Published on December 11th, 2012 | by Greg0
Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E. 5 Keyboard: Cool, Configurable, Overwhelming
Our first thought was: “sweet, a keyboard that will look good next to the excellent Mad Catz R.A.T. 7 and M.M.O. 7 mice that we’ve checked out in the past“. Our second thought was: “$200 for a keyboard?!” Serious gamers, and those who love them, have a new item to splurge on for the holidays- a keyboard that looks like a beast, in the best sense of the word. It comes in an angled box that says “hear me roar”, and once you’re done screwing the pieces together (more on that shortly), you’ve got a keyboard that appears suitably futuristic and offers more buttons than you’ll know what do do with.
That’s right- the Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E 5 Keyboard (or STRIKE 5) is a super-sized, feature-filled peripheral that eats other keyboards for breakfast. It glows- in your choice of colors- and offers a separate number pad, a nifty OLED add-on called the E.Y.E. that offers it’s own apps, an adjustable palm-rest, and two wrist rests as well. You can pick and choose which components to bolt together, but that doesn’t exactly make something modular- there aren’t a lot of placement options, and we were disappointed that we couldn’t set up the E.Y.E. in an accessible position for example, only above the keypad or keyboard, out of the way. You can separate the number pad, which is connected to the main section via a short cable, but it bolts in only on the right-hand side.
We mentioned the screws and bolting, and we mean it- make sure you keep the wrench tool handy (though the wrist rests snap right in). Also, you’ll need lots of space, but that should go without saying. We cleared off room on our desks, assembled everything, and got our fingers ready for some gaming. But we first downloaded the software to control everything, and tried to modify the back lighting, before realizing that it looked best in blue and red. There are a lot of available profile packs too, which is fantastic- we checked out macros for programs like SolidWorks and Google Earth, as well as the Adobe Creative Suite, along with ones for just about every MMO in the universe. World of Warcraft and other MMORPG players will find lots to like here, with lots of convenient options for scriptable actions and assignable buttons. The GUI for macro programming is great, and commands can be easily entered, saved, exported, and imported.
The keyboard itself was nicely clicky, highly responsive, and with good surface texture on both the keys and the palm rest. It’s all too easy to find a keyboard that is too hard or soft or sticky for marathon gaming sessions, especially when trying to repeatedly tap in an FPS. And there were two features that made this one stand out amongst keyboards we’ve seen: the ability to disable the Windows key is a godsend, very handy for gamers who are tired of accidentally switching windows while trying to press the control key. And the microphone and speaker pass-through ports are handy for anyone using a headset that has a short cable. We loved the fold-out feet, which have a robotic appearance and are well-rubberized for friction, and the cloth-wrapped primary cable.
Back to the E.Y.E. for a moment: it’s a nifty idea that is sadly not very well implemented here. We might be willing to purchase one of these on their own, since it’s a fun interface though. The available apps are pretty much gimmicks- a timer and stopwatch, and a program selection mode which allows you to activate a shortcut. It felt novel, but it ends up being placed out of the way in the fully-assembled item, and thus hard to use. The sister model, the S.T.R.I.K.E 7, has a touchscreen, but this smaller one looks a little like HAL peeking up at you.
We barely scratched the surface in a way- there were buttons we didn’t end up pressing or configuring (like the function keys, who uses those?!), and there wasn’t a good spot for the palm wrest in our test environment. But serious PC gamers who use a lot of macro commands and want a very configurable setup will be more than satisfied. The S.T.R.I.K.E 5 is ergonomic, distinctively designed, and makes a definite statement. We found it a bit overwhelming and some of the limitations irked us, but there is no doubt that you’re getting $200 in value here. Available now!