Mad Catz recently announced that they would be ending the Cyborg line. For those panicking, they are not ending the products, just the "Cyborg" brand. In a way it makes sense. Their mouth-filling products titles, like Mad Catz Cyborg S.T.R.I.K.E 7 Gaming Keyboard, will now be just a bit shorter. Resulting in Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E 7 Gaming Keyboard, which is my review for today. Let's take a look at the Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E 7 Gaming Keyboard.
The first thing I noticed about the Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E 7 Gaming Keyboard was its modular nature. The main keyboard section is separate from the numerical keypad. The design is set in such a way that you can connect the numerical pad to either side of the main keyboard or keep it separate. It's a "build it to your comfort" system. If I had something like this in the late '80's or early '90's, I would have put it on the left side. Back then I "rebelled" against the "WASD" layout, and used the numerical pad's "8456" instead. Since I'm now trained to a normal keyboard layout I put it together that way, I did not screw down the layout, opting instead to keep it loose so I could swap or move pieces anytime I wanted.
Next was the V.E.N.O.M. Touchscreen. This is the big deal of the Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E 7 Gaming Keyboard. After you download and install the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 software you can open Smart Technology Profile Editor. Using the Profile Editor you can program shortcuts and macros for specific games and save those as profiles. It very easy, just select the V.E.N.O.M. in the programming window, then select a button, input the button or button combinations you want and save. Now with that profile saved you can quickly load it by selecting that macro on the V.E.N.O.M.'s touchscreen. You can also program a set of 4 "M" keys that you can mount on the keyboard and program the "C" key that surround the default arrow keys. All totaled that gives you 24 keys that you can program. That is just the first mode. The V.E.N.O.M. has three mode buttons, so if you need to you can program up to 72 keys across all three modes. That is a lot of flexibility. If all that programming sounds a bit daunting, Mad Catz understands. They have pre-programmed profiles you can download from their web site for some of the bigger named games like World of Warcraft, Skyrim, Minecraft, and even Photoshop CS5. Yup that's right, you are not limited to games for this, any program you want to build macros for you can. Just save it as a separate profile. If my description of the programming sounds confusing, don't worry, Mad Catz has a step-by-step video on their web site, which I've linked below.
So how well do these macros work on the Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E 7 Gaming Keyboard? Rather well. I was popping in and out of various windows in World of Warcraft pretty quickly after getting used to where the V.E.N.O.M. was positioned. Teamed up with Mad Catz M.M.O. 7 Gaming Mouse and I was pretty much tap dancing across Azeroth.
Another nice custom touch is the swappable "WASD" and arrow keys. The Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E 7 Gaming Keyboard has, by default, smooth "WASD" and arrow keys installed, but comes with two extra sets. You can keep the smooth keys if you wish or you can swap them out with a set that has notches or a set that has raised "cradles." I chose to swap out with the raised "cradles" since I could feel them better than the notches. They helped keep my fingers where I need them and helped guide them into place if I moved my hand without looking.
Well I ran into one big one, compatibility with my computer. This is something any PC gamer knows all too well. Products built by so many different manufactures will have different drivers, configurations, components, etc. Any company that is making PC hardware tries to make their piece as compatible as possible, but because of the sheer number of different combinations of components out there, they can't be 100% compatible. That is where I ran into my problem. The first time I rebooted my computer after installing the Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E 7 Gaming Keyboard it came to the first BIOS screen and froze. Eventually, working with Mad Catz's customer service, we figured out it was the separate power that plugged into the keyboard. If I unplugged that before turning on my computer then it would fully boot. Of course, I would then have to plug the keyboard back in to use it. It's annoying, but currently unavoidable for me. At least now Mad Catz knows there is a problem with this specific computer configuration and I hope they will fix it with an update for myself and others with a similar set up.
Even with that problem, would I still recommend the Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E 7 Gaming Keyboard? Yes I would. The Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E 7 Gaming Keyboard really is a perfect complement to the Mad Catz M.M.O. 7 mouse. Even if I didn't have the mouse, the convenience of having all those macros nearby makes for quicker response to what I'm doing and less time fumbling around the keyboard.
The Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E 7 Gaming Keyboard is available now. For more information check out the Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E 7 Gaming Keyboard web page.