To start off let’s remind ourselves of the official features from the marketing blurb:
- WASD, cursor, ‘Cyborg’ and NumPad key lighting can be independently controlled to highlight commonly used gaming keys
- Touch-sensitive, backlit dashboard control panel including Media Controls
- Multi-colour backlighting with Tru-Vu illumination through keys (mix shades from Res through Amber to Green) and adjustable brightness
- Cyborg mode – instantly disable the Windows keys and configure the colour and brightness of your gaming keys at the touch of a button
- Set and forget – persistent key illumination settings ensure colours remain even after a system reboot
- Enhanced multiple keypresses in gaming areas for complex in-game commands
- Gold-plated connectors for USB and audio
- 12 programmable ‘Cyborg’ keys
- Hard-wearing metal-plated key caps in key gaming areas
- Adjustable wrist-rest and keyboard rake angle (front and back)
- Pass-through USB, audio and microphone sockets
That’s quite a list! So let’s open the box and take a closer look.
The Saitek Cyborg keyboard comes in a large, well presented box. Inside the box you will find:
- Saitek Cyborg keyboard
- Detachable wrist rest
- Drivers CD
- Installation Guide
Upon removing the keyboard from the box I was immediately struck by how heavy it is. The Cyborg weighs a hefty 1.5kg which gives it an air of solid build quality. The case is made of good plastic, which feels thicker than the case in Saitek’s other keyboard, the Eclipse II. This helps reinforce the impression of quality, which is further backed up by the feel of the keys, which are light to press without being too light.
The Saitek Cyborg keyboard is also quite large and will require a fair bit of space on your desk – 54 x 26 cms to be precise. The wrist rest can be detached, reducing the depth of the keyboard to 19 cms.
Setting up the keyboard is a piece of cake, as most of the functions work without the need to install the driver software.
Find the USB connector labelled ‘KBD’ (more about the connections later) and plug it into a spare USB slot on your PC. The keyboard is now up and running, the only functionality missing being the programmable Cyborg keys and the onboard volume indicator. The lighting and media keys all work without the drivers.
Installing the drivers and Saitek’s SST software (for programming the keys) is straightforward and only takes a couple of minutes.
The lighting is one of the Cyborg’s biggest selling points and is controlled from the touch-sensitive panel at the top of the keyboard. It works in two modes, ‘normal’ mode or ‘Cyborg’ mode, that are toggled by pressing on the face icon, which when half-lit means the keyboard is in normal mode and when fully lit it’s in Cyborg mode.
Cyborg mode gives greater control over the lighting, as well as disabling the Windows key to stop you accidentally hitting it in the middle of a game.
In both modes the LED backlighting can be changed to one of five colours, ranging from red, through orange, yellow, yellowy-green to bright green. The brightness can be adjusted as well, from completely off to a nice bright glow. The backlighting shows through all of the laser-etched keys, as well as in the gaps between the keys. It also lights up the labels for the Cyborg keys on both sides of the keyboard.
The cleverest part of the lighting is that in Cyborg mode different zones of the keyboard can be independently lit up in different colours and brightness levels. There are five lighting zones:
- Cyborg key labels
- WASD keys
- Arrow keys
- Numeric keypad
- All other keys (the main area of the keyboard)
To change the lighting it’s a simple case of pressing the corresponding area on the touch panel and then cycling through the colour and brightness options. The keyboard remembers your settings even if you unplug it, so you can keep your favourite colour scheme. Check out the lighting in action:
The backlighting is bright enough, but there is a lot of colour bleed between the areas of the keyboard if you have adjacent zones in different colours. Also, the consistency of the lighting isn’t perfect, with a few slightly duller areas. That’s only really obvious when the room is completely dark.
Also, the choice of colours isn’t great. There’s very little difference as you move through each of the five shades of colours, with little contrast between red and orange, orange and yellow etc. I think the colour scheme would have benefited from having just the three primary colours – red, yellow and green, with the addition of blue as seen on Saitek’s Eclipse II.
The touch panel is also a bit hit-and-miss in its responses. Most of the time it worked great, but occasionally I pressed a button and it failed to respond, even though I was sure I’d applied enough pressure in the right are of the touch-panel. Also, the glossy surface of the touch-panel is prone to showing fingerprints!
