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Microsoft Sidewinder X4 Keyboard Review

Microsoft Sidewinder X4 Gaming Keyboard

Manufacturer: Microsoft
UK Price (as reviewed): £33.99 (inc. VAT)
US Price (as reviewed): $59.99 (ex.Tax)

While you might spend a fortune on the hardware inside your PC, the way you interact with it is just as important as silky smooth frame rates; it pays to equip yourself with a decent keyboard.

The Microsoft Sidewinder X4 is the latest contender to vie for position on your real-world desktop, with Microsoft offering a leaner, more stripped down offering than the oversized and pointlessly over-featured Sidewinder X6.

The X4 initially looks much better than its predecessor, with a standard layout complete with a numpad permanently attached on the right. The keyboard’s main body is made from a glossy black plastic that looks great, and while it does attract errant finger prints, the frame is very tough and withstood a thorough rage-quit battering at the hands of the bit-tech staff.

Microsoft Sidewinder X4 Keyboard Review Microsoft Sidewinder X4 Keyboard Review
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The keys are well made and comfortable, with a pleasant action and springiness. Microsoft has seen fit to not mess about with the conventional QWERTY layout either, so the Enter and Backspace keys are as they should be, and there’s a full battery of keys above the cursor keys. There have been small tweaks to the conventional keyboard layout though, with the F-keys reduced in size in order to make way for the chunky media and control keys perched along the keyboard’s top edge. However, all the F-keys are still easily reached.

These control and media keys, as well as including the usual play, pause and skip buttons, also include a backlight control key, with the X4 exuding three different levels of subtle red glow from beneath its keys (or none, if you prefer your keyboards without The Fast and the Furious-style lighting). The backlight is perhaps a bit too subtle though, and in daylight it’s hard to see that the X4 is backlit at all, even at full illumination. In its native darkly lit room though, we have to admit that the X4 looks great.

While the X4 has dropped some of the superfluous keys of the X6, such as Cruise Control, it retains six macro keys down the left hand side, with the ability to have three macros set to each key via a macro switching key above. Recording macros is simple to do, and you can edit and tweak them in the supplied software should you wish to perform superhuman feats of key pressing effortlessly.

Microsoft Sidewinder X4 Keyboard Review
Click to enlarge

The keyboard also boasts new anti-ghosting technology, the latest buzz word in the world of gaming keyboards. The anti-ghosting of this keyboard allows you to simultaneously press up to 26 keys should you be a multi fingered mutant or possess extremely dexterous toes. It might sound like an odd feature to shout about, but the previous X6 suffered from being unable to interpret the press of four keys simultaneously – an action not too uncommon in many online shooters should you need to move, strafe, crouch and throw a grenade at the same time. We thoroughly tested the X4, and can report that for the ten-fingered amongst us, the anti-ghosting tech works great.

Conclusion

So, solid build quality, some nice features and even some backlighting for that pro-gamer street cred; the Sidewinder X4 is undoubtedly a big improvement over the muddled, oversized and overly complicated Sidewinder X6. Following two weeks of daily use for both typing and gaming, it’s performed commendably and comfortably.

While the gaming keyboard market is one already swollen with competition, the X4 also handles itself well when it comes to price. At £34, it’s admittedly a little more expensive than the similarly capable Logitech G11 (which costs £26) but this still positions the X4 towards the more affordable end of the market, where superfluous extra features such as LED screens or integrated game pads are rare. With our favoured Saitek Eclipse 2 now disappearing from shelves in favour of the less impressive Eclipse 3, this leaves the X4 and the G11 the best choices for a well featured gaming keyboard below £40.

It might have taken Microsoft a few tries, but the Sidewinder X4 is an all round excellent offering. Smart looks, good build quality and some useful features make it a great choice for those looking for a solid and affordable keyboard for gaming.

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Microsoft Sidewinder X4 Keyboard Review

Microsoft Sidewinder X4 Gaming Keyboard

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