Microsoft Sidewinder X4

Review: Microsoft Sidewinder X4 Not recommended


The Microsoft Sidewinder X4 is a rubber dome keyboard with red backlighting, n-key roll over, macros and media keys.

Construction-wise, it is rather good. It is fairly light, and the plastic case has some give in it, but it feels solid otherwise. It has very nice rubber pads on the bottom. The flip-out feet seem fine, but are rather low.

The keys unfortunately have an extremely plastic feel. I'm not knowledgeable enough to say precisely why, but in themselves, they feel rather terrible. The switches are standard rubber domes over membrane, except they are much heavier than normal, requiring more force to get moving, and each key press feels extremely "defined", almost like I'm typing on a typewriter, not smooth or soft at all. As a whole, the key feel is so abysmal that I cannot stand typing on the keyboard for any extended period of time.

Some people seem to think of the Sidewinder X4 as one of the best rubber dome keyboards. These people have clearly never tried a good rubber dome keyboard (such as the Fujitsu FKB8530). In terms of key feel, it is, in my opinion, mediocre at best, horrible at worst. At least the keys don't bind!

The media keys are a nice addition and don't require any special software, unlike the macro keys, which do. Luckily, the software provided is intuitive and works very well. Real-time macros can be defined from the keyboard. However, even though the Sidewinder X4 is considered a "gaming" keyboard, the macros seem more or less useless for any game where you don't want to take your eyes off the screen. They're practically impossible to press correctly without looking.

I suppose what makes it a "gaming" keyboard is the n-key rollover, which admittedly is nice to have when playing PC games. These days, however, there are a million infinitely better options if you really need n-key rollover.

Overall, I don't recommend this keyboard. If you are looking for good rubber domes, you would be much better served by an older keyboard using rubber domes with sliders. For "gaming", any mechanical keyboard will serve you better than this one.

If you're looking for a good rubber dome keyboard, check out my rubber dome buyer's guide.

In-depth: Macros

The Sidewinder X4 provides a total of six macro keys on the left side of the keyboard. As you can see from the picture below, the macro keys are shallow and flat, making them very hard to find without looking. I tried mapping one of them to revive in Battlefield 3, but I wasted more time looking for the macro key than I saved by using a macro in the first place. Naturally, this is only a problem when playing PC games, and the macro keys work fine for other purposes.

Macros can be stored in three separate macro banks. The button in the top-left corner switches between them. Next to it, a red light indicates the active bank. The key to the right of the active bank indicator functions as a record button. A recording is started by pressing that button and then one of the macro keys, and it is ended by pressing the record button again. This will, as far as I'm aware, only record in real time, and it will not work without the drivers installed.

The six macro keys on the left

The six macro keys, labeled S1 though S6.

The software for the Sidewinder X4, called IntelliType, is integrated into the standard keyboard settings dialog. It is well-designed and works very well. It is a bummer that the macro functionality requires the software to be installed, but it is nice that the software isn't terrible. Because it integrates so nicely into the keyboard settings, I'm not sure whether whether it works in Windows 10, where that settings dialog might have been replaced.

IntelliType configuration panel

IntelliType configuration panel.

Last updated on 21 Dec 2020.

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