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Gaming Keyboard Roundup: Logitech, OCZ, and Razer

Gaming Keyboard Roundup: Logitech, OCZ, and Razer

With OCZ’s new line of gaming hardware coming to fruition, the Alchemy Elixir keyboard has reached the market. Featuring low-profile keys, ten dedicated macro keys, and rubberized texture, we’re pitting it against two of today’s reigning gaming keyboards to see how they match up.

First off, I’ll elaborate a bit on the Razer Lycosa, one of the high-profile gaming boards available today. Razer is certainly a company known around the gaming community, creating everything ranging from ridiculously-sensitive mice to gaming headsets. While I’m not one to be impressed by packaging, Razer’s Lycosa boxing is astounding. More often than not, I get furious with packaging for uselessly getting in my way and keeping me away from my goodies. Everything about the Lycosa, however, says that this product was designed for gamers. Even if it comes off as a bit over the top, its mission accomplished. You know they’re not messing around.

The well-organized keys are slick and shiny with a rubbery tactility that feels solid to the touch. In an unusual move, the wrist rest doesn’t just snap onto the board; it actually screws into the bottom of the Lycosa. It is clear Razer puts great thought into their products by eliminating any chance that the wrist rest could fall off at an inopportune time. The mounted wrist rest also grants the keyboard a little extra stability. Razer’s dedication to gamers also shines through in the lighting options for the Lycosa. In addition to no and full backlighting, the user can also enable backlighting for the WASD cluster alone.

Both the full and WASD-only backlighting options are in a pleasant shade of blue. The various lighting profiles can be changed on the fly with a button in the multimedia control key cluster. This cluster contains global hotkeys for play/pause, stop, forward, back, and volume up/down, though a mute button is curiously absent. Amongst the multimedia keys is the Razer logo key which allows a user to change profiles when combined with a function key, or enter “game mode” if combined with the Windows key. Game mode will disable the Windows keys so you can’t be kicked out of your frag-fest by accidentally hitting one.

The keyboard connects with two USB plugs and a standard pair of headphone/microphone 1/8″ mini-jacks. The second USB cable activates a USB 2.0 port on the rear of the keyboard, while the 1/8″ jacks activate headphone and microphone outlets next door. This will allow you to plug your mouse and headset directly into the keyboard, reducing wire clutter at the back of your case.

The robust Lycosa software allows you to remap absolutely any non-multimedia key to a 16-keystroke macro, a specific Windows command (cut, copy, close window, lock PC, show desktop), a program, or one of up to ten profiles at a time. The software also records mouse clicks, permits the insertion of delays in 50ms intervals up to 200ms, or will repeat your actions verbatim. You can tell the Lycosa to only run the macro once, repeat it while it’s held down, or repeat it until you touch the next key. You can even entirely disable the key. As mentioned, key profiles are enabled with the Razor+Function Key stroke, or can be configured to load when a certain executable launches. Lastly, the software allows you to back up key sets and profiles for portability and crash-protection.

Not all is well, though, as there were four quirks that were disappointing for me. While every key that is not mapped can be a potential macro key, the lack of dedicated macro buttons irked me. Secondly, the touch panel that contains the multimedia cluster and the Razer key was often unresponsive. Thirdly, the lack of tactile response for the media cluster also makes it difficult to know if the key of choice was properly activated. Lastly, removal of the wrist rest left a peculiar notch cut in the front edge of the keyboard.

If you’re a user of Windows Media Player, you’ll be disappointed to learn that the play/pause button forces Windows to focus the Windows Media Player Client. Tapping the play/pause button forces Windows Media Player to blink on the task bar, open from a minimized state, or become the active window. This behavior is baffling given that keyboards like the Logitech G15 can manipulate media playback without ever shifting focus from the current active window. This behavior was replicated on both Windows XP and Windows Vista.

