display information like health bars and character stats, although why you would want to take your eyes off the screen to check out your health or ammo still evades us.
So who’s the G13 targeted at? With indentations guiding your fingers towards the WASD keys, the gameboard seems like a strong fit for FPS players looking for a more comfortable hand position. However, there are no keys above the indented “WASD” keys, so if you’re used to using the number keys to switch weapons or for anything else you’re out of luck. Also, the key meant to act like the space bar felt a little too close to the palm, which might put a crimp in your bunny-hopping plans. RTS gamers can probably find good use for the G13 as well, though if you like to use more than 22 hotkeys in the heat of the moment, you might want to stick with your regular keyboard.
Really, though, the G13 seems like an MMO players dream. Able to bind a huge number of complex macros, the gameboard is well suited for games where you need access to a bunch of skills, but not necessarily all at once. Also, the LCD display seems particularly well fit for games like WoW, where you need to keep track of a lot of data. Of course, if your guild hasn’t made the move to voice chat yet you’ll have to take your hand off the G13 whenever you want to type a message. Perhaps to remedy this, Logitech has thoughtfully included a copy of Ventrillo on the G13 driver disk.
Priced steeply at $80, will gamers adopt the G13? Hard to say, but our short playtest definitely left us with a good impression. Check out the pictures and then hit the comments to let us know what you think about Logitech’s new gameboard.