For PC gamers familiar with hardcore play, particularly that of First Person Shooters (FPS) or Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) games, seeing a gaming keyboard doesn’t get them out of sorts. Non-gamers though, they’re usually taken aback at the site of a keyboard that holds “all those extra buttons”. Enter the Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E. 7, a gaming keyboard with media functionality, user customization, and causes both gamers and non to stare in disbelief at “all those extra buttons”.
The basic use of a keyboard is simply to input data from your fingertips and send it whizzing through a wire (or the air, in cases of wireless) and have it appear on the screen in front of you. This is the advanced technical explanation of course, so to boil it down further: you touch buttons, things pop up on your monitor. Pretty simple, right? However, when engineers get hold of simple things they have a tendency to make them ‘less simple,’ but way cooler. Strangely that’s not what’s happened with the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 Keyboard; instead users get hardware that works with their favorite games in ways that other gaming keyboards do, but somehow does it better while keeping it relatively simple to learn.
Let’s face it, gamers come from all walks of life and because of that will find solace in a number of different titles and genres. Some may simply retreat into an MMO, while others bounce between games like Guild Wars 2 to Borderlands 2 or even to Call of Duty (whichever installment is your flavor). Because of the varying degrees of gameplay, it’s difficult to set your keyboard commands to any one title. To rectify that simple problem Mad Catz has graciously included multiple profiles, each editable within the downloadable software. These profiles can be changed with the push of a button, allowing all of your preset customizations to swap seamlessly. To avoid confusion, each profile can even be set and identified by any one of the over 16.5 million color options for the backlit keys (that’s not a typo).
Additionally, each profile can establish their own keystroke combinations and macros, available for use in your favorite games. The benefit of macros is that players can execute difficult maneuvers requiring multiple keystrokes by simply pushing a button. Players will undeniably have the leg up versus opponents, NPC or player-controlled, in nearly every instance imaginable.
After all that’s been explained people will still sit back with a curious eyebrow raised and think to themselves, “But you can’t spend all of your free time simply playing games, can you?” To answer that requires a bit of explanation. First, yes you can. It’s not recommended, but it has been done and it is awesome. In reality though, people don’t spend every waking minute seeking out headshots or questing for a dagger that does an additional 5 DPS. Despite that, people still sit at their PC for hours on end doing a number of projects. Mad Catz recognized that and, while the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 is still a gaming keyboard, other implementations are included that help justify the hefty price tag.
Music and movies are two of the primary avenues of entertainment for a PC (besides gaming, of course). That’s why simple media options are available for playing, pausing and fast forward or rewind. Additionally, external buttons control volume up and down, as well as mute for both audio and microphone. To get a little more granular, the touch screen includes a volume setting that allows users to adjust volume for a number of particular settings, rather than the master volume accessed on the attached face buttons.
The inclusion of so many options designed completely for gamers is shocking. For a company to release a keyboard designed so clearly for gamers makes the target audience a small one. Options like a stopwatch, countdown timer and journal may be useful, but tend to feel tacked on to simply add features to a keyboard that clearly doesn’t need it. Other options, like the Teamspeak implementation or ability to lock your windows key to prevent accidental presses simply scream usability. Retailing around $300.00 reduces the circle of interested consumers even further, but those sinking hundreds of hours into their favorite title every month simply will not find a better keyboard available. The option to disassemble and then swap around the pieces to better fit your playstyle combined with customer macro keys, replaceable WASD keys (including tool to do so) and the amazing user customization proves that the Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 is in a league of its own.