This keyboard was provided by Logitech for review.
Type the words “gaming keyboard” into Google and you’ll be buried under a tonne of search results displaying a bamboozling array of different products that seemingly aim to confuse customers through a litany of claims, many of which are stupid. Logitech’s latest offering is actually pretty straightforward in comparison to something like the MadCatz S.T.R.I.K.E.5. It’s called the Orion Spark, and it’s kind of brilliant.
If it’s colors you want then the Orion has you sorted with an insane amount of to choose from thanks to its full RGB spread of 16.8 million shades, each key able to be assigned a different shade in order to create a magnifiecnt rainbow of gaming goodness. Logitech handily provide several options for adjusting specific sets of keys, such as WASD or the arrow keys, or you can simply change each one individually, picking from any of the 16.8 million shades available to you. You could, for example, have the WASD keys glowing red while the numbers light up green and the spacebar yellow. You can also opt to have one of several different pretty effects active such as a beautiful wave of color which constantly washes over your keyboard, proudly displaying the vast range of colors the Orion has to offer in a shimmering show. You can even choose to have the wave go from left to right, top to bottom or radiate from the centre. Or you could have random keys light up every few seconds like stars in the night sky. By far my favorite settings lights up the keys you press them, so as you type a glowing trail follows your fingers before slowly fading away again. As someone who spends a lot of time writing it’s an idea that appeals greatly to me.
You can also set the keyboard to load profiles when you start up games or programs, so for everyday use you could have a solid color across the board and then for playing a game have certain keys lit up, a neat idea for something like an MMO where you could have certain skills highlighted with specific colors. Logitech have even discussed adding in things like keys changing color to match in-game skills cooling down, a nifty idea that could be of particuilar appeal to MMO players.
It’s a pretty looking thing, too. The Orion Spark has a nice, simple style that doesn’t feel overdesigned like so many gaming orientated keyboards on the market. It clocks in with a length of 243.5mm and a width of 505mm making it a pretty sizable piece of equipment. Finishing off the look is a piece of clear plastic located within the wrist rest that sports the G910 logo and also lights up, along with a large light-up G next to the escape key. These two things are perhaps the only negative aspects of the G910’s aesthetics, pushing the Logitech Gaming branding a little too much. The single large G next to the ESC key would have been enough.
In terms of extra keys you’ll find a total of 9 programmable ones to play with, five of which are located on the far left side. The other four are located directly above the F1-F4 keys in a slightly awkward place as your fingers may end up hitting the wrong ones. Next to those there’s four very small mode buttons. Head over to the far right and you’ll find a set of media buttons, including a mute button and volume scroll wheel that feels nice to us, plus a button for turning off illumination altogether. Oddly enough the media buttons do not change color along with the rest of the keyboard, stoicly remaining light blue regardless of what you do.
Accessing the magic of the lighting and programmable keys is done through Logitech’s Gaming Software which remains easy on the eye and equally easy to use. Setting up your preffered lighting style is a cinch, and special mention has to go to recording macros which is also a breeze, letting you set up pauses and mouse clicks and key presses as you want.
There’s also an interesting little program which generates a heat map of the most used keys on the board. It’s hardly a useful tool, but seeing an image generated by your use of the keyboard is fascinating.
There’s some problems to be addressed, though, mostly in the area of comfort where it became clear that the Orion Spark had a few small weaknesses in comparison to the keyboard I’ve been using, the S.T.R.I.K.E. 5. Take, for instance, the default palm rest which has no adjustibility. It’s too short with an overly steep incline for my own tastes, thus being able to adjust it would have been most welcome. The keyboard does come with a second, larger palm rest, though, so while it can’t be adjusted hopefully one of the two rests will suit. The second one was closer to my preferences, but still wasn’t quite right. I also found myself missing the spacebar on my MadCatz board which sports an extension on the left-hand side so that your thumb can more easily access it.
On the flipside of comfort, though, the Orion Spark features molded keys that have a small indentation which naturally guides your fingers to the centre of each key making for a nice typing experience. It may throw you off at first, but you’ll quickly come to love them.
