Ergonomics take a back seat to flash.
With MadCatz finally returning from bankruptcy, we’re starting to see some new gaming peripherals finally cross over from CES concepts into usable reality. The company’s new S.T.R.I.K.E. 4 keyboard (See it on Amazon) claims to come with gamers’ favorite bells and whistles at an affordable price. So, is this new keyboard the beginning of MadCatz’s return as a serious peripheral manufacturer? What on earth does S.T.R.I.K.E. stand for? Suggestion and spoiler: Software Toys Require Ingeniously Killer Engineering.
MadCatz S.T.R.I.K.E. 4 – Design and Features
In proper gamer-gear fashion, the S.T.R.I.K.E. 4 has a matte-black casing save for a gray MadCatz logo and some angular patterns. The USB cable is braided for extra durability, and it secures into a channel indented in the frame’s plastic bottom, allowing the cable to exit the keyboard to its left, right, or center. MadCatz’s site notes that the S.T.R.I.K.E. 4 has an aluminum faceplate, which is good for strength and longevity.
However, the site also notes how “double-shot injection molding fuses two pieces of plastic together for a seamless and extremely durable KEYBOARD and keycaps with perfect legends, which never wear down.”
The S.T.R.I.K.E. 4 offers the usual F1 through F12 keys, which double as media controls. Above the numeric keypad are indicator lights for Num Lock, Caps Lock, and Windows Lock. There are no other unusual keys or controls, for gaming or otherwise. This is a fairly pared-down, basic 101-key layout. The S.T.R.I.K.E. 4 has RGB backlighting that flows different colors across the keyboard in a rainbow pattern. The speed of this wave-like display can be decelerated by pressing the FN and – keys and accelerated by pressing the FN and = keys. (The rate can also accelerate to dizzying speeds if you type continuously and quickly, a feature I like to call Epilepsy Mode.) The characters on the keycaps allow the backlighting to shine through, a useful feature for late night gaming. Beneath these keys are Cherry MX Red switches, known for their speed and as the preferred switch for FPS gamers. Flip the keyboard over to find two flip-up, rubberized feet. The keyboard is also equipped with all-key rollover anti-ghosting.
MadCatz S.T.R.I.K.E. 4 – Software
At present, FLUX only has one screen, and the interface is dominated by the keyboard and its current lighting configuration. You can choose between a variety of different lighting presets ranging from waves to ripples to lighting only your standard “gamer” keys. When on the gamer setting, you can choose a color and click a key to assign a color to it, allowing you to, as promised by MadCatz, customize your lighting key by key.
The macro editor is basic as can be. You can record a macro, choose to record delay, and edit delay. If anything, I found it a little difficult to use due to its bare-bones, unintuitive GUI. If you’ve experienced Razer’s or Corsair’s RGB software, this is…not that. MadCatz’s implementation feels rushed and only half-complete.
MadCatz S.T.R.I.K.E. 4 – Gaming
As would be expected from any keyboard with Cherry MX Red switches, typing and gaming on these keys felt exquisite. I played some Apex Legends and Brawlhalla, and the switches performed as expected: fast, responsive, and smooth. Apart from the switches and Windows Lock (which prevents you from stopping your gameplay if you accidentally press the Windows key), the keyboard doesn’t have any other features that would enhance your gaming experience.
While the switches are a great check-box item, I remain a bit disappointed with the lack of dedicated media keys. Maybe I’m too nitpicky, but pressing the FN is a pain. Furthermore, the uneven shape of the slanted front of the keyboard makes using a wrist rest awkward. I understand that MadCatz had a budget in mind, but that’s no reason to lack the ergonomic curves seen on most gaming keyboards. Typing became uncomfortable after a few hours of constant use.
The MadCatz S.T.R.I.K.E. 4 has an MSRP of $129.99 and it’s the same price online.