Meet the Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E. 5. gaming keyboard. It has 2 fewer strikes than its bigger brother the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7, but it also costs $100 less. The S.T.R.I.K.E. 5 gaming keyboard sports virtually every feature of its more expensive bigger brother (the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7) except the fancy touch screen. So is it still worth its reduced but still considerable $200 price tag?
Because the S.T.R.I.K.E. 5 is virtually identical to the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 this review is going to focus on the differences between the two. See my review for the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 (@ Examiner.com) for additional details on key features.The only major difference between the S.T.R.I.K.E. 5 and the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 keyboards is that the S.T.R.I.K.E. 5 replaces the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7’s programmable touch screen (called the V.E.N.O.M.) with a smaller module that Mad Catz has named The E.Y.E.
(I’d like to take just take a brief moment here to beg Mad Catz on behalf of punctuation, abbreviations, acronyms, and gaming writers everywhere to drop the meaningless periods from their product names. They are a pain to type/write about, even with the technological wonders of cut-and-paste and autocorrect.)
The main feature of the S.T.R.I.K.E. 5 is its E.Y.E.—a small round LCD display that is part of a larger control module containing a variety of extra buttons.
The S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 has an “eye” as well, but it’s just useless “bling”. On the S.T.R.I.K.E. 5 the E.Y.E. is a functional and customizable tool. It has several built-in functions: 3 cool down timers, a stopwatch, a clock, and volume controls for your audio and microphone. You can also control the brightness of the keyboard’s lighting.
In addition, you can configure the E.Y.E. through the S.T.R.I.K.E. 5 software to display 1 of 12 icons for launching your favorite programs. Once this is configured, you cycle through program shortcuts by rotating the outer ring of the E.Y.E., and then open the program by pressing the button next to it.
Additional features that adorn the E.Y.E control module are:
- Media playback buttons (stop, play, mute, forward, backward),
- 3 dedicated profile buttons for easy profile switching
- A gaming mode button to disable the Windows key
- 9 numeric keys that can be configured with nearly any function, including simple or complex macros.
V.E.N.O.M. vs. E.Y.E. smackdown
Some other differences between the E.Y.E. and the V.E.N.O.M. modules are on the back of the E.Y.E. The E.Y.E. control module lacks additional USB connections like those on the V.E.N.O.M. module. The E.Y.E. instead offers stereo and microphone pass-through connectors. The S.T.R.I.K.E. 5 also doesn’t include the alternate W-A-S-D and directional arrow keys (with the rubberized orange accents) that come with the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7.
One advantage of the S.T.R.I.K.E. 5 over the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 is that the S.T.R.I.K.E. 5 won’t add as much cable clutter to your setup. The S.T.R.I.K.E. 5 requires just 1 USB port of your PC—and stereo/mic if you plan to use the pass-through connectors. The S.T.R.I.K.E. 7. requires a USB cable and a sizable AC adapter for the V.E.N.O.M. module. Both require the same octopus of USB cables that interconnect the modular components of the keyboard.
Here’s mud in your E.Y.E.
It’s admittedly a little tough to review the S.T.R.I.K.E. 5 after reviewing its bigger, fancier, and more expensive brother. The S.T.R.I.K.E. 5 has a lot of great features and costs $100 less than the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7. Both keyboards feature the same physical characteristics and configuration options, as well as the comfortable palm rest, extra horizontal thumb roller, and the large 4-button bar — all features that I like.
But from a usability and design standpoint, the S.T.R.I.K.E. 5—and more specifically, the E.Y.E.—doesn’t work quite as well as the V.E.N.O.M. does on the S.T.R.I.K.E.7. Here’s why:
- Less efficient button placement. This is arguably my biggest critique of the S.T.R.I.K.E. 5 and the E.Y.E. The numeric (1-9) macro buttons are off-center and to the right of the W-A-S-D position on the keyboard. Instead, the media control keys of the E.Y.E. control module are directly forward of the W-A-S-D cluster. This makes the numeric keys harder to reach, and once you’ve located and pressed a button it’s easy to pull your hand back off-center from the W-A-S-D cluster. Think you’re going to dodge right (D) in that FPS? Sorry, you hit F (or maybe G) instead, toss a grenade at the wall in front of you, and blow the sh*t out of yourself.
- Gimmicky. The E.Y.E. itself –the big round LCD—is a nifty program launcher, but it’s admittedly more gimmicky than it is useful. To launch a game on the E.Y.E. you turn the outer ring to the program you want, and then press the button to the left of it. That doesn’t strike me as more efficient or useful than double-clicking a shortcut on my desktop.
- Minor usability oversights. Another issue with the E.Y.E.—albeit a slight one—is in the brightness and volume adjustment features. You can’t just hold down the “+” or “-“ buttons to increase or decrease the setting rapidly. For example, if you want to reduce brightness from 100% to 50%, you have to physically press the “-“ button 50 times. It’s not a major issue, but I’d be just as happy to have 3-5 levels of pre-configured brightness levels available via a single key or even a Fn+key combination on the keyboard.
On the plus side, I can at least say that I do still like many of the E.Y.E.’s built-in functions (clock, cooldown timers, etc.) even if they aren’t as colorful and pretty as the same features on the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7’s V.E.N.O.M.
Overall: 4/5 stars
The S.T.R.I.K.E.5 is most of what I love about the S.T.R.I.K.E. keyboards—unparalleled flexibility, physical configurability, and more than enough programmable buttons, keys, and auxiliary controls to suit virtually every type of game. And the keys (for a non-mechanical) still offer a good level of resistance and feel pretty good under the fingertips for typing or gaming.
But from a usability and functionality standpoint, the E.Y.E. on the S.T.R.I.K.E. 5 is a shadow of the V.E.N.O.M. touchscreen that adorns the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7—and even at $200 ($100 less than the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7) the S.T.R.I.K.E. 5 is still expensive as keyboards go (especially non-mechanical ones). I don’t think you’d regret buying one, but I’m almost inclined to suggest saving up an extra $100 and going for the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7.