It's common for companies to bring out a product and then later release a simplified version of that product that costs less. These economy versions will typically be missing some of the fancy features but will still get the job done for less money. The Microsoft SideWinder X4 is an economical choice that will still give you the functionality of a full-featured gaming keyboard. It doesn't come with all the tools Microsoft includes with its more expensive gaming keyboards, but it equips gamers with functionality that goes above and beyond what's on a normal keyboard.
Starting at the top left corner of the Microsoft SideWinder X4 gaming keyboard, you'll find a button that allows you to switch between three modes. Each mode allows you to set a function or macro to the six "S" keys. That gives a total of eighteen programmable options to help you out in any game. Along with that you can set up profiles for any and every game you play. Then you should be able to have the keyboard automatically detect the game you're in and switch profiles accordingly.
Next to the mode button you'll find three numbered lights that indicate which mode you're in. This addition helps you keep track of where you're at so you don't end up trying to heal your enemies when you intend to do them harm. The next button is for recording macros on-the-fly and it is also quite useful. The software that the SideWinder X4 gaming keyboard comes with works fine, but it is much easier to record macros while in the game. In game, on-the-fly recording is easier because you can see your abilities laid out and don't have to exit the game and punch in the commands from memory.
The media keys can be found right along the top of the Microsoft SideWinder X4. They are all on the left side, except the volume control buttons, which is too bad; all the media controls together would have been more convenient. In the past Microsoft has designed the volume control as a large round dial, whereas this keyboard has regular buttons.
You'll find the brightness control next to the volume control. The Microsoft SideWinder X4 once again has a button for adjusting the brightness of the backlighting, rather than a dial. We personally like the buttons more than the dials because they offer a more professional and modern look.
Another unique feature that Microsoft has integrated into their gaming keyboard in the past was a removable number pad. This allowed users to place the number pad on either side of the keyboard, which can be very useful. However, the X4 is their economical keyboard so it's not included. It also doesn't have the "Cruise Control" feature and it has fewer programmable macro options. On the other hand, it does have far superior "anti-ghosting" protection, which is a must for competitive gaming.
As with most electronics, and it's no different with gaming keyboards, the leading products are fairly similar. The Microsoft SideWinder X4 is a well built, responsive and convenient keyboard. It's been tried and tested by many gamers and is preferred by some. There is a lot to offer here, especially for the price, but it boils down to your own preference.
The SideWinder X4 is an optimized and less expensive gaming keyboard option.
This keyboard doesn't have the Microsoft unique detachable number pad or Cruise Control.
The X4 is good choice for any gamer who wants the important stuff and not so many extras.