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More Than Keys for this Keyboard

Rather than going with push buttons, Microsoft went with dials for control of both the sound volume of your system and the brightness of the backlight in the X6 keyboard. Dials are good, but leaving out any additional USB or audio ports isn't all that good. Even though the SideWinder X6 is USB, it doesn't have any extra USB ports, which are a nice addition for swapping other peripherals like a mouse or USB flash drive.

Glow-in-the-Dark Layout

When it comes to key layout, the SideWinder X6 is fairly pedestrian, with very few surprises. Microsoft even went with a normal layout for the cluster of keys above the arrows (with Page Up, Page Down, etc), instead of the non-standard layout seen on many of their keyboards. There are only a few gripes, which can vary in annoyance from "need to get used to" to "experience breaking" depending on the user.

The first of those quirks is the position of the Esc key, which sits directly above the main bank of macro keys. This might take some adjustment for those used to the key being positioned above the ~ key, and may result in a lot of help file reading since you'll be accidentally hitting F1. The other issue is a little more noticeable, as it has to do with the length of the spacebar. Compared to many other keyboards, it's rather long. This means the lower section of the keyboard is cramped and can prevent you from using the Alt key depending on the size of your hands.

When the keyboard is powered, all the keys are lit up either one of two colours. The main keys and the function keys along the top are backlit a bright red, as is the lettering and symbols on the keys. The macro keys are lit in an equally bright amber. As for the keypad, it's lit in one of two ways based on what mode it's in. In number pad mode it's illuminated red, and in macro mode it's lit amber to match the other macro keys.

Software Setup

The software is relatively simple, only being a version of Microsoft's standard IntelliType software with a few additions. It does provide a way to change the keys along the top, or at least most of the keys along the top. The only one you can't change is the Launcher button, which is the one we really want to change. You can also setup the macro keys, and change their timing and even whether they execute a series of keystrokes or launch a program. Once all this is done you can select the next bank, wash, rinse, and repeat.

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