Tech maker shifts focus

Photo: supplied
Photo: supplied
Logitech PRO X 60
Gaming keyboard

Mechanical keyboards are the equipment of choice for serious PC gaming. Instead of regular membrane keyboards, where the keys interact with a soft layer above the circuit board, keys in mechanical keyboards are discrete solid switches.

The old school chunky beige keyboards of 1970s personal computing were mechanical, eventually all but replaced by a dark age of the spongy limp membranes of office peripherals.

But in the past dozen or so years, the mechanical keyboard has been resurrected, now the mainstream choice for gamers because of the precision and feel of the keys.

For $150, gamers can pick up a fairly decent mechanical gaming keyboard. Which is why it is slightly strange that Logitech — a brand known for run-of-the-mill cheaper options — has released a gaming keyboard that costs about $430 and offers just about the same features and feel of affordable options.

The Logitech PRO X 60 is a wireless RGB-backlit 60%-sized keyboard, the first of that kind for the brand. That means it’s 60% of the 100% keyboard someone might use in an office job.

Unboxing the keyboard, I am struck by its alert but petite posture. It is cute, as one colleague put it, and can light up with all the colours of the rainbow. But it is also tall and heavy — 290mm long, 103mm wide, 39mm tall, weighing 616g. For comparison, a standard 104-key keyboard is about 450mm by 120mm by 29mm and often hundreds of grams lighter.

The PRO X 60’s weight is a good thing. It conveys quality and sturdiness. As for the height, some users will need to rest their wrist on something.

For general use or prolonged typing, the feeling of the keys is satisfying. This is an important attribute. Typing should be an enjoyable experience as well as a functional one. That satisfaction is slightly precarious though. Sixty percent keyboards are so snug because they remove the number pad and the top row of function keys. Even the cursor keys are gone. The compactness takes some getting used to. Theoretically, it should be the same, but the mind needs to adjust. I hit the wrong key on several occasions. When you type fast, it feels like your hands could suddenly fall off the ledge.

The function keys are gone but not forgotten. You can hold the FN key while pressing other keys to use their alternative function. And Logitech has software for remapping keys and creating macros.

Inherent to mechanical keyboards is the sound. They are very loud. For some, the clickety clackety adds to the satisfaction of typing. But for others — and those around them — the plastic tune will be frustrating.

But this isn’t a keyboard made for typing. This is a keyboard for gamers, by gamers. Logitech say it was created by consulting with professional e-sports players, people who need fast response time and a feel that helps them become one with the machine.

While I am not an elite gamer, I was able to notice a difference with the keyboard I have been using for a few years, the Keychron K2, a backlit 75% mechanical keyboard that costs about half the price as the PRO X 60. Using the WASD keys, playing Tomb Raider and Squad, was a different experience. The K2 has slower keys, sluggish to return to their normal position. The PRO X 60 is rapid, in comparison. The keys jump back to attention after being pressed and the resistance on the way down is in a sweet spot — like the shocks on a well-balanced race car.

But I cannot shake the obvious — this is outrageously expensive for what it is. Another older gaming keyboard I used as a comparison, the RGB-backlit 80% Razer BlackWidow V3, had similar speed and response as the PRO X 60, but costs about $180.

It is confusing that Logitech didn’t take their usual route, creating an affordable option for the everyuser. Instead, their approach has been to create something already well done by other brands, put an e-sports marketing spin on it, and sell it for double the price.

There is some innovation: a handy volume control wheel on the side; Bluetooth, USB (cable included and needed for charging) or Logitech’s proprietary Lightspeed wireless technology (plug the dongle into your computer and away you go); long battery life. And one of my favourite features: no bezel bordering the keyboard, making cleaning the board very easy. But these are all things to be found elsewhere without breaking the bank.

By George Elliott

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