Review: Logitech G810 Orion Spectrum Gaming Keyboard

Priced at $159.99, the Logitech G810 Orion Spectrum Gaming Keyboard nestles very close to the top of the company’s gaming keyboard range. It’s beaten only by the G910 Orion Spark which is $20 more expensive.

These days you can pick up a basic computer keyboard for less than $10, so why would anyone choose to spend over $150 on the G810? The answer, predictably, comes down to a combination of features, engineering, and style – the G810 is no basic keyboard.

Built for high-end gamers, the Logitech will tell you that G810 Orion Spectrum is designed for performance. It features neat touches to enhance the gaming experience, such as fingerprint-masking matte surface textures and a braided cable that can match the more discerning custom rigs, but it’s on the inside that the real magic happens.

Unlike other premium keyboards that may be equipped with off-the-shelf, third-party keys, Logitech build their own mechanical switches, which they call Romer-G. In a briefing, the Logitech team told me that the Romer-G actuation point is 25% shorter than standard mechanical switches – that translates into a more responsive, better performing keyboard. Believe Logitech’s figures and you can compare a 5 millisecond actuation time to 6.7 ms for competitor’s mechanical keyboards and 9 ms for a traditional, rubber dome device. Of course, if your reflexes aren’t as sharp as they used to be (raises hand after too long a pause), they won’t transform you into an eSports superstar overnight, but it may give your performance a boost.

Logitech also boasts that their switches are 40% more durable than standard mechanical key switches – they’re tested to over 70 million keystrokes. Amortise that investment over a number of years and suddenly, $160 doesn’t seem so bad.

Of course, the G810 wouldn’t be a gaming keyboard if it didn’t offer your choice of 16.8 million colours, courtesy of centered, surface-mounted LED backlights, but there’s function as well as form here – partnerships with some game developers ensure that only the keys used for game control are illuminated, which is a neat touch. You can also customise the palette to your heart’s content or take advantage of a number of preset effects.

As you’d hope from a premium device, the Logitech G810 Orion Spectrum looks like it offers much to discover. Let’s open it up.

What’s in the Box?

Dressed in the company’s Logitech G gamer branding, the G810 Orion Spectrum is packaged in a black and blue outer box with spot varnished photography of the illuminated keyboard. Inside, there’s little in the way of fuss – a matte-black inner carton holding the G810 and a short user guide. The keyboard is well protected with a sheet of thick polyethene covering all sides.

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Unwrap, plug-in to a nearby USB 2.0 port and you’ll find the G810 Orion Spectrum works right out the box – although, for more advanced features, you’ll need to download and install the Logitech Gaming Software app from the company’s website.

First Looks

If you’ve been used to typing on a cheap, full-sized keyboard or – like me – you’re now more used to banging out copy on an integrated keyboard with chiclet-style keys, the weight and size of the G810 can be initially surprising.

It’s not that the keyboard is oversized – indeed, compared to other keyboards in its class which are equipped with all manner of function key rows, wrist supports and other accoutrements, the G810 is relatively compact. But it has the kind of weight and solidity that marks it as a quality device.

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Where other gaming keyboards like to shout about their prowess through garish lighting, redundant asymmetric angles and all manner of knobs and twiddly bits, the G810 is sleek and unobtrusive – even when illuminated, it retains a quiet reserve on the desktop, which I love.

Small design flourishes set it further apart – clever double-hinged stands allow the rear of the keyboard to be raised in two positions. The braided cable connecting the keyboard to your PC is higher quality and more tactile than cheaper competitors.

Meanwhile, up top, the 104 standard keys are smooth (and can actually be a little slippy during a long gaming session) with a gently curved indentation that ensures a comfortable fit with your fingers.

Special keys include four round media transport controls (Play/Pause, Stop, Back, Forward) and above, a volume roller, mute button, keyboard lighting toggle, and gaming mode key complete the lineup. Adjacent, you’ll see indicators for Number Lock, Caps Lock and Scroll Lock.

It’s all reasonably straightforward, no-nonsense stuff. The G810 is a grown-up keyboard, no doubt. Sure, if you want to match the keyboard to your gaming rig, fire up the LED illumination and choose your favourite hue out of the 16.8 million colours available. Alternatively, opt for one of six lighting effects – Fixed Color, Breathing, Star Effect, Color Cycle, Color Wave and Key Press. But even then, the G810 isn’t particularly garish, which, for this gamer, is very welcome.

