logitech g512 carbon

Posted On 09/07/2018 By In Keyboard Reviews, Reviews

Logitech G512 Review: Debut of the GX Blue Switch

The Logitech G512 is the company’s first keyboard with its new GX Blue clicky switches. Is this new keyboard-and-switch combo the result of Logitech’s continued creativity, or is it just an iterative play for a little more market share?

  1. Introduction
  2. A Closer Look
  3. Switches, Keycaps, & Lighting
  4. G Hub Software
  5. Teardown
  6. Tests
  7. The Verdict
  8. Where To Buy

Introduction

As I detailed in a news announcement about the new GX Blue switches, the G512 completes the trifecta of new Logitech keyboards that are all based on the same chassis. The G513, G512, and G413 are all nearly identical, but with a couple of differences. The G513 has special “gaming” keycaps and an included wrist rest. The G413 comes with the extra caps but not the wrist rest. The G512 has neither. The G413 is the only sibling that lacks RGB backlighting, featuring red-or white-only lights (depending on which chassis color you choose). You can get only Romer-G Tactile switches for it, whereas the G513 and G512 let you pick between all three of Logitech’s switch options: Romer-G Tactile, Romer-G Linear, or GX Blue.

Aaaaand that’s about it, folks. Obviously, the prices are different, although that’s a study in oddity. The top-end G513 costs $150. Lose the palm rest and extra keycaps, and you get the G512 at a mere $100. Essentially, then, you’re paying fifty bucks for those two little extras. The G413 is $10 cheaper than the G512, at just $90. For that you get those extra keycaps but lose the RGB ligthing; the extra couple of bucks is well worth the upgrade unless you’re really hung up on those keycaps for some reason.

A Closer Look

Design-wise, Logitech’s calling card in recent years is to start with a conversative chassis and spice it up with pretty pretty lights. The look of the G413, G512, and G513 series kept that ethos while eschewing the staid black box style of earlier Logitech planks. Instead of the old-style “bowl” design, the G512’s switches sit atop a brushed aluminum top plate, letting the clear switch housings bleed light all over its surface. Some of this family’s models come in a silver version, but the G512 is available only in the carbon (that is, almost black) color. The bottom of the chassis is black plastic, but you barely see it; the top plate seems to almost float above your desk.

The whole package is thin at 34mm, with precious little angle on the bottom, so the keyboard pitched at just a few degrees. There are two feet underneath that flip out, lining up perpendicular to the keyboard instead of parallel like most feet. (This is a Logitech hallmark.) Six rubber pads help prevent the G512 from sliding around your desk.

There’s a USB 2.0 passthrough port that can connect your other peripherals and even charge your phone. It’s located at the top right of the keyboard, adjacent to where you park your mouse if you’re right-handed. That means the cable has two USB 2.0 ends.

The cable is wired into the chassis and extends out from the back of the keyboard. There are two little troughs for your mouse cable. One is a u-shape, ostensibly for taking some of the length out of the cable and also giving some additional strength to the physical USB 2.0 connection. The other is a straight line, north to south, if you want your mouse cable running out the front of the keyboard.

Astute observers will note that there’s a weird threaded hole on the G512. This is vestigial, left over from an idea that’s since been abandoned. I explain it in detail here.

Switches, Keycaps, & Lighting

The G512 serves as the vehicle by which Logitech is debuting its new clicky GX Blue switch. It’s the first time Logitech has offered a clicky switch option alongside its tactile and linear Romer-Gs. You can read more in depth about the switches here (including an opinion about what Logitech should have done instead), but in sum, here is what you need to know: The GX Blue switches are basically just rebranded Kailh Blue KT switches. They have nearly identical specs and look and feel exactly like you’d expect a Blue switch to. One small difference is that instead of a hole for the LED, there’s just a flat piece of clear plastic. This is because the LEDs are surface-mounted, so there’s no need for a hole.

logitech g512 carbon

As expected, Logitech used what has become the industry norm in the “gaming” segment for the G512’s keycaps: black ABS plastic with translucent shine-through lasered-etched legends. They’re about 1.2mm thick and have that familiar matte finish that shines up rather quickly. After a couple of weeks having these caps under my fingers, though, they’re less shiny than I would have expected.

The layout is full-size (104-key) ANSI, with a bottom row that’s almost standard–both Ctrl keys are a mite wider than the rest. So it goes.

