Skip to main content

Review: Microsoft SideWinder X4 Keyboard

Ghost In The Machine?

 When it comes to computer peripherals, there are two schools of thought: moot features are unimportant, and moot features are the most important. Microsoft released its powerful and well-received SideWinder X6 gaming keyboard last year. That keyboard is by no means a traditional gaming keyboard. A removable number pad, thirty programmable keys with three different profiles, full media controls, and excellent marks make it an exceptional piece of hardware.

That’s why the X4 comes as a confusing surprise. Coming on the heels of the X6’s success, it’s both a lower-numbered device--indicating it’s somehow a lesser product--and lacks so many features that the X6 has. So, why did Microsoft bother?

As Alice Cooper wrote, it’s the little things. The X4 has one distinctive feature you won’t find on most keyboards, gaming or otherwise: anti-ghosting. Ghosting on a keyboard is the effect you get when you push several keys simultaneously, but one or more keys doesn’t register. This occurs differently on every keyboard design, though with most of today’s gaming keyboards, the focus occurs near a small, select group of keys: WASD, shift and control, the number pad, and the arrow keys.

Why? Those are the keys gamers use, often at the same time. But even then, no two models are alike. Some keyboards only allow pressing two arrow keys together, and pressing a third won’t do anything. The keystroke will go unregistered--a “ghost” in the system. The X4 does away with that, to a point. The question is, how many simultaneous keystrokes will this keyboard actually register?