Logitech G fans will love the G810’s ability to synchronise colours with other peripherals from the company’s range. I synchronised effects between the G810, a Logitech G502 gaming mouse and the company’s G933 Artemis Spectrum gaming headset and the results were pretty snazzy!

Using the G810 Orion Spectrum Keyboard

A keyboard like the G810 Orion Spectrum has two clear use cases – obviously, it’s designed to be a high-quality gaming controller that’s sufficiently responsive for top-notch FPS play alongside other, less-stressful genres. Alongside gaming, a full-sized, mechanical keyboard should also be ideal for bashing out that novel we all have within us (apparently).

Having spent a good few weeks both gaming and working with the G810, my feedback is somewhat mixed. On the gaming side, I found the G810 to be first-class. Rubber pads on the underside of the keyboard – as well as the aforementioned weight – ensures it doesn’t move around during gameplay. The keys are solid to the touch, responsive with a quick return, making repeated key presses a cinch.

Once you’ve found the keys you need for your game, I found I rarely miskeyed – there’s sufficient separation between the keys to ensure you’ll feel when your fingers stray. Depending on the game, the G810 – courtesy of the Logitech Gaming Software app – is able to only illuminate the keys required to control the action on-screen. Sadly, the list of supported games is currently small – but for those that are on board, the results in a darkened room are spectacular as they are useful.

For work, I actually found the G810 to be less successful. Having spent years working on chiclet-style keyboards, I actually found the additional height and actuation depth of the g810’s Romer-G keys quite difficult to type with. I miskeyed repeatedly when writing and my typing speed reduced significantly as a result. I’m not saying that this makes the G810 a poor keyboard – it really isn’t – but if you’re more used to shallow-depth keys, it make take a little time to get up to speed with a mechanical keyboard for work. While praising the keyboard for its compact dimensions, I did miss having a wrist rest too – yes, I want my cake and I most definitely want to eat it.

Certainly one area that can be improved on by the manufacturer is the Logitech Gaming Software application. It provides relatively easy access to the G810’s extended feature set, but it could be made more usable. For example, the app is able to identify existing games that are installed on your PC, check if a profile is available for those games and download them. Great! But, you have to launch a scan manually each time you install a new game – there doesn’t appear to be an automatic scan and update feature – simple stuff, really.

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More successful is the application’s colour controls. Three modes allow easy customisation of the keyboard’s LED illumination – Freestyle lets you choose individual key colours, while Zones enable grouped key lighting. Effects, I’ve already mentioned, with a simple drop-down menu allowing quick and easy switching between the selection. Other features, for example, a Key Press Heat map that tells you which keys you press the most, are fun if a little less essential.

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One area of concern with LGS – with a number of supported devices – is that I found the app intermittently refused to acknowledge the peripheral is connected. Even though the G810, or the Logitech mouse/headset I’ve been testing recently is plugged in, powered on and – ad far as Windows is concerned – working, the device would not appear in LGS without rebooting the PC. A reboot isn’t the end of the world, but it’s a snag that impacts confidence in the app and takes the edge of an otherwise highly polished user experience.

Summary

Overall, the Logitech G810 Orion Spectrum is a robust, high-quality peripheral that gamers are going to love. At $159.99, it’s certainly an investment, but as soon as you pick up the keyboard, or spend any time using it, you’ll feel the kind of quality and robustness that’ll reassure you it’ll be around for some time.

It the kind of quality that Logitech is striving to deliver through their accompanying LGS software too, I’m sure, but that still has a little way to go. However, great lighting effects and automatic game profiles are potentially huge features that can really differentiate the G810 and its brethren over competitor devices – a little extra usability throughout the app plus improved device detection will help Logitech nail it.

Those not used to traditional, mechanical keyboards will need to spend a little time rewiring their brain (and fingers) to get used to the G810’s key height and actuation depth. It may feel a little strange at first, compared to the light-touch keyboards that ship with so many devices nowadays, but persistence will bring confidence.

Compared to its peers, I love the simplicity and compact design of the G810. While the missing wrist rest would help during extended usage, I’m not one for having my desktop look like the flight deck of a jumbo jet. If you’re seeking endless rows of configurable macro keys, Logitech can help you out (with the G910 et al.) but this isn’t the keyboard for you.

But if you’re seeking a compact, high-quality gaming keyboard with excellent performance and just enough value-added enhancements to elevate it over its peers, the Logitech G810 Orion Spectrum is a first-class choice.

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