Good gaming keyboards generally come with a price tag to scare you away at 50 paces. And, let’s face it, the £49.99 cost of the latest Microsoft Sidewinder X4 is sure to have the same effect on some. That said, it’s quite a conservative asking price by recent standards, and to be fair, it’s really not a bad keyboard either.
Firstly, it’s wonderfully old-fashioned to type with. The keys have a fair amount of travel, and there’s the satisfying clunk of keyboards of yesteryear (it really feels like one at times, too). It’s also quite wide, and this makes it a really nice keyboard just for day-to-day work. It’s comfortable to type on, and we were perfectly content using it for long periods of time.
Still, that’s not what most people will be buying the Sidewinder X4 for, and it has a variety of features that will endear it to gamers specifically. Anti-ghosting measures for starters, which basically means that should you end up pressing lots of keys at once, they won’t cancel each other out. You can press up to 26 keys simultaneously, which is more than ample; we can’t imagine many scenarios where that wouldn’t be entirely sufficient.
The further gaming features arrive in the shape of the macro option. There are six macro activation buttons on the keyboard, that can be cycled through three settings. These are easy enough to record, and basically it means that actions you repeat in a game can be activated at the touch of a button. It’s simple, too, to cycle through the various settings to activate another layer of macros.
The effectiveness of the macros is a bit take-it-or-leave-it (they work, it’s just whether they’ll be useful to you or not), but the customisation can’t be faulted. Load up the software that comes with the keyboard, and you can tune it to your heart’s content. The media keys are ripe for being remapped, for instance, and with a little work it can be moulded easily to your wishes. Even the seemingly-now-obligatory backlighting is alterable with little trouble.
So what are the downsides? It works better as an everyday keyboard than a gaming one, arguably, although there’s no faulting the response time. Furthermore, we’d have ideally liked to see – certainly on a premium keyboard – a through USB-port mounted in there somewhere.
But ultimately it’s a better than average device at a comparably decent price. It’s not the best gaming keyboard you’ll find, perhaps, but it’s a solid compromise and a thoughtful one at that. Plus, ultimately, it remains very comfortable to work with, and that shouldn’t be overlooked.