Posted on October 22, 2012 AT 10:35am
As a PC gamer, I know how important it is to have peripherals that are both comfortable to use and work well. Not having the right mouse, keyboard, or headset can be distraction and detract from performance. I have had the opportunity to review the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 keyboard for MadCatz recently. I intended to have this review out sooner, but you will read about the delay further into the review.
To start with, the box and packaging for the S.T.R.I.K.E 7 keyboard is great looking. It comes in what looks like a giant, fancy shoe box, and all of the individual pieces of the modular keyboard came compartmentalized. To be honest, I felt like a kid at Christmas opening it and pulling out pieces saying, “THIS IS SO COOL LOOKING….what is it?!” After laying each piece out, I found the handy guide on putting it all together.
My biggest concern when I first saw the modular keyboard was that the connections might not be up to par. I cringed thinking of little plastic bits snapping off and the keyboard coming apart. When I looked at the underside and the connections, I was very pleased to see that it uses screws and metal clips to hold the sections together, and as I attached each piece I really felt confident that it would be solid, and so far I have had no problems with it.
There are seven pieces to the keyboard, not counting the AC power adapter. One has the main QWERTY keys, another has the num pad, arrow keys, and function buttons (insert, delete, page down, etc). There are two plain old palm rest pieces, as well as a third piece with a scroll wheel and a little red button on the side. Another small part that clips into the side of the main keyboard has the M1-M4 buttons, and then there is the touch screen mod at the top that screws in.
My gaming rig is pretty extensive, and I also have the router/modem on a bookcase next to me and all of this needs to share the nearest outlet. Honestly the hardest part of setting up the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 was figuring out how to Tetris in the awkward AC power adapter into my already cluttered power strip. Eventually I just turned everything off, unplugged everything, and reworked it. It was a huge pain when all I wanted to do was plug in a keyboard, but the keyboard can’t function without it. On the bright side, (no pun intended) because of the adapter it does not draw its power from your computer, so it doesn’t use your PC resources for backlighting or to power the touch screen, so there is no draw on your system. The AC power cord is long enough to reach most outlets, so as long as you can find the space, it won’t be a problem.
The software for the keyboard is straightforward. You can create macros, bind the keys, and make adjustments as needed. The touch screen module allows the user to change volume levels, set timers, view teamspeak chat rooms, pause/play, or change songs in a media program, change the color/brightness of the backlighting, or write notes in the little notepad-esque journal feature. It also has a launcher, where you can open pretty much any game or program right from the module.
The keyboard has been out for a while, and while there are some “supported” game profile sets, they leave a lot to be desired. With a big beautiful touch screen display on the keyboard, there are SO many possibilities. For League of Legends, as an example, the downloaded profile from the MadCatz site allows you to open chat (Z), the score board (O), look at your character screen (C), or open the shop (P). None of the above features are displayed on the actual touch screen. They are just macros to the associated letters.
This was a huge disappointment to me. Instead of working with the game company to develop the application to be able to SEE the minimap on the touch screen, or be able to select shop items and view your current gold as a countdown timer to when you can buy something without having to look at the shop screen would be AWESOME. But the profiles for these games are the bare minimum, so if you are choosing this keyboard for that reason, beware. If you just want to be able to have baron, dragon, and buff timers you manually reset, the S.T.R.I.K.E 7 is worth taking a look at. For now, I use the screen to switch between music and occasionally change the color of my backlighting.
While reviewing the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 keyboard, I was testing out the feel of it in a few ranked games of League of Legends. On three occasions, the main part of the keyboard lights went out, and the keys stopped responding. The first and second time I was able to just fiddle with the wire, which was not in all the way, and it worked fine. The third time it happened, I was in the middle of a game and it stopped responding completely. I frantically unplugged and plugged back in all the little cords. They are all connected to one another, so I literally had to mess with every single one. Eventually I unplugged the AC power and everything else, then put it all back together. It showed the S.T.R.I.K.E 7 logo on the touch screen, but while it was doing its thing, I was so frustrated that I unplugged it from my PC and used a mechanical keyboard I had laying around until the match was over.
I haven’t been able to recreate the issue to figure out what exactly happened with it. The keyboard itself is SO COOL, but the fact that it could do that in a crucial moment is definitely a deterrent for me. Yes, hardware fails. Yes, software can stop responding. However, I firmly believe the modular nature of the keyboard and all the associated cords and connections can only elevate the risk of that happening.
SUMMARY:As a gaming keyboard I genuinely like the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 for its aesthetics, performance and feel. However, for a keyboard that retails at $299.99 USD, I feel it misses the bar with the touch screen module. It has a lot of potential, but it isn’t quite there. The issues I encountered while testing the keyboard made me wary, but as I said, I have not been able to recreate the issue within the last week of additional testing. It’s possible it was just the fluke of a software crash, but it was enough for me. This is certainly a keyboard I will continue to use in the meantime.
- THE GOOD:The endless backlighting color choices, easy to set up, easy to manage, allows for a multitude of features right at your fingertips with the touch screen, very sturdy, has powered USB ports.
- THE BAD:Hardware or software issue with the keyboard becoming unresponsive, on three separate occasions, touch screen module provides limited amount of actual content for supported games, power adapter could cause issues for users with little outlet space.
- THE UGLY: Nothing
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