If you’ve been following the mechanical keyboard market in the last few years you’d see a worrying abandonment of the Cherry MX switches as most companies either make their own versions in-house or use clones from another company.
This has been done, of course, for cost reasons as these replacements are usually cheaper, but companies swear up and down that the quality has not changed.
The entire ecosystem of mechanical keyboards is even more affected in smaller markets like South Africa which doesn’t have access to large import companies who can still bring in Cherry MX variants. Smaller startups looking to make high quality boards are also absent here for the most part.
While you can still find genuine switches from Cherry in the country, you’re usually going to be paying a premium on top of a vastly reduced amount of choices. Certain colours of switches are almost impossible to find too. I’ve been searching for a properly imported Cherry MX Green board for more than two years now and every failed search drives me closer to the expensive prospect of a private import.
The big downside for consumers in all of this is a lack of consistency. Keyboard manufactures using Cherry switches meant that you had a high degree of confidence in the typing experience without ever needing to actually touch a new keyboard. As long as you were familiar with your Cherry switch of choice, you could comfortably buy a board from any name brand with only aspects such as layout and software differing.
Now, however, it’s a complete gamble. If you have 10 companies all claiming to make a switch similar to, say, a Cherry MX Blue, there’s no way to know how each of them feel and behave without actually buying them. Reviews can help, but only so much.
So where does Logitech come into this? For the past few weeks I’ve been using two keyboards from the company which have their own versions of Cherry MX switches. I’ve been using the G513 Carbon with “GX Blue (Clicky)” switches and the G512 Carbon with “GX Brown (Tactile)” switches. As you may have guessed by these names these are analogous to Cherry MX Blue and Cherry MX Brown switches.
So how do they feel?
Aside from using these two keyboards as my daily drivers for the review period I also have genuine Cherry MX switches right next to me as a point of comparison. Both Logitech variants feel noticeably scratchier and rougher with every press.
The Logitech switches really feel like there’s less mechanical precision going on inside and, as a result, the typing experience is not as satisfying or as smooth as my genuine comparison examples.
Another problem here is that the switches from Logitech don’t feel consistent across all the keys on each board. Even keys with have the same activation force don’t feel identical between presses.
I think that both of these problems could be helped greatly by applying some lubricant, a fairly common modification (if you can all it that) for mechanical boards. That being said the local RRP of these boards is a rather hefty R2 799. I really wanted a better experience out of the box for that price.
All of this aside these are nice products to actually use, and, as yo may have guessed, some of my problems here come from nit-picking which the average person won’t do. I had several people not familiar with mechanical keyboards try these out – with proper sanitisation – and they enjoyed them.
I’m typing up this review on the G512 Carbon with GX Browns and it’s a nice experience.
TL;DR these mechanical Cherry MC stand-ins will annoy those familiar with the originals, but they’re fine for everyone else and still leagues better than membrane offerings.
Switches are only one part of the package even though they may be the most important.
Taking these two boards out of the box and you’re met with the familiar Logitech quality. Everything here feels very solid in terms of the build and after many hours of hammering away it feels like these will put in years of hard work without complaint.
The design here is rather minimal with little to know border around the keys. This is backed up by an absolutely solid backplate that allows both the G513 and G512 to have amazing rigidity despite being rather thin. There is zero deck flex even if you’re hitting each key like it owes you money. This amazing solid typing base is a real pleasure.
Unfortunately the keycaps are a let down. They are very thin and have that flaky texture you can feel on cheaper plastics. The top of the caps, where you will be interacting with them mostly, suffer with this to a lesser extent, but the sides of this keys are awful. The bottom edges too are surprisingly sharp, another indicator of cheap plastic that is not rounded off properly at the factory.
The caps reflect the light of the switch-mounted RGB LEDs which is nice, but it does mean that the legend is almost impossible to see if you turn the LEDs off. This may be nice for those who like to show off with blank keycaps, but for the rest of us it’s not a good feature.
Returning to the RRP of R2 799 and we really did want some more features for the money. Dedicated macro keys, physical media controls and maybe even a detachable cable would have gone a long way to increase the value.
Speaking of cables and the one here is braided and sprouts out the top right of the case. It’s a superb cable as far as permanent ones go with a fine weave that won’t catch on anything and thick construction that inspires confidence.
Let’s wrap things up
Logitech’s G513 Carbon and G512 Carbon are both decent keyboards. As competitors to the venerable Cherry MX switches the GX options here do a good job but fall well short.
For the average person who just wants a mechanical keyboard they are passable and offer great build quality in some areas, though for the price we expected a bit more.
In terms of typing, gaming and everything else you’d want a keyboard for these do just the job.
Logitech G512 / G512 Carbon
Decent for beginners but can't compete with Cherry and lacking at this price.