Saitek may have been purchased by rival Mad Catz, but the company is still--for the time being, anyway--cranking out its own gaming accessories. Saitek's premium line of PC accessories has been rebranded "Cyborg," and in addition to the gaming-centric keyboard, mouse, gamepad, and headset, the line includes the Cyborg Command Unit, a controller that's essentially a mini keyboard based on the WASD keys used in most PC games. Except for the darker color scheme, the controller is nearly identical to its predecessor, the Pro Gamer Command Unit. It retails for $40.
Colorful lighting makes the Cyborg stand out and helps determine at a glance which mode it's using. The keys light up in green, yellow, or red, depending on the location of a handy mode slider that toggles between three custom presets. You can set green for regular Web browsing, yellow for massively multiplayer online games, and red or first-person shooter games, or switch them around to fit your own favorite colors and game types. Besides the backlit keys, a lighted red accent gives the pad even more distinguishing flair.
The pad features 21 keys, most of which are loosely laid out to reflect the left side of a standard QWERTY keyboard. The first 11 keys correspond to keyboards' Q-W-E-R-A-S-D-F-Z-X-C keys. The next three sit on the left side of those keys, offering additional use to the otherwise idle pinky. The next two keys sit under the thumb, next to the pad's analog stick. Four more keys sit above the main key cluster, corresponding with the F1, F2, F3, and F4 keys. Finally, a 21st key sits on the pad's wrist rest, just under the right side of where your palm rests.
There are other half-keyboard controllers on the market, such as the Belkin Nostromo n52te and the Wolfking Warrior. However, the Cyborg Command Unit holds one important distinction: instead of a direction pad or hat switch under the thumb, but the Cyborg uses an analog stick. Rather than just triggering four or eight directional signals, the stick maps to computers as if it was a joystick, giving thumbs a surprising amount of flexibility. The configuration software can even map the analog stick to mouse input, so you could feasibly play a first-person shooter one-handed, or browse Web sites without actually touching your mouse. It doesn't feel nearly as precise as a real mouse, but the analog stick still offers much more precision than a d-pad would.
The Cyborg uses Saitek's SST Programming Software to map functions to its keys. While the software is incredibly flexible, it's not nearly as intuitive or convenient as it could have been. On the one hand, you can assign nearly any keystroke or macro to the pad's 21 keys, and map the analog stick to mouse controls, directional keystrokes, and a variety of other commands. On the other hand, each key must be mapped manually for anything beyond the default WASD/directional functions, and saved to a profile that must be loaded manually every time you start your computer.