|Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E. 5 OLED Gaming Keyboard|
|Reviews - Featured Reviews: Input Devices|
|Written by Joey Peng|
|Wednesday, 14 November 2012|
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Mad Catz STRIKE 5 Detailed Features
The Mad Catz STRIKE 5 comes with a nice panel, replacing the touchscreen with an array of physical buttons and the EYE OLED display. This fancy little panel actually has quite a bit going for it. It doesn't have a wide array of app support like the STRIKE 7, but it still has the essentials:
The 4 buttons on the left are used to control the EYE OLED panel. The bottom set are used to toggle between apps. The top set are used for app controls. What's really fun is that the EYE OLED display itself is a dial that can be rotated to adjust things like volume and brightness. Unfortunately there are some usability issues with it. While the concept was perfect, in practice the dial was not particularly responsive, sometimes even ignoring turns. To get it to capture input correctly, we had to push the dial in using a bit of force and then turning.
Also, the OLED display that was shipped also seemed to have a row of dead pixels, causing there to be a black line straight across all app displays. This is a little unfortunate, and if it was an actual $200 purchase I would probably exchange for a new one. Toggling between apps is also a little tedious. While the transition animation is nice for a while, toggling from one app to another has no easy way to do it other than rotate slowly.
The visuals of the OLED panel itself is creative and elegant. It uses a series of animating rings to convey information. For example if the app was "time", then the blue ring would be the seconds, the outer ring symbolizes which app your on, and the inner content shows what app this is.
The rest of the panel works decently as well, profile toggles at the top are instantaneous. There are 9 programmable macro buttons, lighting on-off control, and windows button disable/enable button. This actually has a good number of usability enhancements from the VENOM display in the STRIKE 7. Honestly having to go into an app to turn on or off the windows button or access media buttons was a pain, not to mention the physical keys work much better for macros.
The EYE OLED Panel actually turned out much better than expected in terms of its design. Its highly usable and looks elegant. It was amazing how they fit all the essential information in a tiny circular display.
The back of the EYE OLED panel are 3.5mm audio/mic jacks. This is less interesting than the 2 USB ports available on the STRIKE 7, but at the same time the keyboard no longer requires a power supply to function correctly. That's a fairly big plus for me, and given most cases have plenty of USB ports, this was a good design change.
The Mad Catz STRIKE 5 is quite a bit simpler to pick up and start using. The software is very similar to STRIKE 7's, with some UI improvements and simplifications. The same first-run experience is available for the STRIKE 5 as the STRIKE 7. Mad Catz provides some downloadable profiles for popular games and applications that come pre-programmed with functionality and icons. This list includes: Photoshop, Diablo III, Skyrim, League of Legends, Minecraft, Outlook, StarCraft II, SWTOR, and WoW. Note activating these profiles only loads the macro commands and settings. To assign them to a button still needs to be done manually. However this simplifies first run greatly.
The default screen shown is lighting options. Up to 3 colors can be chosen, 1 per profile. The STRIKE 5 supports 16 million RGB back-lighting.
The Macro programming screen is almost identical to the STRIKE 7, except with the touchscreen area disabled. Below you can see that I've assigned all buttons to the pre-defined League of Legends profile pre-populated macros. They're actually particularly helpful as in game accidental settings toggling can always happen.
The STRIKE 5 retains the best of the STRIKE 7, which is its accurate macro time delay capture. It has virtually no upper limit on the number of key-presses allowed and extremely accurate (by the millisecond) on when the key-press occurs. Many macro keyboards these days have set delay times in between key presses, and a very strict upper limit of 20-40 key-presses. The STRIKE 5 blows the competition out of the water with their Macro capabilities.
Last but not least, the included software allows for users to program their own set of application launchers. The top set of buttons are used to launch the app while the EYE OLED dial is used to switch between applications. Up to 12 apps can be added to the launcher.