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Logitech G15 Revision 2

Date: October 24, 2007
Author(s): Nate Marion

Logitech released a revised G5 mouse earlier this year, and now have given attention to their most popular gaming keyboard, the G15. Updates were made for the sake of size, so a few features have been modified to reflect that. In the end though, it still proves to be an exceptional offering.



Introduction


It was only a few short weeks ago that pictures of Logitech’s new G9 mouse and updated G15 keyboard earned a resounding ‘Huh?!’ across the Internet. As it turned out, despite the initial incredulity, the G9 is a great piece of hardware. However, in the case of the G15, the benchmark set two years ago with the release of the original G15 was very high, and some enthusiasts were less than pleased to see their battalion of G-keys cut down to 1/3 of original size and a smaller LCD.

This new revision of the G15 is the result of Logitech’s effort to address the most common complaints about the original G15 and to make the keyboard more appealing to mainstream gamers. While some (including myself) are sure to have initial reservations about some or all of the changes, the keyboard deserves a good, honest examination, especially for those who don’t own the original and considering Logitech’s excellent track record designing quality hardware.

It’s hard to believe it’s been two years since I first got my G15, ripped it open, changed all the LEDs from blue to red, and started installing 3rd party LCD applets. Today, you’re going to get a good look at Logitech’s new incarnation of this keyboard, which I sincerely hope that you find useful. These days there are quite a few choices in the $80-$100 keyboard segment, so it’s important that buyers understand what features they’re getting.

With that in mind, this review will focus mainly on a general presentation of the G15 keyboard, with notes on design changes from the original model where appropriate. Let’s get to it!

Overview and Features:

The box gives a good idea of what’s inside and gives the feature list, paraphrased here:

The modest hardware requirements are also shown:

Hopefully that didn’t frighten anyone away. Let’s open the box!

Isn’t she a beauty? I have to say that I like the new look right off the bat. The overall layout is nearly identical to the original G15, with the LCD and media keys top-center, and the G-keys on the left. There are also two USB ports at the top underneath the LCD. Logitech also includes a driver CD and a plastic hand rest. The hand rest feels like smooth plastic, whereas the original G15 hand rest felt slightly rubberized.

Here we see the grooves for managing the wiring, as well as the collapsible stands to angle the board. One thing that some users may find annoying is that while the grooves are appropriately sized for mice cords, thicker cords (like, the G15 cord!) won’t fit without a lot of manhandling. This groove array appears to have been designed for use with a single mouse, and thus its usefulness is very limited.

Here we have a nice shot of the 6 G-keys as well as the Mode and Macro Record keys. This is where most of the original G-15 fans are going to get ticked. There were a lot of mixed thoughts on reducing the number of G-keys to 6, but I think that the G15 product manager explained the change pretty well:

The major goal behind the design change in the G15 was to decrease the size of the product so that it would fit better on people’s desks. This was by far the number one complaint about the design of the original keyboard… The decision to remove keys was not made arbitrarily. In early discussions about the new design, it became very clear that it was not possible to address the need to make the keyboard more compact without affecting the number of macro keys. The majority of end-users with whom I talked only use between four and six macros per game, so six (or 18, considering M-keys) became the number we would use.

So where the old G15 was ~21.5″ wide, the new revision is just under 19.5″ wide. Those with tiny desks or limited counting capacity may rejoice.

The logo is small, stylish, and symmetrical. Sleek, too.

The uniformity of the keyboard body surfaces gives it a nice, minimalist feel. Here you can see the G15 logo and the light control button.

The LCD panel is another area where the original G15 got a major facelift. Again, Logitech says:

…the modifications to the LCD area were both done with making a more compact keyboard in mind. In the case of the LCD changes, increasing reliability was also a significant factor.”

In this case, where the old G15 had a depth of ~8.75″ with the LCD panel CLOSED, the new G15 has a depth of ~8.5″. I can’t speak on the reliability issue, but users should have no problem reading this screen despite its smaller size. The resolution hasn’t changed and the backlight is great, so if anything the images are cleaner.

