Release Date: 10/31/2012
The Good: Fantastic modular design, the EYE unit is unique and fun to use, beautiful lighting, more macros than you could ever need
The Bad: Pricey, borrows too many designs from the RAT mice, a lot of cords may make your cable management a mess, takes up a good amount of desk real estate, awful software, backlighting can’t be controlled per module
Mad Catz has an interesting history with trying to revolutionize the PC scene with interesting new devices that are unique and not seen anywhere else. It started with the RAT series of mice that were modular and fully customizable to your hand. Later they released the Strike series keyboards that took that to a whole new level.
With the RAT 9 that I owned, I liked it a lot, but there were a lot of mechanical issues for me and it failed twice. I skipped Mad Catz all together for a while until I saw this keyboard on sale. The Strike 7 is the most expensive gaming keyboard ever made and I didn’t want to spend $300 on it. The Strike 5 takes some of those features and creates an interesting piece of hardware. The box is huge and stands out from all other flat keyboard boxes. When you open it up, it has some very ugly packaging with all the pieces in plastic bags and ugly pressed cardboard.
Once you get everything out it seems overwhelming to put together, but in the end, it’s not really. There are about a half dozen pieces to screw together. You can put them in any order, but it’s recommended you put it together as instructed until you are familiar with the product. The main keyboard piece attaches to a side piece that holds the num pad and arrow keys. There are three wrist rest pieces. One is taken straight from the RAT series mice which are the palm rest. With a scroll wheel and red button as well as adjustable height and length. It looks like an oversized RAT palm rest on the keyboard which was rather disappointing as I wanted to see something unique for this series of the keyboard. There’s a macro sidebar, but the most interesting thing is the top EYE unit.
This unit has an OLED display and a scroll wheel. There are arrow buttons, macros, media controls, and profile selection all of this piece. You can see the time, set timers and stopwatches, use the program shortcuts, control backlight brightness, and volume for speakers and mic. This is what makes the Strike keyboards so unique, and why it costs so much. Using the Mad Catz software (which isn’t all that great) you can see the program icon on the display and just select it to open it. It’s actually very useful and this whole top piece will be used quite a bit.
The software itself hasn’t been changed much in nearly 5 years. I also don’t like how you can’t set windows or media functions to any other keys, you also can’t set them to open programs which really sucks. After spending a week with the unit I felt the keys were a tad too soft. The keys are made with Mad Catz own tech, but they have an actuation force similar to Cherry MX Blue keys. You won’t get the super clacky sounds of standard Cherry keys, but they feel a hair mushy, and while you will get used to it, Cherry MX Brown and Red fans but find it too soft. One key I loved, in particular, was the space bar. It’s wider and comes down further so people with longer fingers won’t cramp their thumb. It’s a subtle detail, but one that could matter with extended use.
The arrow keys take getting used to because there are lowered command keys around it so sometimes you will press a command key. Overall, the key layout is fantastic and I don’t really have huge issues with any part of it. The overall disappointment stems from identity issues as the keyboard borrows too much from the mice series and doesn’t quite stand out on its own. While all this is great it all comes down to price. For $200 it’s hard to say if this keyboard is worth it for most people. If you are looking for something unique to stand out from you command station then go for it, but recently the keyboard has been on sale in stores for under $100 and if you can find it at that price swipe it up.