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My mouse broke and I decided to treat myself to a new one. While poking around on the online PC shopping sites I contemplated the idea of getting a new keyboard. There's nothing wrong with my current one, but I've always been tempted by these so called "gamepads" Especially because of their dedicated gaming nature. The majority of "gaming keyboards" do not appeal as they all look like standard QWERTY keyboards with a few extra buttons and screens thrown in (if you ask me). Gameboards are ever so slightly different, by their very nature, their designed for the gamer. So i was intrigued. I've heard nothing but rave reviews of logitechs offerings and already having experience of logitech in other areas I was extremely tempted, so went for the G13.
The first thing to say is, the gamepad is both better than I expected and more frustrating too.
Ill start with the bad points. I say points, there are only really 2. The first one is, being a game pad, necessarily there are no standard QWERTY keys, which means if in between games (or during) you want to type anything; be it a trash talking message to a friend or a URL for a website you want to surf while you're waiting for the next map to load, then you have to reach for your normal keyboard. So there's the first point, this is NOT a keyboard replacement, but you probably guessed that already. Having said that, you COULD programme one of the profiles to be the equivalent to a QWERTY key-set, but that would be rather a lot of work (and remembering what you'd programmed could be a bit of a nightmare!)
My second gripe is simply that there is no wrist strap. Strange thing to wish for I guess, but I was hoping it would be a bit lighter and i could strap it to my wrist and thus lay my hand on my lap or something more comfortable. Alas no. However, its okay because the weight and general feeling of the pad makes it seem very high quality indeed! (which it is).
Now for the good points. :)
The G13 is a very fancy bit of kit. Its one of those pleasant bits of technology where (if you are like me and dont read instruction manuals) you are constantly finding out new things about it. For example the other day I discovered that not only does it have a Ventrilo (VOIP Software) interface which displays who is in your channel and talking, but it also gives you options available for use even when in game! Things like switching channel with the flick of a few keys, kicking naughty people from the server and more! Very handy, especially for those games where ALT+TAB'ing crashes the game!
Before I get into the rest of the features, I'll keep talking about the display screen. There are a number of options which you can scroll through to display on the little (multi-coloured) LCD screen. These include an interface with Windows Media Player which displays what song is playing, what album it is from and how much time has expired. There are also other displays for CPU/RAM useage displays, a clock, an X fire interface (showing what messages people have sent to you), a profile selector (discussed later), a countdown timer (haven't worked out the point of this one yet) and most funky of all an RSS News Feed - so you can keep up to date on the latest news while you play! WAIT! I just checked the settings and it even has an email alerter!
Getting it out of the box:
Plugging the G13 and installing the relevant software means that it will scan your PC for installed games and then set up profiles for each that it has a memory for. In my case it automatically recognised Call of Duty:World at War, Modern Warfare 2 and Call of Duty 4 and set up profiles for each, according to the best layout for keys you will want to use while playing. There is also a "default" profile and it should be noted here that you do not have to use the profile it automatically assigned and can "lock" the pad to a specific profile or programme your own or switch between them even while in game.
One of the best features of the whole game pad should be mentioned here. Simply there is a "quick macro" button. Hitting that allows you to assign your own keystrokes (or macros) on the fly. Therefore even if the set game profile isn't the best layout for your gaming style you do not have to stop playing to change it. No need to ALT+TAB to windows and mess with the configuration tool, simply hit the MR key on the keyset and assign a new macro/keystroke to the key you wish to change. That alone is a very very handy feature.
For each gaming profile there are 2 more available profiles. Each assigned to an "M" button (i.e. M1, M2, M3). Each of these profiles can have a completely different set of keys assigned to them. Colours too. You can change the colour of each profile so that the backlit LCD screen and every "G" button on the keypad is back lit with that colour, which looks nice and pretty at night. The colours are totally customisable or you can choose from the standard, RED, BLUE, GREEN and YELLOW. Personally I stick to blue as it goes nicely with my Razer Mamba's blue glow.
The gamepad is wired, as you'd expect, with a suitably lengthy USB cable. Which is perfectly fine for use on the desk.
One addition that I didn't notice when I purchased the gamepad is the side mounted joystick, which can be used for movement in game. I haven't decided if its better than WASD (or G4, G10, G11, G12) yet or not. However it might have some cool uses in flight sims or games with vehicles. Haven't had a chance to find out yet!
The pad is very comfortable to use, its design sits nicely on your wrist (and vice versa), there is a soft wrist rest at the base of the pad which makes it a pleasure to use. One worry for me (having come from a Z board and butterfly buttons) was the standard sized keyboard buttons which would mean id fall back into my old problem of pressing all the wrong keys in the dark. However, logitech nicely solved this issue by carving tiny little dips into the relevant keys meaning that you can feel the right ones with your finger tips. Plus with the correct placement of your hand on the pad in the way it was intended, you cant help but have your fingers in the right place.
So, in the end, simply, the G13 is brilliant, I love it. But dont expect it to replace your keyboard. You'll still need that. But it will be perfect for LAN parties or long gaming sessions.