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Saitek’s new gaming keyboard, the $80 Cyborg, borrows heavily from the Saitek Eclipse, a keyboard designed for geeks, but not necessarily for gamers. In comparison, the Cyborg has gamer written all over it. The unit is large next to most competitors, but all of the keys and the touch panel at the top of the keyboard are well-spaced.
The integrated touch-sensitive readout is a unique feature. In place of media control buttons or dials, the touch panel allows you to change the volume and key brightness, as well as switch between “human mode” and “cyborg mode” by pressing specific areas on the panel. The panel isn’t an LCD display. Rather, you can tell which functions are active based on whether the corresponding symbol is illuminated on the panel.
Cyborg mode disables the Windows key (so that you don’t accidentally press it while gaming) and allows you to customize the key backlighting of different keyboard areas. You can choose among a handful of colors for the general backlight. But, in cyborg mode, you can pick the backlight color you want specifically for the WASD keys, arrow keys, numeric keypad, and the rest of the keyboard as well. You can also turn backlighting off in certain places, while leaving it on in others.
The WASD keys are covered with a smooth, metallic finish, which makes them instantly identifiable to the touch. Overall, the keys are well-spaced and rise a little higher than competing models, so they should feel familiar to anyone not accustomed to gaming keyboards.
Whereas the X6 and the G19 have programmable keys on the left side of the keyboard, the Cyborg has six programmable switches down the left and right sides. These angle up from the board's plane, and they click down and back up with a firmer feel than regular keys. This way, you’ll never mistake them for normal keys. Unfortunately, you only get 12 of them.
The Cyborg also sports a powered USB hub, as well as stereo output and microphone input jacks. With these, you can attach additional devices directly into the keyboard instead of feeding cables to the back of your computer.
Gaming on the Saitek Cyborg reminded me of why the Eclipse and Eclipse II are such popular keyboards. The keys feel solid under your fingers, and the keyboard is heavy enough that it doesn’t move during intense gaming. The touch panel is a fingerprint magnet, but it’s a fun alternative to discrete media keys.