Hello, and welcome all to another Go! Gaming Giant Hardware Review. Today I’ve got the Cyborg S.T.R.I.K.E. 5 Gaming Keyboard for you guys.
Now before we delve into the review, let me give you a little background information on this product. As you may or may not know, this is the little brother to the Cyborg S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 keyboard I reviewed a few months back. Roughly a month ago Mad Catz emailed me letting me know that because I had been gracious enough to take a look at the S7, they had sent me the brand-new, not even announced yet, S5 Keyboard for review. The only problem was that my address on file was roughly 1,700 miles incorrect… Needless to say, several weeks later here we are.
So yes, I was one of the lucky few who got this keyboard before Mad Catz even announced it existed.. Though I didn’t actually get it until much, much later. With that completely useless information out of the way — let’s get down to business!
The front of the S.T.R.I.K.E. 5 (now to be known as the S5) is strikingly similar to that of its’ bigger brother (a trend you will see a lot of in this review). For starters, Cyborg claims that this is “The most adjustable gaming keyboard ever created.” Wasn’t that the same thing the S7 said?? Seriously though, besides the full frontal shot of the keyboard itself, the only relevant information here is that the S5 supports RGB back-lighting, with roughly 16 million possible color choices.
Turning the box 90 degrees to the bottom reveals the E.Y.E information. What is the E.Y.E. you ask? Well it’s the device that is replacing the touch screen AKA V.E.N.O.M. from the S7. The E.Y.E. supports a total of seven different apps, which will be listed below.
- Program Launcher
- Mic Volume
- Countdown Timer
Continuing to turn 90 degrees, we make our way to the bottom of the box. Here is where we get most of our features broken down for us. Instead of going into each one, I will cover them when we get to them on the actual keyboard.
Last but not least is the top of the box. Here Cyborg shows how you can setup a “Command Module”. Basically what you need to do is take the arrow keys/num-pad section, connect the wrist rest that normally goes over on the left-hand side of the keyboard, then attach the E.Y.E. screen to the top. This idea is definitely great for MMORPG players, or those who really just need some extra macro keys nearby. I personally find no use for this kind of setup, but I get the appeal.
Have you noticed the trend lately with a lot of the products I’ve received not having a whole lot of goodies included? Well that’s never a problem when it comes to stuff from Mad Catz, or any of their subsidiaries.
Opening up the goodies box reveals to us the.. Well, goodies! First up we have the six-sided screw-driver and screws necessary to put the keyboard completely together. They also include two extra screws, just in case. A nice touch. After that we’ve got a plastic bag full of manuals and whatnot. Included is a Warranty Information guide, User’s Manual, Combat Pilot Book, as well as a flyer showing Mad Catz new game Damage Inc. Would’ve been nice to see a download code or something inside, but still.
After that we’ve got a bunch of different wires. The first two are the standard B and C Mini USB to Mini USB cables. The extra one in the bag is a single cable, just in case you decide to setup the “Command Module”.
It couldn’t be a Cyborg keyboard without multiple wrist-rests. The wrist rests that comes with the S5 are designed exactly the same as the S7, but that’s where the similarities end. Where the S7 had a rubber finish with nice metallic accent pieces, the S5 has a flat black plastic finish, with the metallic pieces being replaced with glossy black accents. They don’t look worse per say, but the rubberized finish is sorely missed for sure.
Just like the S7, the wrist-rest that’s made for either the left side of the keyboard, or the Command Module is adjustable (note, the bottom piece is still metal instead of glossy black). Simply push in the lock button once the wrist-rest has been installed, and you can slide it out until it’s where you want it. Letting go of the bottom will lock it into place.
I was disappointed to see that there wasn’t a nice little plastic case housing all of the extras. I was also disappointed to see there was no extra key-caps included this time around. But, those are things you sacrifice when you drop the price.
Starting off with the main piece of the keyboard, it’s blatantly obvious that the design is exactly the same as that of the S7. How does that old saying go? “If it aint broke, don’t fix it.” The biggest difference (that isn’t noticeable in pictures) is that the keyboard, like the wrist-rests, has a matte black plastic finish instead of the coated finish on the S7. I also noticed that S5 has faded keys, much like the S7.. Interesting.