The backlighting is lovely and bright behind the primary legends, but the secondary legends are not lit at all. In fact, they’re only painted on (and then UV clear-coated for durability), so no light can pass through them whatsoever. This is not an ideal design, because obviously you can’t see any of the secondary legends in the dark. And there are many of them–the usual suspects on the number keys, alphas, and numpad, but also media controls across the F keys. This issue isn’t particularly notable in and of itself, but it is odd when you realize that the G513 and G413 have different keycaps that do allow the secondary characters to be backlit.

What we’re seeing here is the trickle-down result of the GX Blue switches. Romer-G switches require centered LEDs. On its other keyboards with Romer-G switches, Logitech wisely placed both the primary and secondary legends close together towards the middle of the keycap, ensuring that both would be adequately backlit. Because the top of the Romer-G stem is translucent, light emerges from its sides and makes it so that secondary legends that are placed on the front of keycaps are also nicely backlit.

The LEDs under the GX Blue switch, by contrast, are located under the north part of the switch, as is tradition. Because the LED is not centered, legends placed in the middle of the keycaps would all be unevenly lit–moreso if there were two legends on one keycap. Rather than deal with dimly lit primary legends, Logitech had to whip up different keycaps that put the legends closer to the top edge to capitalize on the LED placement.

It is true that the backlighting under the primary characters is superb, with LEDs as bright as you’ll find anywhere. But the cost is unlit secondary characters, which is unfortunate.

logitech g512 carbon

Note red and blue lights combining to make pinkish purple

What’s worse (much worse) is that the light bleed from the SMD LEDs shows a quality issue. I didn’t notice until I set the backlighting color to a pinkish purple, but these LEDs are mixing two colors to make another. For the pinkish color, it’s clearly putting red and blue together; you can actually see the two separate colors, plus the pinkish color, splashed all at once on the top plate. It’s not a good look.

I believe (but do not know for certain) that other Logitech keyboards with Romer-G switches have SMD LEDs that behave the same way, but the design of the Romer-G switch is such that you can’t really tell. The light pipe design cuts down so sharply on light bleed that there are no tell-tale signs. The larger point to take away here is that the ugly color problems on the G512 are the direct result of the different switch design. If this keyboard had Romer-Gs on board, I’d be none the wiser.

G Hub Software; Farewell, LGS

When Logitech announced the G512, it also announced the latest generation of its configuration software, G Hub, which is replacing the venerable LGS software. Technically it’s still in early access, so there’s an expectation of some lingering bugginess, but you can download it here if you want to try it out with your existing Logitech G hardware. The manual is available online for download, too.

I conducted my evaluation using G Hub software version 2018.9.2778 and firmware version 119.0.12, which are the most recent versions as of press time.

When you first load G Hub, it will helpfully offer to import your pre-existing profiles from LGS. Then, a GUI of your keyboard appears. It will display all of your connected Logitech G peripherals (unless you happen to have something that isn’t supported). There are three sections: LightSync, Assignments, and Game Mode.

In the LightSync area, you can synchronize the lights of any other connected (and supported) Logitech G peripherals. Click “Sync Lighting Options” below the keyboard GUI and click any devices that are available from the list below it. There’s a mix of presets and animations you can employ, like Cycle, Color Wave, Breathing, and more. Click the one you want from the drop-down menu, and your selection will immediately take effect. (You don’t have to click “Apply” or anything in G Hub.)

The Screen Sampler effect is kind of neat. When you select it, you also select a portion of the screen, and then with a click and drag, you can assign the colors on the screen to whatever keys you select. The Audio Visualizer mode is a neat concept–the colors flash on your keyboard according to the music that you’re playing on your PC–but it’s probably best for party ambiance than for anything else, because it just kind of feels like the keyboard is flashing its lights in an attempt to cause you a seizure.

If the many preset options are not to your liking, you can enter Freestyle mode and assign random colors to key cluster like WASD, arrow keys, number keys, and so on.

In the Animations area, you can turn on more complex effects like Ocean Wave or Lightning, which are supposed to look like a facsimile of the things they’re named after. You can even create your own animations with a fairly simple-to-use editor. You have a set number of frames, transitions, speed, and an RGB color palette to work with. You can add as many frames you as you need (within reason,  presumably). Then select a type of transition from the menu for that frame. In the color wheel, create and/or pick a color, and then either click and drag or click to select specific keys to reflect that color. Adjust the speed of the animation and how it displays (Cycle, Reverse Cycle, etc.). Click the sideways triangle to play your work, and save it if you dig it.

