Wolf King Warrior Gaming Pad Review

hardnrg - 2008-01-25 13:34:08 in Input Devices
Category: Input Devices
Reviewed by: hardnrg   
Reviewed on: February 17, 2008
Price: $25.99 - 45.92

Introduction:

WolfKing is a relatively new company that produces peripherals designed for gaming. Each product is designed with gaming in mind, primarily for the FPS genre, but also for RPG and other genres. The company recognises that although many genres of games have evolved to a point where there is so much going on that it makes it harder to control and precisely manoeuvre whilst playing, the input devices of PC gamers has remained much the same from a relative standpoint. WolfKing strives to take PC gaming input devices to the next level and create peripherals that can be used in place of, and in tandem with, the traditional keyboard and mouse setup.

As well as the 2200 DPI Trooper laser gaming mouse, WolfKing produces two full keyboards that are optimised for gaming, the Timberwolf, and the Warrior XXtreme. Both these keyboards feature a circular section designed for the left hand. This section is available by itself, and is called the WolfKing Warrior. This left-hand gaming keyboard is what I will be taking a look at in this review.

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Closer Look:

The front of the box is very striking, with loud, bold colours and a menacing picture of a wolf soldier. This instantly makes me think of the movie Dog Soldiers, a comedy/horror featuring werewolfs and soldiers, it's pretty bad in a funny way. Let's hope the keyboard isn't.

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Round to the back of the box, and you have a list of the main features of the keyboard, and the OS compatibility.

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Closer Look:

So all you get in the box is the keyboard itself. It has a USB cable attached to it that is about 1.8 metres (6 feet) long, and the keyboard itself is 223 mm (8.75") wide by 208 mm (8.25") deep. The Warrior is available in a range of colors: black, white, red, green, and blue. Obviously, this is the red version.

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If you have played any first person (or third person) shooter games, you will understand the choice of the keys on the Warrior gaming pad. All the keys that you would use with your left hand are arranged in an optimized layout which is a variation on a standard keyboard. QWER, ASDF, and ZXC are in the same positions, but without the traditional slanted, offset positioning of a regular keyboard. The remaining keys are in different positions that are intended to be easier to reach using your left hand, so that the usual stretching to the right side of a standard keyboard, for example, pressing the zero key, is minimised or eliminated. Also the Shift and Ctrl buttons are positioned in a place that is a lot more comfortable and natural feeling to use while gaming. This optimised ergonomic key positioning is a key point that WolfKing makes about this gaming pad and its other gaming keyboards. It is essentially the entire point of WolfKing's keyboard series.

So the Warrior has all the left-hand keys and the most common right-hand keys on the main section of the gaming pad. There are three left-hand keys omitted from the Warrior. It doesn't have a CapsLock key, which is seldom used in games, and the Windows key, which usually annoys you by switching from the game to the desktop to show you the Start Menu! The final left-hand key missing on the Warrior is the V key. The only time I can think when I would use V is for issuing preset voice commands in Unreal Tournament. You could easily keybind voice commands to another key, like (the letter) O. On the side, there are three silver keys, the Escape key, and Volume+ and Volume-. This makes it easy to skip to the game menu whilst playing, and turn the sound up or down without leaving the game. Above these buttons is a red LED that lights up when the keyboard is plugged into a USB port.

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On the bottom of the keyboard, there are four circular rubber feet that act as a non-slip measure to keep the Warrior in place on your desk/table/workstation. There is also a rubber strip near the front edge that stops the Warrior slipping around when using the pad with the rear height adjusting legs.

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Like a regular keyboard, the rear adjusting legs flip out so that the Warrior is angled towards you slightly, so you can choose which is more comfortable according to your preference.

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The keys themselves feel a bit spongey, and the some of the larger keys (large Ctrl, Z, X, C, Alt, (the letter) O, B, and K) presented slightly more resistance when pressed on one side of the key. The Space bar has equal resistance over the entire area of the key. I noticed quite quickly that the key travel (the amount the keys need to be pushed down) is shorter than a regular keyboard. My Cherry CyMotion Expert has a modest 4.5mm of travel, but the Warrior has an even shorter travel of just 3mm. Something that bothered me a little was the size of the number keys from 5 to 9. They seem a bit on the small size, even for my long, thin, Skeletor fingers. I also am not too keen on the Function keys, F1 to F12, being placed right up against the number keys. If the Function keys themselves weren't so thin, it wouldn't be so bad, but because they are so small, it makes it difficult to press the Function keys without feeling like I'm going to also press the number key below it.

On the whole, the keyboard feels solid and doesn't flex when twisted, so it would have no problem being stashed in a bag to take with you to LAN parties or round to a mate's house for a night of gaming. Because WolfKing have designed the Warrior to be portable, I would have liked to see some sort of fabric or nylon bag to carry the keyboard in for travelling. It wouldn't have to be anything special, just something to keep it clean and stop other things interfering with the keys if it was placed in a bag with other items.

So there is no CD or manual in the box? Yes, that's right, you don't need any drivers or software, and the keys work like a regular keyboard's keys, so you don't have to program anything in. How do you install something that requires no installation? Let me show you.

 

Installation:

The actual hardware installation is literally a no-brainer. Just connect the Warrior gaming pad to an available USB port.

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Configuration:

When you've connected the Warrior, Windows will work its magic and automatically recognise the new keyboard device and add it to the list of input devices.

