Product: Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E.7 Keyboard
If you Google search ‘Modular keyboard’, you’ll get the S.T.R.I.K.E.7, and with very good reason too. This has to be the most customisable keyboard on the market to date. The keyboard comes in six main pieces, that can be combined in whatever way you fancy. There’s the main QWERTY keypad, a number pad, a macro key set, two wrist rests (one featuring a mouse-wheel scroll and mouse-click trigger button), and the V.E.N.O.M LCD-TFT touch-screen device, which we’ll get to later.
The backlight offers a ‘halo effect’ around the keys, illuminating not only the letters, but the key placements. The colour can be pretty much anything you can make with red, green and blue. Using the V.E.N.O.M touch-screen interface, you can customise three colour profiles from black all the way through to white, with a dimmer setting to adjust the brightness accordingly.
Macros can be programmed for the M-keys on the sidebar, the Macro screen of the V.E.N.O.M, and the C-keys conveniently placed around the arrow keys; especially handy for left-handed gamers. The scroll-wheel and trigger-button on the wrist-wrest can also be configured to run macros. So there’s plenty of customisation there too.
The Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E.7 software used for programming said macros, allows for three profiles. So you can have a setup for your favourite MMO, one for an FPS and one for Minecraft, for example. Switching between profiles is as easy as flicking a button on the side of the V.E.N.O.M. There’s also the option to configure a launcher screen for the V.E.N.O.M. The launcher screen can contain shortcuts to applications on your computer, including, of course, video games. However, we did notice that Steam games cannot be linked to directly, which seems to be an oversight that could be easily fixed with a software update.
Swapping of the actual keys is made especially easy with the addition of a key-pulling tool. This little plastic tool will pop out keys in an instant. The S.T.R.I.K.E.7 comes with 3 sets of WASD keys, and 3 sets of arrow keys, including default, indented, and rubber-tipped for easy finger-placement.
We should probably point out at this point that the keys are not mechanical which, on initial impressions appeared to be the biggest miss with the keybaord, but in Mad Catz’ own words, the S.T.R.I.K.E.7 is “Replete with a specially engineered membrane which mimics the tactile feel generated by the mechanical keys often preferred by gamers, without the resultant excessive noise”. It seems Mad Catz went for the best compromise possible here. The keys really do provide great feedback, it’s not completely obvious that they’re not mechanical. The keys are soft to the touch, but still very responsive and they are indeed very quiet. Even the ‘quiet’ mechanical keyboards make quite a racket in comparison, so with the S7 you gain silent tapping, and customisable keys, at the loss of some mechanical response. Honestly, it’s a compromise that pays off.
Adjusting the height is a case of pulling out legs from the back of the keyboard, but even these have a sense of style to them, with the silver-metalic trim around a black setting.
Obviously the main attraction with the S7 is the V.E.N.O.M. The touch-screen is brilliant, just as responsive as a mobile phone’s display. The V.E.N.O.M has 12 ‘app-style’ buttons on the screen, which range from the launcher, music controls (play/pause etc.), volume controls, keyboard LED colours/brightness settings, a clock, a stopwatch, countdown timers, a windows-key lock, settings (region/date), macros, journal, and teamspeak channel view. The windows-key lock is very handy for disabling that pesky windows-key when you’re in game. The macros and launcher are customisable options we mentioned earlier. The journal is rather neat, by tapping the screen you can write notes directly onto the V.E.N.O.M’s display with your keyboard. As for the teamspeak channel viewer, this is fantastic. You can view your TS channel activities while ingame, see who’s in the room, who’s talking at any particular time. An amazing app, that we suspect is exclusive – if not, we’d love to see Mumble and Ventrilo support added at some point in the future.
What’s in the box:
- Main Keyboard Module
- Control Module TFT-LCD with 2 High-Speed USB Ports
- Macro Key (Function Strip) Module
- Number Pad Module
- 3 Palm/Wrist Rests
- Additional Key Caps with Removal Tool
- Adjustment Tool
- 3 Keyboard Link Cables
- AC Adapter
- 6 Connector Screws
- Easy-to-use desktop software
- V.E.N.O.M touch-screen is fantastic for a whole host of purposes
- Customisable keyboard layout, colours, macros, launcher shortcuts
- Incredibly quiet
- Responsive key-presses, although not mechanical
- Looks great
VERDICT: As far as keyboards go, this one really is a case of having your cake and eating it. It’s modifiable, customisable, quiet, looks great, and has responsive feedback. The V.E.N.O.M display offers features not possible with any other keyboard.