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Editors' Note: The product reviewed here has been replaced by the Logitech G15 (Revision 2).
We covered the Logitech G15 Gaming Keyboard in last summer's annual roundup of input devices and after a year of use, here's our full review. One of the main features of the keyboard is a programmable LCD screen that, via what Logitech hoped would become a thriving mod community, could be used to display all kinds of information, particularly game-specific data such as ammo count or health status. Whether the community has really used the included development tools to good advantage is debatable, but a handful of games support the G15 natively. Regardless of the LCD screen achieving its full potential, the G15 Gaming Keyboard has a lot of positives gamers will appreciate, even though its desktop footprint is large and its keys are a little clunky. If you like the idea of micromanaging every aspect of your gaming input, the $100 G15 is your best option.
In addition to the typical 104-key layout, the G15 includes media control buttons, a row of 18 customizable G buttons, as well as three profile switchers, effectively expanding the number of assignable G-button commands to 54. For complicated real-time strategy games (such as Age of Empires III) or massive multiplayer online titles (World of Warcraft), players will appreciate the sheer number of customizable keys. But even nongamers will like two of the G15's more straightforward features. First, it has two USB ports (although sadly not USB 2.0) on the back. Mac users know the benefits of a keyboard that doubles as a USB hub, and it's about time that Windows users did as well. Second, the G15 has a slider that disables the Switch To Windows key (that pulls you from the app you're in back to the Windows desktop) common to most Windows-compatible keyboards. We've certainly pressed that button many times by accident, in and out of a game. In the year that we've used the G15 as our day-to-day keyboard, we've kept the slider in the off position since we first unboxed it. We've never found the need to slide it back.
The G15's LCD screen ships with a clock/calendar, CPU and system memory usage gauges, and a timer/stopwatch app. You can also interact with the screen via a small row of buttons below it. A few games support the screen, either out of the box or via a game patch, with World of Warcraft being the most notable.
To expand on the LCD's usefulness, Logitech ships the G15 with free development software. Its hope is that people will play with the software and develop cool and useful LCD mini apps. Two sites, G15 Mods and Logitech G15 Forums have a total of 25 apps between their official download sections, but most of those apps, Net speed monitors, mail notifiers, and so on, are more for general use than specifically gaming oriented. Each site has a forum where you can find more downloads (there's also a G15 forum thread over on HardOCP), but in general, the G15 modding community hasn't produced as much content as, say, that of Half-Life 2's.
But LCD or not, the G15 is still a keyboard designed for gaming. Of course, key design is tough to quantify. We found the keys a bit clunky--we like a thinner design, like that of the BenQ X120 X-Structure Internet Keyboard. Gamers especially will appreciate the cool blue LED that backlights the keys. This means it's easy to see what's what during a game session in a darkened room. That is, of course, assuming you have room enough on your desktop. The G15 measures 21.5 inches wide by 10 inches deep (with the LCD fully open). By way of comparison, Dell's current default keyboard measures 17.5 inches wide by 6.25 inches deep. It reminds us of the whale-tail spoiler on old Porches--which is to say, big. When the G15 first shipped, users found that the coating on the keys would wear, as happened to our A key (pictured). Logitech has since changed the type of paint it uses for the keys, which it claims is more resilient.