Microsoft calls its new SideWinder X4 gaming keyboard the ‘Ghost Buster’ but it sadly doesn’t come equipped with a portable particle accelerator, or even a hazardous storage facility. Instead, the 80s film reference alludes to Microsoft’s new anti-ghosting technology, which enables the keyboard to recognise 26 simultaneous key presses.
Most standard keyboards suffer from the 'ghosting' effect after just three or four keys are pressed simultaneously. The effect refers to the signal failure that results from certain keys being pressed simultaneously, and it can be incredibly annoying for gamers who want to execute multiple keyboard commands at once.
Gaming peripheral gurus such as Razer have already managed to circumvent this with their own anti-ghosting technology. For example, the Razer Tarantula allows you to press up to ten keys at once before the ghosting effect rears its head.
However, ten keys clearly isn’t enough for gamers with more than ten fingers. What if you’re the Hindu god Vishnu, or perhaps a giant centipede? How are you going to execute your killer gaming combos then? Thankfully, Microsoft is here to help.
The new anti-ghosting technology was developed by Microsoft’s Applied Sciences Group, and Microsoft says that it, "ensures gamers’ most complex key combinations will be recognized by the computer to keep the game in action."
By "complex" Microsoft means keyboard combos that potentially involve every letter of the alphabet. In fact, even if each of your fingers pressed two keys at once on the X4, you’d still be free to press more keys if you so desired.
"Because each key is scanned independently by the keyboard hardware," says Microsoft, "each key press is correctly detected regardless of how many other keys are being pressed at the same time. The SideWinder X4 Keyboard excels where other keyboards fail, letting users execute key combinations and taking full advantage of their skill and speed."
As well as allowing you to press a ridiculous number of keys at once, the SideWinder X4 also has some genuinely useful features, including macro recording for frequently used combos, as well as a 'macro repetition feature' that will put your macro on auto-fire with just one key press. There’s also a profile system so that you can customise your keyboard for individual games.
The SideWinder X4 will be available in March 2010. There’s no news on UK pricing yet, but the RRP in the US will be $59.95 (£37.64). Expect to pay about 60 quid over here then.