Reviews

Logitech G410 Atlas Spectrum Keyboard Review -Aren’t You A Little Short To Be A Keyboard

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Like mice there are a wealth of keyboards on the market that are aimed at gamers, from the cheap and cheerful to the expensive and flashy to those that are more likely to bring about Skynet and the subsequent death of humanity. There aren’t quite as many compact keyboards, though, the kind that can be tossed in a bag and taken round to a local tournament. Companies tend to deliver more and more iterations  of their full designs, but now Logitech has entered the fray with G410 which boasts a small size and the company’s own special switches. The smaller size and lightweight design are aimed squarely at E-sports gamers or those who travel a lot to different events, and yet even the average user can see some benefits from adopting this more compact design.

In essence the G410 is the smaller brother of my own keyboard, Logitech’s rather good G910 Orion Spark. According to Logitech it’s designed for those who travel to LAN events or tournaments frequently, but if you just have limited desk space then the Atlas Spectrum is a worthy purchase. The compact size of  just 15.4” long by 7.3” wide means that a couple of things have been cut to make this a very small and very light keyboard, weighing a mere 830g with the cable. The entire right numpad is gone for instance, something which initially seems quite shocking until you realise how infrequently you actually used it. I found that I didn’t mind not having it in the slightest. Perhaps a bigger issue is that you won’t find any dedicated macro or media keys on the G410, although some of the function keys serve as media controls by tapping the FN key next to ALTGR.  This focus on making the G410 as small as possible does mean that the keyboard doesn’t feel particularly impressive; there’s a hollowness that stems from the lightweight design. Yet don’t go thinking it isn’t somehow solidly built, because it is. Tapping the plastic casing  results in a hollow sound, for sure, but when you pick it up there’s no give, nor any creaks or groans. Despite how light it is the G410 feels like it could survive being tossed around in a backpack with ease or even dropped.

The advantage of this small size, of course, is that you have more desk space available. It’s not uncommon for gamers to angle their full-size keyboards so that the WASD keys are pushed away from their body and orientated in such a way that the left hand sits at a strange angle, solely to get more space for their mouse to move around. Hell, I do it with the G910 all the time. In particular CS:GO players who run a low DPI for more accurate shooting will likely find the extra space incredibly valuable so that they can swing the mouse in wide arcs.

Personally I’m a fan of the slightly subdued black design of the Atlas with Logitech’s Spectrum RGB lighting system providing a touch of flash. When turned off there is a very plain aesthetic to the G410 that lets it blend in seamlessly with its surroundings, a stark contrast to often angular and over-designed style that adorns many products marketed as being for gaming. If you don’t want the keyboard lit up like a Christmas tree then there’s a button on the top right that disables the lighting, but even with the keys shining in blue or red or bright pink there’s still an understated look to the G410, like it isn’t trying to drawn too much attention to itself, unless it happens to be set to one of the fancier lighting modes.  Through Logitech’s software you can merrily play with their impressive Spectrum lighting system, opting for basic preset choices like a wave of wonderful colors that emanate from the centre and roll across the board or carefully selecting a different shade for every single key from the 16.8 million colors available, although of course in reality  the vast majority of those are shades that don’t look any different from each other. Seriously, there’s only so many blues you can differentiate between. Purples do tend to look a little too blue, but oranges and yellows are lovely, two colors that other keyboards seem to frequently struggled with. The presets are also pretty nice with one of my favorites being a mode where keys light up as you press them and then fade out, letting you leave a trail of color across the board as you type, but you could also choose for a breathing effect where the light slowly fade in and out, or perhaps you could even go for the starry night effect by having random keys light up. A nice touch is how you can sync your Logitech devices together so that they all adopt the same color scheme.

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The software also lets you choose which keys will be disabled when you press the aptly named Gaming key,which by default switches off the Windows key so you won’t find yourself accidentally leaping back to the desktop. The heatmap is a considerably less useful tool that presents a…well, heatmap of the entire keyboard after the mode has been activated, indicating which keys have been getting used the most. Perhaps really dedicated players will find the information useful when analysing their matches, and some folk may glance at it once or twice out of curiosity, but otherwise it seems to be a rather useless feature. Presumably, though, Logitech feel that its appreciated, otherwise why continue to support it?  Profiles mean you can also setup the keyboard so that it automatically loads certain lighting when you fire up a game, so you could have useful commands highlighted in green or the WASD in the red. The Logitech software will even automatically apply certain effects when you fire up some games, like the entire keyboard flashing blue and red when you’re being chased by the police in GTA V.

