SlashGear Review - Wolfking Warrior XXtreme Gaming Keyboard

Gamers are used, by now, to manufacturers telling them they need a specific keyboard in order to unlock their maximum play potential.  Sometimes that means colored keys, other times it's easy to program macros, and occasionally – as in the case of the Wolfking Warrior XXtreme we're looking at today – it's a whole new layout.  Like other ergonomic 'boards, the Warrior XXtreme promises its alternative key arrangement helps your fingers work faster; more specifically, though, it's aimed at keen FPS, RPG and RTS gamers.

In a way, you're actually getting two keyboards for your money.  While at first glance it looks as though Wolfking have split the keyboard across two circular halves, in actual fact there's a full alphabet on each side.  That makes for a big device, with the XXtreme basically the size of a standard keyboard rather than a gamepad.  You'll still want to keep your QWERTY 'board, though, since the right-hand side, although laid out straight rather than the curved left group, isn't standard QWERTY layout.  Yes, you can type, but you wouldn't want to attempt anything more challenging than a brief IM message.

Extra functionality includes two USB ports, dedicated communicator buttons for in-game chatting with fellow players and volume buttons.  Wolfking describe the keys themselves as "specially weighted" and as using a 3-layer silicon membrane to keep them quiet; in practise, they feel like a pretty standard keyboard, perhaps a little stiffer.

Of course, it's intended for gaming, and so we set about testing it with a variety of titles and, thanks to some passing friends, a variety of gamers.  Wolfking don't provide any custom mapping or macro software with the Warrior XXtreme, it plugs in with a single USB and shows up as a normal keyboard, so if you want to change which button does what you'll need to do it within the game itself.  That's not too much hassle, but the absence of macros seems a missed opportunity. 

Opinion among our impromptu gamers was, like the XXtreme itself, split.  The left side garnered the most fans, with several people recognising that the larger commonly-used keys and more compact layout meant their hand wasn't moving as much.  The blue back-lighting, initially dismissed as a gimmick, proved more useful as time went on and the room got darker.  However the right side of the XXtreme was less popular, being set up for neither typists nor gamers.  Here's where some decent macro support could've come in useful, with a dedicated bank of shortcut keys, but instead just about everyone avoided the area and instead kept a hand on the mouse.

Frankly, though, you could look beyond the negative comments about the right half and keep the Warrior XXtreme for its useful left-hand side.  At least, you could if it wasn't for the fact that the XXtreme is an extended version of a keyboard Wolfking already make, the plain Warrior, which consists of solely the ergonomic left layout in a smaller, cheaper device.

With the original Warrior costing less than half the price of this new 'board, it's tough to recommend the XXtreme.  You can certainly see where Wolfking were coming from - take a popular product and augment it with more key options – but they only did half the job; the rest should've been giving us a programmable macro board of shortcuts rather than a butchered standard keyboard.  The Warrior XXtreme gets two gears out of five, for its successful half, but loses the other points simply because it's more money than you need pay for the best of its functionality.

The Wolfking Warrior XXtreme gaming keyboard is available now, priced at $79.99.

[rating: 2]