Another change is the removal of the volume knob, which some (including me) will miss dearly. Volume can now be controlled with two buttons, seen on the right of the LCD.

Aside from the media keys, there are also 4 function buttons just below the LCD that serve various functions depending on the LCD applet that is active, and a 5th button on the left that allows users to change the active applet.

Ah, yes – the night shot. Insert your own subjective comments here. Mine are: “I like it” and, more factually, “It’s not blue”.

Here’s the LCD in action, running SirReal’s Panel, which I think is a pretty good worst-case scenario in terms of tiny characters. I have no problems seeing what’s there. The image can also be inverted…

…Like this, via the GamePanel manager software which we’re about to see.



Drivers and Software

With the new revision of the G15 come new drivers, which we’ll look at now. For the most part the drivers haven’t changed much, but there’s at least one big surprise.

Let’s start with the new GamePanel manager, which controls applets running on the LCD.

The main window allows control over the multiple LCD applets that are running and the brightness/contrast of the LCD. Starting at the top, quick switching simply means that as you change applets, the applet name is shown for a shorter period of time before the applet itself is displayed. Manual and rotation alter how the applets are cycled through. Inverting the LCD image changes the display to black on orange rather than orange on black, and the brightness/contrast can be adjusted. Finally, you can control what applets are permitted to run. Note that 3rd party applets can be allowed/disallowed here.

The program manager window allows control over some of the applets that are included with the G15 software. In the above image I have shown the four programs that can be configured here. Counterclockwise from the top left there is the media display applet, which can display information from a list of different media players on the LCD screen.

Next there is the POP3 monitor, used for keeping track of email – I couldn’t get this applet to work using XP Professional 64bit – it would throw an error and need to close every time I tried to start it, which was problematic because I couldn’t change servers to see if that was the problem. Reinstallation didn’t solve the problem. Next there is the clock, with several different styles to choose from, and finally you can configure the timer/stopwatch – yes, both can be run at the same time.

The global settings are pretty self-explanatory.

If you need help with anything, there’s a very extensive help file that can be accessed from the help section.

Internet updates should make it easy to ensure that you’re using the latest drivers. I was not able to verify that this works because at the time of this review, these are the latest drivers.

Finally, there is the version information.

Next, let’s examine the main driver menu.

In the profile drop-down menu contains options pertaining to the creation and saving of profiles. One of the best things about the G15 is that users can save and share profiles, so any user can benefit from someone else’s work.

The edit menu allows for changing of all profile attributes, and is where the macro manager and script editor can be found.

The macro manager is a nice tool that allows users to create and save macros under a given profile that can then be assigned to the G-keys. This is nice because it means that once a macro is created and saved, you don’t have to perform the keystrokes again in order to assign it to a different G-key, you can just pick it from a list. Note that this only applies to one profile – if you use the same macro for several different profiles, the macro must be programmed for each one.

The script editor allows users to create and save their own scripts in the Lua scripting language. I know nothing about this language or how to go about writing scripts, but from everything I’ve read, this is going to be a very powerful and useful tool – and of course, scripts can be shared!

For those of you who are anxious to begin writing scripts for the rest of us to download later, the tutorial can be reached from the script editor help menu. A few clicks will get you to the Lua online reference and wiki page.

If that script-coding window scared you, the settings menu will be a welcome return to simplicity.

Again, the help file is very extensive and contains walkthrough instructions for everything you might want to do other than writing scripts.

As for assigning functions to keys, there are quite a few options; keystrokes, macros, shortcuts of your choosing, and scripts can all be tied to each button. Assigning macros can also be performed while playing a game by using the quick macro key, (labeled ‘MR’) located near the Mode keys.

The beta software that is included with the revised G15 can be found here.