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Comments

  1. Winfrey
    Winfrey Shiny keyboards!
  2. rolleggroll
    rolleggroll Snarky your write-up has gotten me all hyped up to buy an Alchemy Elixir. If this thing sucks after I buy it...its on your head.
  3. PurplezArctic
    PurplezArctic Hmm.. got me thinking about getting a new board.

    I like the OCZ macro buttons are arranged vertically as to cut the length down. :)
  4. Snarkasm
    Snarkasm (So are the G15's)
  5. PurplezArctic
    PurplezArctic Hmm. Why didn't I remember that ...

    How about,

    I like the OCZ macro buttons are arranged in such a way to cut down length. As in one column on each end of the board.
  6. Snarkasm
    Snarkasm (The G15 only has one column of keys)

    Perhaps this is where I mention that the G15 is smaller in width than the Alchemy Elixir. It IS, however, taller, thanks to the GamePanel.
  7. PurplezArctic
    PurplezArctic Ah, I still have the image of the earlier generation G15 in my head, where it has the 3 clusters of 6 buttons (right?) on one side.

    I suppose it's quite obvious I didn't read the reviews thoroughly.
  8. Snarkasm
    Snarkasm ;)

    Yes indeed, the former iteration had quite the load of keys. There are pictures of the board in the review and here.
  9. TurboPenguin
    TurboPenguin I'm surprised that Saitek's Cyborg Keyboard wasn't included in this...
  10. Thrax
    Thrax Saitek didn't send us a review sample.
  11. Winfrey
    Winfrey Their loss imho.
  12. Snarkasm
    Snarkasm I would be glad to write something up if they'd send one, though! ;)
  13. troll
    troll I have one of the 1st gen G15's with the 18 macro keys...
    The LCD is excellent, many games will load custom stuff on the panel, also nice to have FRAPS running on the LCD instead of flickering on the monitor.
    You really get used to the backlit keys, I'll always have a keyboard with it.
    Good review, I like the look of the 2nd gen G15.
  14. primesuspect
    primesuspect I too have the 1st-gen G15, and I love it. best keyboard I ever owned.
  15. Thrax
    Thrax
    I too have the 1st-gen G15, and I love it. best keyboard I ever owned.
  16. GnomeWizardd
    GnomeWizardd maybe should throw in the G11 since it is only 50 bucks now nad still one of the best in my opinion
  17. UPSWeezer
    UPSWeezer Are the keys on the OCZ Elixer quiet?

    I might get one.
  18. Snarkasm
    Snarkasm Not terribly quiet, no.
  19. UPSWeezer
  20. Snarkasm
    Snarkasm Just a heads up: you can get the G15, whose recommendation I stand by, for $62 today. Just a small premium over your current choice for a lot of added value.

    Note: I missed that that was a refurb, but there are similar deals for new ones here and here.
  21. UPSWeezer
    UPSWeezer
    Snarkasm wrote:
    Just a heads up: you can get the G15, whose recommendation I stand by, for $62 today. Just a small premium over your current choice for a lot of added value.

    Note: I missed that that was a refurb, but there are similar deals for new ones here and here.
    Oh thanks. Very nice.
  22. paul
    paul I like the sound of this, the Alchemy Elixir keyboard could be exactly what I have been looking for.
  23. djmeph
    djmeph The Razer Lycosa is the biggest piece of shit I've ever owned. I think I bought this very close to around the time this article was published. It worked well for a few months, but has given me nothing but problems ever since. I tried to contact Razer's tech support about the issues I was having when it was still under warranty, but they were of little to no help.

