For PC gamers, there are two points with which they interact with their games – the mouse and the keyboard. Because of this, hardcore PC gamers tend to be pretty picky with the hardware they use. Mad Catz is hoping to have the gaming keyboard for gamers, no matter their preferences, with the $300 S.T.R.I.K.E. 7. It’s modular, and can be adjusted to suit the needs of the different players. It even comes with a touchscreen that can perform all kinds of cool actions that make interacting with the PC more enjoyable.
Of course, the modular features and the screen are unique touches, but in the end, the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 needs to deliver the comfort and performance gamers expect from a top-of-the-line gaming keyboard. Does it? Is the screen just a gimmick? Is it worth the effort to tweak the layout? All these questions and more are what we are going to take a look at in this review.
Introducing The Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 Modular Keyboard
What really attracts you to the Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 is how different it looks. This membrane-based keyboard looks top-of-the-line, and retails for $300 despite not having mechanical keys — that’s more money than most mechanical models such as the $150 Corsair Vengeance K95, which we reviewed.
Most likely, you’re paying a premium for features like the touchscreen, and for that, we look to PC peripheral powerhouse Razer and its DeathStalker Ultimate. Razer’s offering retails for $249, which is slightly cheaper, but it lacks to modular features offered by Mad Catz. So if modularity doesn’t interest you, and the nifty touchscreen is all you care about, the Razer might be a better way to go.
This is definitely a keyboard that’s built around being cool, but Mad Catz — a company known for making quality gaming accessories — can deliver on playability too. For $300, it’d better deliver.
The first thing you will notice about this model is that the box is quite a bit bigger than you’d expect. When you open it, you can’t help but be a little confused — each of the larger sections of the keyboard are packaged in tiers, one on top of each other. Finally, at the bottom you’ll find a smaller box that contains some support pieces and screws you’ll need to hold everything together.
While most keyboards are pretty much plug-and-play out of the box, this one takes a little more work. You’ll need to put the sections together, slot the screen into place, and plug in the cables that link them together. There’s a quick guide that shows you how to set everything up, and it was easy enough to do. The sections can also be screwed together, keeping them locked. If you don’t plan on moving the keyboard around and want to be able to adjust the sections quickly, you can just leave the screws out as the sections do click together tightly enough.
Setting the keyboard up with the PC is pretty standard, but one thing to note is that it does need to be plugged into a power source in order to work. This is obviously for the screen, as the USB connection isn’t able to draw sufficient power from a PC for it to work.
I did encounter a problem where Windows automatically installed keyboard drivers when I connected the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7, and then the drivers from Mad Catz website wouldn’t install. I had to launch Device Manager, remove the drivers Windows installed, unplug the keyboard, and then run the software. Everything worked easily enough from that point on, but it was a slight annoyance.
Overall, I was quite impressed with the keyboard. I still have a hard time accepting the fact that a $300 keyboard doesn’t use mechanical keys, but perhaps spending some more time with it will change my mind.
Let’s start by looking at the keys — they are membrane-based, but Mad Catz has taken steps to deliver some of the feel that mechanical keys offer without the noise. After having just used the Corsair K95 mechanical model, I can say that the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 does an admiral job of simulating the mechanical feel, but it doesn’t quite stack up. Still, as far as non-mechanical keys go, the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 offers a solid feel across all of the keys.
With any gaming keyboard, you usually want to see keys for macros, and there are plenty of the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 from Mad Catz. In fact, there’s a total of 24, with some extras on one of the optional sections which attach to the side of the keyboard. If you like being able to make your own custom string of keys, the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 has you fully covered. Additionally, the macro keys are placed on the various sections, which means you can get access to them in different places.
The modular features of this device are pretty cool, but a lot of gamers probably wont take advantage of them. For me, and many other gamers, our PC is at a desk, and it doesn’t move very much. The amount of space doesn’t change, so if the keyboard fits with everything attached, it’s always going to fit. However, for gamers who do need to move around, or those that might find themselves playing where space is limited, some of the different configurations can be quite useful.
So just how can you configure the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7? To start, you can have a full US QWERTY keyboard with a number pad, the screen attached on the right or left side, and the extra macro keys. You can remove the number pad and macro keys to have a very small keyboard that will work great for general typing. You can use just the number pad and arrow section to have a small one-handed gaming configuration. You use the section of the wrist pad that normally sits on the left side to do this — the scroll wheel and extra button on that section make that mode a little more flexible. There are a lot of options, and it’s definitely something you won’t find with your traditional keyboard – whether one for gaming or otherwise.
Overall, the design of this keyboard just screams cool. It has a touchscreen, color-changing LED-backlit keys, obscene level of customization, and separated wrist supports that function well for comfort and modularity. Sure, some of it is a little gimmicky and most gamers don’t necessarily need them, but they provide the visual “wow” factor.
