Mad Catz Cyborg S.T.R.I.K.E. 5 Modular Gaming Keyboard with OLED E.Y.E. Display Review

Madcatz-Strike5-gaming-keyboard

Mad Catz pioneered the adjustable gaming mouse with the original Cyborg R.A.T. gaming mouse.  Today, they're changing the game for keyboard customization as well.  The S.T.R.I.K.E. 5, also in their Cyborg Gaming lineup, allows an unprecedented level of customization inside and out.  Physically, the keyboard's major parts are fully modular, and can be configured in a number of ways.  When fully assembled, the keyboard looks fairly typical but with a command module (which can be positioned along the primary keyboard or the num pad).  The palm rest has adjustable angles and can be moved positioned farther away from the keyboard or however you'd like.  The list goes on, and we'll dive into the details after the break.

 

Overview


 

Mad Catz Cyborg S.T.R.I.K.E. 5 Modular Professional Gaming Keyboard with OLED E.Y.E Display

Introducing the S.T.R.I.K.E. 5 from Mad Catz, the perfect keyboard with which to construct your ideal gaming setup. Whether your game of choice is an RPG, FPS, MMO, RTS, MOBA or any other genre, you can now customize your keyboard's physical layout, backlighting, and programmable keys to meet your needs.

 

Fully Modular for Unparalleled Customization
Borrowing modifiable technology from the world's most adjustable mouse - - the award-winning R.A.T. - - the S.T.R.I.K.E. 5 Gaming Keyboard's unique design provides unprecedented customization options to enhance overall comfort. Armed with total control of your keyboard's fit, size, color, sound, and programming, you can finally play your favorite games exactly as intended: How you like to play them!

 

Uncomplicated Macro Programming

An intuitive graphical interface vastly simplifies the formerly tedious task of macro programming. Assign single or multiple keystrokes, complete with custom timings, to macro keys and then easily fine-tune your settings. This ability is essential for fast-paced games which require clear but complex multi-key actions.

 

Each of the keyboard's three different modes can store your programmed macros, tripling mid-game access to available commands. Once programmed, custom profiles can be published to share with your community and saved for later recall, allowing for a seamless transition to another gaming PC.

Courtesy of Mad Catz

 

 

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Five Separate Hardware Modules

    • 1. Control Module with E.Y.E. OLED Display
      Easily navigate the keyboard's many functions with the Control Module's intuitive E.Y.E. panel. Program advanced macros, adjust backlighting, monitor respawn timers, control your media, and even take in-game control of external functions - - balance game and microphone volumes, launch apps and websites - - all with a few simple finger taps.
    • 2. Keyboard Optimized for Responsiveness
      When a fraction of a second is all that divides victory from defeat, you must have absolute confidence in your keyboard. The S.T.R.I.K.E. key bed utilizes a specially engineered membrane which provides the tactile feel and responsiveness expected by gamers. The speedy, double-tap friendly keys respond to an optimized 60g of actuation force and reset at the perfect level, all of which helps reduce muscle fatigue during marathon gaming sessions. The unique design gives you the best keyboard performance without sacrificing backlighting, durability or responsiveness.
      Not all backlighting is the same. Full 16 million color RGB backlighting - - both through and around the keys - - matches the keyboard to your gaming rig and the keys' laser-etched, lacquered light guides are ideal for gaming in dim environments.

       

    • 3. More Programmable Macro Buttons
      The S.T.R.I.K.E. 5 Gaming Keyboard incorporates 21 programmable macro buttons over three modes to create 63 user-definable commands. The keyboard includes nine programmable buttons on the E.Y.E. panel plus four more on the removable Function Strip, three controls on the palm rest, and five additional programmable keys on the NumPad bring the total to 21.

       

    • 4. Modular NumPad
      Just like the Control Module, the NumPad is capable of loose or fix-mounted positioning. The custom connection scheme makes it all possible, and the included set of longer wires bolsters your arrangement options.
    • 5. 3-Part Active Palm Rest and Two Wrist Rests A height-adjustable, active palm-rest houses both a thumb wheel and an action button for even more controls at your fingertips. Both wrist rests utilize a rugged 5-pin connector to attach to the main keyboard module and NumPad, effectively enhancing your comfort during stints of extended gaming.