Here is the Device Manager before I connect the Warrior. The USB Human Interface Device is my Logitech MX518 mouse, and the Standard 101/102-Key or Microsoft Natural PS/2 Keyboard is my Cherry CyMotion Expert keyboard.

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On connecting the Warrior, several new items appear in the Device Manager. Four new HID components, and a new HID Keyboard device.

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Congratulations, you just installed the gaming keyboard! Pretty easy eh? And so it should be. The WolfKing Warrior is now ready to use.

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Specifications:

The WolfKing Warrior does not have any specifications. Refer back to the Closer Look section for details of its dimensions and the USB cable length.

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Features:

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Testing:

The only way to test the Warrior is to use it in place of a regular keyboard when gaming. This way I can see what is better than, and if anything is worse than, a standard keyboard.

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Testing Setup:

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Game Tests:

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I have my keyboard and mouse in the normal position, and the Warrior on the left side of my keyboard. This makes a more natural position of my arms to each side rather than my right arm to the side and the left arm sort of central when using my keyboard. I found it more comfortable to use the Warrior with the rear adjusting legs in the raised position, and I was pleased to find that the Warrior did not slip around in either position.

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Crysis

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Ok, so I fired up my favorite game at the moment, Crysis, and looked through the default keyboard set-up to find some of the default key assignments are for keys that are not available on the Warrior.

Using a high-tech pen and paper I wrote down all the letters from A to Z and put a mark next to the letters that were bound in Crysis. Then I checked off the keys that were available on the Warrior, circled the keys that were not available, and put an arrow next to the keys that were not bound in the game but available on the Warrior.

Keys bound in Crysis but not available on the Warrior:

Keys not bound in Crysis but available (spare) on the Warrior:

The chat controls, U and Y, are for typed in-game chat communication. So you would use your regular keyboard for that, they are not a problem, so you can leave them alone.

You can access the suit menu with middle mouse, so you would probably just leave that alone too. That still leaves you with the first four keys to bind to something else but, as you can see from the list of available (spare) keys on the Warrior, you have plenty of options for rebinding.

You might be wondering why there are two Ctrl buttons. I tried rebinding a control to each Ctrl key, and they both showed up as "Left Ctrl". I guess it just gives you an alternative position. I much preferred the small Ctrl button below the Shift key, it was easier to reach with my little finger, and was also in a familiar relative position to the Shift key.

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Unreal Tournament 3

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Having gone through the keybinding process on Crysis, I had my pen and paper at hand for UT3, and set to jotting down the default key assignments. I noticed the Tilde key (usually above the Tab key on a regular keyboard) wasn't listed on the in-game key configuration menu, and because this is usually the console key, I double checked the config files in the UT3 folders.

Keys bound in UT3 but not available on the Warrior:

Keys not bound in UT3 but available (spare) on the Warrior:

For some reason, the default keybind for console is F10 instead of the usual Tilde. You can easily change this in the config files, but if you're like me, you'd press the Tilde key of your regular keyboard and then type whatever you need to, rather than press Tilde on the Warrior (because you can't really type on half a keyboard).

Once I started playing, I really noticed the short key travel of the Warrior because UT3 is a much faster-paced FPS game than Crysis. It gave me a hair-trigger response that is perfect for the fast action of the Unreal Tournament series. Being able to strafe and dodge really quickly can easily be the difference between "OMG I PWN" and "OMG I SUX" in this game, and the Warrior really won me over in UT3 whereas in Crysis I wasn't totally convinced.

The relocation of many keys on the Warrior is a bit of a double-edged sword. The Shift and Ctrl keys, you just can't understand how great it is to have these keys relocated unless you play a game with the Warrior under your hand. It's almost enough of a reason alone to make me want to use the Warrior! The other keys that are in similar positions are easier to reach, it's nice to be able to consider the numbers 6, 7, 8, 9, and 0 for keybinding, as they'd usually be way over on the right side of the keyboard. The problem I had was for keys that are in completely different places, like M, N, H, and K. I felt myself looking at the Warrior to see where the keys were, something I find strange since I touch type, and also am used to the relative positions of the keys when my left hand is in the WASD position. It would just take a bit of getting used to in order to train yourself where the new positions are.

All the main keys I use in both games are in the same place. Chat keys, which are bound to Y and U (or T) by default in both games, I would use with my full keyboard, and the remaining actions are not really important, so I can just bind them to whatever and not be overly worried about having to learn a new position for those actions.

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Conclusion:

I didn't really realize how good the Warrior Gaming Pad was until I played a Deathmatch game in Unreal Tournament 3. For this twitchy, itchy trigger finger style of play, the Warrior proved itself to be a worthy gaming peripheral, offering a very quick response and increased comfort. In Crysis, I felt the comfort instantly, but the game is not quite as demanding as Unreal Tournament 3 for movement, so I didn't notice the advantage of the Warrior's shorter key travel compared to my regular keyboard.

The Warrior didn't budge either in the flat or raised positions, and feels solid enough to take with you without the need for a hard protective case or box, but it would have been nice to see some sort of carrying bag or pouch to keep the Warrior inside during transport. You don't actually get anything in the box apart from the Warrior keyboard itself, but this is a good thing. There are no drivers, and no daft software to configure or reprogram the keys, it's just plug and play (that really works).

The only real downside is that you will have to relearn the position of some of the keys that have been relocated to totally different positions (e.g. K). The keys that are in "odd" positions are normally secondary game actions so it won't be a big issue to begin with, and then will gradually become a non-issue once you've become accustomed to the new layout.

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Pros:

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Cons:

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