When it comes to gaming-grade keyboards and mice, there’s much spirited debate surrounding wireless connectivity. Some people see “wireless” and think lag, battery life issues, extra weight, and additional cost--all of which are issues that plague most wireless gaming peripherals--but Logitech is ambitiously tackling them all with its LightSpeed technology and a new wireless gaming mouse, wireless mouse pad, and wireless keyboard.
We first encountered Logitech’s Lightspeed wireless connectivity at Computex 2017, along with the company’s equally compelling Powerplay wireless charging tech, and now we’ve had a bit of time with the Lightspeed-enabled G603 mouse and G613 keyboard.
The G603 mouse follows the launch of the G703 and G903 mice--they’re updated, wireless versions of the G700 and G900, respectively--but whereas those two mice enjoy both Lightspeed and Powerplay, the G603 offers only Lightspeed. However, the G603 (a generational update over the G602) sports Logitech’s new HERO mouse sensor, which is as much of a defining feature as is the wireless capability.
(There’s also the G840 XL mouse pad, which will sell for $50 when it debuts in September. This is not to be confused with the Powerplay wireless charging system, which comprises a mouse mat and a wireless charging module and costs $100.)
Lightspeed is a proprietary name for what amounts to an 802.11 (2.4GHz) connection with special sauce dribbled on top. That’s a solid protocol, to be sure, but there’s usually problems with interference. To solve that issue (and this is where the proprietary part comes in), the tech intelligently looks for clear channels and can muscle out other signals, too. You can also connect via Bluetooth.
The G603 has multiple modes. In “Hi” mode (using Lightspeed), the mouse can achieve 1ms latency, and you can expect to get 500 hours of juice on two AA batteries. In “Lo” mode, you get 8ms latency but battery life approaching 1,500 hours. Much of that battery life efficiency comes from the Hero sensor, which we’ll discuss further down the page. You should get the same battery life (although degraded performance) in the Bluetooth mode.
One nifty feature is that you can pop out one of the two batteries and keep the mouse running. It’s also a de facto method of altering the weight. You can easily access the battery chamber via a magnetically attached top panel.
The G603 is programmable via the Logitech Gaming Software (LGS). There are six physical buttons (left and right click, forward and back buttons on the left side, DPI button, and clickwheel), and all of them are programmable. Although you program buttons and configure the mouse settings within LGS, you can save the profiles to the G603’s internal storage as opposed to saving to the PC. This works on all modes.
On the underside of the mouse is the switch to select Hi, Lo, or off, as well as a Lightspeed/Bluetooth button.
Logitech stated that the left and right buttons have no pretravel, which it noted was especially hard to create with the removable magnetic top cover design. The switches underneath are made by Omron.
The weight of the G603 fluctuates widely depending on the battery situation. Empty (that is, without batteries), it’s a flyweight at just 88.9g. With one AA battery, the weight jumps to a still-svelte 112.3g, and with both batteries loaded up, you’re looking at 135.7g, which is pushing the limits for what will feel comfortable to an average user.
To set it up, stick the USB dongle into the USB extender, and plug the extender into your PC. Then pop the batteries into the mouse, choose Hi or Lo, and Bob’s your uncle. Logitech appears to suggest keeping the dongle and keyboard more than 2m away from your wireless router, and to keep the keyboard and dongle within about 20cm of one another for optimal performance. If your PC doesn’t need the dongle and extender, you can just leave it parked in the body of the mouse so you don’t lose it.
The HERO Sensor
Logitech’s new HERO (High Efficiency Rating Optical) sensor is making its debuting in the G603 mouse. The whole idea behind it is to offer a high efficiency, super-accurate sensor that offers 1:1 tracking with zero smoothing and jitter throughout entire DPI range. Logitech stated that although some mice claim to have sensors that can do this, it’s a little specious. Reps didn’t mention any names, but we believe they were referring to, among others, the SteelSeries Sensei 310 and Rival 310. Logitech said that the HERO sensor offers the true tracking throughout the entire DPI range instead or replying on a touch of smoothing, etc., on certain portions of the DPI range.
Logitech is making some big promises with the HERO sensor, including the claim that it can offer more than 98% accuracy on all surfaces (that are reasonably suited to mice) while achieving max speeds and acceleration rates.
Logitech built the HERO sensor in collaboration with a Swiss partner, and as has been the case in times past, the fruit of that labor is a semi-proprietary sensor. Logitech hasn’t made any hard decisions yet, but it may choose to license the sensor to other companies--or not.
Logitech said that the HERO offers performance on a par with the famed PMW3366 but with 10x the power efficiency. In its materials, Logitech stated that “The entire design has been thoroughly optimized for low power consumption from the lens cluster all the way to how the sensor integrates with the MCU (Micro Control Unit) of the mouse.”