       

       

Specifications


 

Size 15.1 x 7.5 x 9.3 inches
Weight 7.3 pounds
Includes
  • Main Keyboard Module
  • Control Module with OLED display plus 3.5mm Headset & Microphone Ports
  • Macro Key (Function Strip) Module
  • Number Pad Module
  • 3 Palm/Wrist Rests
  • Adjustment Tool
  • 3 Keyboard Link Cables
  • 6 Connector Screws
Compatibility          
Windows XP/Vista/7/8
Ports 3.5mm audio & microphone jacks

 

Included in the Box


MadCatz-Strike5-Keyboard-BoxMadCatz-Strike5-Keyboard-Box-2

MadCatz-Strike5-Keyboard-Included-Accessories

The unboxing process is kinda fun, and you'll probably be amazed at the number of things that come out of the surprisingly-squarish box.  The primary keyboard is separated from the num pad, and three wrist rests, a command module with E.Y.E. LED, a four button macro module, several mini-USB cables, a small allen tool, and clear instructions are also included.


 

Design


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MadCatz-Strike5-Keyboard-Separated-Num-PadMadCatz-Strike5-Keyboard-Separated-num-pad-long

Mad Catz' Cyborg series has always had a unique appearance because of it's plated, disjointed build to enable to versatile customization.  Although certainly edgier than most keyboards, the S.T.R.I.K.E. series still retains a fairly "normal" look.  One of the big selling points here is that there are so many different ways to use this keyboard so anyone can configure it just how they like.  The num pad can disconnect just enough for you to angle it with a shorter USB cable, and using an included longer cable, you can have plenty of separation, which enables alot of possible uses.  Additionally, the flexiblity is only furthered by the fact that the command module, which bears the S.T.R.I.K.E. 5's E.Y.E. OLED display, may be mounted to the keyboard, the num pad, or even have it stand by itself. 

The programmable macro module can be attached to the keyboard or the num pad to best suit your preference, and the large M1 and M2 buttons are easily reached by even clumsy pinkies when attached to the left side, which is great in FPS', and the bottom two are more likely to be useful for frantic macro-heavy RPG and RTS games.  Surrounding the arrow keys on the num pad are five programmable keys which have flat tops insteadof the slightly concave tops of the normal keys, and are subtly recessed so you can clearly feel them to avoid accidental presses.  This arrangment makes the numpad act as a pretty good gamepad if you're one more keen on such and arrangement.

 A big draw to this for me is that keyboards with num pads leave me with little room to use my mouse, let alone a decent-sized mouse pad, on my sliding keyboard tray.  I've been able to experiment quite a bit and it's been very convenient.  I tend not to use the num pad during games (I play mostly first person shooters), so when I game I simply unclick the num pad from the keyboard and set it above the desk so I have more mousing room.  When I'm using the num pad more frequently (setting up reviews and sizing images) I sit it down and click it back into the keyboard.  Perfect.  The control module is also too tall for the try to slide in, so I have that up on the desk all the time, which is conveniently in reach.  If I remove the num pad completely the control module fits nicely alongside the keyboard and leaves plenty of mousing room and makes it very easy to access.

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The bottom, which has a matte appearance of metal, is made of plastic, but don't let that fool you, everything is rock solid.  The modules snap together with a satisfying and reasuring "click," and then two small allen screws are easily dropped into place and tightened down.  Mad Catz included a small allen wrench with a matching handle which does the job nicely.  We kinda wish Mad Catz would have included a small space on the keyboard somewhere that the tool would snap in place or where it could be carried along, which would be a perfect way to keep it with you when travelling to LANs.  The feet have an edgy "robotic" appearance and are spring loaded so they snap open and closes very nicely.  The metal hinges on the feet are small details that reek of attention to durability, and all signs indicate that the S.T.R.I.K.E. keyboards will hold up well with some abuse.

MadCatz-Strike5-Keyboard-Wrist-PadMadCatz-Strike5-Keyboard-Wrist-Rest-Attach

The wrist module may be mounted to either the keyboard or the num pad, again offering as much flexibility it can squeeze.  The wrist rests snap easily into place, and can be positioned toward or away from the keyboard to maximize comfort.  The wrist module contains a convenient and ergonomically-laced thumb button along with a thumb scroll wheel.  The module's tilt can also be adjusted easily by depressing the "lock" lever and then adjusting it to your desired angle. 

