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Hands On: The Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E. M Keyboard

Mad Catz last month released the S.T.R.I.K.E. M, a mobile Bluetooth keyboard that works with Android, Mac and Windows devices. This keyboard focuses on gamers and media-consuming customers alike, providing shortcuts that make navigation and control easier for both. We took a hands-on approach to see what this keyboard has to offer.

For starters, this device is small, measuring nearly 11.5-inches wide, around 4.5-inches tall and 0.5-inches thick. PC and Mac gamers used to standard and mechanical keyboards may have a tough time getting used to the dense spacing of the keys. However, this device should be ideal for tablet and/or smartphone owners who want gaming on the go without being forced to carry a full-sized Bluetooth keyboard.

To say that the S.T.R.I.K.E. M is jam-packed full of features is an understatement. It has a cool OFN sensor that acts like a 3/8-inch trackpad, allowing users to move the mouse on the screen with just one finger. On one side of this sensor is a button emulating a mouse left-click button, and the other side is a right-click button. Are you a lefty? There are two mouse-click buttons on the left side of the device, as well.

Also mounted on the left side of the keyboard is a scroll barrel that allows the user to turn the connected device's volume up or down. There are also three media keys for rewind, forward and pause/play. Under these three keys is a visual panel showing which Bluetooth device the keyboard is connected to and the level of the battery.

That brings us to the actual Bluetooth connectivity. This device can pair with up to four Bluetooth devices simultaneously, meaning you can control/type on a desktop, smartphone and tablet in one sitting by merely hitting the Device Connection button. Above this is a brightness button, which controls the four levels of white backlighting behind the keys. This button will turn off the backlighting as well.

According to Mad Catz, this mobile keyboard uses P.U.L.S.E. scissor keys that activate at 60g of actuation force and have a 2 mm travel distance. The company has highlighted the W, A, S and D keys for first-person shooter gamers and has assigned a number of keys to offer smart device functions (Home, Back, Recent Apps), the Windows Start key and the Max OS X Command key.

Although this keyboard has a lot packed into a simple form factor, the overall shape of the S.T.R.I.K.E. M is rather strange, reminding me of North Carolina in the way that it's pointed on the east end and dips down into the south. With that in mind, the keys on the far right aren't square, and neither are the ones on the far left, including CTRL, SHIFT, CAPS LOCK and so on. Will this be a problem? Depends on the user, naturally. I really didn't have a problem with them when typing.

Don't get me wrong: I like this little keyboard. The device is extremely light, and it comes with its own travel pouch so it doesn't get damaged when not in use. There's a lot going on here that benefits the gamer as well as the casual user. However, for the latter group, I would suggest the Wedge Mobile Keyboard from Microsoft, which is a solid product that works with Windows and Android devices. The Wedge Mobile Keyboard doesn't sport weird key shapes, but it also doesn't include the mouse functions found on the S.T.R.I.K.E. M.

So, the bottom line is that if you're looking for a mobile gaming keyboard, the S.T.R.I.K.E. M should be an ideal solution. As stated, this keyboard can be paired with four devices simultaneously, and users can switch between them with the press of a button. Integrating a trackpad and mouse buttons is a superb idea, making it easy to manage media from the couch.

There's no question that this keyboard is designed for gamers; you can tell at just one glance. But the general consumer may find its set of media and mouse controls attractive enough to forgive the strange North Carolina shape.

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