The software, which is downloaded from Mad Catz’s website, is pretty simple, but it gets the job done. With it, you are able to set up your macros for each of the profiles you have stored. The keyboard has a ton of macro keys, as we mentioned before, and the software offers a nice graphical way to tweak and adjust them.
Also, you can use Mad Catz’s software to adjust the launcher on the touchscreen. It shows you a bunch of games and programs, but you’ll need to manually browse and add Steam games. Still, it’s an easy process, and it’s a cool feature. We will dive more into the touchscreen and its features next, but as far as customizing with the PC software, the process couldn’t be much easier.
All in all, the software is solid. It’s simple and effective, and it does a great job of enhancing the features of the keyboard. If you use the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7, you absolutely should install it.
The touchscreen is definitely a novelty, but it also does have some pretty useful features that enhance your computer usage. The launcher stands out the most — it allows you to store programs that you can launch with a single tap. The touchscreen also lets you control media, volume (with the ability to adjust levels for individual programs), plus it also includes a stopwatch and timer. It does quite a bit, so even though it may seem like a bit of a gimmick, it’s also pretty functional.
A small but underrated feature of the touchscreen is the clock. When you have a fullscreen game running, you can’t see the Windows clock in the taskbar. So having a nice big one on the touchscreen can come in handy if you want to keep track of time, and don’t have a clock in your gaming room.
A feature of the touchscreen that isn’t a gimmick at all is Teamspeak integration. For gamers who use this program as a way of communicating with their team and guild mates, the ability to control your Teamspeak from the touchscreen is amazing. No more pressing Alt-Tab to switch from your games, you can do what you need to from your keyboard’s touchscreen. It’s downright awesome.
Personally, I love the touchscreen, even though it’s not essential to my daily routine, Mad Catz has done a great job of making it useful.
Playing Games On The S.T.R.I.K.E. 7
Ignoring the fancy features and modular design, this is ultimately a gaming keyboard. All of its features are aimed at creating an optimal gaming experience. Even the touchscreen and mobility of the device are made with gaming in mind. Its price tag reflects that of a device built for only the most hardcore gamers, and that brings us to the one big question: is it a good gaming keyboard? To put it simply, yes it is, but it’s still a little on the expensive side for what it offers.
The main issue as far as gaming goes is the lack of mechanical keys. Sure, it does a good job of replicating the sensation, but it just doesn’t have the same tactile feel that a mechanical keyboard delivers. Despite that, it’s really comfortable to use, even after many long sessions (I recently got back into playing World of Warcraft, which means I’ve had far too many eight-hour long gaming sessions), my hands never felt sore thanks to its cleverly designed support.
Out of the box, you get standard WASD keys, but Mad Catz actually included some extra tacky ones if you prefer a little extra grip. Personally, I was happy with the default keys, but it’s the little extra touches like those optional keys that remind you that this is a very high-end keyboard.
Again, I have to mention the touchscreen here: it actually adds to the gaming experience in some minor but noticeable ways. Having quick access to launch games is a time-saver, and being able to pull up Teamspeak without leaving your game is a fantastic convenience.
Using The S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 As My Daily Keyboard
This keyboard is clearly designed for gaming, and while I absolutely love it for that, as something to type with daily, it just feels a little weird. The separated wrist supports are great for long gameplay sessions, but they’re not as conducive for typing — the gaming-centric design makes them feel little weird, at least when you have all of the pieces attached.
If you remove the extras and use just the alphanumeric section, typing feels a little more natural. However, the far left wrist support – the one with the scroll wheel and button – seems to get in the way a little while typing and just isn’t as optimal as a run-of-the-mill wrist support.
Basically, if you plan to play PC games only occasionally and spend most of your time on the keyboard typing, you should not get the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7. First of all, at $300 it costs way too much for a casual gamer. Plus, you’ll find that a more traditionally-designed keyboard will serve you better.
All in all, the Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 is a really cool gaming keyboard. The touchscreen may be perceived as a bit of a gimmick, is really nifty to have. As for the modular features: personally, I can live without them, but for gamers who need to move their setup around, the flexibility could really come in handy. It’s not great for writing and general computer usage, as this was clearly designed with gaming as its primary purpose.
The biggest drawback is the price — at $299, it’s too much money to ask for a keyboard. Even Razer, a company known for high-end, expensive peripherals charges $249 for its touchscreen-based model. Still, if money is not an object, this is a well-built piece of gaming hardware; I just wish it was it had mechanical keys.
MakeUseOf recommends: Only buy it if money is no object and you plan on making use of the modular features and touchscreen. Otherwise, get a cheaper, mechanical keyboard.
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