With my only previous experience with Bluetooth keyboards designed primarily for mobile devices being my review of the VisionTek Candyboard, when the folks at Mad Catz offered to send me a review unit of their new S.T.R.I.K.E.M keyboard, I was expecting something around the same size (about the size of a Hershey’s bar), or a tiny bit bigger.
You can imagine, then, my surprise when I received the Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E.M and found that it was actually substantially larger than VisionTek’s offering, nearly four times so, in fact. This obviously has an effect on the portability of the unit. I quickly found, however, that this decrease in portability brought with it an incredibly worthwhile trade-off: the ability to actually type like a normal human.
With smaller Bluetooth keyboards like the Candyboard, your only real option is to peck away at the tiny keys with two thumbs or your index fingers, which is really only useful for short bursts of typing. You certainly wouldn’t want to write a novel, for instance, using one. With the Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E.M, however, the well known peripheral manufacturer has managed to strike an excellent balance between portability (and don’t get me wrong, the S.T.R.I.K.E.M is still fairly portable, just slightly less so than I was initially expecting) and the ability to type in the traditional manner.
After a small period of adjustment, whatever typing skills you already had should translate pretty naturally over to the S.T.R.I.K.E.M (although, I could imagine people with extremely large hands/fingers might have a little more difficulty with it). For me, I could easily see myself comfortably typing long portions of text with it, and in fact this entire review was written using the device.
So then, what else does the Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E.M have to offer? Plenty. Besides just looking fairly awesome, the S.T.R.I.K.E.M is jam-packed with features that make it ideal for both professional and personal use. Adjustable backlighting ensures the keys are visible in any environment. The optical finger navigation sensor for mouse controls works quite well, and there are left and right mouse click buttons positioned on both ends of the keyboard (which is actually pretty helpful when it comes to things like selecting text). As an added bonus, you can also press down the sensor itself for a left click.
One of the best features of the S.T.R.I.K.E.M is the ability to easily and seamlessly switch between four different paired devices with one simple key press. This is awesome for things like working on one device while controlling media on another. The switch is instant and satisfying: it’s a great feeling being able to type something on one device, switch to another to change music tracks, and be back to typing within seconds. The included media keys (play/pause, track forward, track back, and a roll bar for volume) make this even more of a pleasure.
The S.T.R.I.K.E.M is designed to work on all popular platforms, and includes all of the keys necessary to make this possible, including a CMD key for Macs, a Windows key, and home, back, and menu keys for mobile devices. It is also no surprise – Mad Catz being a company known mostly for its gaming peripherals – that the S.T.R.I.K.E.M was designed with gaming in mind, and for games that feature keyboard input support (particularly those with re-mappable keys), it indeed works quite well in this regard.
I know at this point this review is starting to sound pretty overly gushing, but here’s yet another area where the Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E.M excels: battery life. I’ve had the device powered on with a decent amount of use for around a week, and even now after writing this review on it, the battery indicator is still showing green (it has three colors for indicating battery level: green for high, orange for medium, and red for low). Very impressive.
And the downsides of the S.T.R.I.K.E.M? Well, unless you have really large hands, or are extremely opposed to the idea of hauling around a slightly larger than usual Bluetooth keyboard, there really are none. The Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E.M looks great, and more importantly, works fabulously. It even comes with a very nice padded case to keep it safe in travel. At just under $100, it may be a bit on the pricey side for some, but overall, I can’t recommend it highly enough. Kudos, Mad Catz.