Logitech G13 Gamepad

Filed under: Geekiness — iain @ 19:06:04

Logitech’s G13 is their much-hyped answer to the Nostromo SpeedPad and competitors. It was released in December to great fanfare so although I have been very happy with my SpeedPad n52 for many years now I was intrigued enough by the G13′s feature list that I decided I was prepared to pay the not-inconsiderable asking price to check it out.

The G13 is certainly not cheap. With an RRP of £79.99 it is unlikely to appeal much to people who don’t already own a similar device. In order to justify the expense it needed to be a significant improvement over the n52 and really deliver on its promised features.

Instead I found it to be a spectacular disappointment.

The frustration of having to wait three months to get hold of one didn’t help. Despite its December release, very few retailers had even heard of it in January and it wasn’t until February that I found someone willing to sell me one. As soon as they got it in stock, that is. I was still waiting halfway through March when a chance look at Amazon showed one available. The next week I finally had a G13 in my grubby mitts.

The two big selling points for me were the extra row of keys compared to the n52 and the ability to script key actions. Both devices allow you to configure the keys on the pad to generate any keycode you like (by default they are set for the WASD layout used by most games) and both allow you to assign macros which you record from the real keyboard so you can trigger up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A from a single keypress. The G13 advertised the ability to write your own Lua script which defines callback functions for use when keys are pressed.

The only problem is that the scripting doesn’t actually work. By this I don’t mean that it is buggy or unstable or hard to use. I mean it doesn’t work. It isn’t supported. Yes you read the linked post correctly. Logitech admit that the driver for their scriptable device doesn’t support scripting. Two months after it was released.

Either they didn’t notice that their device’s killer feature didn’t work, in which case one wonders what their testing department do all day, or they said "screw it, no one will care" and released it knowing full well it was broken. Thing is when you pay £80 for something which claims to support a particular feature the chances are you will care. I did.

As for the extra row of keys, it exists and there are additional keys – compared with the n52 – on both sides of the device. The default layout for the n52 is:

Tab Q W E R
Caps A S D F
Shift Z X C  

The G13 looks like this:

1 2 Q W E R T
3 4 A S D F G
Shift Z X C V
Control Alt Space

So quite a few extra keys, which is good. What isn’t so good is that the additional row only consists of three keys and is the lowest one down making it less useful than it could have been. I was hoping for a row of number keys such as those on the Saitek Cyborg.

On top of all that the keys, while reasonably nice and tactile, don’t feel as robust as the n52′s. This is not the only area in which the G13′s design is inferior. The palmrest is significantly less comfortable than the n52′s and the mini joystick is a bit of a disaster. It’s an analogue stick but it generates discrete key events and you can’t change the sensitivity, which means that not only do you miss out on a great opportunity to have a mini analogue controller but you can actually have your inputs fail to register if you don’t push the stick far enough. Furthermore, although it doesn’t bother me because I’m right-handed, Logitech missed a trick by not allowing you to position the stick on either side of what is an otherwise symmetrical device.

The icing on the cake of fail is the lack of temporary shift mode. Both the n52 and the G13 let you define multiple keymaps and switch between them by pressing a key. The n52 lets you assign any key to change to a different "shift state" as they call it and the G13 has a row of three "M keys" to choose your layout. In addition to this the n52 lets you define a key to shift temporarily between states. This is great in games which give you a load of different items to carry around because you can very quickly hold down one key long enough to change WASD to 1234 and select your item. The G13 doesn’t let you do this. The irony of course is that if the scripting worked as advertised it would be possible to simulate that functionality very easily.

So the two features the G13 has over the n52 either don’t work or aren’t much use and in every other way it is inferior. The bottom line is that it was a waste of (a lot of) money and I returned it.

1 Comment »

  1. So … back to the Nostromo?

    Comment by daviddumenil — 2009-05-09 @ 08:13:40

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