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The big pc gaming hardware news to come out of this year's Leipzig Games Convention is the announcement of Microsoft's extension of the popular Sidewinder peripheral line. The Sidewinder gaming mouse, which was introduced last year to mixed reviews (we thought it was too big and had a mediocre scroll wheel) now has a little brother, the Sidewinder X5. The wired, 9-button device sports a 2000 hardware-adjustable dpi and the same awesome vertical thumb buttons that we liked about the original. In addition to the new mouse, Microsoft also announced the first Sidewinder keyboard, dubbed the X6. We are much more excited about this product, since it touts innovative features such as a detachable numpad and unique "cruise control" option. Microsoft stopped by our offices to let us get our grubby hands on these new products.
Wrapping our hand around the X5 mouse, we noticed that it's actually a tiny bit smaller than its predecessor (unless our hands have grown in size since last year). There's no doubt that this is a "budget" gaming mouse (which Microsoft will continue to sell), since it lacks both the LCD DPI display and adjustable weights of the original Sidewinder. Still, its customized macros, 2000 adjustable DPI, optimal button placement, and (in our opinion) improved size makes it worth considering if you're shopping for a reasonably-priced mouse. The X5 will retail for $60 and is available for pre-order now online.
The Sidewinder X6, though, is really something different. It's the first gaming keyboard with a detachable number pad that can be placed on either side of the main keyboard. This makes it optimal for programming and executing macros in World of Warcraft. The switchable numpad will support up to 90 macros per game, which can be programmed by hitting the "record" button at the top of the board. Detaching and reattaching the numpad was an easy process which didn't require any button lock or significant force. When connected in place, it felt securely fastened and didn't wiggle around.
Additionally, all the keys on the X6 are backlit, and the keyboard can switch between various gaming modes with a manual toggle. The all-important WASD keys are given more prominence with some front-facing lighting as well (the four dots on the keys in our photos below). We're not completely sold on the cruise control feature, which keeps a key (or series of) actions depressed with one keystroke. It'll be useful again in MMOs that require you to hold down keys to walk long distances. Like the X5, this Sidewinder product will ship in September. It's currently priced at $80.