Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E. 3 Gaming Keyboard (black)
- Street Date:
- August 21st, 2013
- Reviewed by:
- Brian Hoss
- Review Date:1
- October 18th, 2013
- Game Release Year:
- Mad Catz
- Mad Catz
Recently, Mad Catz introduced the S.T.R.I.K.E 3, their entry-level gaming keyboard and lesser sibling for the fancy S.T.R.I.K.E 5 and S.T.R.I.K.E 7. While those keyboards are packed with modular features and an additional touch screen peripheral, the S.T.R.I.K.E 3 is much closer to a traditional keyboard option, but retains several gamer-focused features.
An Overview of the Keyboard
The S.T.R.I.K.E 3 promises multiple mode macro keys, variable backlighting, media keys, removable wrist wrest, and even a windows key lock. The overriding feature for the keyboard though, is its membrane key structure and anti-ghosting capabilities, which is derived from the much more expensive S.T.R.I.K.E 7.
Of course, along with these bullet point features is the keyboard gamer styling. And last but not least there is the reliability. Ultimately though, the question is, can the S.T.R.I.K.E 3 justify its $100 MSRP?
Over the course of several weeks, I put the keyboard through its paces, including playing the 'Battlefield 4' beta, 'Train Simulator 2014,' 'BioShock Infinite,' 'CoD 4,' 'XCOM: Enemy Unknown,' and 'Supreme Commander.' Plus, I must have typed some 40,000 words on it. Nothing less will do when it comes to knowing a keyboard well and understanding which things are forgivable and which are useful.
First things first, while the S.T.R.I.K.E 3 is derived from the $300 S.T.R.I.K.E 7, the included features are comparably practical, especially for someone who wants a conventional keyboard layout. e.g with the numpad on the right. The keyboard has 12 programmable keys, seven on the top right and five under the Home/End/Page Down keys.
The macro system works reasonably well for both queuing up game commands like instant switching to a zoomed sniper rifle or for complicated media player commands. That said, I have seen better macro applications. Mad Catz is relatively new at this, so it's likely that owners of this keyboard will see more than one major revision for the software. There are three modes for macro keys, which makes for a total of 36 possible keys, and that's before accounting for the software's ability to have application specific macros.
The keyboards built-in media keys are frankly unfortunate. They basically inhabit the F5-F10 keys, and are accessed by holding the keyboards Function key, which takes the place of the right side (normally useless) windows key. The media key icons are not backlit, which is an annoyance. If only the media keys were the default function, with the F keys accessible using the Function key, then they might quite useful. (My HP Folio 13 is set up this way) As is, the macro keys are a preferable way to access media.
Then there is the removable wrist rest, which is easily my least favorite feature. Hours spent in front of computers working and gaming means that I require a wrist rest for my left hand, but it is clear that the wrist rest inclusion was not well thought out. Although it does provide rest, it does not actually attach to the keyboard, rather it rests in two slots. Mad Catz must think that this makes the keyboard more portable, but some kind of snap or screw option that keeps the rest in place whenever you move the keyboard five feet or five inches would make a world of difference. What's worse, while the keyboard sits proudly in both elevated and normal positions, the two wrist rests included in the two keyboards provided by Mad Catz both had poorly thought out rubber feet. The result is a cheap hollow feel in the center of the rest. Still, after a day or two of use, it no longer seemed as great an issue.
Two smaller features are easy to forget but are there nonetheless. There is a switch at the top of the keyboard that locks the lone Windows key (on the left). I'm long past the days of accidentally hitting the windows key regardless of my frequent fat finger typing. The switch seems like it could been better used for any number of other possible features, but some may find it useful as is. Then there is the nylon braided cord, which is more malleable than others I have used. A nylon braided cord promotes durability and is appreciated, though it connects to the keyboard close to the top left edge instead of the more standard center. The left side is considerably deeper than the right, making the cord's presence that much more annoying.
Style and Footprint
When I removed the keyboard from its box, I was dubious regarding the backlighting. To my surprise, the backlighting's implementation is probably the best I've seen. Where my other keyboards and backlit laptops seem to leak light, Mad Catz has worked that hard to avoid annoyance into the lighting and the result is very stylish with the keys perfectly illuminated. Each of the three macro modes has a different color preset for the keyboard. By default, the modes are red, blue, and pink, but using the software, the user can set any possible RGB value. White looks awesome, and the backlighting crushes my Razer Lycosa's dim blue or my MacBook and Folio 13's leaky white keys. Function F11 and F12 control the brightness of the backlighting, which is a nice touch, but the keyboard lacks a quick way to turn off the lights, a feature appreciated in both my Razer Lycosa and my Folio 13 as I tend to leave my PC on for days on end.
The keyboard's footprint is a major trouble spot. The keyboard shares innards with the S.T.R.I.K.E 7, which is modular. The S.T.R.I.K.E 3 maintains a beveled look as though the numpad and directional key area was detachable, but it is permanently attached. This means that there is roughly twice as large a gap between the Enter and Delete key as a conventional keyboard. Combined with other quirks of the keyboard shell such as the too tight to use handle at the top, and the keyboard has a large, wasteful footprint. The top of the keyboard is spacious, but the F keys are two close for comfort.
The first S.T.R.I.K.E 3 I used had the red facade, which is my least favorite. The second one had the all black frame, and is considerably more stylish. The other option is white, which seems much better than the gaudy red, but not as slick as the black.
As mentioned before, it is the pedigree of the keyboard's membrane that is its most crucial component. Many users are fanatical about mechanical keyboards, where each cherry switch-like key provides a specific audible and tactile feedback favored by some, and that design is both reliable and serviceable. But while many may be shocked at the S.T.R.I.K.E 3's $100 price, mechanical keyboards usually start at even higher prices.
The membrane that is present in the keyboard is a delight, one of the best I've used. Careful attention seems to have been paid to the left side, where FPS controls tend to reside. After a day or so of use, I found the convex Ctrl key to have an excellent feel. I tend to favor low-profile keys, and have enjoyed the Razer Lycosa's scissor switch low-profile keys as my keyboard of choice, but now that choice is much less certain.
I was stunned to find that the first S.T.R.I.K.E 3 provided by Mad Catz had about ten keys that were dead on arrival. Basically the top row of number keys and the backspace never worked. I emailed the Mad Catz support on a late Thursday evening and was frustrated for a few days. On the following Monday, I received an automated email which seemed to ignore my carefully prepared issue notes.
Fortunately, the email came with a phone number to call, and after a relatively brief phone call, the support rep sent out a replacement model, which showed up a few days later. I've been wary of Mad Catz support in past, mainly due to the company's large product line and history of value-oriented peripherals, but this experience with support was extremely positive once I telephoned in to Mad Catz support.
The S.T.R.I.K.E 3 really surprised me with how good the keys feel and operate, and the backlighting is a big plus. Most of my concerns about the wrist wrest and large footprint fell away with daily use, but the question remains, is the keyboard worth a premium price? Honestly, I think it's priced just a bit too high. It's currently about $97 at Amazon (with the black and white models selling well it seems), which I think is $17 too much. Nevertheless, those looking to upgrade the keyboard that they use everyday should give the S.T.R.I.K.E 3 serious consideration and see if the premium keyboard suits their needs.
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