logitech g512 gx blue switches

Posted On 09/07/2018 By In News, Opinions

What Logitech Should Have Done Instead of the GX Blue Switch

The burning question around the Logitech G512 mechanical keyboard (full review here) is less about the keyboard itself and more about the new Logitech GX Blue switches that come with it. It seems an odd choice–it’s essentially just a rebrand of Kailh Blue KT switches with a completely different design than the Romer-G switches Logitech is known for, and that different design creates some trickle-down issues.

I think Logitech should have done something different. They should have gone with a switch that more closely resembles the design of the Romer-G. There was one option available, and another one is nigh.

Let’s unpack the issue.

Clicky Time

Regardless of the specifics, common sense would dictate that it’s way past time for Logitech to roll out a clicky switch. And on the surface, it’s even a bit striking that it took so long for them to produce a linear switch to pair with its tactile Romer-G switch. (It just debuted spring 2018 alongside the Logitech G513 keyboard.)

But whereas the Romer-G Tactile switch was innovative for several reasons, the linear variant and new clicky option are just about keeping up with the Joneses. Or more specifically, the Razers and the Corsairs, which are Logitechs’ closest competitors. Corsair is fat and sassy with Cherry MX switches on all of its keyboards, so it’s long had a full complement of linear, tactile, and clicky switch options. Razer had its clicky Green switch for years before endeavoring to produce the linear Yellow switch. It has still spent relatively little time and effort promoting its “silent” (read: tactile but with no audible click) Orange switch.

Meanwhile, until a few months ago Logitech had but one in-house switch: the Romer-G Tactile. Arguably, it didn’t even need to make a linear one, because the tactile version has such a light bump that it feels like a hybrid tactile/linear switch. That’s one of its chief selling points, actually, even if it has as many haters as it does fans. There was no other switch on the market that felt like the Romer-G Tactile, and its Omron design had two keys features: a lack of compatibility with Cherry MX stems (not a plus) and a superior centered LED lighting design (definitely a plus).

But sure, there are plenty of people who pine for a true linear switch. So then, let’s allow that the linear Romer-G was a wise capitulation to the need for Logitech to have a linear switch option in a competitive market. The clicky version? An uninspired grab for market share.

Trickle-Down Issues

In my full review of the Logitech G512 keyboard, I detailed the issues that arise from pairing a keyboard designed ostensibly for Romer-G switches with standard desktop switches. Rather than repeating myself verbatim, here they are in short:

  • The LED needs to be located on the northern part of the switch, instead of the center, to shine through keycap legends
  • It requires a different keycap, because the centered legends of the existing Logitech keyboards aren’t lit evenly
  • The secondary legends are not backlit  
  • The SMD LED creates color mixing problems; it mixes two colors to get a new one (eg, red + blue = purple), but you can see the initial two colors in the under-cap glow
logitech g512 carbon

Note red and blue lights combining to make pinkish purple

None of the above is fatal, necessarily, although the backlighting issue could be a dealbreaker for some buyers. But it all cuts against Logitech’s well established designs.

Samesies

There’s virtually no difference between the Logitech GX Blue switch and standard Kailh Blue switches, save for a slight weight difference. Kaihua manufactures both switches.

Logitech GX BlueKailh Blue KT
TypeClickyClicky
Pretravel1.9mm1.9mm (+/-0.4mm)
Total Travel4mm4mm (+/-0.4mm)
Operation Force50gf45gf (+/-15gf)
Tactile Force60gf50gf (+/-10gf)

Perhaps I’m being harsh. The reason Logitech didn’t make a clicky Romer-G switch is because, a representative told me, the Omron design of the Romer-G makes that impossible. Taking Logitech’s word for it, the company had to either go back to the drawing board and develop a whole new switch with a manufacturing partner, which would take loads of money and time, or…just slap some rebranded Kailh Blues on there, sprinkle some marketing on top, and call it good.

Logitech opted for the latter. Which…is fine, I guess. Nothing could be less exciting than a simple rebranded switch, but hey, there are surely people out there who dig what Logitech offers from its keyboard designs and software who were holding out for a clicky option. Now there is one.

But Logitech had other options.

What Logitech Should Have Done

Pretending a rebranded switch is your own design is a trend among keyboard makers that stretches back years. But why not just make Kailh Blues an option? Logitech has done so in the past with Cherry switches on its keyboards. And it takes even less effort than doing a whole rebrand. Sure, you lose the little buzz that marketing a “new” switch gets you–I mean, here we are writing and reading about it–but Logitech could have used the Kailh Blue option as a placeholder until something new came out.

That something is coming, and it’s called the Kailh Sun Switch. The Sun Switch ticks all of the boxes that would make it perfect for what Logitech needs. It’s clicky. It has a centered LED design. The specs are somewhat different than standard Blue switches. It’s new, so Logitech would get some de facto exclusivity, and they could even perhaps secure actual exclusivity with Kaihua for a time if they pushed (and paid) for it.

Kailh Sun Switch

Kailh Sun Switch

The one unfortunate piece of the Sun Switch, for Logitech, is that it has a cross stem design instead of the squared center of the Romer-G switches. However, considering Logitech has already acquiesced to the cross stem with the GX Blue switch, it seems that’s not much of an issue for the company.

The Sun Switch is not yet available, but there was a different Kailh option available the whole time; the Kaihua KO RGB Center switch (the PG159301S0X family), like the Sun Switch, also seems ideal for Logitech. There’s a clicky version (PG159301S09) with specs that are similar to the Sun Switch and jibe with the high actuation point and overall shallow travel that are hallmarks of the Romer-G switch. It also has that crucial centered LED.

Kailh Sun SwitchKailh KO RGBRomer-G TactileGX Blue
TypeClickyClickyTactileClicky
Pretravel1.8mm (+/-0.5mm)1.6mm (+/-0.5mm)1.5mm1.9mm
Total Travel3.5mm (+/-0.3mm)3.6mm (+/-0.5mm)3.2mm4mm
Operation Force50gf (+/-10gf)45gf (+/-15gf)45gf50gf
Tactile Force55gf (+/-10gf)50gf (+/-10gf)50gf60gf

One of the above switches is not like the others (or at least, is less like the others), and it’s the Logitech GX Blue. (Note that although it’s not included in the above spec table, the Romer-G Linear has essentially identical specs to the Romer-G Tactile. It just doesn’t have the tactile bump.)

The KO RGB switch is not currently widely distributed on shipping keyboards. The only company I’m aware of that uses it is Azio. I’ve used the Azio MK Retro Pro with clicky Kailh KO RGB switches, albeit with Azio’s funky throwback typewriter caps. They sound and feel a little thockier than Blue switches, and I wish the rebound was a bit stronger. But those are purely subjective observations on an odd keyboard/keycap design.

It’s possible that Logitech is indeed looking at the Sun Switch as its clicky option of the future. (It’s also possible that the company evaluated, but decided against, the KO RGB switch.) But either way, it doesn’t make sense for Logitech to go to the trouble of releasing the GX Blue at all. The placeholder Kailh Blue would have been a better option. Even better, in my humble opinion, would have been implementing the Kailh KO RGB or waiting for the Kailh Sun Switch.

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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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