Like many of my fellow gamers, my Facebook feed has been peppered with advertisements for IOGEAR’s Keymander off and on for months. The device, designed to let you use a mouse and keyboard with both current and last generation Xbox and PlayStation consoles, is a game changer. For PC gamers who struggle for accuracy with controllers, it’s a godsend, but some people believe it should be banned. We decided to see for ourselves exactly what all the buzz was about.
What is the Keymander?
The Keymander is an adapter that allows you to use a keyboard and mouse in any game without the developer needing to allow it. It works by tricking the console into thinking the adapter is a controller, and then using PC software or onboard commands to map the face buttons to your keyboard and mouse. You can go from joystick control to WASD in a matter of seconds after the initial setup is complete.
The Keymander itself is a small metal box a little bigger than a deck of cards. On the front are USB 2.0 ports for the keyboard, mouse, and controller. On the rear are three mini-USB ports for Game (the console), PC, and power, as well as a 3.5mm Data jack and a reset button. The top of the unit has three indicator lights for power, whether it’s in its programming state, and whether Turbo mode is enabled or not.
The metal build of the adapter is extremely solid. In fact, it’s hard to imagine a scenario where anything other than the ports would come to harm. It feels rugged and utilitarian, which is in keeping with the subtle soldier decal emblazoned on top of the device. At $99.95, the price tag feels a little high, but considering the build quality and more expensive price of its nearest competition, it actually turns out to be fairly reasonable. And, let’s not forget, if you’re considering a specialized device like this, you’ll find it a complete and utter game changer. That alone may make that price worthwhile.
Setup and Ease of Use
The biggest challenge in getting off the ground with the Keymander is the initial setup. The included instructions are helpful, but I found myself needing to watch one of IOGEAR’s video tutorials to really make things clear. When you first unbox it, you’ll need to download the PC software, update firmware, and load up a default group of game profiles. At any given time, you’re connecting the Keymander with two separate USB cables for power and data transfer which need to be swapped when you go between PC and console. It’s a little intimidating and the video is a massive help.
Once you’re updated, you’ll need to set your mouse’s DPI and go about mapping your buttons. IOGEAR has many ready-to-go game profiles available to download from its site, which mostly cover this for you. Dialing in your mouse settings is more tricky. Again, IOGEAR’s profiles are a big help with this, but can’t account for personal preference in how a mouse should feel. The video recommends a third USB cable to keep the Keymander connected to a PC for on the fly adjustments.
My TV was too far from my PC to do that, so dialing in my settings involved a huge amount of swapping between PC and console to make small adjustments. The Keymander can store eight game profiles on-board that you can swap with the function keys. I eventually devoted my first four profiles to that one game with only minor sensitivity adjustments until I found something I was comfortable with. Thankfully, once you do find a setting that you’re happy with, it’s fairly easy to translate that into other games. I only yo-yo’d between my PC and console a single day and for that, I’m happy.
I should note that it’s possible to make these settings in-game using keyboard commands. Programming in aspects like deadzones without having some kind of visual was just too abstract for me but the option is there.
How Does It Work?
We’ll get this out of the way first, the Keymander will not instantly make your console game play like a PC game, but it will come close. Part of this is based on limitations of the game’s design; certain games just won’t have a fast enough look speed for high DPI players. Some games I played also had an ever so slight latency that reminded me I was still playing a game made for controllers.
That said, after a night, I was used to the Keymander and could almost forget I wasn’t playing on PC. I used a Roccat Sova with a Razer Naga mouse and found this to be a perfect pairing. Instantly, I was more precise and having more fun than I’d had on PS4 in ages. I’ve played on PC almost exclusively for the last year. Coming back to a game like Uncharted 4 after all that time, using a controller felt slugging and my aiming was abysmal. Using the Keymander, I was able to get back to my comfort zone and just focus on enjoying the game instead of how imprecise the joysticks were.
Is It Cheating?
Devices like the Keymander receive a lot of scorn in the multiplayer console community. I approached IOGEAR to ask what their response to these criticisms would be. Their stance is that, while it does give an advantage to players, the Keymander isn’t a cheating device. It doesn’t change any of the game’s code, or even do anything that a high-end Scuff controller can’t do. Players will be able to top the leaderboards faster and everyone who doesn’t like controller gaming will finally have a way to play with their friends.
I agree with IOGEAR that the Keymander is absolutely a boon to PC players like myself. I’m perfectly competent with a controller, but given a choice, I’ll always pick the precision of a mouse. The Keymander gives me an easy way to jump into a console exclusive without having to leave my comfort zone.
Competitive multiplayer is different situation. The Keymander unlevels the playing field, and I have no doubt that a player using it will top their leaderboards far faster than the average player with a controller. For the integrity of the game, I believe these are devices that should be left to single-player only. It may feel great to dominate the lobby, but players on the receiving end may be cracking their controllers in understandable frustration.
The Keymander is an outstanding bridge device. If you’re a PC player that’s been hearing about a console exclusive but can’t stand using a controller, IOGEAR’s little adapter will allow you to enjoy that game without sacrificing control. It’s not perfect, and initial setup it lengthy, but once it’s working you could almost believe you’re playing a PC game. That’s an achievement.
Would you use a device like the Keymander? Should they be allowed? Let us know what you think in the comments below!
The product discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purposes of review.