SideWinder X6 Gaming Keyboard
Over the past few years, gaming on the PC has transformed from a niche hobby to a market in and of itself. More and more gaming-grade devices come out each year. Some accessories are just hype or a means to squeeze a few extra dollars out of unsuspecting customers whereas others genuinely make the gaming experience that much better. At the same time gaming hardware has also come to be synonymous with expensive hardware as gaming hardware frequently pushes the current norms and standards to their limits of usability, functionality and style.
The Microsoft Sidewinder X6 (AGB-00001) tries to be the keyboard for the gamer's gamer. It features the ability to program 90 macros using 6 proprietary buttons, the number pad. It has backlighting for playing the dark, cruise control, on the fly macro programming, large knobs for volume and backlight control and audio shortcut buttons. It features keys designed for quick presses and fast action. Does it deliver? Read on and Benchmark Reviews will deliver the scoop.
Features & Specifications
Features & Specifications
The Microsoft SideWinder X6 is packed with features that gamers will really like. The X6 has in game macro recording and can store up to 90 macros per game to a total of 30 macro keys. The biggest feature of the keyboard is the number pad, which can be placed on the right or left side of the keyboard. Backlighting is also included in a cool looking red in normal mode and the programmable keys are backlit with an orange color light when in the two gaming modes.
The keyboard has cruise control that will continue activating a key as long as cruise control is on. A full complement of media control keys are offered and the keyboard supports automatic profile switching. Another cool feature is that the WASD movement keys have three dots on the front of each key to make them easier to identify.
Installation & Use
Installing the Microsoft SideWinder X6 requires the installation of software from Microsoft. Once installed you simply connect the USB cable and the Microsoft SideWinder X6 is ready to be used. The keyboard has no internal memory like some other gaming keyboards on the market. All the macros are stored to the computer's hard drive.
re: SideWinder X6 Gaming Keyboard
Each successive gaming keyboard attempts to pack more and more features into their keyboard than previous keyboards. The Sidewinder is no different and possesses a veritable laundry list of features, options and functionality. It does stop short of the more ludicrous options, like a built in LCD screen or a machined aluminum frame around the keys. Here's a list of the features the keyboard possesses:
The first two features are both the most impressive, but require the most explanation. The numeric pad, which typically sits on the right side of the keyboard in a standard 4x5 grid is able to be pulled off and placed on to either the left or the right side. It attaches to the keyboard by a rectangular USB-looking plug and a pair of magnets.
The macro keys are programmable either through Microsoft's Intellitype software or in the middle of game play. The macros are programmed by button press duration and intervals between button presses. Thus, you can program a macro that holds the space bar down for 100 milliseconds, waits for 100 milliseconds and then presses ctrl+alt at the same time. Each button press performs the macro only once, so you can't hold the button down to perform the macro over and over again (for something like bunny hopping).
There are 6 macro buttons on the left side. There's a 7th button that switches the 6 macro buttons from 1-6 to 7-12. Macro buttons 13-30 lie on the number pad. There's a button at the top of the keyboard that switches from 3 different banks. All 30 button macro buttons can be programmed to function differently in each bank. This amounts to a total of 90 macros in all.
The following platform was used for testing purposes:
- Intel E8400 @ 3ghz
- Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3L
- 4GB OCZ DDR2-800, 6-5-5-16
- EVGA Geforce 9600GT, 512mb
- Seagate 250GB 7200rpm (OS Partition)
- Seagate 500GB 7200rpm (game installation partition)
- Corsair 550w PSU
- Windows Vista Ultimate 64-bit, with Service Pack 1
- Latest 64-bit Intellitype software downloaded from Microsoft.com (v. 6.3, English)
- Portal and CounterStrike Source
Well, given all of the neat functions and features, how well does Microsoft Sidewinder X6 work? Were this a regular run of the mill keyboard, that would be a fairly straightforward and easy question to answer. Because this is for playing games, it requires a little more analysis and breaking things down:
What about Microsoft's Intellitype software?
The software itself is very easy to navigate and figure out. It offers you total customization of the keyboard and its operation. In Intellitype, you can adjust the typical settings of a keyboard as well as adjusting the macro key functions, adjusting the media key functions, disabling various keys to prevent them from functioning while playing games (such as the Windows key) and to enable or disable the keypad macro keys. The macro programming involves pressing the buttons in sequence and adjusting how long the buttons are pressed as well as the delay between button presses. I found it easiest to record a macro in my game and then to adjust and edit the recording to my liking rather than to cook it up before gameplay.
SideWinder X6 Gaming Keyboard Details
Nice, With a Few Quirks
The SideWinder X6 is a very good gaming keyboard overall, and the ability to move the number pad to the left and set it up as a bunch of macro keys is perfect for macro-holics. The big knobs for backlighting control and volume are great. The keys have a nice "springy" feel with good bounce back, and nice big Shift, Backspace, and Enter buttons make basic typing easy.
There are a few gotchas, though. The spacebar is slightly longer than with many keyboards; most spacebars end around the "C" key, while this one goes halfway into the "X". It makes it easier to strike when you have your hand over the W-A-S-D and want to jump, but hitting the left Alt key will take some getting used to. There's no headphone jack or USB hub, if you care about those things. There's also no PS2 keyboard plug—it's USB only, though that's not much of a problem in this day and age.
Our biggest gripe is the lack of "feet" on the underside to tilt the keyboard upward. Yes, we know it's technically better for your hands to have the keyboard laying more flat than having the back edge raised, but that's the way some people like to type. Microsoft told us the feet are missing due to cost (give us a break—this isn't a $15 keyboard) and the technical challenges of having the swappable number pad remain secure.
Product: SideWinder X6 Keyboard
Price: $79.99 (Check Price)
Pros:Movable number pad, good macro functions, nice key feel, sturdy.
Cons:No tilting feet, no USB hub or headphone jack, basic software.
Summary:A good gaming keyboard, especially for those that love macros, but it could use a few small design tweaks.
Microsoft Sidewinder X6 Gaming Keyboard Conclusion
The Microsoft Sidewinder X6 is packaged and presented like most Microsoft products in a box that gives a lot of information on the product and shows the product in a large picture. You're given everything you need to get up and running and you're not left wondering what the product is about.
The Microsoft Sidewinder X6 looks like a gaming keyboard with a lot of sharp corners and a fair collection of auxiliary keys. The design itself is very tasteful and doesn't come off as gaudy or over done.
They construction is fairly robust with hard plastic and no flex. The attached number pad and attachment mechanism come off as very sturdy and strong without much potential to bend or break.
The Sidewinder X6 does everything it's supposed to do and does it well. The keys feel fast and the macro functionality works very well and accurately. There were few problems with the usability of any of the features.
On the whole, I found the Microsoft Sidewinder X6 keyboard to be very nice to use. The keyboard definitely aims to completely fill all facets of the gaming keyboard genre without going overboard. As such, the keyboard is not excessively priced, even if it's a higher price than most keyboards out there. Of course, the brand lends itself to a greater sense of value and quality as Microsoft products tend to be good quality. If one were in the market for a gaming keyboard of any type, the Microsoft Sidewinder X6 would definitely be worth considering.
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