There are gaming peripheral makers, and then there is Mad Catz. Always pushing boundaries of innovation, Mad Catz has been inventing and re-inventing gaming hardware as we know it. If you have been following its Cyborg range of products, you also know that they are rather unconventional.
The Cyborg S.T.R.I.K.E 7 (henceforth, just Strike 7, please), is another such product, combining the company’s many innovations with an intelligent keyboard design that smartly incorporates an LCD screen, all the while maintaining Mad Catz’s trademark W.H.A.C.K. It’s also completely modular.
The best way to describe the Strike 7 is to say that it would fit right into a sci-fi movie without anyone doubting its implausibility. The most immediately noticeable thing about the Strike 7 is the screen. Cyborg has named it V.E.N.O.M (because it can), which acts as a control module to many of the keyboard’s functions.
It hosts a number of…apps, each presenting tools to further fine tune the keyboard, or to add to a gaming experience. There are 12 apps, and they are as follows:
- Program launcher (which can hold 12 shortcuts to any Windows applications)
- Media controls
- Volume controls
- Keyboard color and brightness controls
- Clock (can switch between digital and analog)
- Windows Key Lock control
- Control Module settings
- Macros (holds 12 macros)
- Journal (you can add notes about your game), and
- Teamspeak controls
I would have liked had Mad Catz kept the platform for V.E.N.O.M. open for developers to create apps for it, but unfortunately that’s not the case. That said, the present apps should satisfy any gamers needs to have quick access to their regular programs and functions.
I would think that the screen would look like a gimmick for anyone who has not tried it, but that’s far from the case. After a few days of getting used to, I noticed that I was using the screen more and more, and not out of novelty but out of habit. The program launcher, media and volume controls, are a boon to have on quick access, and I also guilty admit to using the Journal feature to keep notes about my game and what I should be doing next. Of course, most of these functions can be replicated using any other keyboard’s macro keys, but having a visual feedback to them is a much better experience.
Another USP of the Strike 7 is its modular state; the whacky design has a purpose, after all. You can have it in a traditional form, with the wrist rest, numpad and the screen attached where it should be for a proper full-fledged keyboard. Or you can disrupt things, removing the numpad, the wrist pieces, the additional function strip, and the screen to form another, completely separate gadget. Or you can simply remove all the fancy bits to have an entirely barebones keyboard. If you choose to keep the wrist, you get an additional scroll wheel and an action button for even more controls. It is also height adjustable.
The Strike 7 will be, and function, just like how you want it to, bringing another level of customization to a gaming keyboard. Cyborg also throws in three sets of WASD keys – standard, contoured, or rubber-edged, to easily identify the keys during heated sessions (or simply, if and when, the marking rubs off from overuse).
For its price, one would expect the Strike 7 to be a mechanical keyboard but Mad Catz has sought to stray away from that. Instead, it claims the membrane keys are “specially engineered” to mimic “the tactile feel generated by the mechanical keys” but “without the resultant excessive noise” that they generate. While that’s true, it doesn’t quite match the satisfying crunch of a mechanical keyboard, and the key’s durability will always be inferior to a mechanical one. Regardless, typing on the Strike 7 is nice and comfortable, and is satisfyingly noisy.
My only complaint with is that the space surrounding the arrow keys, which is usually left clear, is taken up by even more macro keys, making it hard to identify them without looking down despite the slight depression of the macro keys. I also hate the small Left Shift key…just…hate it.
You have the task of customizing 24 macro keys, and the bundled software offers a clean and intuitive UI to go about business.
You can assign a keystroke, or a combination of them, to each of the 24 macro keys at your disposal. The options are tripled between the three modes – that’s 72 different key combinations – providing you more options that you can possibly need. You cannot, however, assign any of the macro keys to launch an application, which, I guess, is limited to the program launcher app.
You can have any number of profiles as well, however I wish there was an easier way to switch between them (using the screen perhaps?) instead of having to manually do it via the software.
If you are like me, lazy, and don’t feel like customizing the keyboard for each game, you can simply download ‘profile packs’ offered by Mad Catz from the official website. The FPS, Action, MMO, RPG or Strategy profile packs covers a whole number of games, but of course it cannot be relied upon to support each and every game.
Coming to the program launcher configuration, the Strike 7 software makes it easy to find an application by auto-detecting many of them. If your desired application is not on the list, then you can simply browse for the .exe file and added it in the launcher. I wish we could add more than 12 applications though, because having shortcuts is never, ever enough. But that’s just me.
The Cyborg S.T.R.I.K.E 7 is something I wouldn’t mind saving up for. It’s harsh on the wallet with over $299, but its level of features and customization is unparalleled. It could have easily been a whole bunch of gimmicks but Mad Catz has threaded carefully here, and has smartly and intelligently incorporated features that gamers could use, and not just be a bullet-point behind the box that amounts to nothing. The S.T.R.I.K.E 7 is stunning and nothing you have seen before, and it must be experienced to know what it could offer you.
Note: The review originally stated that the keyboard had no USB jacks, but in fact it has 2 highspeed ports behind the LCD screen. I apologize for the error; I would argue that it skipped my inspection because it's sort-of hidden behind the screen, but that's no excuse.