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The feet allow for two different overall tilt settings, and the feet retract outwards to create a very solid and stable platform, although this will consume a little extra area if your keyboarding area is really tight and you'd like more angle.  Also note the deployable foot on the command module which allows it to stand independently of the keyboard or num pad, and looks much like a small droid or robot's spidery leg.  The back of the command module shows that the primary connector to your PC runs from just behind the E.Y.E. OLED and then two USBs run to the keyboard and num pad.  Keen and observant readers will notice that, yes, my cable connections are backwards (the angle connectors are supposed to connect to the halves of the keyboard) in the above image, my bad!  The other ends have straight connectors which run straight out from the command module, and the angled connectors connect cleanly to the keyboard and num pad.


 

Design - In the Dark


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One of the big plusses for MadCatz using membrane switches is that it allowed them to use full backlight illumination.  Their execution is flawless, as the backlight is evenly lit and well-diffused, so it's not an eyesore glaring up at you.  The different colors are vibrant, and you have a nearly-unlimited number of color variations to choose from.  The caps, num, and screen lock keys have a red LED, and the windows keys glow with MadCatz' logo.  The lighting of the keys also looks great, and the backlighting doesn't overwhelm being able to clearly see the keys themselves.

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The OLED display has great contrast and very nice colors (which bleed a little bit in the pictures since I used a relatively long exposure).  The media keys and the 9 macro keys are also backlit with a white light.  A red LED backlight highlights which of the three available profiles is selected, and a red-backlit key toggles backlight illumination on and off as you desire.  The Windows key is also contained on the command module, and is green when the Windows key is active, and red when it's deactivated for "gaming mode."  We'll be talking about the function of the E.Y.E. in detail on the next page.


 

Software


Dashboard

LightingLighting-Colors

The most potent gaming functions are nearly useless if they require a degree to setup and use.  MadCatz has done a great job on their software, giving the interface a clean and inviting appearance and a logical UI.  The backlight color for each of the three profiles may be selected using a full color pallet, so you can pick the exact color that suits your tastes.

Programming-NumpadProgramming-Side-Function

Macros are also very easy to set, first you select the key you wish to macro.  The images above show the macro keys on the E.Y.E. command module and the macro bar which can ber customized.

Programming-Wrist-RestProgramming-Macro

Programming-Macro-Advanced

The wrist rest also has a macro-capable thumb button as well as a two-way rolling switch, with independent macro capability for each direction it is rolled.  The images above show the example I used to take the screen captures quickly.  The thumb button was a CTRL + PRT SC and both directions of the rolling switch were for pasting.  The roller works great for zoom as well.  The macro screen is straightforward to use by simply typing the actions on press and release, and more advanced options like time delays are also available.

Launcher

The S.T.R.I.K.E. 5 software also automatically detects programs, and allows you to manually find them.  From there, it's a simple drag-and-drop procedure to add 12 different programs to the app launcher.

Command Module and E.Y.E OLED Display


MCB43108 STRIKE5 B

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The bezel around the OLED dipslay of the E.Y.E. rotates to allow you to select various programs, and a press of the buttons on the upper left will open the selected program.  The bottom two arrow buttons allow you to page through the various settings, such as several timers, volume, mic volume, and backlight brightness.  We've put together an overview video below, and in the latter half of the video we demonstrate the usage of the E.Y.E. interface and the command module.


 

Testing


To test out the S.T.R.I.K.E. 5 gaming keyboard, we've been using to game, to work, to browse, and everywhere in between.  Gaming was biased towards FPS shooters, and although I do play some RTS and MMO games, they're not particularly macro-heavy, so my perspective is a bit more sparse in those arenas.  For FPS games, the additional buttons are by far the most usable I've found on a keyboard.  The large buttons on the macro module are easy to hit quickly with your pinky, although the lower left ones are more suited for RTS', MMOs, or games which move slowly enough for you to lift you hand off the keyboard to press them.  The thumb buttons on the wrist module are also great to serve as common functions like reloading or switching weapons.  The same can be said about the scroll wheel, and I found that it worked as a great "panick button," meaning you have the same macro or action set to both directions of the key so you can quickly rotate it either direction when needed.

