A review of Logitech’s G610 mechanical keyboard

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I splurged on a mechanical “gaming” keyboard for our family desktop computer: a Logitech G610 with Cherry MX Red switches.

Its predecessor, a Cherry low-profile membrane keyboard, had lasted years, but some keys were becoming unreliable due to mysterious crunchiness beneath. I have removed keycaps in the past for cleaning, but replacing them properly on the scissors-style plastic clips is a questionable proposition.

I don’t game. The kids play some web games and Minecraft. I’m reasonably nostalgic for old-fashioned mechanical keyboards (which I used as a matter of course in the old days when that was what a keyboard was), although I’ve typed high volumes on various lower-profile keyboards and they can be fine as far as I’m concerned. I’ve had two Cherry-branded keyboards, neither of which had Cherry MX switches.

What I would call a poor keyboard would be something really budget-constrained like that on Asus’ original eeePC (2007?) or Acer’s Aspire Switch (2014) (which was the last thing I found time to blog about, and whose keyboard was not very responsive from the beginning, but which at least never really deteriorated despite a couple of coding-intensive years, unlike my wrists!).

The computer attached to the G610 is a Linux box, so no Logitech software is available to program it.

Thoughts:

  • Keycaps are removable. If something gets under there, I can pull the key and clean it out. There are fairly large gaps for things like crumbs to fit through, though. Nominally, there should be no crumbs near my computer but it does not seem to be the empirical case.
  • I like the white backlighting. I find the minimum brightness nice night and day (and I don’t generally have the lights off).
  • But, because the backlight LED is at the top of each key, the alternate character (accessed with SHIFT) is printed on the lower half of the keycap instead of the top. If the LED has to be up there for functional reasons (does it?) I would have preferred the alternative solution of setting the two characters side-by-side.
  • The Caps Lock, Num Lock, and Scroll Lock indicators are not dimmable, so when the keys are dimmed (or unlit), the indicator LEDs are irritatingly bright. I have an idea of putting polyimide tape over for a warm amber glow, but that’s not exactly elegant. These should really just follow the brightness chosen by the user for all the other lights.

  • The LEDs default to a slow wave rolling across the keyboard on boot. Idling, that’s cute. I don’t know who would find it tolerable during use. Without Logitech’s software, on each reboot I have to hit the brightness key + 0 to get it to settle down to a constant backlight — and then set the brightness.
  • The caps lock indicator LED can get confused and indicate the wrong state. This has been mentioned in reviews of the keyboard. One reviewer said removing the Logitech software had solved the problem. I never had the Logitech software installed as I’m on Linux.
  • Possibly related: sometimes it behaves as if the shift key is permanently held down – mouse functions are changed, keypresses are shifted. It may be more complicated than that. The key itself doesn’t get stuck. Twice, I have solved the problem by literally mashing my hands around on the keys for awhile. Does this indicate the issue may be an intentional mode with a key combination to toggle it? Dunno, but I don’t have a use for it.
  • The Cherry Red switches have some lateral wobble which is unsettling at the moment. Don’t know if it’s good or bad for typinng in the long run.
  • Actuation force is so small that it bothers me a bit. The Red switches don’t give a tactile clue as to how far is far enough to activate a key. It’s generally not very far. As a result, I’m finding it very easy to inadvertently push the space bar or “a” (on which apparently I sometimes lightly rest a finger on) as it can register with very little movement.aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa Maybe the Brown switches, with the “bump” sensation, would mitigate my issues. I haven’t tried them.
  • There’s quite a lot of noise even without clicky switches, particularly the rattle of the space bar, but all the keys make noise when they move laterally, when they bottom out, and when they top out on rebound.
  • After three months, I find I’m still sloppy with the tall keys, hitting extra ones on the way to the one I’m aiming for. I suspect I may have done this with other mechanical keyboards in the distant past, but that the keys were less likely to register a light brush than these are.
  • No one else in the family likes this keyboard. They’d all prefer chiclets and find the tall mechanical keys aggravating.

I really want to like this keyboard, and I kind of do, even though it’s not really logical given that I make more errors using it than I did with my previous one. White backlighting, removable keycaps, dedicated media keys (scoff away), volume roller… all good things for me. But when I finally give in and order an ISO-layout keyboard, it’s not going to be another Logitech G610.

Acer Aspire Switch 10

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Acer Aspire Switch 10

One day, I mentioned to someone that I didn’t want to spend money buying a fresh battery for my Lenovo X61T tablet computer. That evening, the battery died completely.

