Review: Logitech Orion Spark gaming keyboard is full of awesome

Posted originally to my PC Gaming Column at Examiner.com.Logitech G910 Orion Spark mechanical gaming keyboard on my desk with an LG G3 running the Logitech Arx Control software.
Logitech’s G910 Orion Spark mechanical gaming keyboard is another colorful keyboard akin to the Razer Blackwidow Chroma and Corsair K95. But while it shares some similarities to its competitors, it also offers some unique features and innovations.
Logitech G910 Orion Spark mechanical gaming keyboard on my desk with an LG G3 running the Logitech Arx Control software.

Specifications

The main features and specifications for the Logitech G910 Orion Spark are as follows:

  • 113-key anti-ghosting
  • Sculpted keys for gaming
  • Dedicated media controls
  • 9 dedicated macro buttons
  • Smartphone cradle with Arx Control App
  • Any key, any color, any time
  • 3 profiles
  • Custom ‘Romer-G’ mechanical switches with 70-million keystroke durability
  • 5ms actuation time (vs. 6.7ms actuation time for standard mechanical switches, and 9ms for rubber dome)
  • 25% shorter actuation distance (1.5mm)
  • 45g actuation force
  • Weight: 1.5KG
  • Length: 243.5mm/210mm
  • Width: 505mm
  • Height: 35.5mm
  • Nylon-sheathed USB cable: 6ft

Key Features: New tech, new switches, new screen

The Orion Spark is unique among its competitors in that it provides a small cradle for parking your smartphone. More importantly, you can install Logitech’s Arx Control smartphone app, which connects to the Logitech driver software on your PC over your wireless network, enabling additional functionality and working as an auxiliary display.

Arx Control provides a number of basic ‘out of the box’ PC monitoring functions. You can also use it to configure Logitech peripherals. (For example, I could use it to adjust the DPI Setting of my Logitech G700 wireless gaming mouse.)

Currently, Arx Control does the following:

  • Displays GPU temperature
  • Displays CPU speed, RAM, and usage levels for both
  • Adjusts (some) settings for your Logitech devices
  • Launches currently-installed games on your PC
  • Plays media files

Extending the game—maybe

More importantly, Arx Control can be used as an extension of a game and can (potentially) be used as a second screen for displaying or augmenting a game. This assumes, of course, that the game developer decides to support it through the Arx Control SDK (Software Developer Kit).

However, getting game developers to embrace such tools is a challenge. There are many of them out there, and most are largely ignored by developers—because choosing to support one means more development time spent and it only serves a relatively small percentage of a specific game’s audience.

Other manufacturers like Razer and Roccat (for example) offer their own SDKs for their own devices. Razer has the recently launched Razer Chroma SDK (which can be used to manipulate the colors on Razer Chroma devices to reflect in-game activity), and Roccat has their Talk FX SDK, which is similar to Razer’s Chroma SDK. Roccat also offers the Power Grid SDK, which is similar to Logitech’s Arx Control. In the case of Roccat’s SDKs, both have been around for a while and both have been all but ignored by game developers.

Meet Romer-G: soft-touch and whisper quiet

Another unique quality of the G910 Orion Spark are its switches. Like Razer, Logitech is now making their own ‘gaming optimized’ mechanical switches named ‘Romer G’. These switches are closest to Cherry MX Red switches, but gaming-optimized by requiring a shorter actuation (pressing) distance (1.5mm) and reduced actuation time (5ms) compared to typical Cherry switches (6.7ms). Romer-G switches are also rated at 70 million keystrokes—about 20 million more than standard Cherry MX switches.

Sculpted, colorful keys

Perhaps more interesting than the switches used in the G910 is the unique shape of its keys. The G910 key caps are sculpted with angular indentation, which provides a more pronounced tactile feedback as you slide fingers across the key tops.

