The Logitech G13 Gamepad, on the other hand, can change a mundane notebook fragging experience into a totally awesome frag fest. Armed with a multifunction LCD display, mini-joystick and 22 fully-programmable backlit macro keys, this may just be the ideal complement to your gaming notebook.
PROS: very ergonomic, fully-programmable, multifunction LCD, RGB backlight, joystick/mouse control
CONS: LCD could use more widgets, limited gaming use beyond first-person shooter type games
Contrary to what some may be thinking, my decision to pick up the Logitech G13 gamepad was purely out of curiosity. For one thing, I wanted to see just how much of a difference a dedicated gamepad can make to the first-person shooter experience. On the other hand, I wanted to examine what else a dedicated gamepad with programmable macros can be used for, especially given the constraints with notebook keyboards.
On closer examination, it's evident the G13 can be put to use outside of gaming as well, especially when you harness it's LCD display and begin to use it's macro functions, joystick and other features.
The G13 may also even help save you from a flaky mouse button or notebook trackpad, but more on that later.
Logitech's G13 gamepad offers a more than just the ability to customize it's buttons. For starters, you get an extremely well-designed and ergonomic exterior. The base has rubber feet to prevent sliding during intense gaming sessions. It's also well contoured to fit the shape of your hand, big or small, with a rubber wrist rest along with ergonomically-placed left/right mouse buttons by the mini joystick that are perfect for the thumb.
Above the programmable G-keys you have the M1/M2/M3 profile preset keys with a MR key. These are great for switching profiles on-the-fly, and can come in handy in games where you may be busy with a sniper rifle one moment, and flying an attack chopper the next.
At the very top you get a customizable LCD display with various widgets/apps Logitech includes with their software to get it up and running. You can have a clock, RSS feed, stopwatch/timer, system status and even interface with HWMonitor to display your system temps. I find it handy to see in game just how much load my CPU/RAM is using, for example, or quickly get the temps on my GPU/CPU.
There is also a button to turn the backlight on/off, although doing so renders the LCD unusable.
|Full control over each button/key|
The mini-joystick can serve multiple purposes. You can use it as a left-handed mouse, with the grey keys set up as left/right mouse buttons. You can use it as a regular joystick in game for directional movement. Or you can also bind any combination of keys you would to a normal key. That last one really handy of you need multiple actions from a single tool.
|Pick your colors|
In addition to the many game profiles you can have, the G13 also comes with both a default profile along with a persistent profile. The default profile is the one you would have in place on the desktop without a full-screen game running. This is how I have my joystick set up as a mouse, for example. The persistent profile is an option you can have that binds specific keys regardless of what profile you happen to be using.
|Time for a tropical blood-bath|
The good news is that once you do master where your controls are, your ability to react and attack in game can be tuned to a very high level. It's handy being able to group the most common movement controls near the WASD keys as well as your weapons reload key and change-of-view keys. Likewise, if you are in Far Cry's devmode, you can also bind your unlimited ammo and fly keys.
During use, you also notice another great advantage in that you get away from your WIndows key. For many full-screen games, accidentally hitting that Windows key can ruin a heated battle. No such problems when using the G13.
So we know the G13 works great for first-person shooters, but what about other games? What benefits can the G13 provide for racing/flight sims, turn-based strategy or other types of games? The Logitech software does offer profiles for these games, but in reality these controls are very limited. They may also not be well suited ergonomically as other game controllers.
Case in point: racing games. My particular keyboard setup has always been to use the left/right cursor keys to steer, the up/down keys to shift and the A/Z keys to accelerate/brake. That gives me the ability to steer/brake/shift all at the same time when I'm in a corner (much like you can in a real car) keeping both hands well-planted on my keyboard. I can still do the accelerating/braking with the G13 using my left hand, but I'm by virtue stuck using the cursor keys on my keyboard with my right hand for steering/shifting. In that regard, the G13 provides no benefit, and something like the Logitech G27 racing wheel would provide a better racing experience than a gamepad.
