|Manufacturer: Wolf King|
|Min OS X: Any Version Requires: USB Port|
Key Layout Analysis (Continued)The left side of the Warrior XXtreme, which we referred to earlier as the "gaming cluster," is quite inventive. Originally designed with Counter Strike and older role-playing games (RPGs) in mind, the arrangement features a core group of squared-away WASD buttons that are surrounded by a myriad of oddly-proportioned support keys that appear to be designed to give your thumb and fifth finger a wider role to play during complex battles. Some of these keys, like the gigantic "B" and "O" buttons, are no longer as useful as they once were because Counter Strike is being superseded by Team Fortress 2 and Call of Duty 4 in popularity. However, they're extremely easy to strike with a quick jab of the thumb, which makes them great options for the player when he or she isn't "bunny hopping" around. Similarly, the semicircle-shaped swath of number and function keys is no longer as useful as it once was since in-game characters rarely carry several thousand pounds of ordinance on their person. Still, creative users will no doubt find other uses for them. With all of the changes that Wolf King made to the 104-key layout, it should come as no surprise that we deemed several of them unsatisfactory. A perfect example is the double "Control" key arrangement. Not only are these keys immediately adjacent to each other (making them redundant), but in order to establish this state of affairs, the all-important "Shift" key was cut down to a third of its usual size. Similarly, the "T" key has been moved to the right of the spacebar, and the "V" key is nowhere to be found. That last modification in particular will cause players a fair amount of grief, considering the frequency at which it appears in default key-bindings.
PerformanceMost of what the Warrior XXtreme misses with its somewhat rough key configuration is made up for in terms of raw performance. Over the years, we've had opportunities to play with an assortment of gamepads, gaming keyboards, and so-called "keyboard replacements" (similar to this one). While these devices ranged all the way from conventional to downright freakish, most shared one trait: spongy controls. With very little definite "feel" and a very average response time, these devices neglect the majority of the "faster, better, stronger" mandate of computer gaming. That's not what you want in a device that you plunk down a serious investment in, and thankfully, Wolf King does not let its users down. Not only did our bouts with classic carpal tunnel syndrome-inducing button-mashers like Ambrosia Software's "Maelstrom" go extremely well with the Warrior XXtreme, they were accompanied by a rare lack of chatter from the keys. We're not exactly sure how, but Wolf King's designers have done an amazing job of dampening the keys' noise output to the point where the perceivable intensity is a bare fraction of the output of products like the Saitek Eclipse and the Belkin Nostromo n52.
The Final WordAll in all, the Warrior XXtreme doesn't feel like it left the cutting room floor in a fully-refined state. That's not to say that the device is rough all over--after all, there are a number of well-implemented concepts that the Warrior's design team deserve credit for. For starters, the compact, circular nature of the keyboard's gaming cluster puts a lot more buttons within reach of the average hand than a conventional keyboard. On top of that, key response is absolutely phenomenal, and the Warrior's build quality puts most high-end peripherals to shame. However, there are some mistakes that need to be corrected (the QWERTY cluster), some fundamental oversights that must be attended to (the missing etching on the keys), and some hit-or-miss ideas that should be revised (the redundant "Control" keys). Therefore, while we feel that the future is bright for Wolf King and future revisions of their trademark key configuration, the current revision of the Warrior XXtreme is not yet the keyboard killer that we hoped it would be. However, if you don't much care for one-handed typing, want one of the best key responses on the market, and are willing to invest a moderate amount of time into configuring games to work with the Warrior's individual strengths and weaknesses, then this should be a solid acquisition.
Pros• Gorgeous design
• Bulletproof casing
• Magnificent key response
• Inventive control scheme
Cons• Woefully poor QWERTY array
• Scattered instances of bad key placement
• Backlighting only illuminates key edges