The second piece here is also a spitting image of the S7, with there being all of the usual keys (which are the standard raised style of keys) as well the 5 “C-Keys”, which sit lower than the surrounding keys (flat keys). A nice touch to the keyboard was that even though they lowered the price on the keyboard, they still didn’t skimp on some of the higher-end features, like having a full metal back-plate. Although they did replace the rubber on the feet with plastic, which makes me scratch my head for sure.
Here we can see the two separate Mini USB Connectors available on both pieces of the keyboard. These need to be plugged in for the keyboard to work, since the keyboard isn’t powered, the E.Y.E is, which powers the keyboard.
The last bit of the keyboard to take a peek at before moving onto the E.Y.E. is the M-Key section. This little puppy attaches to the left side of the keyboard, plugs in with the above Mini USB cable (labeled A), and then allows you to create macros for each of the five buttons.
You don’t have to look at the E.Y.E for very long to realize that it’s a good looking piece of tech. Cyborg did their absolute best to fit all of the features of the touchscreen onto this device, and for the most part, did an admirable job. From left to right we have; left and right buttons, up and down buttons, the OLED screen (with turn-able wheel), volume mute, stop, pause/play, back track, forward track, profiles 1,2,3 buttons, a 1-9 button pad, LED button, and Windows button.
The directional buttons are all used for controlling the app that is chosen on the OLED screen. To choose an app on the OLED screen, all you need to do is turn the wheel around the screen until you get where you want to be. Profiles 1-3 is also pretty self-explanatory. Pressing the corresponding profile button will switch between profiles 1, 2, or 3. The 1-9 buttons are macro buttons, much like the M-Buttons or C-Keys we looked at earlier. Using the GUI that you can get from Mad Catz website (more on that later), you can program all sorts of macros to those nine buttons.
The LED and Windows buttons are for quick-toggling them on and off. Meaning that if you hit the LED button, it will turn the back-lighting on the keyboard off or on. Hitting the Windows button will lock the Windows Key on the keyboard, a great feature while gaming for sure.
I don’t need to explain the media control buttons, since they’re exactly the same as the ones you’d see on any other keyboard.
Turning the E.Y.E to the side reveals to us the two Mini USB Connectors (B & C) needed to plug in the keyboard itself. Making our way to the back shows us one major change from the S7 to the S5. Instead of having two USB connectors back here, we have a Headphone and Microphone jack.. Honestly, I don’t have any use for these, but, yet again, I can see the appeal of having those jacks handy.
Having eliminated the extra power-draw of the USB’s (coupled with the V.E.N.O.M) on the back allowed for Cyborg to eliminate the need for an external power brick. This is most definitely a welcomed feature. I hate having to plug my keyboard into the wall, as well as running a USB to the PC. With the S5, you only have the USB for power, and the two 3.5mm cables for powering the microphone and headphone jacks. (Note the gold-plating on both the USB, as well as the 3.5mm plugs. Nice touch.. Oh and the extremely thick braided cable too!)
Some Assembly Required
For those of you who are not quite DIY masters, Cyborg includes an installation guide for you. I will post it below, even though putting together this keyboard is extremely straight forward.
Whew, bare with me guys. Getting through all of the external stuff with Mad Catz products always takes a good portion of the review. Next up we have the GUI Software that you can download from Mad Catz website.
Product - Thank goodness for this page, or else I would have absolutely no idea what product I bought!
Lighting - Since the S5 doesn’t have the capabilities of the touchscreen, some of the features have to be handled with the software instead, including the lighting options. Here you can choose the color for each of the three available profiles or Modes as they call it. Once you click on a color, it will bring up the huge color pallet to choose from.
Programming - This is by far the bulk of the GUI. Here you can program the buttons for the nine buttons on the E.Y.E, the one button on the wrist-rest (although it shows the wheel as being programmable, but I’ve never gotten it to work on any Cyborg products), the four M-keys, as well as the five C-Keys. Not only is that a total of 21 programmable buttons, but you also have to factor in that there are three different modes, which makes for a grand total of 63 programmable buttons.. That’s a lot of options for sure.
