A few years ago, recommending a PC as a casual gaming system would have been unthinkable. Now, between inexpensive systems, simple digital downloads and a booming indie scene, a regular PC without a standalone graphics card is a perfectly viable alternative for those who want to go beyond simple mobile titles — but only if they have the right hardware.
Enter the $70 Logitech G213 Prodigy: an inexpensive gaming keyboard with burgeoning gamers in mind. This membrane keyboard is colorful and comprehensive, but it's still relatively expensive for something that feels an awful lot like a standard office model.
For up-and-coming gamers who don't want to invest a ton of money, the G213 gets the job done, but anyone with more than a passing interest in PC gaming will want to stick with mechanical models, some of which cost as little as $100.
The G213 is a handsome keyboard that's bigger than a standard office model, measuring 17.8 x 8.6 inches. For comparison, the top-of-the-line Logitech G910 Orion Spark is 19.9 x 9.6 inches, while the more restrained G810 Orion Spectrum is 17.5 x 6.0 inches.
Most of the width is dedicated to the peripheral's sizable hard plastic armrest, although it also needs some space on top for a collection of dedicated media controls. Like many of Logitech's recent keyboards, the G213 looks like it would be equally at home gaming or doing productivity work. It's a good design for newer gamers, who might be put off by something angular and aggressive.
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If you were wondering how a top-of-the-line brand like Logitech could keep a gaming keyboard under $100, the secret is in the keys. Unlike Logitech's other recent gaming keyboards, the G213 is a membrane model rather than a mechanical one.
The G213's target audience may not be familiar with the distinction between membrane and mechanical keyboards. The former works by transmitting an electrical current between two plastic membranes and a thin sheet of metal. The latter uses individual switches beneath each keycap, like a typewriter. This is why membrane keyboards don't cost much, but feel mushy, whereas mechanical keyboards are expensive, but much more responsive.
The age of membrane gaming keyboards has largely come and gone, since gamers eventually realized that they were paying dozens of dollars for peripherals that felt extremely similar to $20 office models. To be fair, Logitech's membrane keys are more responsive and comfortable than an off-the-shelf keyboard from Staples, but not by much. They're quiet and well-spaced, but the spring and zip just aren't there.
The membrane keys are good for typing, at least. Typing out Aesop's Fables on TypingTest.com, I scored 123 words per minute with seven errors on the G213, compared to 119 words per minute with nine errors on my usual G810 Orion Spark gaming keyboard. That's impressive, considering my relative inexperience with the former.
The G213 runs on the excellent Logitech Gaming Software, which provides a lot of ways to customize the peripheral. The F1 through F12 buttons are programmable, which can be extremely helpful for players who want to dabble in macros.
You can disable any button combination you want for a “game mode,” which can prevent you from accidentally tabbing out of a game. The software also lets players link games with custom profiles, which is good for both reprogrammed function keys and lighting.
Speaking of lighting, the G213 is the only membrane keyboard I'm aware of that offers full key-by-key RGB lighting. You can make some impressive combinations, at least in theory. In practice, however, the lights are quite dim, and in even moderately lit rooms, the blues and purples run together, as do the yellows and greens. The gorgeous, subtle lighting of the G810 and G910 is nowhere to be found.
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Finally, the dedicated media keys deserve some props, since even some high-end keyboards eschew them in favor of key-based shortcuts. However, the rubbery feel of the keys, combined with the mushy membrane underneath, drags the experience down from what other dedicated gaming keyboards offer.
I ran the G213 through our standard battery of tests for games, all of which appeal to the casual crowd as well as to hardcore players. The G213 performed well across the board, with first-person shooter Overwatch, real-time-strategy game StarCraft II, action/adventure game Rise of the Tomb Raider and massively multiplayer online role-playing game Marvel Heroes.
While the keys were not quite precise enough for gamers to compete in Overwatch at the highest levels, they seemed perfectly suited to gamers wanting to jump into a few quick-play games and dishing out or soaking up damage as a variety of colorful characters. Likewise, I don't know how many Marvel Heroes players would want to jump into endgame raids with the G213's keys, but they were fine for those intent on clearing out plot missions as Captain America.
Rise of the Tomb Raider was probably the game for which the keys worked best, as action/adventure games on standard difficulty don't need any kind of special hardware to master. The G213 was also a fine choice for StarCraft II's single-player campaign, although I would question its value for the upper echelons of competitive play.
If I could convince every burgeoning PC gamer to cough up $100 to $150 for a mechanical keyboard, I would. Mechanical keyboards are wonderful accessories for both gaming and typing, and they last much longer than their membrane counterparts. However, price is not a paltry concern, particularly if you're unsure whether PC gaming is the hobby for you.
The G213 is not a great gaming keyboard by any stretch. But on the other hand, it doesn't really aim to be. It's functional and attractive, and offers a number of features you wouldn't find on a standard office keyboard, even though it's not really any more comfortable than one. If you want to get your feet wet in the gaming sphere, it's worth a look. But if a mechanical keyboard is a financial possibility, I recommend that you make it a reality instead.