As a little bit of a variance from talking about games, I wanted to talk a little bit about hardware as I’ve had the chance to play around with a few pieces from MadCatz’s impressive lineup of gaming hardware.  I’ve had both the MMO7 gaming mouse and the Strike7 keyboard for a while now and also have been checking out the Freq5 headset here in the last week or so.  All 3 are pretty slick products and have fit in very well for my gaming needs.  They are a bit on the pricier side of the market, but for what they provide I think they’re well worth it.

Before I hop into the individual products, I do want to remind folks that my setup isn’t quite normal as I do use the Microsoft Strategic Commander as a left-handed controller.  It has 24 programmable buttons and I it use for all movement, targeting, jumping, etc for all games I play.  I mention this as there is some overlap and things that I could do with these products that I don’t as I’m so used to the Commander.  By the way, if you’re looking for a left-handed controller, and can find one on ebay or used off Amazon, I can’t recommend the Commander enough.  It feels great and is amazingly durable as I’ve travelled all over with this thing and it keeps on ticking.

Anyway, back to MadCatz and I’ll start with the MMO7 mouse ($129.99) as I’ve had the most time with it.  It is by far one of the best feeling mice I’ve ever used and comes with a number of ways to customize the size and feel of it with additional covers and weights.  Technically I believe it has 15 different customizable buttons with 6 different modes you can play with.  Each mode can have its own DPI (how fast the mouse moves) settings tied to it, and there’s even a way to map one of the buttons for a more precise DPI for things like FPS when you’re using a sniper rifle.  The tool included to customize the settings includes an image of where each button is such that you know exactly what button you’re mapping to what keystroke.  There’s even a way to set a keybind to auto-fire a button/key if you want to mimic holding down a button without actually holding it down.  There are a couple of the buttons that don’t quite work for me and my hand size, but there are 7 (plus the normal left/right) that work perfectly for me and I struggle to play MMOs now without this mouse as I’ve mapped those to routine functions.  The thumb roller wheel is something I’ve really come to enjoy as I use it to switch stances on my Warden!  Mainly I have mine set up for stance changes as well as selecting and using ground objects since all my quickslots are used from my Commander.  In TSW, I don’t have as much set up but now that I’m getting more into that game I have a feeling I’ll find other things I’ll want to bind.  I could easily see me mapping different things to this mouse if I didn’t have the Commander and could probably play my Warden entirely from the mouse!  This mouse essentially allows me to play my MMOs without using the keyboard, well except for chatting.

The Strike7 Keyboard ($299.99) is probably the one I don’t use to its full potential because of the Commander, but I really am finding more and more uses for many of the added features.  Just from a pure keyboard perspective, I’m really enjoying the feel and responsiveness of the keys.  I’m a borderline touch-typer and this keyboard really works well even for the more mundane tasks I use it for.   It does includes 2 USB ports behind the Venom touchpad which are always handy, and nicely hidden.  However the real strength of this keyboard its modular design and customization capabilities.  It comes in 4 main pieces (I’m not including palm rests) that can be connected however you want, or used by themselves.  If I didn’t have the commander, I would probably have the numpad on the left hand side and have it set up as a left-handed controller.  There’s a ton of stuff that can be customized on the keyboard itself, but then there’s the fully customizable Venom touchpad that opens up all sorts of options.  Again, if I didn’t have the Commander I could see myself using it much more, but there’s a number of pre-built shortcuts and launchers that I’m currently using.  In addition you can program your own buttons/macros as well as use the built-in TeamSpeak client.  I asked them about Ventrilo and Mumble and while they’re looking at it, TeamSpeak has a full fledged SDK that made it MUCH easier to drop into the keyboard.  This is something I really like as I’m always moving windows around such that I can see who’s talking in Vent, and having this kind of display would be pretty handy and doesn’t take up any screen real estate!  Overall there’s a ton of potential for this keyboard but even without using all the capabilities it is quite a nice keyboard.  Although in all honesty, if you’re not taking advantage of all it offers it is a tad on the expensive side.  I’m including their launch video so you can see it in action:

As for the Freq5 headset, I haven’t had nearly as much time to test it out but so far I’m quite enjoying it.  It is significantly bigger then some of the crappy $15 headsets I have been using the the audio quality is quite impressive.  One thing that surprised me was that even though much of the background is blocked out, I can still hear the important things – such as my wife calling Winking smile  The controls for the headset are actually on the ear pieces themselves such that you’re not hunting all over for that spot on the cord which is quite nice.  Although if you don’t use it enough, these buttons can be hard to find and then you have to take the headset off to find them.  By default it is set up as a USB device but you can also use it as a set of normal headphones with the included adapter.

For those looking to take their gaming to another level, or if you just need to replace older items, I can’t recommend MadCatz highly enough.  Not only do they have great products but they’re a good group of people as well!  If I had to pick my favorite, as it stands right now I’d have to say the mouse, as I’m not yet using the keyboard in all its glory and I frequently play games without a headset.