The same is true for flight simulators. While you can bind a myriad of flight control and view/communication keys to the 22x3 presets, you get far more ergonomic and immediate control using a throttle and yoke. You could, in effect, bind the mini-joystick on the G13 for flight control, but you would just end up crashing due to a lack of fine accuracy/precision. The more elegant and comfortable solution here is a full-size two-hand throttle/joystick setup such as the Saitek X-55.
For turn-based strategy games such as Civilization V, the Logitech G13 can actually help a ton. It's possible to bind different action/attack keys, for example, and set up the joystick to move the map. This would complement mouse controls for moving the cursor around and zooming in/out.
RTS and MMORP games should also benefit somewhat from using a gamepad, although I admit I don't have any to really test as I am not into those types of games.
Being that the G13 offers fully-customizable macro keys, you're not limited to using those for gaming. Productivity software can also benefit greatly when you add the utility of programmable keys, especially when working with a compact notebook keyboard.
|Extensive customization options|
Examples of how you could use this? Imagine a single key press to hit up a URL string for entering in a text field - not something doable with browser bookmarks. Or a single key press to open up a File Explorer window that you don't want to keep a shortcut to on your desktop because it's folder contents are sensitive. Likewise, you could set up the joystick for dedicated scrolling within your image manipulation software and keep your mouse/trackball assigned for cursor movement.
Here's where the benefit of saving your profiles to the G13 become a killer feature, since you can take your settings with you and work on another PC in your home/office using the same software. Many professional users are trained to be productive using specific settings for their keyboard shortcuts. Since these are no longer tied to a single PC, you can take the G13 with you and maintain your productivity on whatever PC you choose, be it a desktop or a notebook.
This also negates the need to buy an expensive keyboard with programmable macro keys to do specialist work tasks. In effect, the G13 not only offers better customization than any programmable keyboard on the market, but will work with a notebook, is easier to tote around, and maintains it's profile settings on the device.
|Info that's always good to know|
One final handy use may be as a mouse for your other hand. Since you can configure the joystick and adjacent keys for left/right mouse buttons, you can effectively give you a second pointing device. This may be great for those notebooks that have a quirky track pad. It may also help you out with a stubborn mouse button that likes to do double-clicks in place of single clicks - definitely not a good thing when making online payments and purchases.
As I said in the gaming performance section, you will be hard-pressed to find a use for the G13 in 3D titles beyond first-person shooters. In many instances, and especially with notebook users, sticking to your keyboard may be a better alternative than making space for a gaming wheel or a flight simulator setup on your desk.
I also wish Logitech provided more apps for use with the LCD, since the ones that come out of the box are fairly limited. I admit it works great as a system monitor, but the ability to customize exactly what sensors get displayed on the LCD would boost it's usefulness tremendously.
It's disappointing that the LCD and keypad cannot get individual RGB color choice when it comes to the backlight. Why have the ability to turn the LCD off if it results in the display being unreadable?
Notebook first-person shooter fans will love the Logitech G13 gamepad. It will give you the edge on your gaming in a way that is just not possible using a notebook keyboard. It's programmable keys, LCD display and customizable mini-joystick open up a huge opportunity to tweak the user experience on other games as well, including turn-based strategy games, RTS and MMORPG. Unfortunately, with me not playing those last two, and with better solutions for racing/flight sims, I'm still on the fence if the G13 is worth the $69 price.
For professional users needing fully-customizable macro keys, however, the G13 will definitely beat what a more expensive programmable keyboard can do, especially when using software that involves heavy use of keyboard shortcuts. This is probably the one serious reason I would consider keeping it on my desk, the other being that it will complement a notebook keyboard and help boost your productivity. Even for simple web browsing, it can be set up to handle URL's, text/image scrolling/zooming and double as a mouse with buttons if need be. The fact that I get an always-on system status display on the LCD showing my CPU/RAM usage is a welcome addition as well.
Short of the very few complaints listed, I'm not disappointed with the Logitech G13 gamepad, I just don't seem to have a pressing case to desperately need one right now.