The inevitable “console vs. PC” debate. I’m old enough to remember and groan at the countless arguments revolving around the technical superiority of computers compared to the accessibility of mainstream consoles. The obvious complaints have always been about control, a never-ending struggle that IOGEAR hopes to mend with the KeyMander Console Controller Emulator, a gaming tool that attempts to bridge the tactile divide made decades ago.
It’s a compact black box constructed entirely of metal and visibly screwed together with Allen bolts, complete with appropriate stenciled logo graphics on top. Three full-size USB ports for input devices (mouse, keyboard, controller), and three mini-USB ports for corresponding power sources are labeled in the rear.
Since the KeyMander is designed for the gaming enthusiasts it will only run on the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One consoles. Essentially, you hook up a mini-USB cable directly to the console via “Game” port and the box acts as a conduit between your PS/Xbox controller and keyboard/mouse inputs. Nothing revolutionary but it does the job.
When connecting directly to a PC (which is inevitably demanded at some point) both the “PC” and “Power” USB ports are needed and another USB cable (which isn’t included), with a lot of back and forth involved just to hone the serious range of control.
And you’d have to be serious because every permanent tweak needs to be manually adjusted on a Windows PC (sorry Mac and Linux users), which means you have to download the available configuration software too. Just to experiment, the default settings work for basic playing but we know others will invest a good amount of free time away from the action just to get that feeling absolutely perfect. Fortunately a little thought was added for on-the-fly tweaks with multiple memory profiles and simple direct button remapping, it helps if you forget a small alteration but the minor changes are only temporary and do revert back every session.
It’s difficult to appreciate the broad range options of a keyboard/mouse if you’re not familiar with the setup, but for those interested in converting to more PC-like accuracy the KeyMander handles this pretty well. With the Xbox One version of Titanfall on hand there was noticeably improved sensitivity and smoother movement over what I’ve grown accustomed to with the typical console layout, all without picking up discernible ping or latency hiccups. Other titles such as Battlefield 3 (Xbox 360) and Diablo III (PS3) also had a more natural feel with the latter being complimented by custom shortcut macros and available turbo features.
Otherwise, console-exclusives like Halo 4 and Killzone Shadow Fall felt unnecessary when used, although not completely unplayable. For the same reasons PC gamers dislike playing shooters and real-time strategy on consoles I had to go through a learning curve for games not originally optimized for computer layouts, and I simply never felt comfortable with it. Also worth noting is that higher-end keyboards and mice will draw a lot of power away from the KeyMander when connected, the problem can be avoided if you use an additional 5V USB AC adapter and hook that into the aforementioned “power” port; it’s a workable solution but cumbersome nonetheless.
Here’s the deal, the KeyMander Console Controller Emulator costs $99.99 (MSRP) just for the privilege of dominating your living room friends in their own playing field. On the surface it’s not a bad proposition considering the almost seamless transition between gamepad to the traditional keyboard/mouse but the appeal is definitely limited to PC gaming devotees, who swear by the merits of finely tuned controls without compromise. Of course, the end result is that the majority of novices and the impatient need not apply here.