This software is compatible with both versions of the G15, and I was able to switch between my two G15’s without missing a beat. I could create profiles using 18 G-keys with the original G15 and also with 6 G-keys with the revised G15, and all of the Logitech LCD applets worked with both keyboards. It’s worth mentioning that importing a profile made for the original G15 into the revised G15 will result in G-keys 7-18 being dropped, but keys 1-6 still function properly. There doesn’t seem to be any problem with LCD applets either – RivaTuner and FRAPS both run perfectly on both keyboards, as do EGS3 and SirReal’s Panel, so it looks like Logitech did a good job ensuring that user won’t have any compatibility issues.



Performance, Final Thoughts


I spent quite a bit of time with this new G15, and I have to say that my impression is more positive than I expected. The key surfaces have the same feel of the original G15, but the tactile response feels smoother and is noticeably quieter, which many will appreciate.

The number of simultaneous key presses is between 6 and 8, according to testing done with PassMark KeyboardTest. I was able to press nearly any combination of WASD, Q, E, Shift, Ctrl, Space as well as the arrow keys without any problems. I’ll also note that I played through Half Life 2: Episode 1, Episode 2, Portal, and Dark Messiah of Might and Magic in their entirety solely with this keyboard, and experienced zero key press problems.

The LCD panel is easy to control, easy to see, and with the ability to design and download custom applications for it, it’s extremely versatile. Owners of the original G15 may be disappointed with the smaller size of the LCD, but the resolution hasn’t changed, so I actually found this new LCD easier to read in some cases.

The media keys all performed their functions without issue. Owners of the original G15 might miss the volume knob, which has been replaced by two volume buttons. Personally, I prefer the knob, but the new design looks great and works well.

Whether or not you like the new orange color scheme, the lights are nice and bright, with a noticeable difference between the two brightness levels that you can choose from. Also notable is how well controlled the lights are – with the old G15, the backlighting was visible between the keys – with the new revision, the only light you see is coming through the markings on the keys; personal preference will dictate if this is a good thing.

With the exception of the POP3 notification applet, the drivers worked flawlessly and the G-keys were very easy to program and use. One thing that sets the G15 apart from it’s competition is that the programmable macros can be of any length – in fact, this entire paragraph was typed with one key press. This keyboard is a very powerful tool in any environment.

Final Thoughts

So, having said all that, let’s break it down.

So did Logitech’s changes make the keyboard better? That’s largely subjective, but even those who prefer the original G15 will appreciate the quieter, more buttery smooth keys, and the new driver software and Lua scripts can be enjoyed by all. There is no doubt that this keyboard is a force to be reckoned with.

For some modding-specific information, please check out the next page!

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A note on Modifications and 3rd party applications

If you’re looking for a constantly updated place to find profiles, scripts and LCD applets, I recommend g15forums.com. This was my stomping ground back when I was swapping LEDs and downloading applications, and it’s still going strong today. If it’s G15 related and worth getting, it’s probably there.

Back with the first G15 was introduced, a nice disassembly guide was made, and some nice LED modifications were documented. I had planned on documenting a similar disassembly with this board, but stopped fairly early on. I’ll explain.

Opening the board up is as simple as undoing the screws from the back (none are hidden, and they’re all the same length) and applying a little pressure to separate the pieces. From here, it doesn’t look like it’d be difficult to get rest of the board apart.

Here you can see that the LEDs on this board are surface mount, so replacing them is going to be very tricky. The 4 boxes in the upper left show the LEDs for the M1-M3 and MR keys, and give you an idea of how small these LEDs are. The large box in the center is showing the reverse side of one of the LED PCBs for the main keyboard, and shows that there are no solder connections that go all the way through the PCB. The small-ish box on the top right shows the LCD connection cable, which can be detached by pulling up on the black tabs on either side of the cable plug (visible here) and then pulling out the cable.

Unfortunately, replacing these LEDs is going to be significantly more difficult than with the original G15 due to the size of the LEDs and the surface mount soldering methods used to attach them. No doubt someone more resourceful/patient that myself will undertake this task. Good luck!


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