Review: Flexiglow Cyber Snipa Game Pad
By: Cliff PennockPrintablePaged


It's the age-old question: work, or play? In my case that translates to: Do I finish that project my client expects me to finish before the end of the week, do I write another review for the BuzzyPedia, or do I go online and play some more BattleField 2142? Then it hit me. Why not play some more BattleField 2142, then write a review about the stuff I use to play games? Two birds with one stone! Admittedly the third bird, my client, draws the short straw here, but it's really all about priorities. His projects will put my kid through college - but it won't buy me cool gaming gadgets.

That said, I had to get myself a gaming gadget to write a review about. One thing that always bugs me is how the letters on my keyboard fade over time because when playing games, you always use the same keys. And now that I have a $200.00 Logitech DiNovo Bluetooth keyboard, I'm really not waiting for that to happen. So the most logical step was to buy one of those dedicated gaming keyboards. For some odd reason, none of the computer stores I checked out sold these keyboards. Except for one. And they only sold one particular brand and model: the Flexiglow Cyber Snipa Game Pad. Yes, it is funny when a Chinese company tries to come up with a "l33t" name.

Apparently, there are two versions of the Cyber Snipa. There's the original version which is called the "Cyber Snipa Game Pad" and then there is the newer version which is called the "Cyber Snipa Game Pad 2" (hey, you can't expect them to be creative twice). The difference between the two is that the newer version has more numeric keys (10 instead of 7) and some of the keys are grey instead of black. Other than that they are identical.

I bought the older version because, well, that's the only one the store sold.


What's in the box?
Nothing. I mean, it didn't come in a box - it came in one of those plastic display packaging. You know, the ones you can only seem to open with an industrial strength pair of scissors. Other than the keyboard itself, nothing else is included. The Flexiglow Cyber Snipa retails at US$ 44.95 but can be found for $20 - $30 just about everywhere.


Look & Feel
Usually I first have a chapter called "Installation & Setup" but since installing and setting up the Flexiglow Cyber Snipa is nothing more than plugging the thing into an empty USB slot (as opposed to, what, a filled USB slot?) I skipped that chapter this time.

And that's also one of the nice things of this Game Pad - that it's truly plug & play. It is after all nothing more than a USB keyboard with some (most) keys missing. Some of the available gaming keyboards out there have "special keys" that aren't recognized by the operating system's default keyboard drivers and those need special drivers to be installed just to make these keys work. That doesn't really make sense since the purpose of all these gaming keyboards is to replace the normal keyboard when playing games.

If you look at the Cyber Snipa's key layout, you will notice that it closely resembles the key layout of an ordinary keyboard. Granted, it looks completely different, but the layout really is very similar. Reason is that if you are used to playing games with your regular keyboard, you won't have any trouble using the Cyber Snipa instead (or so you would expect, but more on that later). Only two keys on the Cyber Snipa, the "H" and the "N", are positioned differently relative to the other keys than they are on a "real" keyboard.

The large blue keys stand out immediately. These are the default keys that (in most games) are bound to moving your player That's really nice, because it means that you don't need to reconfigure a game just so you can use the Cyber Snipa.

There's a blue LED at each side of the game pad and I'm not sure why. I guess nowadays every piece of computer hardware you buy has a blue LED somewhere. Frankly, I really don't understand the purpose of these LEDs other than that some people might think they look cool. The good thing is that Flexiglow included a button with which you can switch these LEDs off. A rare but very welcome feature. It would have made more sense if they used LEDs for backlighting the keys. I like playing in the dark (computer games! Get your mind out of the gutter!) and I always have trouble locating the keys.

There's also a blue LED on top of the game pad. This LED tells you when the keyboard is properly connected to your computer and therefore can't be switched off. Now this is nice and all, but could somebody please tell me why companies always use these incredibly bright LEDs? I mean seriously, my computer's power LED (which is blue of course) lights up the opposite wall in my room, which is 12 feet away! And the LED used in the Cyber Snipa is no different. When playing games, I like hanging over my keyboard and this LED literally blinds me. It would have been so much nicer if they used a more subtle LED.

The Cyber Snipa also has a detachable wrist pad. Now, this really is a very nice touch. The pad itself is already slightly sloped, but with the wrist pad your hand rests truly comfortable on the pad. This wrist pad feels much better than most I've tried on normal keyboards.




Usage
I've played a lot of games lately I've tested the Cyber Snipa extensively the past few weeks, and although normally it never takes me longer than a few days to get used to a new keyboard (while playing games), I still have a hard time getting used to the Cyber Snipa. During a game, my fingers keep searching for the proper keys. I think that's because there's too much distance between the keys. I have to move my hand all the time to reach all the keys. With a regular keyboard, the position of my hand is fixed and I can reach all keys easily (including the numeric and the function keys) by simply stretching my fingers. Not so with the Cyber Snipa. I can only reach some of the numeric keys without moving my hand. To reach a function key I definitely need to move my hand. This means my hand is constantly moving and my fingers are constantly searching for the right keys.

A good way to check if a keyboard is the right size for you is to put your thumb on the spacebar (because that's where your thumb will be most of the time) and place your hand flat and straight on the keyboard. If your fingers reach the uppermost keys, then the keyboard is perfect for you. If a lot of keys are out of reach, then the keyboard is too big. And if you look at the pictures, you'll see you need really big hands to use the Cyber Snipa without having to move your hand all the time (yes, my hand looks weird. It wasn't easy taking a picture of my own hand).

There's also a lot of empty space between the keys that could - and perhaps should have been used. The space bar for instance could have been made much longer to fill up the empty space. That would certainly have made the space key more accessible. You can clearly tell some choices were made in favor of esthetics over user-friendliness.
The "Shift" and "Z" key should have been placed more to the right and the "X", "C" and "B" keys more to the left so they would have had the same position relative to the other keys as they do on a regular keyboard.

Thanks to my mad PhotoChop (sic) skillz (sic again), I am able to show you what I mean:


The two keys on the left are the Volume Up and Down buttons. Windows again automatically recognizes these keys so no special drivers are needed to use them. And that's nice.


Conclusion
The Flexiglow Cyber Snipa Game Pad claims to give you an "instant advantage over other gamers". I guess if the advantage is that you will not wear out your regular keyboard, then they are absolutely right. If they mean you will instantly get better at playing a game, then unfortunately they are very wrong. I have used the Cyber Snipa for three weeks now, and just now am I starting to get used to it. Maybe my hands are too small, maybe the keys are too far apart from each other - I really don't know for sure. But what I do know for sure is that my gaming performance actually took a hit at first because too often my fingers were searching for the proper keys while my virtual online persona was getting his butt kicked.

On the upside, the Cyber Snipa is very comfortable to use due to the detachable wrist pad. And to be honest, it does look pretty good thanks to the button shapes and, dare I say it, the blue LEDs. And now that I am getting used to using the Cyber Snipa for playing games, I think I like it better than using my regular keyboard.


The good
  • Very comfortable to use
  • Looks good
  • Inexpensive
  • Will spare your regular keyboard

The not-so-good
  • Placement of some keys is weird
  • A lot of keys are out of reach except for people with big hands
  • A lot of empty space that should have been used for more and/or bigger keys



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