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Logitech's G19: When Gaming Keyboards Matter

Are Premium Gaming Peripherals Worth Your Money?

More often than not, bundled keyboards turn out to be plain old USB devices that may sport a few media keys, if you're lucky. They’re fine for everyday work, but when you want to fire up your favorite FPS or MMO, you may find them lacking in features or ergonomic comfort with regard to where your hands rest.

I started my testing after using Dell’s standard 104-key keyboard. Priced at a hefty $199, the G19 impresses right out of the box versus its more-mundane competition. It has a separate USB cable and dedicated power adapter, which is required for the bright OLED display centered at the top of the board and the 2 USB ports just to the right of the display. The G19 comes complete with three blocks of four programmable "G-keys," each of which can be programmed with three sets of macros, allowing the 12 physical keys able to perform 36 different functions.

The G19's keys are backlit, and you can easily customize the color and brightness of the backlighting with the bundled Logitech G-Series Key Profiler software. Inside the Key Profiler, you can open up a color wheel for choosing the exact shade you want shining through key letters and gaps between keys. No other keyboard reviewed here offered this degree of customization.

The G19, like the G15 before it, comes with built-in support for a number of applications and games, including World of Warcraft. When you launch the game, the display comes to life and shows your character's stats, any recent whispers received from other players, or alerts of interest, such as auction house notices. The LCD will also display your queue position for a PvP battleground while you wait, and once you're in that battleground, it’ll show your score. You can configure the display, add modules for other games, or tweak display options from the LCD Manager, which installs along with the keyboard drivers.

The G19 performs exceptionally well with MMOs and RPGs. In games like World of Warcraft that allow you to bind keys to in-game macros, you can simply write your macro and then bind it to the macro key of your choice. Even more impressive, the G19 allows you to record your own macros and bind them to the G-keys, so you don't need to depend on the game's ability to create macros to give you a leg up on the competition. Simply press the Macro Record button on the keyboard, press the in-game keys for the things you want to do, and assign the key sequence to the G-key of your choice.

The display also has media functionality, and will let you control a song or video playing on your screen. If you prefer, you can use the built-in media browser to play videos pulled from local or Internet sources while you game.

The G19 was a wonder to use while gaming. The keys were well–spaced, and Logitech builds in just enough resistance so that you're absolutely sure when a key is depressed. The LCD display (especially when playing a supported game), quickly became indispensible, although it’s not at all required to enjoy your favorite titles. While the G19 as a whole is a fabulous device and, we'd argue, more than just a keyboard, it's also very expensive. It'd be difficult to recommend such a pricey piece at $200, but if you are already getting all of the platform performance you think you need, this would be a mighty-luxurious upgrade.

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