And that brings us to the meat and potatoes, the ever important feel of the keyboard under your fingers. The Orion Spark is a mechanical keyboard which means it has fast response rates over standard membrane offerings, and while this also usually makes for a loud typing experience Logitech have created their own personal Romer-G keys which no only allow for the impressive illumination options but also dampen the sound, creating a less noisy board. With a relatively soft 1.5mm accuation the Romer-Gs feel sort of akin to the Cherry MX Browns found on other keyboards and are pretty nice. The keys feel good under the fingers, quick to respond with minimal pressure needed, and there’s still enough of a clack there to make typing strangely satisfying, although they do have a slight spongeness to them that purist mechanical fans may not like. It is slight, though. Logitech’s Romer-Gs don’t quite match up with the Cherry MXs, but the difference isn’t huge. Of course switch feeling is always a very personal thing.
If you’re a bit unsure of what any of that nonsense means then prepare yourself for the most basic of lessons. Standard keyboards that you buy from the likes of PC World or even ASDA use a membrane underneath the keys, into which is built the tiny switches which activate whenever you press a key. To activate a key you have to press it all the way down which in turn pushes a rubber switch down in order to connect a further two membranes that then complete an electrical circuit telling your computer something has been pressed. Membrane keyboards don’t tend to have great response times, which is to say the period of time between you pressing a key and the computer registering it, and feel squishy, but on the plus side are often quite quiet. It’s a cheap method and quite resistant to spills, hence the prevelence of the design. Mechanical boards use individual, true mechanical switches under each key allowing for much faster response times, obviously a good thing for playing games. This also tends to change the way you type as the keys don’t have to be pressed down as much to activate them, making you type lighter.
In game the difference between a membrane board and a mechanical one is notable, although more casual gamers probably wouldn’t notice of a difference. Having said that it’s hard to imagine anything but a dedicated gamer considering purchasing something like this, and for them the improved performance will bring a smile to the face. Response times are impressive, although without special software I can’t comment on exactly how fast the keys are. But then, such software doesn’t reflect real world benefits.
There’s also Logitech’s propritery ARX Dock built into the keyboard that you can slot your smartphone into in order to use it as a small screen for monitoring computer temperatures, which is currently all the companion app is capable of doing. Having zero interest in keeping an up to date phone this wasn’t a feature I could test in any fashion. Yes, that’s right, I don’t own a smartphone. However, even though I don’t own a compatible phone even I could note a few potential downsides to the system; it doesn’t have micro-USB or USB support, meaning it’s little more than a small shelf for your phone to sit on while it eats battery. The app also doesn’t support landscape view, so the phone has to sit upright, likely obscuring your view of the monitor unless said monitor happens to be situated higher than the rest of your setup.
The build quality seems solid. The majority of the keyboard is built out of plastic, but it feels solid. The palm/wrist rests are made of a lesser plastic that’s rather noisy, but should hold up fine. The whole thing weights in at a hefty 1.5kg and the keys are rated for 70-million presses, a claim which unsurprisingly I couldn’t confirm.
All of this sparkling, RGB-lit, mechanical does come with a wallet-destroying price-tag of £160, though, a number likely to make most people spit coffee at the screen and for good reason. It’s a cost that puts the Orion Spark above most mechanical boards, which means that when it comes to buying one the big decision that you must make is if all that lovely lighting is worth the extra cost. It’s a showpiece, albeit a damn fine looking showpiece. Other mechanical boards cost less and feel just as good, if not a shade better in some instances.
Yet I d always maintain that I’m reviewing the product, not the RRP that’s on the back of the box since what is good value for money in the eyes of one person may not be to someone else . The Orion Spark is a brilliant keyboard that feels great to use and offers up impressive array of colors with which to dazzle yourself and other people, should the opportunity ever arise. Some adjustibility in the palm/wrist rest would have been welcome, but aside from that there’s not much to classify as a genuine fault with the Orion Spark.
+ Keys feel nice.
+ Lighting options are great.
– No adjustable rest.
The Verdict: 4/5 – Great
Ah, Logitech, you’ve done it again. Other keyboards can offer performance that’s just as good at far less cost, but then they can’t give you so many shiny lights.