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Posted by Chris Scott Barr on Feb 14, 2013

Review – Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E 7 Keyboard

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Software

Usually when we’re dealing with a keyboard, we only have to cover the software installed on the PC, but in this case, there’s also the control box to be looked at. We’ll start with the PC software first. There are three basic sections to the software that you’ll deal with. These program your buttons and macro keys, assign programs to the on-screen launcher, and assign icons to the on-screen macro keys.

Programming buttons and setting up macros is pretty simple and pain-free. You’ll click to decide where the key you’re wanting to program is located (on-screen, Function Strip, wrist rest, or number pad), and then click on the exact button you want. Press the key or keys that you want to be activated, and then click the green checkbox. Give it a name, and you’re done. For the on-screen keys, there are a total of 36 that can be programmed, thanks to the three mode buttons on the box.

While I am happy with how easy it is to reprogram any of the extra macro keys that Mad Catz has added, I should note that you cannot reprogram any of the regular keyboard keys. Normally, I wouldn’t really have much of an issue with that. However, the fact that the number pad unit contains your arrow keys, you would think that they’d have a way to reprogram those. There are five keys surrounding the arrow keys that you can reprogram, which makes me think that they want people to use it as a separate gamepad, akin to Razer’s Nostromo or Orbweaver. If you really want to do that, you’ll need to assign your movement keys to the arrows, rather than your classic WASD.

Setting up the programs in the on-screen launcher was really easy. Just select one of the 12 on-screen keys, and then click on the icon of the application you want to launch. The software automatically detected all of the programs I had installed, so there was no extra work involved. If it does happen to miss something, you can always click the “Browse For Apps” button, and find the program you want to launch.

The icon editor is rather nice, and also simple. There are a total of 76 icons provided, and you can import your own, if you like (or choose to use no icon at all). The icon size appears to be restricted to 97×72, so anything you import will be constrained to those limits. As for filetypes, you can use jpg, gif, png, or bmp. Sadly, moving gif’s won’t work. It will be locked to the first frame of the image.

The V.E.N.O.M. software has a total of 12 different functions. Here is a list of the functions, and what they do:

  • Launcher – Lets you launch Windows programs that have been pre-assigned by you.
  • Media Buttons – Lets you play/pause your music, or skip tracks.
  • Volume – Lets you adjust the volume of your mic or system. You can also adjust the volume of individual programs, similar to the mixer in Windows.
  • Backlight – Lets you adjust the backlight of your keys.
  • Clock – Displays a digital or analog clock.
  • Stopwatch – This is a standard stopwatch.
  • Countdown Timer – Three different timers that you can activate.
  • Windows Lock – Locks or unlocks your Windows key.
  • Settings – Adjusts backlight settings and screen calibration.
  • Macros – These are your 36 on-screen macro keys.
  • Journal – This is a journal that you can type in.
  • TeamSpeak – This can be used to view menus in TeamSpeak.

Now, let me break down just how often you’ll probably use these:

  • Launcher – Never. That’s why you pin icons to your taskbar.
  • Media Buttons – If you’re listening to music while gaming, this might get used somewhat frequently.
  • Volume – This will almost never get used, as there are physical buttons for most of these functions.
  • Backlight – Once every month or so, when you get bored of the color.
  • Clock – This is probably the most useful of all the function keys.
  • Stopwatch – I guess you might want to feel the shame of knowing just how long you’ve been playing. But probably not.
  • Countdown Timer – You’ll need as frequently as you make pizza rolls.
  • Windows Lock – If you regularly mistake the Windows key for your Alt button, this will get used frequently.
  • Settings – You’ll use it once, and forget what that icon means. You’ll hit it once every month or two, hoping it does something interesting.
  • Macros – Never. We’ll talk about this later.
  • Journal – This might get used once. Then you’ll realize that you can’t export the text in any way, and never touch it again.
  • TeamSpeak – Do people still use TeamSpeak? But seriously, this is the only voice client that’s supported.

Now obviously, depending on how you play, some features might get used more or less than I’ve described. But after extended use of this keyboard, I found that I used almost none of the features, regardless of what I was doing or playing. This was extremely disappointing, as I had hoped that there would be more functions, or the ability to craft your own. Unfortunately Mad Catz has provided no tools that will allow you to expand upon the functionality they implemented. I consider this to be a huge letdown, as most of the options aren’t really that useful, and come across as gimmicky.

 

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