While the cordless revolution has taken most of the desktop world by storm, hardcore gamers continue to support a traditional wired interface for their peripherals. The reasons for this are obvious, as a wired link provides a full-speed, uninterrupted flow of data from the keyboard/mouse to the PC, and when the your gaming life hinges on this transfer, wireless just won't do. Logitech produces many different wired gaming devices, like the popular G9 Laser Mouse, and potentially their most visible product, the G15 Keyboard.
The G15 has gone through a major revision since its initial launch, and it started off as a grey-scale G15 Gaming Keyboard with a flip-up monochrome display and a full 18 macro keys on the left side. This was later updated to the current revision G15 Keyboard we all know and love, and although Logitech initially maintained the same product name, the "Gaming" part was later dropped, and now Logitech refers to it as the G15 Keyboard on their webpage and packaging.
The G15 Keyboard features a silver-black color design and an orange key backlighting scheme that follows along with previous Logitech peripherals while giving the G15 a bit of individuality. The orange backlighting even has three brightness levels, allowing gamers to find the keys in differing light conditions. The 18 physical G Keys of the older model have shifted into a set of 6 G keys, with three different programmable states each, for a total of 18 different combinations.
The three M-keys at the top allow for three different G-key Modes, which can be used to support a full gamut of keys, or to provide profiles for individual games. Once the M key is depressed, you are then in that mode and the G key assignments can be made. The MR Key is used to assign keystrokes or macros to the individual G keys, making it extremely easy to create a host of very useful game commands.
There are two USB 1.1 ports on the back of the G15 Keyboard, directly under the LCD display. The G15 only features a single USB cable link, so these ports are definitely not for high-power devices like flash cards or rechargers. Cable management is also improved, as the G15 features cable routing on the bottom of the unit, and can support additional mouse and headset cables as well. The included palm rest can be attached for some extra width and the G15 includes a pair of flip-stands at the top for added height, if required.
The GamePanel LCD features an orange-on-black color scheme and is physically smaller than the grey-scale LCD on the original G15 Gaming Keyboard, but as the resolution is the same, the G15's is clearer and easier to read. The GamePanel LCD can support a variety of standard features, like telling the time, displaying the media playing or relaying the CPU/memory usage of your system, as well as handling a wide range of custom plug-ins like chat programs or even virtual pets.
This LCD is incorporated directly into the keyboard housing, so there is no tilt mechanism. Right next to the LCD is a set of media keys, and just to the left is the Game Mode switch, which enables/disables that pesky Windows key. As this is a gaming keyboard, the G15 allows more than 3 keys pressed simultaneously to be recognized.
The retail bundle for the Logitech G15 keyboard is pretty sparse and includes the palm rest, an instruction manual and a driver CD. We were a bit surprised at the sparse documentation, especially as the CD didn't include any PDF manuals. As we found out later, the programming and user guides are all incorporated into the Logitech driver software.