    The problem is that when then the "touch interface" gets anything on it, it starts to act up. This could be caused just by normal sweat and dirt from your hands, dust or moisture. The keyboard will be working fine one minute, then next thing you know there's a key stuck, or some adverse affect from the touch interface fucking up. It's not always easy to fix either. One would think that wiping off the touch interface with a dust-free cloth would work, but it doesn't. Sometimes you have to reset the keyboard by unplugging it and plugging it back in, but even that doesn't always work. Sometimes a complete reboot is what it takes and I swear to God, sometimes you just have to shelf the bitch for a while and deal with it later. Another problem I have is the keyboard lights won't stay on. They'll either go out on their own, or when it gets real bad, the keys start flickering like christmas tree lights. Sometimes when this happens, they keyboard will hesitate and screw up whatever you were typing.

    It has been a nightmare. An $80 nightmare. Tech support won't do anything about it, because the keyboard isn't technically broken just because the touch interface is dirty. Also, what are they going to do? Replace it with another crappy keyboard?

    While it may be a little too late, I don't recommend anyone ever buy this keyboard. EVER. I'm wondering though if any of you have had similar problems. To me it just seems like it was poorly designed. I would rather have normal buttons than the touch interface for media and volume controls.
  24. Cliff_Forster
    Cliff_Forster
    djmeph wrote:
    The Razer Lycosa is the biggest piece of shit I've ever owned. I think I bought this very close to around the time this article was published. It worked well for a few months, but has given me nothing but problems ever since. I tried to contact Razer's tech support about the issues I was having when it was still under warranty, but they were of little to no help.

    The problem is that when then the "touch interface" gets anything on it, it starts to act up. This could be caused just by normal sweat and dirt from your hands, dust or moisture. The keyboard will be working fine one minute, then next thing you know there's a key stuck, or some adverse affect from the touch interface fucking up. It's not always easy to fix either. One would think that wiping off the touch interface with a dust-free cloth would work, but it doesn't. Sometimes you have to reset the keyboard by unplugging it and plugging it back in, but even that doesn't always work. Sometimes a complete reboot is what it takes and I swear to God, sometimes you just have to shelf the bitch for a while and deal with it later. Another problem I have is the keyboard lights won't stay on. They'll either go out on their own, or when it gets real bad, the keys start flickering like christmas tree lights. Sometimes when this happens, they keyboard will hesitate and screw up whatever you were typing.

    It has been a nightmare. An $80 nightmare. Tech support won't do anything about it, because the keyboard isn't technically broken just because the touch interface is dirty. Also, what are they going to do? Replace it with another crappy keyboard?

    While it may be a little too late, I don't recommend anyone ever buy this keyboard. EVER. I'm wondering though if any of you have had similar problems. To me it just seems like it was poorly designed. I would rather have normal buttons than the touch interface for media and volume controls.

    I had a shopping dilemma a few months back, considering what I should do, buy an expensive keyboard laden with features I would never use, or buy an old school heavy duty mechanical keyset.

    I went old school, and I am thrilled with my purchase. I'm not knocking gaming keyboards with extra features for macros and custom programs for different games and such, but honestly, I just don't use them. If I want to reprogram controls, I just do it in that particular games control panel. Keys that glow in the dark, not for $100+. I just wanted a keyset that would handle my constant abuses. Only problem is its loud when you type on it, which I love to be honest, but my wife can't stand it when she and I are in the same room together.
  25. djmeph
    djmeph I enjoy using the low-profile keys, they are even more comfortable than my laptop keys. My main reason buying the keyboard wasn't for the extra features, but for the light-up low-profile keys. Honestly this would have been a great keyboard if not for the poorly designed touch interface. I don't use the macros and I don't program keys, I'm not even much of a gamer. As I said, my main beef is with the touch interface and how it interferes with normal operation.

    That being said, I'm in the market for a new keyboard. Based on my criteria, anyone have any suggestions?
  26. chizow
    chizow
    djmeph wrote:
    I enjoy using the low-profile keys, they are even more comfortable than my laptop keys. My main reason buying the keyboard wasn't for the extra features, but for the light-up low-profile keys. Honestly this would have been a great keyboard if not for the poorly designed touch interface. I don't use the macros and I don't program keys, I'm not even much of a gamer. As I said, my main beef is with the touch interface and how it interferes with normal operation.

