Keyboard: Microsoft's SideWinder X6
Microsoft’s newest gaming keyboard is the SideWinder X6 , an $80 low-profile offering with red backlighting under the main key bed and orange backlighting for the macro keys on the left side of the keyboard. The X6 has media controls along its top edge and two knobs for controlling system volume and backlight brightness. The X6 was the only keyboard I tested that unfortunately couldn’t change backlight color.
The bank of programmable keys on the left side is switchable, just like the Logitech G19, so you can program one key up to three times. The SideWinder X6 also comes with a detachable numeric keypad that can connect to the left or right side of the keyboard. When not programmed, it works simply as you'd expect. But when activated, all of the keys are programmable, so you get the benefit of even more custom keys.
The X6’s low profile and chiclet-style keys are stylish and definitely fun to use. They give a softer kind of click, similar to a laptop keyboard blown up to desktop size. However, because the keys are closely spaced and low-profile, I often had to look at my finger placement to make sure I was in a proper position. This was especially problematic when moving my hand to press the programmable keys on the left.
Among its best features, the X6 has a series of textured rubber feet that keep the keyboard from skating around smooth desk surfaces. Actually, it’s pretty difficult to move the X6 without picking it up. In strange contrast, though, the detachable numeric keypad lacks textured feet, so it feels almost like it flops around a bit next to the main keyboard.
The programmable keys were outstanding while playing MMOs and RPG-style games that could make good use of them, but the uniformity of the keypad and subsequent finger placement issues would occasionally put a damper on trying to sneak into position undetected while playing an FPS. Pressing the wrong key at a critical moment can be a little frustrating, especially when you’re going toe-to-toe with an opponent in a multiplayer match.