Launcher - Not everybody is going to get a lot of usage out of the launcher, but for those of you who do actually like to launch your programs this way, it’s quite simple. You can either select an app from your PC that they pull up, or browse for an app. Once you find one, simply apply it to one of the available openings. You will now have the ability to launch an app from the E.Y.E.
Support - Not much usage here, much like the product page. The one thing that can be helpful though, are the links to the drivers/software, and the link to download game profiles.
First Impressions / Testing
Unlike the S7, I had a decent idea on what to expect from the S5. I expected a keyboard with a lot of features that I personally have no real use for, that would also perform extremely well while gaming… For once I was entirely right. All of the macro keys, apps, and features made available on the S5 work without a hitch. I just never find a real usage for them while gaming. What I do find a usage for while gaming though, is a keyboard that responds extremely fast, and in that regard, the S5 never let me down. Having been using the S7 as my personal keyboard since I finished the review of it sometime ago, I’ve never been disappointed with the quality of the keyboard.
In fact, one of the few very small irritants I’ve had with the S7 is that keys can feel a bit stiff at times. That problem has actually been fixed on the S5, without anyone having pointed it out. Now when I say stiff, I simply mean the amount of force needed to press the key is a fraction more than some other membrane keyboards. Too bad they didn’t fix the squeaky space-bar.
I used the S5 for the same testing that I used the CM Storm QuickFire TK for. The reason for this will be made apparent on Friday. So for gaming we have Skyrim, Crysis 2, and Far Cry 2…
All titles were played with ease with the S5. Honestly, testing a keyboard like this feels almost like a moot point. I knew well before I launched any of the titles that the S5 was going to handle them well, because all Cyborg products were extremely well for gaming.. That’s what they’re made for!
As for typing on the S5? It’s not as enjoyable as typing on the Cherry Red switches of the TK, but it is still a solid experience overall.
Overall, there is way to much to like about the Cyborg S.T.R.I.K.E. 5 to give it anything less than a Gold Award. All they did was take everything great about the S.T.R.I.K.E. 7, cut out a few of the unnecessary features to bring the price down (rubberized, coated finish, metal accent pieces), change the V.E.N.O.M. touchscreen to the E.Y.E. OLED device, and then ship it to the public.
The S5 is a lot more appealing for customers than the S7 for the very reason why it has a lower number in its’ name. Because it’s cheaper. Luckily the price cut doesn’t make a difference of the quality of the actual keyboard itself.
I did find the turn-wheel on the E.Y.E to be quite stiff and rigid, but I figure with a few weeks of usage, it will loosen up. The features cut from the S5 don’t hold it back in anyway from being the best membrane keyboard you are going to find on the market.
My stance on the gaming quality of these keyboards hasn’t changed in the months since I have been extensively using the S7. No other membrane keyboard on the market will give you this kind of performance, WITH these kind of features. Not to mention, they were able to cut-out the necessary power-cable from the S7.
Obviously $199 is still a steep price-tag for a non-mechanical keyboard, but the fact of the matter is that the most comparable membrane keyboards to the S5 (mainly the G19) are not much cheaper, with the S5 performing above said keyboard in my book.
A quick explanation of the award system. We have the main award category with three awards; Bronze (Good Overall Product), Silver (Great Overall Product), and Gold (Excellent/Near Perfect Overall Product) as the highest. Then we have two different Sub-Categories, Internal Hardware Awards for performance; Yellow (Low-End Performer), Orange (Mid-Range Performer), and Red (High-End Performer) as the highest. The third and final Sub-Category is for both Internal Hardware and External Peripherals; Black (Enthusiast/Gamer Qualities), Blue (Exceptional Build and Design), Green (Terrific Dollar To Performance Ratio), White (Innovative But Flawed)
- Excellent For Gaming And Typing
- Nice Even LED back-lighting
- GUI Is Clean And Powerful
- Still The Most Adjustable Keyboard On The Market
- Keys Are A Bit Softer Than The S7
- Price Point More In-Line With The Features
- E.Y.E. Screen Still Has The Same Great Functionality As The Touchscreen
- No Power Brick
- E.Y.E. Screen Wheel Is A Bit Stiff To Turn
- I Personally Miss The Rubberized Finish From The S7
- Two USB’s On Back Traded For 3.5mm Sound Jacks
If you would like to purchase this excellent gaming keyboard, you may do so here.