Posted on Tuesday, January 29th, 2013 at 6:00 PM by Chris Smith
For the most part, anything that’s labelled as being “for gamers” should – in my experience – be taken with a pinch of salt. There are any number of companies out there who will slap a giant “GAMING” label on something in an effort to solicit sales from those who think that they’ll gain an extra edge over the competition. For consoles, a lot of the time this audience is the standard Call of Duty or Halo crowd. There are an increasing number of “professional” controllers being produced, with specialised buttons, triggers, rockers, lights and all manner of associated bells and whistles. Gone are the days of the simple TURBO button to beat your friends at a game of Mario Party.
I wasn’t entirely surprised when soft drink and energy beverage companies began to market their various liquids as “gamer fuel” or “designed for gamers”, either. However, the specific gaming benefits gained from pumping varying degrees of caffeine, taurine, quinine and all the other -ines you can think of through your bloodstream are never adequately defined. Marathon gaming sessions could certainly be aided by a token amount of wake-up juice, but much better would be a short break, a snack and perhaps some natural light.
Of course, I say all of this being perfectly guilty of partaking of all of the above. Back in 2005, I was the proud owner of a brand new Alienware PC; a fantastic way to spend my student loan, I’m sure you’ll agree. In later years, I was thrilled to be able to sample the fabled “Mana Potion” drink, which one of my friends had managed to get delivered to the UK. But from experience comes knowledge; I know better than to waste money on premium items that aren’t worth the extra cash. I could just as easily have built a gaming PC from scratch and saved myself hundreds of pounds, or grabbed a cup of coffee and made myself a ham and pickle sandwich.
It might surprise you, then, to hear that I recently invested in two pieces of ostensibly “gamer”-targeted equipment – a Logitech keyboard and mouse from their G-series peripherals.
First, some back-story. I have owned three Logitech gaming keyboards in the past, two of which were the original Logitech G15. When I first saw it, I was instantly enamoured with its LCD screen, on which a variety of different applets could be run: simple things for the most part, like a clock or CPU load monitor. But among its other uses were the ability to integrate with Windows Live Messenger to tell you if you had a new email, or display the title and artist of a song on a media display. Even better, since this was on a separate LCD display, you could be doing other things – presumably gaming – and still get information from your PC. Additionally, some games released their own applets for the G15 – now, I could see at a glance my character’s stats in World of Warcraft.
With the addition of a back-light, several media keys, a gaming mode (where the Windows key and other keys that might accidentally tab you out of a game were temporarily disabled) and no less than 18 programmable “G-keys”, the G15 was my dream keyboard. When I accidentally spilled some beer on it one day and it refused to type anything except the letter O any more, I was devastated. So I bought another one, which lasted me until about a month ago. I decided that the flickering, weakening back-light, coupled with the wrist-worn plastics, merited a new purchase. Since the G15 had been through a second version since my last purchase and had since been discontinued, I was faced with the daunting prospect of ordering a completely new keyboard for the first time in years.
Without thinking, I ordered the G510; in every way, the G15′s spiritual successor. Every feature that the G15 possessed, the G510 matched… or so I thought. When it arrived, the experience was completely unexpected. Unresponsive keys, an Escape key that stuck every few presses, a tiny LCD screen and a general feel of cheapness; an aura of failure seemed to surround my new keyboard, which was not what I’d come to expect from Logitech.
You see, as well as the G15, I had been using the G9 Laser Mouse for some years. Very few things frustrate me more on a daily basis than an unresponsive mouse – the G9 was the answer to many of my frustrated questions, including “Why can’t they just make a mouse that bloody works?!” With a precision laser tracking system, interchangeable grips and even adjustable weights, it proved to be exactly what I needed. When it, too, began to experience problems after many, many years of use (for example, phantom clicks: when you click once, but the mouse thinks you clicked twice) I decided to replace it with the G9x: again, the successor to the G9 in every way. The difference is that I love my G9x just as much as I loved my G9 – not so with my new G510.
It was only then that I stepped back and remembered everything I knew about “gaming”-oriented hardware. Had I been fooled again? Was I once more buying into nothing more than a brand name and overpriced, unnecessary features? If I look back, I truthfully have to say that I was, to some greater or lesser degree. I rarely if ever used any of the 18 programmable keys on my G15, for example. The LCD screen was used every day, though… but did I really need to know the instant that I got a new email? In some circumstances, possibly yes; it was also convenient to be able to see the time at a glance, without having to consult my phone or tab out of a game (the only other clock in my room is by my bed).
Even my beloved G9 and subsequent G9x have features that I never took full advantage of. I pick a single DPI setting and stick to it. I never switch to the “free-spinning” scroll wheel except to play with it like a kid with a toy car, starting it whirling and waiting to see how long it takes for it to stop. I was confused and slightly annoyed with myself; these were pretty pricey bits of kit and it turns out that I might have been just as well off with a bog standard, off-the-shelf model of keyboard and mouse from the beginning. I sent the G510 back to Logitech and asked for a refund, then sat down and really thought about what I wanted from my keyboard and mouse.
Check back later this week for the second part of this article, where my choices and reasoning are revealed!