So having looked at the Saitek Cyborg’s lighting, now let’s look at the other big gaming feature, the programmable Cyborg keys (or C-keys).
There are twelve C-keys in total, six down each side of the keyboard, and their functions are decided by the setup in the driver software. The keys don’t do anything at all until you’ve programmed so its important that you install Saitek’s SST software, which is included on the CD.
The software is a powerful utility that allows you to define complex series of keystrokes with timing information, meaning you can recreate in-game actions in the software and trigger them with just a single press of a C-key. This is a great feature for MMO and RTS games, allowing you to string a series of commands/attacks/spells/potions together into one simple button press.
One particularly useful feature of the SST software is that it allows multiple profiles to be defined, so you can set the C-keys up for each of your favourite games. You then click on the icon on the Windows taskbar to toggle between your profiles. But why stop at games? The macros are flexible enough to allow you to program your favourite tasks from your Windows environment, so you could launch all of your favourite applications from their own C-key.
The Cyborg keys are a great feature and really do make this a proper gamer’s keyboard.
The Cyborg cable includes two USB connections as well as headphone and microphone jacks, all gold plated. One of the USB connectors is for the keyboard itself, the other is for a USB extension on the back of the keyboard. Just plug the second USB connector into a spare socket on your PC and you’ll then be able to use the USB extension socket on the keyboard.
Likewise, if you want to route your headphones and microphone through the keyboard you just plug the Cyborg’s leads into the appropriate sockets on your PC soundcard and then plug your headphones and microphone directly into the keyboard. This makes the routing of your cables that little bit easier.
Another unique feature of the Saitek Cyborg is its metal keys. Saitek claim that the key gaming buttons have ‘hard-wearing, metal-plated key caps’, although this only includes the four arrow keys, the WASD keys and the space bar. Also, don’t think that the keys themselves are metal, they’re just plastic keys that have been metal-coated.
Only extended time and use will tell us whether they will wear better than normal keys, but their shiny silver surface does look good.
In everyday use the Saitek Cyborg makes a fine keyboard. The keys are comfortable to use, the wrist rest is OK (but sadly no padding) and the keyboard has two different incline positions (as well as flat), so getting comfortable is easy.
The same extends to gaming. Being a standard keyboard it’s easy to get used to the layout of the keys, but you’re obviously missing out on the benefits of a gaming-specific layout of a keypad. The C-keys are effective and easy to use, and provided you can remember which key does what
The Saitek Cyborg Keyboard is a great keyboard, both for normal use and for gaming. The LED lighting will be dismissed by some as a gimmick, but in a dark room it really does work and makes’ this keyboard stand out from the crowd. The best aspect of the keyboard, as far as gamers are concerned, is the set of programmable Cyborg keys. This is not a new feature in the gaming keyboard market, but Saitek have done a good job and provide powerful software to program the keys.
Comparisons with other gaming keyboards are inevitable. At an RRP of £59.99 the Saitek Cyborg is priced right in-between the Razer Lycosa (£69.99 RRP) and Logitech G11 (£49.99 RRP). These are both great gaming keyboards and the Cyborg makes a good argument for itself. While less stylish then the Razer Lycosa the Cyborg is a better gaming keyboard, particularly at £10 less, but is it better than the Logitech G11? That depends on how much you want that trick lighting – in every other respect the G11 and the Cyborg are very evenly matched, but if you’re happy to pay an additional £10 for some fancy coloured keys then you won’t be disappointed at choosing the Cyborg over the G11.
The Saitek Cyborg keyboard is highly recommended. It’s a quality keyboard at a competitive price that brings more than a splash of colour to the otherwise slightly bland gaming keyboard market.
As stated previously my Cyborg was ordered from Play.com for £49.99. Apart from a lack of information regarding the delays, Play.com have always offered a faultless service and very competitive prices. The price you see is the price you pay, delivery included. I’ve been buying from them for years and never had a problem and can wholeheartedly recommend them.
Other places include the more obvious choices, such as Amazon UK or Amazon US but don’t forget eBay is always worth a try for cheap new hardware. Just watch out for cheeky sellers charging excessive amounts for post and packing.