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Saitek Cyborg Command Unit review: Saitek Cyborg Command Unit

Saitek Cyborg Command Unit

Will Greenwald
4 min read

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.


Saitek Cyborg Command Unit

The Good

Flexible configuration for shooters, strategy, and role-playing games; handy analog thumb stick; colorful backlighting; adjustable ergonomics.

The Bad

Command profiles must be reloaded every time the computer is restarted or the pad is plugged in; for right-handed users only.

The Bottom Line

Eminently configurable keys and a surprisingly useful analog stick make the Cyborg Command Unit one of the nicer gaming pads we've seen, but it's still a matter of personal taste whether it can or should replace your keyboard.

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.

Like virtually all half-keyboard game pads, the Cyborg is strictly for users who use their mouse with their right hand and the WASD game keys with their left hand (the natural layout for right-handed users). Unfortunately, southpaw gamers who handle their mouse with their left hand will find the Cyborg extremely uncomfortable, and half of its buttons nearly useless without a quadruple-jointed pinky finger.

The Saitek Cyborg Command Unit offers a good amount of flexibility and some colorful flair to your PC gaming setup. Its on-the-fly, three-profile switch and analog thumb stick make it a bit more useful as a gaming tool than simpler designs. Unfortunately, its software feels cumbersome, and you have to manually reload your profile every time your start your computer.

We compared the Saitek Cyborg Command Unit head-to-head with the very similar Belkin Nostromo n52te. Both the Belkin and Saitek pads work great for most PC games, but they're best suited for different genres. The Belkin n52te works better for first-person shooters and more twitch-based action games, with its short key throws, responsive feel, and digital direction pad. The Saitek Cyborg Command Unit's greater key count and customizable analog control stick makes it better for massively multiplayer games such as World of Warcraft and real-time strategy games such as Supreme Commander.

If you already have a good gaming keyboard, or simply feel comfortable gaming with your current keyboard, you might not want either pad. While their customizable controls and ergonomic designs are great, these pads seem superfluous when placed next to a gaming keyboard like the Razer Tarantula or Microsoft Reclusa. On the other hand, if you have a notebook computer with flatter, less responsive keys, a smaller pad such as the Saitek may well be a useful addition to your accessories list.


Saitek Cyborg Command Unit

Score Breakdown

Setup 6Features 7Support 7