Of course, the other ‘big feature’ of the G910 Orion Spark is its color. Like the Blackwidow Chroma, the G910 enables you to set every key on the keyboard to any of 16.8 million colors. (Sorry SteelSeries Apex, but your 5 lightning zones just got a lot less awesome.) The G910 provides 4 different types of color ‘modes’, each with their own special effects.

You can have, for example, a rainbow of color that washes over your keys from left to right. Or you can paint your own custom design, or choose from a variety of other color configurations and special effects. You can also create your own custom color ‘zones’.

Rounding out the G910’s unique features are 9 dedicated macro keys, dedicated media controls, and dedicated buttons for switching profiles, activating gaming mode, and a handy volume roller that sits above the number pad.

Performance: Smooth & quiet

On the whole, the G910 is a fantastic keyboard. It’s colorful, feature rich, smooth and whisper-quiet. But it’s probably not for everyone.

The indented, angular keys are great for gaming, but I found them a little less great for typing. The angular shape interferes slightly with your ability to ‘glide’ over the tops of the keys. Instead, you tend to brush up against tiny ‘speed bumps’ as your fingers dip into and out of tiny valleys. I eventually adapted by holding my fingers slightly higher. However, I still think the indented key shape is a bit of a double-edged sword that favors gamers at slight cost to your typing.

On the flip side, the G910 keys are smooth, require only a very light touch, and they are very quiet. As much as I like the noisy mechanical sing-song clickity-clack of the Razer Blackwidow Chroma, even I (and likely my officemates) appreciate quieter keystrokes—especially if I’m on a conference call and taking notes.

The G910’s smartphone cradle is definitely a welcome addition, but it and the Arx Control software both have some limitations. The cradle will accommodate most phones, but especially large phones (5” screen and up) with a case may not fit comfortably without removing the case.

An LG G3 with DualTek case barely fit in the cradle, and even then it was wedged in pretty tightly, which forced it into a less-than-optimal viewing angle. In addition, it would only fit in portrait mode—landscape mode would require me to remove the case. (Currently the Arx Control app only runs in Portrait mode anyway, but hopefully Logitech will address that limitation at some point with an update.)

A key question mark is whether or not the Arx Control software will actually be particularly useful for anything yet. It’s neat to have a screen displaying my PC’s vital statistics and be able to launch games from across the house, but it’s hardly a ‘killer app’ at this point. Whether or not any game developers will actively develop software to make use of your phone as a ‘second screen’ is anyone’s guess at this point.

One other minor but noteworthy limitation (for power players anyway) is the Logitech Gaming Software (version 8.57) can’t record mouse clicks as part of a macro the way the Blackwidow Chroma can. However, it supports custom timings, pre-defined mouse functions (Forward, Back, etc.) and single/multi-keystroke macros. You also get 9 dedicated macro buttons and 3 profiles for a total of 27 macros within easy reach at any time.

The Logitech Software is generally very intuitive, and even allows you to essentially ‘paint’ the colors onto your keyboard when you customize them, in addition to supporting a number of pre-defined effects (breathing, cycling colors, etc.)

And to this day I still love Logitech’s volume roller and dedicated media keys. I don’t use the media keys often, but I do use the volume roller and mute button fairly frequently. I like it almost as much as the excellent dual mode scroll wheels found on certain Logitech mice (such as the Proteus Core.)

Also worth noting is that the G910 only requires a single USB connector, although it doesn’t have a USB pass-through or audio pass through connectors. Personally, I like only needing 1 USB cable. I don’t miss the audio pass-through connectors. (I kind of miss having 1-2 USB ports on the keyboard though.)

Overall: 5/5 stars

The G910 is a fantastic, feature-rich and innovative mechanical gaming keyboard. It still has some yet-to-be-determined potential with regard to smartphone interoperability and game support, and a few minor design caveats. But it also offers many unique features and innovations not found in its competitors.

SUGGESTED LINKS @ Examiner.com

Advertisements

6 comments

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s