    That being said, I'm in the market for a new keyboard. Based on my criteria, anyone have any suggestions?
    For a solid, functional, good looking KB, you can check this offering out:

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16823126043&Tpk=logitech%20illuminated

    It goes on sale quite often with an additiona $15-20 promo code, so keep an eye out and subscribe to Newegg if that price bothers you. I got mine for $40, its been as low as $35 in recent weeks AR. Rebate was pretty fast for me, came in about 6 weeks which is good for Logitech.

    As for the KB, its tiny, low profile but very sturdy and deceptively heavy given its sleek appearance and tiny footprint. Has laser etched LED illuminated keys that aren't overly gaudy or flashy. Keys use those precision scissor mechanisms and low keystroke travel common in laptop keyboards, very similar to their Logitech DiNovo offerings.

    Some problems I've read about include certain key blocking combos (very hit or miss, some claim problems with fast apostrophe combos, I had ctrl-A combo problems, some claim no problems at all. Could be a QA or firmware issue not sure. Also no USB ports on the KB itself, some also have complained about serious power draw on this KB to the point its not compatible with certain mobo.

    As for gaming vs. non-gaming keyboards, my take on it is if you use the programmable functionality in games, they're great. If not, they're mostly overkill. :)
  27. Thrax
    Thrax All I know is that when my Logitech G15 v1 dies, I'm going to ebay to buy another.
  28. primesuspect
    primesuspect Yeah that's kinda how I feel too. Old school G1 all the way.
  29. djmeph
    djmeph
    Thrax wrote:
    All I know is that when my Logitech G15 v1 dies, I'm going to ebay to buy another.

    For me, the keys are too big. It looks really cool, and probably functions very well for a gamer, but I just like the way the keys on my laptop work and just want an extended version of that for when I'm hooked up to my docking station.
  30. UPSWeezer
    UPSWeezer This Logitech G15 is great. Thanks for the awesome review which helped made my choice.
  31. Snarkasm
    Snarkasm I want my next keyboard to be the G19, but I don't know if my wallet will allow that.

    I'm happy with my MS Ergonomic Natural 4000 for work and my G15 V2 for play. Much prefer the screen on the V2 to the V1, but it's all subjective.

    And Meph, I think I mentioned a little bit about the wonky touch controls and my general dislike of them, but I never experienced full-on errors like you're reporting during my use. That's tough to deal with, for sure. Apologies for your experience.
  32. QCH
    QCH I would add that OCZ's keyboard should also include backlighting. I SOOOO want a keyboard that I can play on in almost total darkness and not have to crank up the LCD brightness to illuminate the keyboard.
  33. Snarkasm
    Snarkasm Should? Perhaps, but then it wouldn't be less than half the price of its competitors.
  34. djmeph
    djmeph In general I like to be able to do anything in the dark. Fortunately my Thinkpad has the trusty LED that lights up the keyboard, but I'd prefer light-up keys.
  35. chizow
    chizow New G110 from Logitech

    http://www.pcgameshardware.com/aid,697389/Logitech-G110-New-Gaming-Keyboard-introduced/News/

    Looks like a solid offering to replace the G11, taking the best of the new from the G19 and G15 Rev2. No LCD, but it has the 12 G-keys similar to the G19, which is definitely a welcome upgrade from the six on the G15 Rev2 with an overall smaller footprint and streamlined design. The keys look to have a really deep profile though....kinda reminds me of the old school mechanical kbs that seem to be making a comeback.