In Game Mode, you can choose which keys to disable during gaming. The ones in red are disabled by default, but you can click any keys, and they’ll turn gray to indicate that you selected them.

To create a macro, click Macro, and you’ll be prompted to name it. Then you’re asked to determine what type of macro you’re making–No Repeat, Repeat While Holding, Toggle, or Sequence. Then decide if you’re going to have the software record your keystrokes, enter text or an emoji, launch an application, or assign a system function. Perform your keystrokes, enter your text, or what have you, and click Save. Back on the Assignments tab, click and drag your macro to one of the programmable keys.

…of which there are few. This was the one area of G Hub that disappointed me. Only the F keys are programmable. It’s really easy to program the keys–just drag and drop from the bank of macros and commands under Assignments–but the limited number of programmable keys is a buzzkill.

What G Hub does offer you, though, is application-specific shortcut mapping. PhotoShop is programmed in there already, and if you switch from the “Desktop: Default” profile to “PhotoShop CC: Default” profile, you’ll see a long list of functions and commands you can drag and drop onto the keyboard GUI. Again, you can do so only on the F keys.

You can do the same thing for other apps and individual games. There are also community-made profiles with game bindings, as well as lighting effects, that you can download.

Teardown

Once I had the keycaps all off, I found 28 screws holding the aluminum top plate onto the bottom of the chassis. Just for kicks, Logitech also hid two more under the two largest rubber feet, bringing the screw total to 30. With all of them removed, the two halves of the case come apart easily. The top is the aluminum plate, which measures approximately 1.4mm thick. The bottom part of the chassis is all plastic.

The PCB has tidy welds and was clearly hand inspected and approved, although there is a good bit of residue dotting the PCB. You can see the ARM STM32L100 R8T6A microcontroller towards the right side of the PCB, next to the USB assembly. The steel plate is approximately 1.5mm thick. There are SMD LEDs lighting up the keyboard, although you can’t see them because they’re covered by the actual switches.

Between the absurd number of screws, the aluminum top plate, the steel interior plate, and the clean PCB welds, the Logitech G512 shows solid, high-quality construction.

Tests

Here’s what the GX Blue switches sound like on the Logitech G512:

 

Using Switch Hitter, I can confirm that the G512 offers the 26KRO it claims to.

The Verdict

Logitech makes keyboards that seem to engender a love-it-or-hate-it reaction from most people. Those simple black rectangles with the shiny sides; the traditional bowl design; the bright lights with nearly perfect illumination; the light and shallow Romer-G switches. The tough thing about the Logitech G512 is that it doesn’t feel much like a Logitech keyboard, at least not in the old mold. So if you’ve loved or hated Logitech keyboards in the past, the G512 should give you pause to reconsider your feelings.

Like the rest of the recent Logitech offerings, the G512 has a sharp but understated design. The build construction is solid. The hot, fresh G Hub software looks like a fine successor to LGS, although it’s not quite done baking yet.

The new GX Blue switches are the star of the show, and they’re just fine. If you like standard desktop clicky Blue switches, you’ll be happy with them. But as I stated, these new switches feel like a cop out on Logitech’s part because they could have pushed for a better switch option that complements Romer-Gs and also jibes with its actual keyboard design.

And that’s where the G512 falls down; the SMD LEDs sparkling under the switches mix two colors to create the color you punched into the software. The light bleed–which wouldn’t be there if these switches had a centered LED and light pipe like the Romer-Gs–reveals all three colors at once at times. 

For a hundred bucks, though, you could do a lot worse. The Logitech G512 is a solid keyboard with the GX Blue switches; it’s more compelling if you eschew the GX Blue switches for a Romer-G option.

ProsCons
Understated but attractive designLighting problems because of the different switches
Solid overall constructionSecondary legends unlit
Powerful software
GX Blue switches basically just Kailh Blue rebrand
Good price

Where To Buy

You can grab a Logitech G512 directly (and only) from Logitech’s website, with your choice of Romer-G Tactile, Romer-G Linear, or GX Blue switches. It’s available only in the Carbon color, so if you were into the Silver model, tough. If you’re going to snag yourself a G512, I suggest going with a Romer-G model because of the superior lighting, unless you really need that clickyness.

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Seth Colaner

Editor in Chief of Keychatter. Irrepressibly interested in things. Loves devices that click and clack. Data nerd. Proud Midwesterner. Pass the buffalo chicken dip.

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