Not long after that, I swung by Best Buy to check out the Surface Pro 3 again. Microsoft has done some nice things there and I would like to show some meaningful support for decisions like the 3:2 screen aspect ratio and strong pressure-sensitive stylus integration.

The cheapest (Core i3) model on display couldn’t keep up with fast pen strokes (such as I use when scribbling notes), and palm rejection failed repeatedly. The Core i5 model seemed to keep up with the pen, but the overall dynamics of the pen (in OneNote) didn’t agree with me, nor did the soft-rubber-on-glass feeling. I’ll keep an open mind on the N-Trig pen, especially if it persists in a Surface Pro 4 or Mini in the medium term.

As much as I’d like to believe the Surface Pro kickstand solves the top-heaviness problem for computers with the primary electronics sitting behind the screen, the kickstand/type cover combo is clearly not going to sit comfortably in my lap. This matters for my use case.

As I was heading out of the store, an Acer Aspire Switch 10 caught my eye. This unit with a 16:10 aspect-ratio display looked very comfortable next to the adjacent Asus with a 16:9 one. Online I discovered that this is a convertible tablet, in the sense that it’s a tablet which docks into a keyboard base, much like the Asus TF101 and successors (and with what superficially seems to be an identical 1280 x 800 10.1-inch IPS screen).

If there isn’t a computer at any price that does everything I want, why not try a really economical one that ticks quite a few of the boxes? On sale at $350 Canadian (plus 13% tax and an eco fee, in the ridiculous way that retailers here are allowed to advertise a price that much smaller than the quantity of money you actually have to hand over to buy a thing), it was worth a try.

Pros:

  • I like the screen. I’d like a higher resolution, but at 10 inches diagonal, 1280 x 800 is OK. Vibrant colours. There was a time when a modest machine would meant a TN panel. Glad that’s no longer true!
  • Fanless system with solid-state storage: no whining, grinding or whooshing, and no delicate moving parts to fail.
  • The touchpad seems pretty responsive and left click by light tap works easily. Two-fingered scrolling is pretty good.
  • Nice to have the magnetic hinges and adjustable-angle keyboard to dock the computer in. I guess Microsoft would have shot their marketing strategy in the foot if they’d made a beautiful clamshell dock for the Surface Pro 3 that brought the whole package above the weight of a MacBook Air? Maybe they’ll be secure enough come SP4 time to release such a thing (put a battery in it!)

Cons:

  • Frequently the keyboard seems to disconnect and it misses a single character when I begin typing. This is probably the closest thing to a dealbreaker on this whole package.
  • This is definitely a lower-powered device. It’s noticeably slow processing JavaScript (TiddlyWiki). Touchscreen response is sometimes slow. Scrolling webpages and, especially, pinching to zoom are laggy. In general performance, my Core 2 Duo Lenovo X61T (running Linux) is definitely snappier.
  • I find the keyboard keys a bit stiff (I’m not used to chiclet keyboards)
  • Battery life is not great. This isn’t a whole-workday-unplugged computer, by a long shot.
  • The sound is a bit quiet on max (software?)
  • Need a fn key to access home and end (argh)
  • Can’t seem to scale the Windows UI on this computer? Controls on desktop apps are a little small for my fingers even with 1280×800 screen
  • Slight play on the hinges
  • I miss my trackpoint, but maybe I can get used to using a trackpad? I find text selection a pain with trackpad or touchscreen.
  • Touchpad has left and right buttons seamlessly integrated. It’s hard to press one while holding a finger in place on the touchpad.
  • No backlit keyboard :(
  • 1 GB of RAM (will this matter, given the slow CPU? I won’t be asking it to run Blender, compile or encode anything or do major image processing).
  • Not incredibly easy to grip to open up for quick setup.
  • The port selection is very limited. Even the dock doesn’t have a full-sized SD slot.

Other notes:

  • 32GB storage sounds small but I keep files on external storage (NAS) with a local copy of whatever I want to have available to work on.
  • It’s a bit top/back-heavy of course. Really not so bad, especially considering the keyboard doesn’t even have a battery in it to weigh it down.
  • The advantage of the 16:10 aspect ratio isn’t totally realized here as the chassis is big enough to accommodate the alternative 1366 x 768 screen. I’d have liked the device to be smaller or the screen to be larger, in the same package. In the case of a larger screen, I’d probably be looking for higher resolution. But now I’m talking myself into more expensive computers!

There would appear to be more cons in my list than pros, but they all have to be taken in the context of a quite inexpensive device. I miss a stylus, and the keyboard not registering the first character typed is a serious ssue. I mean issue. That was not staged.