    May have to check this out, I never really used the LCD on my G15 (use a 2nd display for those functions) and the newer G15 and G19 address the biggest problems I had with my G15 Rev1, the loose keys, stripped paint, and overall poor build quality. No LCD should also price it reasonably, hopefully in the $50-70 range.
  36. Obsidian
    Obsidian Any word on when the G110 is coming out? Is it immediate and we'll be seeing it at e-tailers in the next few days or will we have to wait a few weeks? I've been looking at different keyboards recently and was thinking about the G15 and Sidewinder X6. This could fit the bill if Logitech isn't jacking up the price of the keyboard on their site like they usually do and I can pick one up for $50-60.
  37. Zuntar
    Zuntar
    Thrax wrote:
    All I know is that when my Logitech G15 v1 dies, I'm going to ebay to buy another.

    ^^this
  38. chizow
    chizow
    Obsidian wrote:
    Any word on when the G110 is coming out? Is it immediate and we'll be seeing it at e-tailers in the next few days or will we have to wait a few weeks? I've been looking at different keyboards recently and was thinking about the G15 and Sidewinder X6. This could fit the bill if Logitech isn't jacking up the price of the keyboard on their site like they usually do and I can pick one up for $50-60.
    Not sure when its expected to release, but the Logitech site and Amazon are listing it for pre-order for $79.99.

    http://www.logitech.com/index.cfm/gaming/mice_keyboard_combos/devices/5902&cl=US,EN?section=overview
    http://www.amazon.com/Logitech-920-002232-Gaming-Keyboard-G110/dp/B002RRLQIO/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&s=videogames&qid=1255609269&sr=8-7

    From recent product launches like the G13, G19 and G9x it sometimes takes awhile for Logitech to get announced products to channel. With the G9x especially as they waited to clear most of the existing G9 stock before launching it.

    Looked over the Logitech site and blog and there's some pretty cool features I don't think I've seen before on a KB. Maybe on the G19 but I haven't really looked into it in any detail with the hefty price tag.

    http://www.logitech.com/index.cfm/gaming/mice_keyboard_combos/devices/5902&cl=US,EN?section=overview
    http://blog.logitech.com/2009/10/15/new-logitech-gaming-keyboard-g110/

    G110 has a built-in USB audio device, which is pretty convenient for gamers as it will limit wires to your main box and keep voice mic and headset local. Just a few 3.5mm miniplugs to the KB for voicecoms.

    It also sports customizable LED backlights similar to the G9 mouse and G19 keyboard. Seems like the G110 will allow you to set different backlight keys on a per key basis via software. That'd be pretty sweet if you can do different patterns, like lighting up ASDW, or certain G-keys for those that may do better with visual abstraction using colors rather than numbers.

    Some other convenience features seen on other G-series keyboards of old, like wrist rest, cable routing traces make it onto the G110. There is also a single Hi-Speed USB 2.0 port, which is new compared to the G11/G15 rev1. Another welcome feature for connecting your mouse in an effort to limit wires running to your main box.
  39. Obsidian
    Obsidian Logitech is getting its first shipments of the G110 in mid-late November =/
  40. Snarkasm
    Snarkasm lol, Chizow:
    The only company that does a GOOD job of keepin game profiles updated in a timely manner is Nvidia with their video drivers. So good in fact they usually have functional game profiles in advance of a game's launch...

    That horse has to be all bones by this point.
  41. chizow
    chizow
    Snarkasm wrote:
    lol, Chizow:



    That horse has to be all bones by this point.
    Uh, ya I would think people who buy this hardware for the intended purpose of gaming would find automatic profile detection, functionality and support important, especially if its being touted as a major feature. Its probably the biggest reason the XBox 360 Controller is infinitely better than the Logitech Rumblepad 2. Like I said, the only company that does a good job of keeping these profiles updated in a timely manner is Nvidia.

    This isn't a dig on ATI if that's what you're insinuating, because their equivalent of game specific profiles are invisible to the end-user so its not actually a feature of their drivers. You can manually set profiles for particular games, but you have to create them from scratch and you still can't expose compatibility flags that aren't exposed normally through their CP like you can with Nvidia's profiles through the NVCP or nHancer (particularly useful for AA and CF/SLI flags).

