Hopefully by now you’ve finally whipped up the courage to spend that hard earned 10 hour shift of pay on a keyboard cleverly marketed to help you perform better in commandeering your marines across a space battlefield with steroid filled stimpacks at the ready into a horde of ugly micro-sized insects. Apparently, the plethora of extra keys stuck to the side of your already lengthy keyboard and its thick demeanour are there to help you, rather than just there to say “Hey, look, I’m a bit different to your normal keyboard.”. But I’ve never seen them achieve anything other than a marketing ploy myself.
The Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E.7. keyboard is exactly what I dislike in the idea of gaming keyboards. A gadget designed and manufactured as a statement. Just as a way for Mad Catz higher up boffins and engineers to say “Look what we can do”. It isn’t practical in the reason why it costs the same, if not more, than your computer’s high-end processor or GPU, something which really determines how well you’ll play compared to another piece of hardware. Not a board with a screen capable of visually demonstrating that you’ve just negated the effect the windows key; not that any other gaming keyboard can do that. Actually, that’s a lie, they pretty much all do.
As a modular keyboard, the Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E.7. is admittedly in a league of its own. Sure, the Microsoft Sidewinder has been detaching its generally useless right-side shoulder – the number pad – and shedding it to the confines of a drawer, or maybe thrown in a rage after contracting “juggernaut” as if it were something to be proud of after dying 4 times in rapid succession. It’s been done before; but the level of modular components seen on Mad Catz’s R.A.T. mice are still bar non to the competition, and that level of customisability and adjustability has finally come full force into a keyboard – albeit a very pricy one.
It’s the cleverly designed ergonomics of the Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E.7. and its modular pieces which really makes the keyboard the best I’ve had the privilege to type on; but at the same time, that’s the problem, it’s an expensive luxury that feels like it should be given as a trophy for winning a major tournament. No other reason exists to blow that kind of money on something that only really materialises as a special piece of kit when you’re posting a whitty, sarcastic remark to your friend’s duck-face photo on your social network of choice. Never does it stand out as the keyboard letting you customise more buttons than the mouse you cherished so much for having 600% more than your last. They’re just there staring at you to use them without ever giving enough reason to do so.
The 4 macro buttons attached to its left side are too far away to be used like the CTRL, ALT or Shift switch; and thus are completely useless as any in-game sudden movement because they’d take away from the movement keys and potentially get you killed in the process. The same certainly goes for the C macro keys around the arrow cluster – unless you’re one of the few who use them for anything other than flicking through a slideshow, yet again, on Facebook.
12 macro keys are situated on the ‘V.E.N.O.M.’ touchscreen and limited to the top left side of the board. Again, it’s utterly useless in-game. Maybe in another application like Photoshop or Sony Vegas the ability to combine a command heavy macro to a button far above your standard keyboard setup wouldn’t affect you, it wouldn’t get you killed, but gamers know the moment you take your hand even 1cm away from the WASD cluster, you’re in dire trouble. It just doesn’t feel natural, and the speed you’d normally use to hit a button on the keyboard would be transferred to a cheap screen on an 80-degree angle. The force would feel like you’re likely to smash the screen right out of the steel slab keeping it in place.
For the money, you’re buying into a solid keyboard with some really fantastic keys. Keys that feel as reliable as mechanical switches without shattering the sound barrier with each click. You get the customisability and the adjustability to make the keyboard feel perfect for yourself with the great aesthetics and bright, full 256 colour backlighting to suit any setup and rally give it that kick into something you’re willing to show off on Reddit’s ‘/r/battlestations’ board. But then the price takes a hike up a large mountain due to a screen that can act as a kitchen timer but then not actually ring an alarm after its digits reach 0. It’s useless. Anything it does could easily be done with keyboard shortcuts that most likely already exists with the rest of the physical macro keys being available on other gaming keyboards – including its little brother - the Cyborg V7 – in droves.
If you really have the need for 20 extra things to bind commands too, you’re practically cheating in every game you’re playing anyway and should really stop relying on your expensive peripherals for artificial skill and actually save your cash and play like the rest of the hard working gamers who practice everyday to shoot your head off without pressing 7 buttons to do it. And if you’re just buying it for the asthetics, only do so if you’re running a 16GB, GTX 680 SLI rig with a 3-generation Intel i7 CPU. Otherwise your money is much better off elsewhere. Or better yet, in the bank.
Innovation – 3/5: The keyboard embedded screen may have been outed by Logitech with the G series keyboards before, but the ‘V.E.N.O.M. ‘screen takes the idea a step further. It’s new, but it’s not needed. But the modular design is defiantly done to a great degree.
Value – 1/5: The only way a keyboard could be worth £250 of your hard earned cash is if the screen was a 19″ addition to your desktop screen setup connected to your GPU. It should ditch its useless selling point and become a rival to the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate or Cosair K90 rather trying to become its own niche.
Usability – 2: Setting up the keyboard’s parts is a doddle, like Lego; but it’s array of cables, use of an extra plug socket and issues with use of its own software sets it back like most of MadCatz’s peripherals. The keys stand their ground as both the quietest I’ve encountered (in a gaming keyboard) and the greatest to touch.
Aesthetics - 4: High-grade backlighting, good grip on its matte/metal finish and the hearty steel underside make the S.T.R.I.K.E.7. stand out on the desk. It’s a shame they didn’t retain the separate lighting options of the Cyborg V7.
Final Score – 2.5/5