The command module was especially useful in simulators, as the buttons are accessible in a sim arrangement, and can function as the 9 switches of your choice.  My headset microphone has a tendency to become a bit too sensitive, so the ability to change the micropohone volume from the E.Y.E. is nice.  The launcher is useful when launching games while not wanting to minimize your windows or when you're in-game.  If you're someone who likes to keep an uber-clean desktop, it also allows you to kill off icons and still be able to quickly launch frequently-accessed programs.

MadCatz has tuned their key membrane so that it feels more like a mechanical switch.  While sublte, the membrane feels snappier and requires slightly less pressure than your typical membrane switch.  When it's all said and done, however, the pressure is still higher than needed for most Cherry MX mechanical switches, which I ultimately still prefer.  It would be great if MadCatz would be able to offer a second version for those who are dead-set on mechanical switches.

All-in-all, the STRIKE 5 is an easy-to-use, functional, and incredibly versatile keyboard, the most configurable we've ever used (independent of what it already says on the box).  The num pad also serves as a dedicated game pad, which is great for fighters and other button-mashers while delivering tactile differentiation of the arrow keys.  You can move the num pad out of the way when you need more gaming area, and just as quickly snap it back into place when it's time to get to work.  MadCatz has gone to great lengths to allow you to use your imagination and figure out exactly how you want to configure your keyboard, and they've no doubt succeeded.

 

Final Thoughts


MadCatz-Strike5-Keyboard-Wrapup

The STRIKE 5 is hands down the most versatile keyboard on the market today (along with its bigger sibling, the STRIKE 7).  It's packed with features, including some of the best backlighting on a keyboard we've seen with a full RGB color pallet to choose from, solid construction and overall attention to detail, and, of course, the E.Y.E. command module.  The macro buttons are flexible, and the accompanying software is easy to use and very clean.  Everything fits together with a satisfying "snap," and it gives you no worries about its durability.  Small features like the included USB cable clip demonstrate MadCatz' attention to detail as they desing something they plan to market as a professional keyboard.

With alot of use of the S.T.R.I.K.E. 5 as a gaming keyboard, and also to do work writing and through general use, it's a solid keyboard, plain and simple.  I mentioned that the various additional buttons are better for FPS' than other keyboards.  The large buttons on the macro module allow them to be accurately used even in fast-paced games, and the thumb buttons are thoughtfully-placed and are also very useful for anything that doesn't require simulteous use of the space bar (although you could probably train your right thumb to do that for you).

 The elephant in the room for many will be the price.  At $200, it's an expensive additiona to any setup.  And to be honest, I'm not entirely sure how I feel about that price.  For many, the price will simply be impractical or downright out of reach.  But for serious gamers, or those who value the flexibility of the layout, and/or the novelty of the OLED EYE and command module, it's not terribly overpriced either.  I think that it would be substantially more appealing to a much wider audience at around $150, but the futuristic and highly-adjustable form factors that MadCatz has been putting out have always demanded a premium.  This isn't uncommon, especially since they're the only game in town offering the flexibility to physically fine-tune how your keyboard looks, feels, and is laid out.  The only qualm we have with someone looking for a serious keyboard or those who really want the EYE is that there is no option for mechanical keys.  While they've met halfway between "normal" membrane keyboards and Cherry MX mechanical keyboards, the pressure is still higher, but they've struck a good balance. If you're not sold on mechanical switches to begin with, there isn't anything that would keep us from recommending it to you if the $200 price tag doesn't scare you away.

 

The Good

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The Bad

  • The most verasitle keyboard money can buy
  • Refined futuristic looks, fantastic backlighting
  • Easy to use software
  • Solid construction
  • Various modules fit together perfectly
  • Overall attention to detail
  • No option for mechanical switches for those who can't live without them
  • The $200 price tag is at the top of the high-end market

 

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Comments   

 
# ava 2012-12-06 05:31
Great review!

$200 for a non mechanical keyboard? No, thanks!