The front end of the HERO sensor is analog, and Logitech boasted of a 30 x 30 pixel array that gathers imaged surface data, but the imaging system is also designed to save energy by shutting down between image captures--in other words, the usage dynamically scales.
The processor can be embedded into the MCU, which saves time and money and gives Logitech some engineering flexibility, according to company representatives. Logitech also claimed that its A/D converter “uses much faster and low power operating circuits (XTRAFAST)” to further enhance efficiency without sacrificing performance.
Perhaps the most important feature of the HERO sensor is the fact that you can fully flash the firmware, which means you can keep updating the device indefinitely as the company develops new features or performance tweaks or optimizations.
In a nutshell, Logitech went for both maximum efficiency and maximum performance.
Logitech wanted to pair its wireless gaming mouse with a commensurate keyboard--hence the birth of the Logitech G613, which also uses Lightspeed technology for its wireless connectivity. The company claimed that the performance is effectively the same as a wired keyboard--that the Lightspeed connection is just 1ms (which is essentially imperceptible to humans).
It also offers Bluetooth (Bluetooth LE to be more precise, which Logitech said adds 8-13ms of lag), and in fact you can store up to 10 Bluetooth device IDs on the keyboard’s internal storage so it remembers your devices. As Logitech pointed out, that means you can press a button to switch from Lightspeed to Bluetooth, bang out a message on your smartphone, and punch it again to resume zippy gaming connectivity. Some other use cases Logitech suggested include:
Connect to main Gaming PC and a mobile device at the same time
Connect to main Gaming PC and streaming PC with same keyboard
Connect to main PC and laptop using Bluetooth
Connect to laptop/PC and HTPC to control music or other media while working
The G613 seems to share much of its DNA with other Logitech gaming keyboards, at least on the surface. It comes equipped with Logitech’s Romer-G switches, and although the chassis is dark gray instead of black, it has the same squared edges we’re used to seeing on Logitech planks. There’s a “G” logo in the upper left corner, the G keys (there are six running vertically down the left side) bear that familiar Logitech font, and the dedicated buttons on the upper right are circular.
All of that is to say, if you spotted the G613 out of the corner of your eye, you would recognize it as a Logitech keyboard. Noticeably absent, though, is the iconic(ish) volume roller, which has been replaced by a volume rocker.
Logitech noted that the keyboard has a steel backplate, and it has a wrist rest (alright, about time Logitech!) that is unfortunately not removable (ahh, so close).
You’ll notice that on the G613, as on the G603 mouse, there is no backlighting. This is an obvious nod to the need to preserve battery life; the company said that if the keyboard was backlit, the battery life would have been cut down from a year and half to about 40 hours (20 hours for the mouse). Certainly, though, the lack of backlighting will turn off some users. Psychologically (and unfairly), some people may interpret the lack of LEDs a sign of cheapness, but it does also limit users when they’re trying to work in darker environments.
This is a problem that Logitech could have solved by making the G613 a wired or wireless hybrid. Company representatives demurred slightly when we asked about that point, but we infer that there was a cost issue to consider there (and there may have been engineering concerns as well). In any case, this is a wireless-only keyboard.
There is a USB extender included, which makes the G613 ideal for living room PC setups. (Oh for a lapboard that holds both the G613 and G603…)
The G613 is supported by the LGS software, and the G keys are programmable--but only in Lightspeed mode. If you’re connected via Bluetooth, you’re out of luck.
To get the keyboard rolling, first yank out the pull tab on the battery compartment (obviously, you do this just once). Inside you’ll find two batteries already installed, plus the USB dongle. Pop out the dongle and plug it into a USB port on your PC. Replace the battery cover and switch the keyboard on via the little button on the right side, and then press either the WiFi or Bluetooth button to engage.
We should note that when we had both the keyboard and mouse connected via Lightspeed, we didn't observe any performance difference between these devices and wired ones. We detected no lag whatsoever. Further, although our gaming time was limited, we experienced no hiccups in connectivity.
We would be remiss if we didn't mention that the wrist rest was a welcome addition to the Logitech family, although we'd prefer that it was removable. Also, as we expected, the mouse was a mite heavier than we'd like; granted, to each his own--if you like heavier mice, the almost 130g weight won't bug you in the least, but those who prefer sub-100g lightweights will be put off.
Potential buyers must also be aware of the OS limitations of these two devices. For both the mouse and keyboard, Lightspeed is supported on Windows 7, Mac OS X 10.8, Chrome OS, and Android 3.2, or later. The Bluetooth functionality works on Windows 8, Mac OS X 10.10, Chrome OS, Android 3.2, and iOS 10, or later.
The G603 wireless gaming mouse costs $70 and will debut in September; its counterpart, the G613 wireless keyboard, bears an MSRP of $150, and it’s available this month.