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Microsoft SideWinder X6 Keyboard review

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Microsoft SideWinder X6 Keyboard

Summary

Our Score:

8

Though you probably wouldn't think it now there was a time when Microsoft was one of the big players in the gaming hardware market. I remember fondly whiling away the Christmas holidays in 1998 with my brand new SideWinder joystick; kicking the proverbial at F16: Fighting Falcon if I recall correctly.

Sadly, for reasons best known to itself, Microsoft's hardware division chose to let the SideWinder range die off much to my, if no-one else's, disappointment. Xbox 360 aside, the only gaming peripheral the company produced for as long as I can remember was the Habu mouse - and that was just a re-branded Razer.

You can probably imagine, then, that I was rather pleased when I received an invitation to the event that would see the launch of the Sidewinder mouse, last year. Alas, the product didn't quite live up to my expectations, but it was a sign of things to come. Indeed a few weeks ago I got my hand on the latest iteration of that mouse, the SideWinder X5, as well as a keyboard the SideWinder X6 - the latter of which I just so happen to have in front of me now.

The important question, then, is does the X6 impress more than last year's Sidewinder mouse? The short answer is "yes," and the long answer? Well, you'll just have to keep reading.

Aesthetically, I'm still not entirely convinced by the X6, in one area in particular. While I do like the red LED-backlighting of the main keys and, indeed, the orange of the macro buttons, I can't say I like the two large knobs on the top of the keyboard used to control the brightness of the backlighting (left knob) and volume.

On the subject of design, it would be extremely negligent of me not to mention the keyboards numpad. Not normally a feature of interest (either there's one or there isn't) Microsoft has come up with the clever idea of allowing that particular keyboard segment to be removed and attached to either side of the keyboard's main section.

The benefits are twofold in that not only does it make the X6 a godsend for left-handers frustrated by the usual right-hander friendly placement of almost every other keyboard's numpad, but it also allows macro functions to be assigned to the numpad without having it a mile away from the WSAD keys most commonly used by gamers.

A button at the top of the board toggles the numpad between 'normal' and 'macro' modes manually, or into 'auto' mode, whereby on the right side the numpad is just that, but moving it to the left turns on macro mode automatically. Combined with a set of dedicated macro keys on the left edge of the X6, a toggle button turning each macro button into two and an on-the-fly recording option, this makes the SideWinder X6 a compelling option for those gamers who prefer to script their game inputs rather than perform them manually - I'm looking at you WoW players.

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Hans Gruber

October 14, 2008, 11:32 pm

More buttons in the right place, less guff.





Your conclusion seemed to take a different tone to that of the article, overall. I was expecting you to say something like "It's decent enough as far as keyboards go, but doesn't offer anything particularly advantageous to the high performance gamer."





So, you reckon this is the best option as a gaming input device (peripheral to mouse) you can get right now? It'd be really great to see a round up of all the major players in the gaming input device market right now. There is such a proliferation that it's hard to see what's pure gimmick and what may actually add that competitive edge, simply because it works well.





Personally I'm still stuck using my old Zboard with aged gaming keypad. I've used the Battlefield 2 keyset but it lacks a couple of keys to that supplied with the board, so it's less use to me. What I like is the WASD placement and surrounding buttons but I wish there were more of them, that they were separately configurable from the main keyboard (ie - like the additional WASD keys, the extra buttons have alpha-numeric designations but are duplicated by the main QWERTY layout). As an FPS player, I need more buttons that are logically placed and reachable not lights and macros. Though it'd have been nice if you could use the volume/light control knobs as say throttle controls, for when flying the jets or choppers. I can live without macros - aren't they somehow cheating, if used in the context of First Person online Shooter?





The main failing of the Zboard is the software. Certain games were an enormous chore to configure if using Ideazon's drivers. As far as I am aware, since I've not tried the Zboard software for some time, it's still, buggy, bloated and ill supported. So much potential to this concept I believed, but sadly squandered.

beardybuck

October 14, 2008, 11:50 pm

Looks good, and in agreement with Azro, I haven't used a macro in all me days. Also I'm one of the weirdos who use the arrow keys as my choice for gaming. CTRL for jump, 0/Ins for crouch etc. feels natural.





WASD is weird.

Xiphias

October 15, 2008, 1:50 am

Does this keyboard have n-key rollover like the Steelseries 7G, Das Keyboard III and Razer Tarantula?

wowhead

October 17, 2008, 8:06 pm

If you're a WoW player like myself, don't even consider buying a macro keyboard. It's against Blizzard's terms and conditions and will get you banned. Don't believe me?





http://www.google.co.uk/search...

Nathanael

December 6, 2008, 7:15 pm

@Wowhead





It's not against Blizzards T&C. You're not allowed to automate anything, but you are allowed to use macro keyboards as evidenced by their native support for the G15 (with a supplied profile that includes macros)

dan 3

March 12, 2009, 7:52 am

Hi, It seems majority of site sell American layout version, where can I find a European layout version as the one shown in this review?

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