Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E. 3 Gaming Keyboard Review: Step Up Your Keyboard Game
- -Incredible key feel
- -Impressive backlighting
- -Looks great in black or white versions
- -Great warranty experience
- -Unrefined macro software
- -Takes up more desk space than necessary
- -Unsecured wrist rest
- -Forgettable media keys
Many people, both gamers and office workers alike, spend their days toiling away on throw-in keyboards. While the peripheral may lack the glamour of a 27-inch display or 3TB external drive, those who make the decision to seek out a better keyboard rarely look back. That’s where the Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E. line-up of keyboards comes into view.
Sense and Sensibility
Whereas the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 and S.T.R.I.K.E. 5 include lots of interchangeable pieces and some kind of mothership-controlling touchscreen, the S.T.R.I.K.E. 3 feature set is built around the features that matter most for a keyboard with just a side of gamer style. In addition to the normal keyboard keys, the S.T.R.I.K.E. 3 has 12 programmable keys, a switch for locking the windows button lock, media keys, wrist rest and a gaming shell. The standout feature, though, is the illuminated keyboard membrane, taken straight from the high-dollar S.T.R.I.K.E. 7.
At a price of $100, most buyers don’t care how many stickers come in the box. They want keys with flawless and reliable action and just maybe some unique style. So it’s a good thing that Mad Catz must have had this notion in mind when creating the S.T.R.I.K.E. 3.
The S.T.R.I.K.E. series is a new product line, and when looking at some of the secondary features, it’s clear this is a first generation product. The software for the programmable keys is functional but there’s room for improvement. The media keys seem to have been thrown in, and exist as six alternate F keys. The overall shape of the keyboard hogs more desk space than necessary, and the wrist rest literally rests in place, giving it a cheap feel despite the slick look.
Keeps It Real
The keyboard’s membrane, the one lifted from the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7, by name means that the S.T.R.I.K.E. 3 isn’t mechanical. Mechanical keyboards use a switch for each key, an old, expensive design that many swear by. Whether typing or playing a shooter like Battlefield 4, the keys feel like they were dipped in solid awesome. When crouching in-game or clicking the trusty Control + C, Control + V, the concave left Control key feel is a guilty pleasure. My sole gripe with the keys is the spacing around the backspace area, too close to the F keys and too far from the Insert, Home and Page Up keys.
While the keys feel like they traveled back in time from one of those sexy planets on Star Trek, Mad Catz has managed some things with illuminated keys that seem like a breakthrough. Not only can you set one of 16 million colors for the backlights, but the result just beats the crap out of the range of many other illuminated keyboards in my possession from Razer to HP, and even white light leaking Apple.
Combine the Cylon-looking backlighting with either the glossy black or glossy white, and the keyboard looks better than most “gaming” style products deserve to. The red model, on the other hand, seems a lot more like the typical “gaming” product eyesore. (The Amazon sales availability seems to back up this opinion on the three color options.)
The keyboard seems like a great choice for fighting off a zombie; it’s light but strong. The top has a loop that seems inspired by carrying handles, but is too small for human hands, including my own childlike mitts.
As solid as the keyboard, keys, and nylon-braided cable feel, the unit provided by Mad Catz for review had 10 dead keys right out of the box. The plus side of getting a dead-on-arrival unit, though, was getting to test the 2-year warranty and Mad Catz support. I submitted a support ticket online late on a Thursday, got an email back the following Monday, which had a support phone number. I called in, and after a brief chat with a support person, they promised to send me a replacement, which arrived within a week.
That’s really it for the warranty. While it won’t cover bashing an intruder, it covers manufacturer defects. After weeks of use with the replacement in a dozen games, and some 40,000 words of typing, I expect it will last until the end of time or until it is run over by a bulldozer, whichever comes first.
The Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E. 3 is roughly $97 on Amazon as of this writing, which I think is $17 too high. As it is, the S.T.R.I.K.E. 3 takes the best part of the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7, the keys, while boiling off the more gimmicky fat, and most of the price. I defy anyone not in a mechanical keyboard cult to argue the with perfect feel of the keys or the impressive backlighting. Still, if your idea of the perfect keyboard includes batteries and wireless functionality, the S.T.R.I.K.E. 3 likely isn’t for you.