Keyboard review: Logitech G110 vs Microsoft Sidewinder X4

I have for some time been thinking of getting a new keyboard. What I was looking for was mainly a back-lit keyboard. It should have a good price, but not necessarily the cheapest one. It should feel good to type on. Some extra features would be nice.

I quickly found two candidates:

  • Logitech G110
  • Microsoft Sidewinder X4

I also think that the more expensive keyboards with a display seems really interesting (e.g. Logitech G19). However, I think they are too expensive compared to how useful the display would be to me. Maybe next time I will consider a keyboard with a display.

Since I now have tested both keyboards, Logitech G110 and Microsoft Sidewinder X4, I thought I should write a review and comparison of the keyboards.

Logitech G110

Logitech G110 has blue and red back-light, that can be mixed in any way you please. However, you cannot have different colors on different keys at the same time. There is a key (above F11) to switch the back-light on or off. To change the color of the back-light you must use the included software. If you have not installed the software the back-light will be blue. Personally, I prefer the red back light. I think it somehow feels “softer” for my eyes.

Logitech G110 has a USB port and a built-in sound card. The USB port is placed on the back of the keyboard and uses the USB 2.0 standard. The USB port can be convenient for connecting e.g. a USB stick or a mouse. More than one USB port would have been nice. I think the USB port may not be used for devices that will use much power from the USB, like hard drives without external power supply.

The built-in sound card has two 3.5 mm connectors on the back of the keyboard for earphones and microphone with individual mute buttons (above F6). For some users a built-in sound card might be an advantage. For me, not so much; just some unneeded drivers that will be installed and use computer resources. I can see the advantage though. For example a headset could be connected for Skype voice, while other sound, including ringtone from Skype, will be heard from the speakers via the computer’s main audio card. Personally, I would gladly change the sound card for more USB ports.

One thing I miss on Logitech G110 is a key the launch the calculator. One (or more) of the macro keys could be set to do this, but it would have been nice with a dedicated key next to the numeric keypad.

Microsoft Sidewinder X4

This keyboard has red back-light. The color of that back-light cannot be changed. However, I think that it is a pleasant color for the purpose and I believe that only red is better than only blue. There is a key on the keyboard (above F12) to adjust the intensity of the back-light or shut it off completely.

One thing that many people complained about with Microsoft Sidewinder X4 is that the right Win-key has been removed, making spacebar wider and moving the right Alt-key (sometimes known as Alt Gr) one step to the right. Because of this, it can easily happen that you press spacebar when you intend to press the right Alt-key, especially if you are a good typer. I assume you would get used to this within a couple of weeks though.

One really nice feature with Microsoft Sidewinder X4 is that there is a key close to the numeric keypad (above Num Lock) that is dedicated to run the calculator.

Unfortunately Microsoft Sidewinder X4 does not have even one USB port.

The keys Esc, F1 to F12, PrtScn, ScrLk and Pause are too small on this keyboard.

Macros with programmable macro keys

Logitech G110 has 12 macro keys while Microsoft Sidewinder X4 has only 6 macro keys. In both cases you can program three different macros to each macro key, and easily switch between which set of macros you want to use. That means totally 36 macros for Logitech G110 and totally 18 macros for Microsoft Sidewinder X4.

You can also set different macros depending on which software is running (at least on Logitech G110, I have not tested this on Microsoft Sidewinder X4). That is 36 macros for each program. For example 36 macros for a specific game and 36 other macros for the text editor you use when you are programming.

On both keyboards the macro keys are placed to the left. Some people find this disturbing, because they are used to find Esc, Tab, Ctrl and so on at the far left of the keyboard. Personally I have no problem with this, maybe because I am used to keeping my index fingers on the F and J keys. Besides, on the very first keyboard I used (IBM PC in the 1980s), F1 to F10 (there was no F11 or F12) was placed to the left.

On Logitech G110 the macro keys (G1 to G12) have the same height as the top row of keys (Esc, F1 to F12 and so on), which is a little higher than the rest of the keys. On Microsoft Sidewinder X4 the macro keys (S1 to S6) are lower than the rest of the keys, which might be an advantage if you think it is a problem that Esc to Ctrl is not on the far left of the keyboard.

Key feeling and loudness

Typing on Microsoft Sidewinder X4 is much louder than typing on Logitech G110.

At the same time, the keys on Sidewinder X4 feels more distinct while the keys on Logitech G110 feels softer.

Miscellaneous

Both keyboards have multimedia buttons: Play/pause, stop*, skip back, skip forward, mute sound and volume control. (*Microsoft Sidewinder X4 does not have the stop key.) I really like the volume control with scroll wheel on Logitech G110.

Logitech G110 comes with a detachable palm rest. Microsoft Sidewinder X4 has a palm rest that cannot be removed.

Both keyboards are connected to the computer via a fixed USB cable.

Major advantages and disadvantages

The major advantages and disadvantages I experienced while testing these keyboards are listed below.

Advantage Logitech G110:

  • 12 * 3 = 36 macros.
  • Scroll wheel for volume control.
  • The color of the back-light can be mixed between blue and red as you prefer.
  • One USB 2.0 port on the back of the keyboard for e.g. a USB stick or a mouse.
  • Built-in sound card, if that is useful for you.

Disadvantage Logitech G110:

  • No dedicated key to launch the calculator.
  • Cost a little bit more than Microsoft Sidewinder X4.

Advantage Microsoft Sidewinder X4:

  • The intensity of the back-light can easily be changed.
  • Dedicated key to start the calculator next to the numeric keypad.
  • Cheaper than Logitech G110.

Disadvantage Microsoft Sidewinder X4:

  • Requires 100 MB hard drive space to install the software. Seems very bloated.
  • The right Alt-key (Alt Gr) is too far to the right.
  • Esc and F-keys are too small.

Conclusion / Bottom line

Both keyboards feel solid and robust and are really nice to type on.

I prefer the Logitech G110, for the advantages mentioned above. More macros, selectable back-light color, USB port.

For programmers that wish to use macros in their work, I would recommend Logitech G110, because there are more macro keys, but mostly because, in my opinion, the software for Logitech G110 is much better, and the software for Sidewinder X4 does not seem to support “pasting” (i.e. “quick typing”) text, such as a “code skeleton”, by pressing a macro key.

For gamers either keyboard should be fine, at least if you think six macro keys are enough, and as long as you think that none of the cons mentioned is a dealbreaker. Microsoft Sidewinder X4 can repeat the same macro over and over with just one key press to start and one key press to stop. This could be a good feature in some games, and I have not found this function in the software for Logitech G110.

For my father who uses the computer much, but is not an expert typer, and would not use macros much, I think Microsoft Sidewinder X4 might be the best choice. It is cheaper. He looks at the keys he is going to press, so it would not be an issue that the right Alt-key (Alt Gr) is further to the right than usual. On the contrary, it is probably good that the never used right Win-key is removed and that spacebar is wider. For the same reason, it would not be a problem for him that there are macro keys where you are used to find Esc, Tab and Ctrl. I think he really would appreciate to have an USB port on the keyboard though, since he often uses USB sticks.