Like its big brother the G410 boasts Logitech’s very own Romer-G switches, designed to compete with the beloved Cherry MXs that have dominated the mechanical keyboard market for so very long. Having been using the Orion Spark for about a year I’m actually quite familiar with Logitech’s personal brand of switches, although the G410 ditches the slightly unusual key shape of the Orion, which I rather liked but that many did not, in favor of a more traditional design. The switches are interesting, actuating at a mere 1.5mm and needing just 45g of pressure to push down. That pressure is comparable to Cherry MX Reds, but the 1.5mm travel distance before activation makes the Romer-G 25% faster than the competition.   Furthermore they have a double-redundancy to help ensure keys always activate at the same time, eradicating any possibility of inconsistency.  In use they don’t quite have that tactile click you might expect of a mechanical board, rather there’s a slight softness that makes them feel a little more like a regular membrane keyboard. It’s not bad, though, far from it. In testing they feel more like a Cherry MX Brown with some rubber dampening that stops them from bottoming out with such a loud clack. That classic sound associated with mechanical keyboards is still there, but its more subdued, which is fine by me for those long typing sessions where the click and click of something like the Cherry MX Blue switches can become annoying. On pushing down a key it resists briefly before giving way with a slight jerk, but in regular use it’s not noticeable, and I can confirm that with the Orion Spark this vanished with use, so I fully expect the G410 to become even smoother over time.  Switches are a very subjective thing, though, and it’s hard to provide a true assessment, but suffice to say that personally I rather like them.  The minimal activation distance and the small amount of pressure needed to push the keys means when typing your fingers feel like they can dance across the board with the lightest of touches, and during gaming they prove perfectly responsive.

The wrist-rest is something of a problem. During gaming It’s not wide enough to lend any real support to my left wrist while the right side doesn’t have much of a rest to speak of at all, dropping to a mere inch wide at its narrowest point. Meanwhile the middle is actually the widest section  at 2.5”, which makes no sense to me. When typing the left side provides a tiny bit of support but still isn’t wide enough, so I frequently found the bottom of palm sliding across the edge of the rest. Meanwhile the right side doesn’t have a slope that reaches the table, thus to type my hand felt like it had to hover rather than rest, otherwise my palm would hit the edge. This wasn’t overly problematic for me as my hands tend to stay above the keyboard when typing, but if you naturally tend to rest your hands then the Atlas Spectrum’s paltry attempt at comfort will leave you feeling annoyed. The entire thing feels pointless, really. The design of the rest also seems to stop any third-party rests being usable. Really I would have been happier to have the wrist rest be either detachable or for the keyboard to simply not have one in order to help decrease the weight and size further.

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The ARX functionality that Logitech has been pushing also makes a return here. While the G910 had a tray that slid out to house your smartphone the G410 actually comes with an entire separate stand that can be stored within the keyboard when not in use, the idea being that by using the stand you can have a second tiny screen available.  The actual ARX software lets you keep an eye on things like CPU and RAM usage, tempratures and more, plus you can even launch games on your rig using your phone, although games with their own launcher prove troublesome. It’s not something especially useful, but neat in a way. Still, if Logitech want to continue with their Arx idea they need to come up with a more compelling reason to use it. Really, I found the stand itself to be more useful, and would up using it so I could sit my phone on a nearby shelf and still see notifications.

Reviewing this new keyboard it was impossible to shake the feeling that I was essentially just reviewing the Orion Spark again, albeit in miniature form. It feels the same and looks pretty much the same, minus the chopped off right side. As such I have no problem recommending it, and indeed I’m considering replacing the Orion Spark with it as I enjoy the extra space.  The build quality is solid and its small design makes it great if you travel a lot, struggle with desk space or prefer to perform wide swipes with your mouse and always find the keyboard getting in the way.  The Romer-G switches have proved themselves to me over the last year or so as being worthy contenders to Cherry MX’s crown and Logitech’s Spectrum lighting remains perfect for anyone who likes to match up their peripherals. The only real drawback is the lack of dedicated macro keys. In other words it’s a damn good little keyboard that I have no problem slapping a full-blown recommendation on.

Reco

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