Got yourself one of those fancy new Razer Blade laptops or a SWTOR branded keyboard with a touch senstive panel? Me neither, but my excuse is that neither ever got released in the UK. That and the fact I'd have to mortgage my daughter to buy them.
Still, if you do happen to have one of these funky looking peripherals with their auxilliary touchscreens, the good news is that Razer has released and SDK for developers and modders to add custom controls and displays to it for their games. It's also given the screen a name - the ' Switchblade UI ' and released a new keyboard with one on board.
The keyboard in question is a vanilla version of the SWOTR one, sans Imperial/Alliance logos, called the DeathStalker Ultimate . Just like the SWOTR model and the Blade it's a standard Windows QWERTY layout with rubber dome chiclet keys and a full colour LCD touchscreen where the numberpad should be.
And just like another LCD augmented keyboard announced recently, it's also painfully expensive. RRP is $249 or the same number in Euros, depending on where you live. That makes it marginally cheaper than MadCatz STRIKE7, announced yesterday, although it doesn't have the detachable keypad and high tech switches for changing the wrist rest height.
As far as the screen goes... the quest for a decent auxilliary monitor/touchscreen controller has been going on for as long as I can remember, taking in LCD-equipped buttons like the legendary Optimus keyboard and forthcoming Microsoft Glass. But barring a brief flurry of interest in Logitech's G-Series when they first appeared they've never really caught on - even Logitech's system got few helper apps post launch. This renewed push from most of the big peripheral manufacturers might mean one of them might breaks through, but the biggest problem is lack of cross compatibility. If Razer, MadCatz, Roccat, Logitech and Microsoft could actually get together and decide on some sort of standards for their helper apps, there's more chance games devs would use them.
And cost is an issue. Of all the systems so far shown off, if pushed I'd be inclined to give Roccat's my blessing . Mainly because it's free, makes use of the touchscreen you already own (your phone) and leaves you to spend money on other indicators of keyboard quality, like mechanical switches.
As soon as we get all four systems in, we'll put them head to head in a game off test of some sort and come to a conclusive decision as to whether or not extra touch screen controls for PC games are the future or just an expensive gimmick. Watch this space and all that.
Be sure to check out our list of the best gaming keyboards.