Wolfking WARRIOR XXTREME Gamepad/Keyboard Review

Sagittaria - 2008-03-19 17:09:39 in Input Devices
Category: Input Devices
Reviewed by: Sagittaria   
Reviewed on: April 27, 2008
Price: $79.99


Everyone - and I mean everyone - wants to dominate their friends at some computer game, whether it's an FPS or an RPG. So what's wrong with getting some extra help from a specially designed keyboard? After all, the standard computer keyboard wasn't exactly designed with video games in mind. Now, with computer gaming more popular than ever, Wolfking has released specially designed keyboards with very different key layouts, to aid game play by allowing for quicker response times.

So, today I have the pleasure of reviewing a Wolfking WARRIOR XXTREME gamepad, an improved version of the original WARRIOR. This remodel is touted to have expanded capabilities, and is aimed at players of both First Person Shooters and Role Playing Games. I was pretty surprised when I heard about the updated WARRIOR XXTREME - it's not every day that you see a compact, backlit, shiny gamepad with the keys arranged in two circles. I was somewhat confused and impressed at the same time, as the WARRIOR XXTREME seemed rather hard-core just to get slightly better response times. So, will it actually help my gameplay?


Closer Look:

Here's the box I picked up, and I have to admit I was a little bewildered - after all, I've never heard of such a thing. However, the box does a good job of explaining what the WARRIOR XXTREME does.









I slipped the board out of its fancy box, and found a short manual. The keyboard was encased in a heavy plastic clamshell, inside small holding box.



When I first picked up the WARRIOR XXTREME gamepad, I was surprised at how solid and heavy it felt, despite its slim profile. I simply don't often find that kind of construction in any keyboard, even high end ones. This gamepad does not flex or warp - perfect for all those rough gamers. The outside of the keyboard is covered in rubber, while the surface sports a high-gloss paint job. The keys are matte, and are a cross between laptop and full-size desktop keys - a good cross between portability and usability. The upper buttons offer volume control, a Windows button, and a backlight switch that glistens like shiny chrome. Also in this key group is a K-Lock, which is designed to lock the "push to talk" key in games, and allows for continuous communication while gaming - very cool.

Now, my biggest concern is how the keys are arranged. The W,A,S, and D keys for movement are conveniently centered and enlarged in the left circle, with various other special keys commonly used in games arranged around them. The numerical keys outline the left keypad, and are used to change weapons or items in almost all games. There are two space bars - blank keys - on the left side, which are used by your thumb in games. The second space bar is in the center, to aid in typing. The right side includes all the standard typing keys, so a gamer can actually type with it. The left keypad's arrangement is copied from the original WARRIOR, while the right keypad's design is new, and offers more keys and single-handed text entry.



The underside of the keyboard has some strong stands and rubber grips, and I also noticed two USB ports on the top right of the WARRIOR XXTREME - a cool touch. I unwound the cable and found the cord was much longer than I expected - very nice! Again, the keyboard is backlit - brighter than I was expecting, but evenly spread and strong. The updated WARRIOR looks pretty good!




This WARRIOR XXTREME requires no special software or drivers, as it's basically a standard USB keyboard with rearranged keys. All I have to do is plug it in into a USB port, and Windows will take care of the rest with Plug and Play.
















Since Windows installs the keyboard automatically, I can concentrate on more pressing matters. The keys on the WARRIOR XXTREME are laid out according to the most common arrangements used in games. Of course, some oddball video games do not utilize the standard keys, so some tweaking may be needed - all based on your taste. These keys can be changed in almost all games, via the Options menu. For example, I fired up Team Fortress 2 to see if I needed any keys changed, and because the WARRIOR XXTREME is also an RPG keyboard, I fired up Eve Online and took a look at the controls.


The default settings seemed to fit my needs perfectly, so no changes were necessary - for now that is. Let's see how it feels.






The Wolfking WARRIOR XXTREME is designed for heavy duty gaming, so I'll throw everything I've got at it, by playing Team Fortress 2 - a fast-paced First Person Shooter, and Eve Online - a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game. I'll also throw in a little bit of text-based game chat, since this gamepad has an entire section of keys devoted to typing.


Testing Setup:


After playing with the WARRIOR XXTREME for a couple days, I can say that I was definitely overwhelmed when I first played Team Fortress 2. After 45 minutes, I began to get a pretty good feel for the layout of the keyboard, though it was still slightly awkward. For example, getting to some of the keys on the left hand side - like Control and Shift - actually became a workout! My ring and pinky fingers had to travel much farther than on a standard keyboard from the W, A, S, and D keys. I soon got used to it, after a little trial and error.

So, first off - did the gamepad help? Yes, it actually did when I played Team Fortress 2. I felt a small, but noticeable difference in terms of response time. The keys on the WARRIOR XXTREME are not as cramped as those on a standard keyboard, and followed the movement of my fingers much better. In Eve Online, the difference was not as drastic. Eve Online is not as fast paced as TF2, but even when I'm in the red, I just didn't see any real difference. On the whole, I believe the WARRIOR XXTREME performed much better than a regular keyboard - represented by the following graph.


I found the WARRIOR XXTREME's comfort factor to be mind-blowing. Again, the keys are set up according to the movements of your fingers - and I felt much more relaxed. I actually gamed for a couple of hours straight on through, with none of the soreness or stiffness in my fingers that's common when I'm using my standard keyboard.


I must describe a few of my experiences with the WARRIOR XXTREME gamepad - the good, and the not so good. I liked that the entire left side of the gamepad was copied straight from the original WARRIOR, which was a great keypad. However, this board has a larger, overlapping QWERTY arrangement of keys on the right side - and honestly, I did not find much use for it. I tried typing in-game, but found it extraordinarily difficult. I was literally hunting for keys in the middle of firefights - and eventually gave up a number of times and grabbed my normal keyboard. Outside of games, it was almost impossible to type for extended periods without yelling in frustration. Even if I actually learned where all the keys were located, I would still only be able to type with one finger.

I also discovered that the WARRIOR XXTREME's USB ports only support USB 1.1 transfer rates, which means that almost all modern USB devices will be capped at ridiculously slow speeds. This has been true for many of Wolfking's keyboards - including the Wolfking Timberwolf. I ran my Sandisk Cruzer Micro 2GB USB Flash drive from my motherboard's USB 2.0 port and compared those speeds with the results from the WARRIOR XXTREME. I used HD Tune to measure the transfer speed difference between USB 1.1 and 2.0, and the disparity was quite dramatic.



I honestly don't know what to make of the Wolfking WARRIOR XXTREME. On one hand - the WARRIOR XXTREME is extremely well built, backlit, and has the same awesome keypad as the original WARRIOR. It's comfortable, and improves my gaming by a fair margin, in terms of response time and overall gameplay. It's also easy to install, thanks to Plug and Play.

However, in reality, the XXTREME version of the WARRIOR just has an extra semi-full arrangement of keys added on the right-hand side, which are rather useless - as it's nearly impossible to type well using them. So, the WARRIOR XXTREME is larger than its predecessor, but to type effectively, you'll still need another full-size keyboard. Also, this gamepad also has a built-in USB hub - but like other Wolfking products, it's not USB 2.0 compliant. All in all, the extra keys are nice, but the WARRIOR XXTREME isn't exactly practical as a main keyboard, especially at its price point. So if you need a keypad that's capable of typing some game chat, and don't mind a steep learning curve or spending a bit more money - then go with the WARRIOR XXTREME. However, the rest of us will remain satisfied with the original, cheaper WARRIOR keypad, sitting alongside our regular keyboards.