    Its a feature they've promised months ago...but we'll probably see a blog post by Ian McNaughton in the next month or two explaining how its somehow Nvidia's fault they haven't delivered this feature yet (and yes, that is a dig at ATI). ;) In the meantime, I've just downloaded another update from Nvidia that fully supports Dragon Age Origins, TWIMTBP, no doubt.
  42. Cliff_Forster
    Cliff_Forster How hard is it to go into a game menu and manually set your preferences? Seriously? That's what I do on a title by title basis, takes me a few minutes, its not that big of a time suck, and most games defaults are pretty logical to begin with, I normally only adjust a couple minor preferences, for example I like to crouch using the back button on my mouse, and I like to melee by flicking my mouse wheel up. Takes me all of three minutes to get these things set and saved myself. I don't see what the big deal is on gaming specific keyboards.
  43. chizow
    chizow
    How hard is it to go into a game menu and manually set your preferences? Seriously? That's what I do on a title by title basis, takes me a few minutes, its not that big of a time suck, and most games defaults are pretty logical to begin with, I normally only adjust a couple minor preferences, for example I like to crouch using the back button on my mouse, and I like to melee by flicking my mouse wheel up. Takes me all of three minutes to get these things set and saved myself. I don't see what the big deal is on gaming specific keyboards.

    Well for one, its harder than not having to do anything manually at all. Also, I'm not referring to changing simple control maps for any particular game that any standard keyboard would also benefit from, I'm talking about profiles that would specifically take advantage of the added capabilities of an actual gaming keyboard.

    For example, if you wanted to set up a profile with your G15 and there wasn't a default profile (as there isn't for 99% of games out there), you have to create it, search for and designate the game's .exe, then start mapping out your functions to G-keys.

    With proper support and a functional profile, you wouldn't have to set anything up, the profile would exist and would already point to the proper .exe(s). While many of the pre-made set macros might not be useful to you, some might be great the way they are. Some might need slight modification. Some might expose functionality you would've never thought about that some dev support guy did.

    Obviously MMOs make some of the best use of gaming keyboards as you're able to map complex macros to a single function key, so pre-set macros might not be that useful. But at the very least, they could pre-map Ctrl/Shift/Alt and numeric #1 to 6 for each cluster of 6 G keys on the G15 which would at least offer some basic functionality to nearly every MMO out there.

    Another example would be many FPS games. Most FPS have in-game communication commands that combine canned voice acting with visual avatar actions, like hitting "T" or "V" might bring up a menu of common FPS-type commands listed 1-0. With good support and a pre-made profile, you might have T+1 mapped to G1 titled "Follow Me", G+2 mapped to G2 titled "All Clear" etc. etc.

    Simply put, if you had the choice of a program that offered useful templates vs. one that didn't, which would you prefer?



    So again, back to the original point Snarkasm linked out of context, I said:
    me wrote:
    Its a very powerful tool actually, the only major negative I found is lack of useful profiles per game so it takes some time to set up and the G keys themselves are a bit far off compared to Home Key position your hand would normally rest in.
    Well this new Logitech keyboard will solve that problem for you smile.gif
    me wrote:
    No that's the problem, they've claimed support for game profiles since the original G15 but they are so few and never ever updated. Its the same for their game pads or Creative's ALchemy, they work good but you gotta set up the profiles yourself. The only company that does a GOOD job of keepin game profiles updated in a timely manner is Nvidia with their video drivers. So good in fact they usually have functional game profiles in advance of a game's launch thanks to the TWIMTBP devrel program.

    So no, pre-made profiles may not be a big deal to some people, but I think it would be for anyone who sees this as a major feature especially given its so prominently advertised and touted as a feature. The keyboard example isn't the worst offender by a long-shot, like I said earlier the Logitech Rumblepad 2 seems completely unusable compared alongside the seamless support offered by the XBox 360 controller.

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