The Logitech G413 Carbon ($89.99) is a simpler take on the gaming keyboard, focusing on key feel and performance instead of fancy lighting schemes and extra function buttons, and as such, is priced lower than top-end competitors. It’s a full-size keyboard with a numeric keypad, and the latest gaming-oriented model to use Logitech’s Romer-G switches. It’s our Editors’ Choice for budget gaming keyboards, and worthy of strong consideration if you’re new to esports or aspire to be a professional gamer.
The G413 Carbon is an entry-level mechanical keyboard, in contrast to the usual membrane/dome-switch models you find bundled with most gaming desktops. There are several reasons to pick a mechanical keyboard, most of which involve durability and performance.
Dome-switch models only work when you fully depress each key to complete an electrical circuit. A metal or silicone dome separates the two contacts in the switch, and this dome can wear out fairly rapidly compared with mechanical switches. For example, the switches on the G413 are rated for 70 million keystrokes per key, while switches on a dome-switch keyboard, such as the Logitech G213 Prodigy Gaming Keyboard, are expected to last five to 10 million keystrokes, and will likely feel mushy long before then.
The Romer-G keys in the G413 register after only 1.5mm of travel, rather than the full 3mm to 4mm it would take a dome-switch or membrane keyboard to trigger. That means you don’t have to push the keys all the way down to the stops to register keystrokes, which lets you react faster to gameplay. This is convenient for those instances you need to repeatedly press the same key or switch back and forth between two keys, like when you bind your special attacks to the keys surrounding the WASD cluster. The Razer Ornata Chroma, another top pick, tries to simulate the same effect by using shorter key caps over its hybrid Mecha-Membrane switches, but we’d rather have the real thing for a similar price.
One of the hallmarks of Cherry MX Blue keyboards like the HyperX Alloy FPS Mechanical Gaming Keyboard are the audible and tactile click sounds every time you tap a key. The G413 is a lot quieter than the HyperX Alloy FPS. Actually, key noise is much closer to the relatively quiet Cherry MX Brown keys of the Logitech G610 Orion Brown. The keys still feel and sound mechanical, compared with a dome-switch keyboard, especially when typing longer documents, like this review.
Black or Silver
The G413 Carbon we reviewed is all black, with a brushed-aluminum top surface, black keys, and red LED lighting that shows through each key. The G413 Silver, a Best Buy exclusive, swaps black for silver, brushed metal on the keyboard deck, and white lighting that shines through the black keys. Instead of surrounding the keys, as on the Corsair Strafe Mechanical Gaming Keyboard, the backlighting shines through each key’s label, which is an effect we rather enjoy.
The keycaps are shaped like those on a run-of-the-mill keyboard, so they’re easier to type on than the Logitech G910 Orion Spark’s faceted keycaps. If you’ve tried and like those faceted caps, you can replace a subset of the keys using the included faceted-key replacements and keycap puller. The 12 replaceable keys include the 1-to-5 keys in the number row, as well as the QWER and ASD key sets, i.e., the ones you’d activate with your left hand in most First-Person Shooter (FPS), Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA), and Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games. Their faceted faces make these keys easier to find in the heat of battle. You can replace the keys individually, like just the WASD cluster, or you can use all of them. Unfortunately, you can’t use third-party custom keycaps made for Cherry MX switches, because they use a different mounting post.
As with other Logitech G keyboards, you need to download and install the Logitech Gaming Software (LGS) utility to make the most of the G413. LGS will let you control macros and other functions, like turning off the Windows key while you’re playing, so you don’t inadvertently pop the Start menu up during a gaming session. The keyboard lacks the dedicated macro keys you see on the Corsair K95 RGB, but you can use the LGS utility to program macros to the F1-F12 function keys.
Hitting Fn-F8 will put the keyboard in Game mode, which also turns off the Windows key in case you don’t want to install LGS. You can use LGS to control the lights on more expensive Logitech gaming keyboards like the Logitech G910 and the Logitech G610 Orion Brown, but not on the G413. The Logitech G910 has individually controlled key lighting for color and effects, and the G610 only has white lights, but you can set them to light up and flash individually. On the G413, you can only tap the Fn-F7 key to cycle the red (or white on the Silver model) LEDs through the five brightness levels, including off.
Feels Good for Play or Work
Gaming on the G413 is a lot more responsive than using a dome-switch keyboard. Being able to tap a key repeatedly and have it register after only 1.5mm helps with speed moves and countermoves, especially if you’re under a swarm or spamming attack. The aluminum top panel has zero flex, and keeps your control surface level at all times. A pair of feet on the bottom panel raises the keyboard angle a few degrees for comfort, but it works in the flat position as well.
The keyboard lacks a wrist rest, so I found it more comfortable in the raised position while typing. Once I got used to the extended key travel, I was able to type quickly and accurately at full speed, over 50 words per minute (wpm), and with practice, I could see improvements up to 70wpm.
Logitech built a couple of nice features into the G413, including a USB 2.0 port pass-through on its back panel. This saves you from having to reach behind your desktop every time you want to plug in your phone, USB 2.0 flash drive, or a mouse. You can use it with a wired mouse, or with the USB receiver for any wireless mouse. It’s helpful if you tend to swap out several different gaming mice, depending on which game genre you’re playing at the moment.
The keyboard’s six-foot-long USB cable has two plugs: one for the keyboard, and the other for the pass-through port. Unfortunately, it takes up two of your PC’s USB ports instead of just one.
There are two channels molded into the keyboard’s bottom panel—one to take up the slack on a wired mouse, and the other to route your headset cable under the keyboard to keep it out of the way. These conduits are not absolutely necessary, but they are a nice touch.
The Logitech G413 Carbon is an entry-level gaming keyboard with durable mechanical switches, but without all the typical flashy visual extras. Are pretty colors, loud clicks, and a comfortable wrist rest your most required features? Then the Razer Ornata Chroma may be a better fit. The G413 has a similar feature set to the monochrome SteelSeries Apex M500, but costs $10 less. You give up different colored lights and a little sonic intimidation, but you gain true mechanical switches and the responsive gameplay that you crave.
If you’re serious about getting a mechanical keyboard for gaming without blowing a big wad of cash and want a solid typing experience to boot, you can’t go wrong with the Logitech G413 Carbon. That makes it our Editors’ Choice for budget gaming keyboards.