Sunday, 6 March 2011

Logitech G510 Review (8/10)

I just recently migrated (I'm going to avoid the word "upgrade" until I'm sure it is, in fact, an upgrade), to the Logitech G510 keyboard as my primary keyboard (home & work). Before I can really dig into this review, I need to touch on my previous keyboard that I've been using for the last half-decade, the Logitech G15. I've been a very big fan of the original Logitech G15 and definitely not a fan of the revised Logitech G15 v2. I simply didn't really understand the reasoning behind the nerfing of what was a pretty damn good keyboard to begin with.

The three core changes were:

  1. The reduction of 18 G-keys down to a measly 6.
  2. The removal of the wonderful rotary scroll dial to be replaced with two buttons for volume-up and volume-down.
  3. The replacement of an adjustable screen with a fixed angle one.
The general argument for the reduction of the 18 macro keys down to 6 was because the original keyboard was too large and wouldn't readily fit into keyboard drawers. While this is probably technically true, the keyboard was (at the time) positioned as a flagship gaming keyboard. With the original launch price of $120 (which was sky high for a keyboard at the time), it was an all out gaming keyboard and there was no mistaking it for anything else. Which begs the question - what gamer uses a keyboard drawer? The keyboard drawer argument can be applied to business keyboards sure, but a gaming keyboard is a peripheral that supersedes any importance of a drawer. As a gamer, the mindset is 'if it doesn't fit into the keyboard drawer, the drawer has to go'. Sure, Logitech released the G13 Gameboard a few years later to address the need to replace those missing G-keys -- I'll get to that review soon. While I'm sure MMO players bemoaned the loss of the multitude of these keys (notice the use of the word player as opposed to gamer), as a power-user, the loss of 67% of the available keys made the v2 simply unacceptable -- especially since it commanded the same price point.

They opted to replace the rotary dial with a pair of digital buttons - so now it takes longer to change the volume and the usefulness for non-media related uses is nerfed (I used the dial to scroll through chat history/UI which was displayed in the built in screen). A much more trivial issue in comparison: the buttons no longer had any separation making it more difficult to confidently press the button.

Lastly, the change to a fixed screen is a bit of a nuisance: now you have to sit at a specific angle to the screen in order to maximize it's use. Sure gamers don't really make use of the the screen, it's more for power users. In comparison to the loss of the 2/3 of the available macro buttons, this is a trivial concern.
With the replacement keyboard being wholly unacceptable, I've been making do with a stockpile of G15 v1 that I've collected over the years. I did recognize however that over time, I would exhaust this supply (I only had three spares) and I had to look for a replacement. Since I make extensive use of the screen, the G11 and G110 weren't suitable replacements and the G19 was simply too expensive (knowing that I have to stockpile a few of whatever keyboard I happen to decide on). This left the G510 as the only real contender (at least from Logitech).

It is worth compiling a comparison list against the great G15 v1:
  • G11
    • Last generation keyboard (still $80)
    • Loses the screen (thus disqualifying it)
  • G110
    • Lack of screen
    • Built-in USB audio
    • Loses a USB port
    • Loses one column of G-keys (12 keys total)
  • G510
    • Fixed screen
    • Built-in USB audio
    • Loses both USB ports
  • G19
    • Twice the cost
    • Color, high[er]-resolution screen
    • Built in USB audio
    • Built in powered 2 USB ports
    • Keyboard requires independent power
    • Gains additional screen-related controls
    • Loses one column of G-keys (12 keys total)

Ultimately, the G510 won out in the cost benefit (picked up two, one for work and one for home). The keyboard chassis offers a satiny feel and the buttons are soft (even in comparison to the already soft G15 buttons). This will take some getting used to -- the trend for soft keys may make sense for business keyboards but for gamers, we want a real tactile feel (would be nice to have mechanical keys too Logitech, hint-hint). To their credit, the dome-circuit keyboard technology has been implemented relatively cleanly and I don't have any serious complaints about key input performance. 

The first thing I noticed right off the bat -- they moved the Escape key. No, really. They moved it. Have a closer look. They moved the button 3/4 of key-width over so now it's left aligned with the main block. So much fail. Just like the change in keyboards to have a giant delete key, the main keyboard design is done - stop messing with it. The shape of the buttons has changed subtly too - they are a bit more scooped out. This isn't so much a of a plus or a minus, just something worth noting.

What is worth noting is, like most premium Logitech products - the hardware is generally executed well, the failure is the drivers. They are bloated, gimmicky and otherwise unstable or offer a retarded functionality. The drivers for this G510 is no different. Logitech offers two sets of drivers (*facepalm*), a current set (v7.x) and a legacy set (v3.x). The current drivers are very pretty and the majority of the experience is very smooth and well executed -- except the function button on the keyboard doesn't work.

In the driver configuration there is an option to set the function button to either [a] swap to the next application or [b] show the list of applications. In the current revision, the first option does not function correctly on 64bit operating systems. Luckily this functionality works fine on the legacy drivers. Just goes to reinforce the lack of complete confidence in the driver team (or at least whoever thought it would be a good idea to branch the drivers).

The last complaint (also driver related) is when you have multiple game-panel devices connected at once (I happen to have a G13 connected for review purposes as well). The Game Panel applets (clock, media, Trillian, FRAPS, stopwatch etc) are not instanced per device. For something like the chat and clock, this is fine, but I expected the stopwatch and countdown to be instanced e.g. each gamepanel device would have it's own countdown and stopwatch. This isn't the case. The colors are also synchronized across devices. Gah. I'll give this the benefit of a doubt that the legacy drivers aren't property configured to instance the applets and I'll wait for the drivers to fix the main function button before I come back to this.

All in all, the hardware is well executed and the [legacy] drivers are acceptable in their functionality and quality. If you absolutely need a screen and don't want to pay the stupid price for the G19, this is a solid keyboard. If you're just looking for a quality baseline keyboard, it's a tossup between the G110 and the G510 -- sure the G110 is cheaper and you trade a column of G-keys for a USB port, the in-the-stores price difference may not be worth stepping down to the G110 (where I grabbed my G510, the price difference was $20).

Final verdict 8/10.


  1. Thanks for a really good bit of info on these keyboards. I've been gaming for about a decade, and frankly I've been using a OEM Dell keyboard that I had gotten SO used to that I did the same thing and stockpiled them. I got by using foot pedals and mice buttons for the extra functions I needed but recently I got a bug and wanted to find a good gaming keyboard.

    My main goal was to find something that had the exact same spacing as the Dell keyboard, that is, between the arrow keys and the Ins/Del/Home/End/PgUp-Dn buttons. Once I found these G510s, I started reading other's opinions and yours seems to be spot on as far as what would bother me. LOL

    The thing is, from what you are saying -- I'm kind of bummed! I really want a G15 v1, and for the life of me I can't understand why they would nix the dial and adjustable screen! I won't even mention the loss of the USB ports.

    I say we fly out and pay them a visit. Somewhere at Logitech there is a developer in need to a good slap.

  2. Well they've recently launched the G510s which, for the life of me, I cannot identify what changed or improved. As far as I can tell, it's just a different (uglier) color-scheme.

    I've slowly gotten used to the G510 (actually I am now quite fond of the scrolling volume wheel). I do miss having USB ports (for my mouse) nearby though, will never forgive that. If you can live without the screen and extra column of buttons, the G110 has USB ports (what were they thinking!)