Gaming and second-screen technology don't always mix. Nintendo's DS experiment proved to be a resounding success, while Xbox owners have yet to make much use of SmartGlass. Logitech has thrown its hat into the second-screen ring with the Logitech G19s ($200), a keyboard that has everything but the kitchen sink, plus a little LCD screen up top.
The screen is not without its charms, but it's simply not worth the unit's enormous asking price. The keyboard itself is hardly superlative, and the LCD gimmick serves to bog this keyboard down rather than enhance it. The G19s may have a certain appeal for the most hardcore World of Warcraft gamers, but everyone else can, and should, invest in a cheaper, more versatile peripheral.
The first thing you should know about the Logitech G19s is that it's a behemoth. The device is 20.4 x 10.2 inches long, putting it roughly on par with the Corsair Vengeance K95 (21.5 x 9.6 inches) and well above a more standard-sized model, like the Feenix Autore (17.3 x 5.4 inches). Combine this with the bulky, 2.4-inch color LCD screen, and you've got a keyboard that will only fit on spacious desks.
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The G19s has pretty much everything I've come to expect in a high-end gaming keyboard: a substantive wrist rest, backlighting that lets you choose your own colors, discrete media controls and a host of extra keys for macros. The layout is attractive overall, although the backlighting is incredibly weak and tends to get washed out in even a moderately bright room.
The LCD screen is the centerpiece of the whole project, and it's a mixed bag. For such a small screen, it displays text, pictures and videos in a crisp and consumable fashion. However, the viewing angles are fairly limited, and the glossy screen makes the display appear very dark if the room around it is bright.
The G19s is a full-sized keyboard with rubber-dome membrane keys. The W, A, S and D keys are silver, as are the arrow keys, but everything else is matte black. The keys are comfortable enough for typing and gaming, and actually provide a pleasing amount of resistance (75 g, compared to the 55 g or so in an average membrane keyboard).
The more resistant actuation is a nice touch, but the keyboard does not have much in the way of key travel: only 3.6 mm. Compare this to the Logitech G105, with 3.8 mm, or the Logitech G710+, with 4.0 mm.
I was worried that this would make it difficult to type, but using the Ten Thumbs Typing Test, I scored 96 words per minute with a 2-percent error rate. On a standard Dell office keyboard, I scored the same 96 words per minute, but with a 3-percent error rate.
There are also a whole host of extra keys, most of which feel perfectly natural. The right side of the keyboard plays host to 12 programmable macro keys, G1 through G12.
To reach the first row, I had to move my hand away from its natural position on the keyboard, but the second row was within my pinky's reach. The M1, M2 and M3 buttons let me select different profiles; Macro Record gets its own button, which is always welcome.
Beyond those buttons, there's a gaming-mode key to disable the Windows button during play, along with media-control buttons on the right-hand side. Using a roller for volume rather than two separate buttons is a nice touch, and the rest of the keys do their jobs without too much fuss.
All told, the G19s does not feel nearly as good as one of Logitech's mechanical models, but it's a big improvement over something like the G105.
The G19s runs on Logitech Gaming Software, which is a simple, intuitive and robust program for setting up profiles, customizing keystrokes and programming macros.
The Logitech Gaming Software is gorgeous. It automatically scans your computer for games and creates profiles for them, then lets you customize the profiles with game-specific commands (such as Attack-Move in StarCraft II rather than the "A" key).
You can set a different color backlight for each profile, as well as a different set of macros across all of the M1, M2 and M3 keys, giving you three accessible profiles for each game. This is fantastic if, for example, you play three different characters in World of Warcraft, each with a different skill set.
Delving into the G19s' feature set, however, reveals some cracks in its armor. The big problem is the LCD. Make no mistake: That attractive little screen is the reason this keyboard costs $200 instead of $50, and it does very little to justify the markup. "Very little" is not "nothing," especially for hardcore massively multiplayer online (MMO) gamers, but the product is about as niche as they get.
The screen runs a variety of lightweight programs known as "applets." Rather than acting as a second screen for your computer, it's more like its own tiny operating system. By default, the keyboard comes with apps for selecting profiles, watching videos, viewing pictures, reading RSS feeds, browsing YouTube and monitoring your CPU.
These functions sound wonderful in theory, but in practice, most of them come with massive caveats. You can select profiles with the LCD because the keyboard does not do it automatically, unlike other Logitech products. You can watch videos, but only in a restrictive handful of formats.
You can read RSS feeds, but clicking on an article brings up the full text on your monitor. This is admittedly easier to read, but won't help much if you're grinding in World of Warcraft and suddenly tab out of the game. You can browse YouTube, but there's no search feature and you can't sign into your own account.
To be fair, bringing up a picture of a level in StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm and using it for reference while I hunted down the map's secret treasures was an incredibly useful feature. But it's something I could have just as easily done on a smartphone or tablet, and then I could have adjusted the device's position to suit me rather than the other way around.
Some games and programs, like World of Warcraft and chat client Ventrilo, also have their own applets that start automatically when you launch the software. These tend to be marginally useful, but the game selection is somewhat limited, and most of them are older titles.
Developers never really caught onto the Logitech keyboard-applet trend, and while that's not Logitech's fault, it still doesn't provide much of an impetus to invest in the LCD keyboard ecosystem.
LCD foibles aside, the G19s is a perfectly serviceable bit of gaming tech. I used it to play through Titanfall, StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm, Watch Dogs and Star Wars: The Old Republic. It performed well for each game, whether I was driving around modern-day Chicago or taking down Flesh Raiders in a galaxy far, far away.
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The macro functionality was better than expected as well: I was able to program fairly intricate macros for The Old Republic, which tends to be incompatible with keyboard software from Logitech competitors such as Razer and Corsair.
Key rollover was also less than we'd expect for a gaming keyboard in this price range. Users can hit up to six buttons simultaneously — not bad, but a far cry from the 10 or more we've come to expect.
The LCD G19s seems like an amazing idea, and it could be useful for a small subset of gamers who use their computers primarily for playing multiple of World of Warcraft characters and communicating over Ventrilo.
Other gamers, even those who love MMOs, might rather get a mechanical MMO keyboard like the Corsair Vengeance K95 for $50 less. Even Logitech's own G710+ sports a much cleaner design with fewer superfluous features. The LCD screen on the G19s is simply not a good enough feature to warrant the high price of admission.
Actuation: 75 g
Key Travel: 3.6 mm
In-Key Rollover: 6 keys
Size: 20.4 x 10.2 x 2.6 inches
Weight: 4.2 pounds