The Mad Catz range of gaming accessories is known for its flexibility and innovation, so I was intrigued to see if their entry level S.T.R.I.K.E. keyboard would follow in this tradition. I have a particular interest, too, as my keyboard of choice is the excellent S.T.R.I.K.E. 5.
UP AND GO
The keyboard comes packed in a cardboard box that is only slightly bigger than the unit itself, affording it fairly minimal protection during shipping in my opinion.
Inside the box, the two separate parts - the keyboard and wrist rest - are protected by a layer of packing cardboard. Also included is an easy install and programming instruction card.
Despite its simple design, I have to say the S.T.R.I.K.E. 3 is a good looking computer accessory. The keyboard, although notched to look like two separate components, is a single device and is decked out in a shiny plastic finish.
There are three standard colours to choose from; “go faster" red, white, and basic black. The unit has a chunky look to it that clearly shouts “I mean business” and - despite its almost traditional layout - it is different enough to draw attention.
Like all of the keyboards in the S.T.R.I.K.E. range, the 3 has backlit LED lighting. Using the downloadable software, you have a choice of over 30 million colours. At first glance, the idea of the back lighting seems a bit of a gimmick, however, having used my S.T.R.I.K.E. 5 keyboard for some time now, it's a feature I can no longer do without. I have a set up of three different colour choices and - depending on the time of day - I choose the one that gives me the best effect of highlighting of the keys.
Despite its entry level status, the unit sports a high-quality braided cord for connecting up to your PC. This is so much better than the usual plastic coated wire of other similar products, and ensures you will be using it long after competing products fall victim to broken or split cables.
Despite its plastic construction, the keyboard is quite solid and - despite the application of a fair amount of force - I could not bend or twist it. The only reservation I have is the wrist rest. It feels a bit flimsy, which is not helped by the double bayonet clip that is used to connect it to the board.
For a membrane keyboard, the S.T.R.I.K.E. 3 has a great feel to it. In fact, it almost has the positive key press feel of a mechanical keyboard, but without the noise. This comes in particularly handy for late night gaming sessions when you don't want to wake up the rest of the family.
The windows control key (which lets you disable the windows key to avoid accidentally breaking you out of your game at a key moment) is also a welcome feature.
On the minus side, though, is the placement of the programmable keys. Seven of them are above the function keys. For my play style, I find them pretty useless. To engage them takes a lot of hand travel from the main play area of the WASD keys, and - despite trying to persevere with them - I could never quite get comfortable with their position. The other five keys surround the arrow keys and are more useful, as they are in easy reach of the right hand.
Overall though I liked the keyboard. What sells it for me is the positive and quiet touch of the keys, while its overall looks looks fantastic on your desk.
WHAT YOU GET
Type: Membrane keyboard
Power: Single USB
Connection: Braided cable
Keys: LED back-lit
Gaming Keys: 12 quick keys, with 3 different modes, giving a total of 36 programmable keys
Additional Keys: Media / Internet. audio, and Windows key toggle
Additional Components: Wrist rest
Software: Downloaded (no disk)