Price (RRP): $249.95
I learnt to type on a desktop. A desktop typewriter, that is. An enormous clunky thing with a key travel that must have been a good 25mm and required a very firm strike to make sure it flung the type head with sufficient force to leave a character on the paper.
Over the years I’ve produced a few million words on everything from variations on that, through to tapping away on virtual keyboards on touch sensitive screens. Until now, the apex keyboard for me was the IBM PS/2 keyboard from the late 1980s and early 1990s. When I stopped working for places that gave me such fine equipment, I ended up purchasing a very expensive Lexmark keyboard by mail order from the US in the mid-1900s. Sadly, a spring in the space bar broke fairly quickly and that was it. I’ve been with membrane switches and worse ever since.
Until now. I am typing these very words with the mechanical keys of the Logitech G810 Orion Spectrum gaming keyboard. Yes, it’s intended for gaming, but anyone who has to punch out thousands of words on a regular basis will like it too. As for me, I love it.
The Logitech G810 is a wonderful mixture of traditional virtue, with some nifty stuff overlaid on the tradition in a way which does not detract from it.
First, it uses mechanical switches. These are Logitech-developed Romer-G switches, tested to seventy million keystrokes. The keys sit up high out of the base compared to the standard keyboards one uses, around a centimetre. The layout is properly conventional, just as though it were twenty five years ago (except that now we have the Windows and Option keys near the spacebar).
This is important. My most recent keyboard was not cheap, but I’ve struggled with it for months because the function keys are narrow and boldly labelled with their secondary purpose, the actual F numbers in a hard-to-read colour. In the end I had to resort to an unsightly paper label sticky-taped to it, and still my fingers have trouble finding the right keys. The Logitech G820 has full sized function keys, just where they’re supposed to be. There’s also a numeric keyboard in the right position. The Insert/Home/Page cluster are the right way around, sitting properly above the arrow cluster. All are full size.
The few extras are confined to some buttons for controlling media player, a nice smooth roller for the volume, and backlight on/off switch, and a switch for invoking “gaming mode” (which disabled pre-specified keys).
Useful for gamers, less so for typists, is the ability of the keyboard to register up to 26 simultaneous key presses.
The keyboard is not wireless. The fibre-insulated USB cable has to be plugged in, which makes sense given the power needs for the LEDs.
LEDs? Yes, LEDs. There are red, green and blue LEDs under each and every key (and the “G” logo and the media and keyboard control buttons). These are extremely controllable as we’ll see shortly.
This is a hefty keyboard. It weighs nearly 1.2 kilograms. There’s no flexing of the base, no creaking. It’s solid. Adjustable feet allow the keyboard to be flat, or occupy two tilted positions. The body is fairly thick and since the keys stand up tall, the whole thing is rather higher than is normal. The top of the space bar is nearly 30mm above the desktop.
When you first plug in the keyboard, it fires up with a startling wave pattern of lights, bands of colour sweeping across the keyboard from left to right. It’s a wonderful show-off effect, and essentially lets you know at a glance the full capabilities of the keyboard.
Not that I could see myself ever typing on a keyboard like that. Indeed, ever being capable of typing on a keyboard like that. Way too distracting. You can just hit the light button on the keyboard and just switch it off. But to get true value from the product you should download the free Logitech Gaming Software. This allows you to customise the keyboard in a number of ways. The most important is the ability to change what the lights do, but there are some potentially useful other functions, such as redefining function keys and choosing particular keys on the keyboard to make inoperative.
You can see that value of that for games in particular. Having your Windows “Start” menu pop up when you accidentally hit it mid-battle could be disastrous. This is completely configurable, and along with lighting patterns and key redefinitions you can save your settings to a profile. You can save lots of profiles and so easily bring up all the settings at once for the game you’re about to play. Profiles can be shared with others, so you can probably download profiles for popular games rather than having to create them yourself.
You can choose patterns of colours to apply to different key areas, grouping functions together so you can get your fingers to the right place more rapidly at moments of crisis. The default, for example, has the WASD cluster in red, the Shift/Alt/Ctrl areas in green, the numbers in yellow and so on. All of which can be customised. No matter how obscure the game you’re using, you can make your own highlight zones since you can customise the lighting of every single key individually.
There are also more choices of moving patterns (or brightness – “Breathing” has the lights slowing wax and wane). There’s a confusing “Star Effect”, which has keys randomly brightening and fading, I guess as though they were twinkling stars. You can have a lot of fun.
There’s also “Fixed Color”. You can have the same colour apply to all keys; and the same brightness as well. For when you’re typing rather that gaming, that can make for a more restrained, and much less confusing, look.
The software is not bulletproof. It scanned my system looking for profiles from which I could choose, and found one it alleged was for Photoshop CC. Out of curiosity I selected it, and that crashed the gaming software.
The feel of it
Oh what a pleasure it is to type on this keyboard. The feel takes me right back to those PS/2 keyboards, although it is not identical. There’s plenty of travel. I couldn’t find a specification, but it looked to be about 5mm. The bottom of the key movement ends solidly, but more of a thud than a clack (the weakness of those old keyboards).
The actual point of operation is specified as being at 1.5mm, which Logitech says makes them 25% faster than other mechanical switches. Again, important for gamers. It also means that you can work with both a heavy or a light touch according to preference.
There are indicator lights for num lock, caps lock and scroll lock (just like the good ol’ days) and these work even if you have the keyboard lights switched off, but they follow whatever colour scheme you set (or you can give them their own unique colours if you like).
The surfaces of the keys are smooth, not really textured, but not shiny either. The edges of the key tops are hard, almost sharp, but I don’t believe they can commit any finger injuries. You just know very clearly if your fingers are starting to become misaligned with the keys. The left hand CTRL key is very close to the bottom left hand corner of the keyboard, and combined with the high point of operation, I did find myself performing unintended CTRL key combinations a bit more often than usual, resulting in some accidental tab and alignment changes in this very review, but I find I’m getting more used to it with every few words, and less likely to make the same mistake.
There aren’t labels on the keys, as such, so they aren’t in any danger of rubbing off. As long as the LEDs last (which should be for many years), the key identification will remain clear. And in a dark room, it was very nice to know exactly where to put my fingers.
Who’d have thought it: the Logitech G810 Orion keyboard, developed principally for gamers, works beautifully for those who want to type, and type lots. It has everything where it’s needed. It isn’t cluttered with a lot of non-standard keys that just get in the way. And it’s a real pleasure for the fingers to use.