IOGear Kaliber Gaming Keymander – Design and Features
The KeyMander is a busy piece of tech. It’s a small box that’s just a little bigger than a standard deck of playing cards. It’s plenty sturdy, too, with the case constructed entirely out of aluminum that didn’t bend or flex under any pressure I applied. One side of the KeyMander is for connections to the system while the other side is for connecting gaming peripherals. The systems side has three Mini-USB (that’s right, not Micro-USB), an unused data port, and a reset button.The other side has three USB Type-A ports labeled for connections to a keyboard, mouse, and console controller. The controller for your console needs to be connected in order for the KeyMander to work, as it’s emulating the controller.
If the KeyMander is starting to sound like it has a lot of ports and cables, that’s because it does (unless you use wireless peripherals). While setup only requires two connections for the KeyMander (one for power and one for a data connection to your computer), using the KeyMander requires all three connections on the peripheral side and at least one more connection between your game console and KeyMander on the system side.
The KeyMander comes with specific video game profiles and can have more profiles added either by creating your own or downloading them. These profiles map keyboard and mouse inputs to console controller inputs. This enables the emulation of a controller with keyboard and mouse (an important distinction, as this is not a means of offering direct support for keyboard and mouse controls.)
IOGear Kaliber Gaming Keymander – Software
The KeyMander software is involved, as it’s not a simple plug-and-play accessory. Console games have wildly varying control schemes, especially when it comes to aiming. For example, an FPS like Overwatch with very few characters that ADS (aim down sights) handles it quite differently from a 3rd-person game like Read Dead Redemption 2. So, the KeyMander software has complex customization settings in order to effectively neutralize whatever quirks a game’s aiming scheme might have.
All of these sensitivity and button-mapping settings are saved into per-game profiles in the KeyMander software, with keyboard FN keys assigned as a means to switch between profiles on the fly. And, though the KeyMander comes with a number of profiles pre-installed (Apex Legends, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Call of Duty Black Ops 4, Overwatch, Fortnite, BattleField V, Farcry 5, and Red Dead Redemption 2 at the time of writing), it will be tedious to get set up if a game you want to play isn’t already included.
IOGear Kaliber Gaming Keymander – Gaming
While the hope of using the KeyMander is to suddenly make playing on a console a lot more like playing with keyboard and mouse on PC, the reality isn’t quite so perfect. Just to get started I spent an hour or two going through the setup guide, connecting it to my PC to update the firmware and ensure all the settings were in order, and then got it connected to my PS4.
Once it was up and running, the KeyMander did a good job converting keyboard and mouse input into something that a game console could use. All the more impressive is that it mostly does so without introducing noticeable input lag. I fired up the KeyMander for Apex Legends and pressing keys and clicking mouse buttons instantly resulted in an action. Jumping with the spacebar felt just as it should, pressing R to reload (and unfortunately also to pick up items, as the limited buttons on controllers restricts how many binds you can create without getting into Macros) was instinctive as well. Pressing the right mouse button to ADS resulted in my weapon snapping into place as expected.
But, all that turns clunky when it comes to mouse movement, which is by far the biggest draw for the KeyMander. I had tried making the KeyMander work with Red Dead Redemption 2 for a half hour, but no amount of obvious tinkering could make it so that my mouse movements felt like they were accurately translated into the game. And, that was in spite of the KeyMander already having a special profile set up for the game and detailed instructions on how to make it work. Each movement of the mouse felt like an odd jump, and aiming down sights reduced the sensitivity to an unbearable crawl.
I switched back to Apex Legends, figuring a first-person shooter with more refined aiming controls would translate better, and it definitely did. After going through IOGear’s recommended setup tweaks for Apex Legends, I got to a point where all I had left to do was dial in the sensitivity in the KeyMander software until my mouse movements felt right for my muscle memory.
I toyed around in the Apex Legends tutorial space for about a half hour, and felt fairly comfortable. Apart from the occasional mis-press because of my familiarity with PC controls, things were feeling like it might be working. I could switch between targets and pop off shots, and I practiced a bit alternating shots at the moving and stationary targets.
But, all through that, one thing was noticeable: the in-game aim couldn’t quite keep up with mouse movements. No matter which settings I toyed with, the aiming just didn’t feel as responsive as I expected. In the practice area, it wasn’t such a big deal, since everything moving in the space was predictable. I could track moving targets. But, whenever I tried a quicker mouse movement, tracking would feel like it finished moving after my mouse had stopped.
Naturally, I needed to take the KeyMander into the wild of Apex Legends and see how I’d fare in real combat (sorry to any console gamers who don’t think mouse and keyboard should be allowed in console games.). Of course, the inability to move the mouse quickly showed its downside all the more plainly when faced with enemies who didn’t move slowly or predictably.
Over the course of a half dozen games, I knocked down only two enemy players, and it was in large part because I caught them off guard and had a shotgun. Moving targets proved near impossible to hit. Two of my dead teammates watched as I burned through ammo trying to hit a zig-zagging Wraith who had run out of ammo and was trying to finish me with a melee. I did not come out victorious, and had to listen to my teammate say, “that’s the worst I’ve ever seen, no joke.”
Having switched to the KeyMander after a week of really hot Apex Legends play on PC with multiple wins each day and even a 9-kill round, it was clear how much trouble the mouse’s responsiveness presented for serious gaming. And, $99 is too much for a single-purpose peripheral that has unpredictable performance.
But, I wans’t done yet. I spent another few hours tweaking settings, and getting adjusted to the new controls — and that was just to get the KeyMander working with one game. Eventually, I managed to dial in something usable. The first round with the settings, I managed 4 kills, and they weren’t all stationary targets. The odd responsiveness stuck around, but my mouse movements did feel like they were being translated consistently enough to get by.
My aim was certainly better with the mouse than with a controller, but it wasn’t a plug-n-pwn solution. For many, putting a dozen hours toward ‘gitting gud’ with a controller will be time better spent, since not all games are sure to work as well with the KeyMander as Apex Legends, and each new game could take a few hours just to find usable settings.
The IOGear Keymander has an MSRP of $99.95 but it usually cheaper online.