Following on from my previous comparison of the Logitech G15 and Razer Tarantula, I thought I’d take a look at their cheaper siblings, the Razer Lycosa and Logitech G11.
Not every gamer is prepared to spend nearly $100/£80 on a gaming keyboard, so at a lower price both of these keyboards should generate a bit more interest from gamers on a slightly lower budget. But are they worth buying, and which is best?
Seconds out, round 1!
Round 1 – First Impressions
As you would expect after Razer’s previous gaming keyboard, the Tarantula, the Razer Lycosa is a very stylish keyboard. It’s a simple, clean design that comes in any colour you want, so long as its black. Its not just plain black, as it has a glossy finish to the case and matt black keys. However, while this glossy finish looks great out of the box you may find yourself cleaning the keyboard more regularly than you’d like, as it really shows off fingerprints and dust.
The Logitech G11 follows in the footsteps of it’s bigger brother, the excellent G15. In fact the G11 is basically the same as the G15 minus the LCD screen and at a lower price. Appearance wise it’s nothing to write home about, with black keys in a silver frame. Straight away you’ll notice some extra buttons on the left (more about those in a moment) which contribute to the large size of the keyboard. At 21.5 x 11 inches (with wrist support) the G11 is considerably larger than the Lycosa (18.5 x 9.0 inches with support) and most other keyboards, so you’ll need to be sure your desk has enough spare room before buying one of these. This extra size adds to the weight of the keyboard, but also helps to give an impression of solid build quality.
Both keyboards feature detachable wrist rests and adjustable height, so you should be able to make yourself comfortable.
Which looks better is purely a question of taste, but if you’re prepared to keep the Lycosa clean it’s definitely the better looking keyboard in my mind.
Winner – Razer Lycosa
Round 2 – Backlighting
Blue seems to be the colour of choice for Razer at the moment and the soft blue backlighting of the Lycosa looks great, particularly at night. However, it isn’t quite strong enough for use in bright conditions – you may find yourself turning down the lights or drawing the curtains to be able to read the keys.
There’s also an option to toggle the lighting between all keys, just the WASD keys, and off. This is a pointless gimmick – why just the WASD keys? If you’re going to highlight specific keys surely you should be able to include weapon keys, macro keys etc. And switching the lighting off means you can’t read the keys at all, as they appear as black on black.
The Logitech G11 takes a much more simplistic approach to its backlighting, with every key being lit with a similar blue glow. There are three states for the lighting (normal, bright and off) and unlike the Lycosa the keys can still be read when the backlighting is switched off.
Razer appear to have been trying something new but without really thinking about practicalities. Meanwhile, Logitech have gone for a tried and tested method that works really well.
Winner – Logitech G11
Round 3 – Keys
The Razer Lycosa has what it calls Hyper-Response keys that are designed to give a faster response by requiring less movement to send a signal. They’re of a low-profile design, like a laptop, and are light to the touch without being so light that you can easily press the wrong key. Combined with a non-slip rubber finish and a positive (if rather loud) click when pressed, the Lycosa is a very nice board to use for everyday typing.
The Lycosa’s media and lighting controls are available on a very smart touchpad at the top right of the keyboard. It’s generally easy to use, and features the same backlighting as the rest of the keyboard. One daft feature is that if you switch the backlighting off the touchpad also goes out … which is where the button is located to switch the lighting back on again. Duh! Chances are the first few times you do this you’ll miss the key and hit one of the media controls instead. One drawback of the touchpad is that you don’t get any clicky feedback when you press a ‘button’, so it’s not always obvious that your action has registered.
The Logitech G11 has standard plastic keys that are almost disappointing after the lovely rubberiness of the Lycosa’s keys, but they do feel reassuringly solid and have a quieter action than the Lycosa.
Standard media controls are placed at the top centre and are easy to use. The main controls (stop, play, skip) are standard buttons and the volume is controlled by a
wheel that is much easier to use than up/down buttons. To the right of the media controls is the button that toggles through the three lighting states.
Although less impressive than the Lycosa’s touchpad, I did find the G11’s media controls to be more effective. I preferred the feel of the Lycosa’s keys, but also found the click of each key a little too loud at times.
Winner – Logitech G11
Round 4 – Connections
Both keyboards work fine in BIOS, and will also use default Windows drivers to behave like a standard keyboard
The Lycosa requires two USB ports to connect to your PC, but does give you a single USB1.0 connection back (along with a headphone and microphone jack). However, the keyboard really comes alive when you install Razer’s drivers.
The G11 only requires one USB connection and generously gives you two back (USB1.0), which is handy if you’re running short of USB slots. It also features cord channels underneath so you can plug your mouse into the keyboard and tidy up the cables a bit.
Even though the Lycosa has headphone and microphone sockets, the extra USB port of the G11 makes it the winner here.
