Ladies and Gentlemen, behold the glory that is the S.T.R.I.K.E.7!
It has a touch screen, light up buttons, and everything!
But seriously, Mad Catz pushes the bar of insanity with their new S.T.R.I.K.E.7 keyboard, a modular keyboard draws a lot of comparison lines with the R.A.T./M.M.O. gaming mice that have been the forefront of Mad Catz’s PC accessories. The matte surface, loads of LEDs, the customizable features, and non-existent acronyms to boot!
First thing you will notice as you open the box — a fancy box at that — is that the keyboard is separated into different sections. There is the main QWERTY keyboard section, the arrows/numpad section, two regular palm rests with one adjustable palm rest, a macro sidebar, a ton of wires, and the V.E.N.O.M. touch screen. Constructing it can feel like a throwback to the old LEGO days as modules will need to snap together and cables need to go to the right places. Adult assembly required! Thankfully all the tools come in a fancy little box, including replacement WASD keys, arrow keys, and a hex screwdriver.
The keyboard itself does not use mechanical keys. This is a huge deal breaker for a lot of people, and those that prefer their clicky mechanical keys with instant activation will most likely end up passing on the S.T.R.I.K.E.7 regardless of it’s many great features. However, I will say that my fingers feel less stressed out after prolonged use of the S.T.R.I.K.E.7 keyboard. The keys are also silent and doesn’t sound like a horrid violent storm when you’re typing up a review in the middle of the night.
The keyboard is modular and you can choose to add and remove any component to fit your needs, with the exception of the required touchscreen as it functions as the brain of this whole operation. This means you can fix everything together and have a pretty large keyboard consuming your entire desk, or you can slim it down to just the QWERTY part without the numpad or wrist rests. Cleverly, Mad Catz added a function button that can be used in conjunction with the QWERTY keys to replace the arrow keys, Home, End and any keys that would otherwise be omitted. If you must have your numpad, you are able to either physically latch it into the right or left side of the QWERTY keyboard or separate it by a cable. Why would you consider using only one part of the keyboard and not the other? Portability, my friend. This is true if you’re the type to frequent LANs with the BYOCs.
The V.E.N.O.M touchscreen has other functions other than looking like a badass. The touchscreen is able to launch program shortcuts or use macros on top of other convince controls such as displaying a clock, stopwatch, and media player functions. Throughout normal usage of the S.T.R.I.K.E.7, I’ve only really used the touchscreen as a clock or to skip ahead in songs playing in my Winamp. Hardcore MMO players trying to camp for their Cloud Songs can make use of the timers to time the spawns of those notorious monsters. There is also a TeamSpeak monitor, but it lacks support for other voice chat programs such as Ventrilo and Mumble.
An external power source is not required to use the S.T.R.I.K.E.7 but opting out will disable the two USB 2.0 ports on the keyboard along with disabling the LED underlay for the keyboard. I tend to keep this plugged with power as the LED lights provide proper mood lighting for some night gaming. The colors can be adjusted to whatever suits your mood with that 256 color spectrum among the red, blue and green. You are also able to set three different profiles that will also save the LED settings. Setting one that turns off the LEDs is also an option as well.
The adjustable wrist rest features a button along with a side-scrolling wheel, one that is identical to the R.A.T. mice. You are able to pull the rest back or lift it up and down. This rest can be attached to either the QWERTY side of the keyboard or to the numpad. Plugging it into the numpad might seem like an odd choice, considering that the rest is meant for the left hand. However, and while I can’t vouch for it, RTS fans might prefer a setup like this. For shooter fans, there can be a lot that can be used with that extra button. My personal favorite is to use it as a second jump button.
What about them macros? There’s a four-key macro attachment that can be added to the left side of the keyboard, five keys located near the arrow keys, and the side-scrolling wheel with the extra button on the wrist rest. The macro buttons are not positioned in what I feel would be ideal, at least for my little Asian hands. The four-key macro attachment, for example, is positioned in such a way that I would have to lift my hand off of WASD to hit whatever macro I need to call up. Also does not help that there’s nothing to really physically guide you through the four separate buttons. If you need more macros, the touchscreen allows you to assign up to 12. Each of these macros can be programmed from a program that can be downloaded from Mad Catz’s website. Those who have used the R.A.T. or M.M.O. mouse will be familiar with the process.
The program interface itself is
Admittedly, it may seem like the most overwhelming keyboard out in the market. However, it is a fairly simple keyboard once you use it for everyday purposes. The touchscreen does not have any specific interactions with any games, much like how the Logitech line of keyboards that have LED screens which display information or can load plugins for interactive use. As far as I can tell, there does not seem to be any sort of firmware updater that would allow such options. However, I would not be surprised if there was such a thing that is hidden from the world. Perhaps maybe we’ll see the ability to have Ventrilo or Mumble monitors, display our stats from whatever game or system stats, or even just have a fancy screensaver.
The S.T.R.I.K.E.7 keyboard is a solidly built keyboard that lets you have everything or barely anything. For comfort, the S.T.R.I.K.E.7 delivered. For functionality, the S.T.R.I.K.E.7 delivered. For looking like a huge friggen’ keyboard Transformer, the S.T.R.I.K.E.7 does all that except for the transformation sound. While it may lack those magical mechanical keys and may not strike every single chord for every application, the S.T.R.I.K.E.7 is a sound investment for a keyboard that will last you for a long time.