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Platform(s): PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Genre: Hardware
Developer: IOGEAR
Release Date: March 20, 2017

About Brian Dumlao

After spending several years doing QA for games, I took the next logical step: critiquing them. Even though the Xbox One is my preferred weapon of choice, I'll play and review just about any game from any genre on any system.


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Hardware Review - 'KeyMander Keyboard and Mouse Adapter'

by Brian Dumlao on April 24, 2017 @ 1:30 a.m. PDT

The KeyMander is a gaming controller adapter that brings the unmatched speed and precision of a keyboard and mouse to console gaming.

Buy Keymander

In 2014, IOGear released its first version of the Keymander, a device that let console players use a keyboard and mouse instead of a gamepad to play games. Looking at the reviews of the product at the time, opinions were all over the place. Some liked the fact that the device let them live out their old PC days on their shiny new consoles. Others hated the fact that the mouse controls were inconsistent and felt worse than the sticks. IOGear seems to have taken that feedback into consideration, as it's released a newer version of the Keymander. It has the same product number as before but is in a pure cardboard package instead of see-through plastic. Intrigued, we put it through a battery of tests.

On the outside, the device remains mostly unchanged. The unit is completely metal, with rubber feet on the underside to prevent sliding. There's a good weight to the product, so it feels durable and hefty. The top features three LED indicator lights and a subdued image of a rifleman as well as the product's logo. One side features three full USB ports: one for the mouse, another for the keyboard, and one for the wired controller that'll be used to get past the system's security checks for controllers. The other side features mini-USB ports for device power (needed for programming the thing and for using keyboards that come with extra USB ports or a headphone jack), a connection to the console, and a connection to the PC. It also has a 3.5" jack for data use, but as of now, that functionality has been turned off.

While you'll generally be fine using the Keymander straight out of the box, plugging it to a Windows PC is best since there are a number of things to tweak. You can map out which mouse or keyboard buttons correspond to which buttons on the respective controllers. Mouse sensitivity and deadzone size can also be tweaked, and that section goes deeper since you can adjust curves to determine the speed of horizontal versus vertical movement based on your physical mouse movements. That sensitivity can also be separated from aiming, so you can have it so the mouse isn't sensitive to minute movements when using a sniper scope but is very sensitive at all other times. Macros can also be programmed, so multiple button presses can be executed with one key press, though that sort of thing is usually frowned upon if you're using this online. On top of that, you can save up to eight profiles in memory and switch between those profiles with the function keys. Unless your settings are wildly different between titles, you won't need to keep more than four profiles on the device, one for each supported system.

The configuration process is quite easy in terms of keyboard mapping, but  the mouse will give you the most trouble, as there are more factors involved that affect performance. Mice with lower DPI need their sensitivities and curves bumped up to compensate, while the opposite is true for mice with much higher DPI. Mice that come with variable DPI also need to be programmed with the desired DPI on the PC first before they're plugged in to the Keymaster, or they'll feel sluggish.

Using the downloadable program to configure the Keymander is the recommended way to tweak settings for your hardware. The process can be annoying if you only own a desktop that's located far away from your systems, since you need to go back and forth between devices to make a few tweaks. The process is better if you have a laptop or have your PC next to your consoles, since you can pass through commands on the fly. If you don't have a PC at all (Mac and Linux machines won't work with the software), you have the option to configure things on the fly, using the device's beeps to guide you through the process of key remapping and adjusting mouse sensitivity.

Once everything is configured to your liking, you'll find that the actual setup for console use is fairly easy. Hook up the device to one of the console's free USB ports via the Game connection and hook up the appropriate devices to their respective ports on the device. As far as controller compatibility goes, your stock controllers for the PS3, PS4, and Xbox One work best since you can easily transform them from wireless pads to wired ones with a USB cable. The only system that'll have issues is the Xbox 360, since it needs a wired controller for the Keymander to function. Considering how many people are using the stock wireless controller that came with the system and how the Play & Charge kit doesn't provide wired functionality to wireless controllers, it can be problematic for anyone who wants to use Keymander on Microsoft's previous-generation system.

Compatibility for the keyboard and mouse is also an issue, but only for those wanting to use wireless versions of those devices. IOGear had sent us their Kaliber Gaming wireless keyboard and mouse combo, and that worked fine, but there have been reports that other devices, such as the Logitech G602 wireless mouse, have been flaky when using it on the Keymander. Wired versions of these peripherals work better, and while it seems to work with just about any keyboard type, we couldn't test it on the more specialized stuff, like the Logitech G13 or Razer Orbweaver.

After all of that preamble, the question remains about whether the Keymander actually works as advertised, and the answer is a definitive yes. Keep in mind that if you've never played a shooter with keyboard and mouse controls, you'll have to face a learning curve before you're anywhere close to your skills with a dual-stick analog controller. However, those who were weaned on PC shooters will find that the accuracy gained is better than a controller but still a hair below a native PC game. Headshots are easier to pull off, and zipping from one target to another feels faster even when you consider the compensation via auto-aim. We tried this on a variety of titles, including Earth Defense Force 4.1, Killzone: Shadow Fall, Halo: The Master Chief Collection, Red Faction, and Tower of Guns,andall of them felt like the experience was improved. Granted, you'll need lots of tweaking to find the perfect mouse accuracy setting, and you will need to bump up the sensitivity in the game options to ensure that everything is performing at maximum levels, but seeing yourself get better aim and reactions to opponents makes all of that tweaking worthwhile.

The only drawbacks of the product have to do with its practicality. If you're going to be using this anywhere other than a desk, you'll need to engineer some kind of solution that doesn't make having a keyboard and mouse combo feel uncomfortable. That also means not being bothered by having lots of wires running all over the place, which was considered normal in the living room space two generations ago. Then there's cost. The Keymaster is $99, though it can be found for a little less if you shop around. If you don't already have a spare keyboard and mouse lying around or don't mind constantly unplugging the ones you use for your PC, there's some extra cost involved that can hover around $50 for standard keyboards and mice. The argument can be made that the cost for getting an improved experience is worth it, but cost-conscious gamers need not apply.

In the end, the Keymander brings versatility, one of the hallmarks of PC gaming, to the console space. It may be billed as a peripheral for first- and third-person shooters, and it excels in that spot, but it also acts as a means of giving players an extra control option that works well if you're willing to put in the work for it. It is pricey, but if you can make the setup work and if you're comfortable with the more traditional PC control scheme, you'll be fine with the Keymander.

Score: 8.0/10

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