Winner – Logitech G11
Round 5 – Gaming Features
If you’re familiar with Razer’s Tarantula, the backlighting on the Lycosa will give you a clue as to what’s missing on this cheaper keyboard. The Tarantula featured anti-ghosting on every key, but the circuitry that enabled this feature meant that backlighting wasn’t possible. So, the fact that the Reclusa does have backlighting means it doesn’t have full anti-ghosting, with the exception of the WASD keys. However, that’s not as useful as you’d think – when was the last time you wanted to go forwards, backwards, left and right at the same time? The anti-ghosting is a big marketing point for the Lycosa, but I can’t help but think that this might mislead some buyers into thinking it’s the whole keyboard that supports it.
The Lycosa’s Windows drivers are very powerful and allow you to reprogram the function of every key on the board. You can have a key launch a program, act as a mouse button or launch a macro of key-presses with built-in delays. These can all be stored in profiles, and a couple of these profiles can be associated with an executable file. This means that you can create a profile for your favourite games that is loaded up by the drivers as soon as the game starts. Very handy indeed! Unfortunately the Lycosa doesn’t feature the on-board memory of the Tarantula, so if you want to plug your keyboard into another machine you’ll need to take a copy of the drivers and profiles with you.
In-game the Lycosa feels good and is comfortable in extended gaming sessions. The programmable keys can prove useful once you’ve got them setup. Whether or not the faster response on the keys actually makes any difference is debatable, I can’t say that I noticed a sudden improvement in my multiplayer kill rate.
The G11 also features programmable keys, but this only applies to the 18 extra ‘G’ keys on the eft of the board. At first this might seem like a let-down in comparison to the Lycosa, but then you realise that there are three additional buttons (M1, M2, M3) above the ‘G’ keys that allow you to switch between three different profiles. What this means is that you have up to 54 programmable keys that don’t have to interfere with the standard keyboard. The active profile is indicated by the appropriate button being backlit in orange.
There is yet another button, MR (Macro Record), that allows you to record a macro in-game and tie it to one of the G-keys, so you can easily change your configuration without having to drop back to the drivers. Press the MR button, then your chosen ‘G’ key, perform the actions you want to record and then press MR again and that’s it … your macro is stored.
The Logitech G11 is another strong performer in-game with good key responses, if not quite as ‘instant’ as the Lycosa, and its also comfortable to use. The G keys are a good feature that allow you to easily trigger you required function, provided you can remember which of the 54 combinations you want. The only downside to the ‘G’ keys is that it’s easy to trigger the bottom left keys thinking that it’s the Ctrl key. Once you realise what you’re doing you have to think a bit harder about which key you’re pressing, but with time it starts to become natural again.
Both keyboards allow you to disable the Windows key to stop accidentally switching to the Windows desktop. The G11 does this via a slider control on the keyboard, whereas the Lycosa allows it to be done via the touchpad or the drivers.
Choosing a winner for this round is not so easy. The power of the Razer’s drivers makes it highly flexible, and the ability to link a profile to a game is an excellent feature. On the other hand, the Logitech’s setup is much more user friendly and it allows you to setup your macros without interfering with the standard keyboard layout. I’m going to give this to the Lycosa on the strength of the drivers, but it’s by a narrow margin.
Winner – Razer Lycosa
Round 6 – Price
The Razer Lycosa has a retail price of $79 or £79, while the Logitech G11 is available for $79 or £49. So in the US the two keyboards are head-to-head on price, but there’s a huge price difference in the UK. This isn’t so bad when you start shopping online, where the Lycosa can be found nearer to £50 and the G11 for just under £40, but it still represents a 20% difference to your wallet.
Why the huge difference in the UK and not in the US? I think this is more about marketing strategy than anything else, with Razer attempting to position their brand as a ‘premium’ product. Either that or Razer are completely out of touch with the competition and don’t mind frightening off customers with high RRPs. There will also be the novelty factor, as the Lycosa is new to the market whereas the G11 has been around a bit longer.
Winner – Logitech G11
Logitech G11 4 – 2 Razer Lycosa
Despite the 4-2 scoreline, both of these keyboards are excellent and are more closely matched than you might think. As gaming keyboards they are more suitable for RTS and MMORPG players, as the programmable keys are more beneficial in these types of games, but in other games and also Windows they are both very good.
The Razer Lycosa is definitely the technically superior keyboard, whereas the Logitech G11 feels more ‘old school’ in its design. However, some of the headline features on the Lycosa, such as the backlighting and anti-ghosting capabilites, are not very well executed. In this respect the Logitech G11 is a much better keyboard, as what it does it does very well. There’s also the the significant price difference to take into account.
Even though I love the style of the Razer Lycosa and the way it looks sitting on a desk, particularly in the dark, I can’t help but feel that the Logitech G11 is the better all-rounder, and so in the end that’s what I’d go for.
Overall Winner – Logitech G11