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Name: X-Keys Desktop
Company: PI Engineering
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SLCentralHardwareReviewsPeripherals Jun 4th, 2020 - 4:16 PM EST
PI Engineering X-Keys Desktop
Author: Drew Lanclos
Date Posted: August 7th, 2001
Rating: 9/10 SystemLogistics

How it Quakes

The first testing I put this device through was with a standard host of games. The first one out I tried was Half-Life. Since Half-Life has five weapons categories with no more than four weapons per category, the 4x5 layout of the keys on the X-Keys pad was perfect for an immediate weapon selection. I was still kinda used to hitting the 1-5 keys and the mouse to select a weapon, but once I sat down to configure a script for the keypad to select each weapon I wanted, I found configuration to be rather easy. I assigned some of the extra keys for other functions, like tagging walls and activating/deactivating the flashlight. Simple stuff, really. Nothing I couldn't have done with the keyboard, although the layout lends itself better to some of the auxiliary functions. It would've been better if I had a place to map a logical set of keys for movement without the mouse, but I can use the arrow keys on the main keyboard for that.

The point is, the X-Keys provides an easy-to-use, tactile feedback mechanism that you don't quite get on the keyboard. With the sprawling number of keys on the keyboard, it's easy to get one key confused with another, but the 4x5 layout on the X-Keys provides one key for each of your fingers, save the thumb. Finding which row you're on is easy to do without looking, so the keypad is easily used in the heat of battle.

I also tried using the keypad in Quake III. Basically, what you end up having to do is to set up binding for keys so that you might, for instance, have the B key set to jump, the N key to look down, and the M key to fire your primary weapon (As well as MOUSE1). You could set the X-Keys in programming mode, hit N, B, 5 to change to the Rocket Launcher (That's how it is in my config), and M to fire. "But wait!" you say…"You have to wait until you're in the air before firing the rocket launcher!" Well, with the X-Keys, you can insert half-second pauses between keys using a special keyboard combination programmed by PI Engineering. You can insert as many pauses as your keytyping or macro requires. So, once you set this up properly, you can configure the X-Keys to perform a single-button maneuver that will jump you up in the air, look down, fire the rocket launcher at the peak of your leap, and send you hurtling through the skies.

Other applications that you may or may not find useful in your games are the ability to program functionality based on key depress and release. In other words, you can have the X-Keys perform a certain function whenever a key is depressed, and a different function when it's released. You can also enable repeating functionality for a key, so that a particular keypress repeats whenever you push that button.

The X-Keys can't totally replace aliasing, of course. Since the X-Keys has no way of knowing what weapon you were previously using, it can't be set up to automatically switch back to your railgun after rocket-jumping. Still, it does help to restore some of the functionality that aliases used to offer, and thus proves itself to be quite valuable. Plus, depending on the game you're playing, it's very small and easily portable. If you set it up with a key configuration for playing Age of Empires II, for instance, and go to a LAN party where that's all you'll be doing, then you can leave that clunky keyboard behind and just bring this smooth little device.

Initially, I was worried about the key-capacity of the device, but a quick test allayed my fears, as I was able to load a single X-Keys button with over 300 keypresses! Of course, this isn't scratching the surface, as you will notice on the next page.

>> Productivity Applications

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  1. Introduction/Configuration/Installation
  2. How It Quakes
  3. Productivity Applications
  4. Conclusion

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