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Logitech G51 review: Logitech G51

Logitech's G51 should keep most gamers on a moderate budget very happy with their performance. Those who want the ultimate in clarity though should keep saving the pennies for the long time king of the hill, the Logitech Z-5500.

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Craig Simms
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Craig Simms

Special to CNET News

Craig was sucked into the endless vortex of tech at an early age, only to be spat back out babbling things like "phase-locked-loop crystal oscillators!". Mostly this receives a pat on the head from the listener, followed closely by a question about what laptop they should buy.

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Clearly conscious that gamers wanted something a little more in the speakers department, Logitech put its collective brains to work on something that would satiate the most ardent gamer's desires, and came up with the G51.

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8.5

Logitech G51

The Good

Independent rear speaker volume. Volume/microphone mute switches. Allows external audio source. Separated control panel.

The Bad

Bass is a bit muddy for music, but fine for gaming.

The Bottom Line

Logitech's G51 should keep most gamers on a moderate budget very happy with their performance. Those who want the ultimate in clarity though should keep saving the pennies for the long time king of the hill, the Logitech Z-5500.

Design
A 5.1 sound system, the G51 is a series of "champagne" off-coloured gold, silvers and blacks. While you could separate the identical-looking satellites into front and rear by colour matching the cable terminations with the sockets on the subwoofer, more likely you'll figure out which is which by cable length alone. We wouldn't mind something even more explicit demarcating which is which. The centre speaker of course is immediately identifiable due to its horizontal orientation.

The subwoofer itself has a down-facing cone, to rumble all the more, and potentially get the floor vibrating in sympathy. Everything plugs into the subwoofer, and there's even two additional RCA ports for a secondary input -- potentially for a gaming console or portable media player.

Features
The G51 carries a few interesting tricks up its sleeve that makes it appealing for gamers. Ignore the misguided waste of time that is "customising" the speakers by being able to insert a print-out beneath the plexiglass on the satellites. More interesting is the separated control panel that connects to the subwoofer via a 15-pin port.

This features a large jog dial in the middle that is capable of altering master volume, bass, centre positioning, and more impressively, surround. This means the rear speakers can be easily jacked up independently in volume, taking into account the varied living domains of gamers, and that you finally can hear that enemy creeping up behind when you're meant to.

A headphone and microphone jack are built into the control panel, and it even remembers the volume level independently of the speaker volume when you plug in your favourite cans. Annoyingly, you can't keep your headphones simply plugged in and switch between them and the speakers -- it turns off the speakers when you plug in you headphones, and turns them back on when you pull out. Although this is still more convenient than jumping behind your machine to plug into your headphone jack, we would have thought Logitech would have gone the full mile and simply included a button for switching, eliminating the need to plug in repeatedly.

There are separate mute buttons for both volume and microphone, a "Matrix Mode" button that simply upscales 2-channel sound to 5.1, and a power button to shut the whole thing off.

Performance
Letting blast with an array of music heading from the heavy metal (Karnivool's "Themata") to classical (Carl Orff's "O Fortuna" from Carmina Burana) and pop (Barenaked Ladies' "Bull in a China Shop"), then loading up Half Life 2 for some blasting, we lent the G51s our sharpest ear.

The good news: Gamers will love them. They're perfectly fine and suited for all things gaming, with deep rumbles and great positional audio. No sounds were lost and clarity of the satellites was good.

The bad news: The bass is quite muddy with little definition, although it does rumble a lot, and music lacked the impact it should have, feeling slightly remote.

Perhaps this is a little unfair though -- our speaker tastes have been tainted by the earth shattering Logitech Z-5500s, which could possibly displace a rib with the volume and clarity they're capable of. They're also AU$300 more than the AU$299 G51s, and keeping this in mind Logitech's most recent offering is very good indeed.

Logitech's G51 should keep most gamers on a moderate budget very happy with their performance. Those who want the ultimate in clarity though should keep saving the pennies for the long time king of the hill, the Logitech Z-5500.

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