The trouble with gaming keyboards is that they use some of the highest-quality parts in the business, but cram them into a product that would look absurd in anything but a teenager's gaming nook. The Logitech G810 Orion Spectrum ($160), on the other hand, is an aesthetically pleasing RGB mechanical keyboard that feels great whether you're fragging foes in Counter-Strike or typing the Great American Novel. Although the keys aren't the best mechanical offerings on the market, the Orion Spectrum is an attractive, versatile peripheral with a fantastic interface and sensible extra features.
In an era when "gaming keyboard" is almost synonymous with "something a '90s teen movie protagonist would find really rad," the Orion Spectrum's restraint is almost palpable. Rather than a behemoth covered in arcane patterns like Logitech's G910 Orion Spark (19.9 x 9.6 inches), the Spectrum is a simple black accessory that measures 17.5 x 6.0 inches: a comfortable fit for most desktops.
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Although it doesn't come with a wrist rest or much in the way of borders, the Orion Spectrum makes the most of its space. The keys nearly touch the peripheral's edges, almost like those of a membrane keyboard. The design is far from flashy, which I found to be a welcome change of pace. The Orion Spectrum looks positively dignified, and can act as a sensible addition to either an office desk or a grown-up gamer space.
Logitech's Orion Spark and G410 Atlas Spectrum keyboards use the company's unique Romer-G mechanical switches, and the Orion Spectrum follows suit. I've never been quite as enamored of these switches as many others in the gaming space, but what they do, they do pretty well. While the keys are extremely quiet, they provide a fair bit of resistance and feel substantive. Think of them as Cherry MX Browns with a bit of a softer touch.
The keycaps, on the other hand, presented a bit of a problem. There was something about either the height or the distance of the keycaps that kept me from typing as rapidly as I normally do. When typing out Aesop's Fables on TypingTest.com, I scored an adjusted 120 words per minute (nine errors) with a standard office keyboard, but only 116 words per minute (eight errors) on the Orion Spectrum. In practice, this is not a substantive gap, and would almost surely close if I spent more time with the Spectrum. But it may not be as springy as the keyboards you're used to.
The Orion Spectrum eschews extra keys for the most part, but it deserves a nod for having discrete media controls. Users can pause, play, rewind or fast-forward, plus control volume with a roller. As most gaming keyboards simply double up other buttons, this helps set the Orion Spectrum apart from the competition. There's also a button to activate or deactivate the lighting, plus one for a Game Mode that can disable screen-minimizing keys during gameplay.
The Orion Spectrum runs on the Logitech Gaming Software, which continues to be one of the best gaming peripheral management programs on the market. With this program, you can reprogram certain keys, link games to custom profiles and play with the keyboard's full RGB backlighting. The software will automatically scan your system for games and create profiles for them, so all you have to do is pick a color scheme and assign any extra commands to the function keys, if you want.
Since the Orion Spectrum does not possess any additional macro keys, it employs a novel solution with the F1 through F12 keys instead. You can create profiles for games, and reprogram each of the 12 function keys as any other command, be it a keystroke, a program function or a macro. This is a relatively clever solution to a potential problem, since the function keys don't do much by default in most games.
The lighting options are also strong. You can individualize each key or make use of existing patterns, such as a rainbow wave that passes along the keyboard. You can also have the keys change color when you tap them. It's not quite as deep as the customization options from competitors like Corsair or Razer, but the lighting does sync up nicely with other Logitech peripherals such as mice and headsets.
I did have a few problems with linking profiles and games, however. While I was able to link most profiles just fine, StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void and Star Wars Battlefront simply would not load profiles automatically. I had to manually set them before I launched either game. I conferred with a Logitech engineer about the problem, and we are trying to pinpoint the solution, but for what it's worth, he could not recreate a similar situation on his machine. This may not happen to you, but be aware that it's not impossible.
The Orion Spectrum is an all-purpose gaming keyboard, and as such, I ran it through four very different games: Star Wars Battlefront, StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void, Batman: Arkham Knight and Star Wars: The Old Republic. The keyboard performed superbly, whether it was dealing with a first-person shooter, real-time strategy, action/adventure or massively multiplayer online game.
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While the Romer-G keys didn't do much for my typing abilities, I found them to be ideal tools for gaming, where keystrokes need to be sometimes measured, and other times fast and furious. It was just as easy to chase Rebel scum through the forests of Endor on a speeder bike as it was to explore Protoss ruins in the Koprulu Sector.
While hardcore MMO players might prefer to have extra macro buttons, like those of the Orion Spark or the Razer BlackWidow Chroma, the ability to reassign the function keys should alleviate some of their fears. Programming macros for The Old Republic and assigning them to the function keys was no more difficult than doing so with dedicated macro keys. As a gaming peripheral, the Orion Spectrum delivers everything it needs to.
The Logitech Orion Spectrum is a beautiful keyboard with a lot of smart features to suit a wide variety of gamers. The Romer-G keys are a love-it-or-tolerate-it proposition, and I have a few quibbles about the software and typing experience. Otherwise, it's a well-designed piece of hardware with gorgeous lighting and some very welcome media control buttons, making it well worth a look for gamers who prefer elegance over flair.