For as capable as video game controllers are these days, they still can’t deliver the same level of precision aiming you get from a mouse. It’s why most competitive games don’t match PC players with console players, or they only match with PC players using a controller: it just wouldn’t be fair. A handful of games here and there do allow console players to hook up a mouse and keyboard for finer control, but for the most part the PC has remained the go-to platform for optimal performance in first- and third-person shooters.
IOGear’s KeyMander 2 wants to change that. This small device lets you use a mouse and keyboard on the Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, PS3 and Nintendo Switch without requiring individual games to explicitly support it. PS5 support was not available at the time of writing, but IOGear says it’s coming soon.
By enabling mouse and keyboard controls across each console’s entire library, the KeyMander 2 promises greater speed and precision when aiming in shooters like Call of Duty, Apex Legends and Fortnite. While it doesn’t quite match the experience of playing on a PC, it does provide a distinct advantage over regular controller play, making it an attractive purchase for folks wanting a competitive edge in first- and third-person shooters.
- Light and compact
- Plastic case is a little flimsy
- Compatible with a wide range of consoles and peripherals
The KeyMander 2 prioritises function over form, settling for a mundane grey-and-black colour scheme that wouldn’t look out of place on a network administrator’s desk. It’s small and light, making it easy to pick up and throw in a bag when you want to take it with you. Just don’t actually throw it – it’s not the most sturdy of products. Its plastic casing feels a little cheap and flimsy, and I fear that too much jostling around could damage the internals.
All the important components are located on the rear of the KeyMander 2. Here you’ll find four ports: one for your keyboard, one for your mouse, one for the gamepad (more on that later) and one for additional power.
Take note of that power port: while the KeyMander 2 can draw enough power from your console for some basic keyboards and mice, those that draw more juice (such as RGB keyboards or ones with their own USB ports) require you to connect the KeyMander 2 to a separate power source. You’ll have to supply this power source yourself, as the KeyMander 2 does not include a power brick. Most phone or tablet chargers will do the trick.
The other port to keep in mind is the gamepad port. For consoles other than the Nintendo Switch, you need to plug a branded controller into this port in order for a keyboard and mouse to work. On the Switch, you simply need to have the JoyCons slotted into the console.
IOGear promises that the KeyMander 2 works with most standard keyboards and mice, both of the wired and wireless varieties. For wireless devices, they’ll need to include a USB receiver you plug into the KeyMander 2 in place of a cable. I can’t speak to the entire breadth of mice and keyboards out there, but the various models I tested all worked without issue.
Other than the ports, the KeyMander 2 features an LED strip on its top. It lights up to indicate the current controller profile and flashes a warning when there’s insufficient power or if there’s a system error. Behind the LED strip are two buttons: one that puts the KeyMander 2 in Bluetooth pairing mode for connecting to the mobile app, and one that resets the system in case something goes wrong.
- Capable of speed and precision nearly on par with PC in some instances
- Deep customisation options help fine-tune performance
- Controller-specific design decisions in some games can’t be thwarted
Before discussing how the KeyMander 2 performs, it’s necessary to understand how it works. The KeyMander 2 translates keyboard and mouse inputs into controller commands. Translating a keyboard key or mouse button to a button on a controller is pretty straightforward, but taking your mouse movements and converting them to analogue stick inputs is much trickier. There’s a lot of tweaking and scaling going on in the background to feed a game joystick inputs that simulate the movement of a mouse.
This translation process is configurable through the KeyMander mobile app, but you’re always bound by the fact that you’re emulating a joystick. That’s an important caveat to keep in mind, as it prevents the KeyMander 2 from delivering a true 1:1 PC mouse and keyboard experience on console. It does comes quite close in many cases, close enough to make it a worthwhile purchase for folks wanting more precision from their console shooters.
I tested the KeyMander 2 across a range of games on the Nintendo Switch and Xbox Series X. My biggest takeaway was that performance varied from game to game, with some titles delivering precision nearly on par with a PC mouse-and-keyboard setup while others felt more like a janky approximation of the PC experience. The latter are a consequence of the nature of emulation, as a lot of console games are tuned specifically for optimal controller input.
For instance, many games have a limit on how fast you’ll turn when pushing an analogue stick fully in one direction. This makes sense on a controller, as it keeps you from losing control of your turn – and your lunch. Unfortunately, it artificially hamstrings mouse input, preventing the rapid 180-degree spins and snappy targeting possible on PC. The KeyMander mobile app includes a “Turn Speed” setting that attempts to compensate for limited maximum turn speed by adding acceleration to your mouse movements, but I found it made negligible difference in most games. There’s also the option to define a custom mouse curve, but even then you’re still bound by the maximum turn speed limits.
Limitations like maximum turn speed can differ dramatically from game to game, and this led to a wide range of experiences across the games I tested. On Xbox Series X, DOOM Eternal, Titanfall 2 and Star Wars Battlefront II all performed remarkably close to their PC counterparts. Each has a specific game profile you can download through the KeyMander app, and adjusting in-game and in-app settings to match the recommendations resulted in an impressive facsimile of native PC gameplay. Mouse movements translated to fast and precise aiming, allowing for swift snapping between targets and more-accurate headshots than would be possible on a controller.
Destiny 2 was a different story. The console version implements mandatory aim assist and a number of other controller-specific quirks that don’t translate well to mouse and keyboard play. Sighting on enemies felt stiff and imprecise, and the low maximum turn speed made movement feel sluggish.
Over on the Nintendo Switch, I tested Risk of Rain 2 and DOOM 3. Both benefitted from greatly improved precision over regular controller input, but the aforementioned aim assist and maximum turn speed limitations kept the experience from feeling as tight and responsive as on PC.
This all comes back to the nature of the KeyMander 2 as an emulation device. It’s capable of delivering an impressive approximation of the PC mouse-and-keyboard experience, to the point where some folks might not notice the difference. But the accuracy of its approximation depends on how an individual game is designed, with titles like Destiny 2 highlighting how difficult it is to bypass the limitations of gamepad-specific control schemes.
Still, even in those less-than-optimal scenarios, the KeyMander 2 enables far more precision and control over aiming than you get from a regular gamepad. If you’re looking for a competitive advantage over the controller-wielding masses, the KeyMander 2 delivers.
- Extensive customisation options let you tailor performance to individual games and personal preferences
- Pre-built game profiles save you the hassle of manually tweaking settings
- Controller crossover feature is a neat addition
Customisation is far and away the KeyMander 2’s greatest strength. Using the companion mobile app, you can tweak a wide array of settings to help you hit the right balance of speed and precision.
Before all that, though, you need to set up the device. The process is relatively simple, requiring you to plug in the console, gamepad, keyboard and mouse to their respective ports before syncing the device up to the mobile app on your phone. The only issue I encountered was with my MSI Vigor GK50 RGB keyboard which required me to plug the KeyMander 2 into a separate power source. According to the documentation, the LED on the KeyMander 2 should have glowed orange to indicate this, but it remained unlit. It took me a bit of mucking around to figure out why nothing was working, but once I had, the rest of the initialisation process was smooth sailing.
To get the most out of the app, you need to sign up for a free KeyMander account. Once that’s done, you can search for and download pre-built profiles for specific games. These have all the key bindings and sensitivity settings filled out and come with notes on what in-game settings to change for an optimal experience. DOOM Eternal, for instance, advises turning the in-game sensitivity settings all the way up and Look Smoothing down to 0.
For games that don’t yet have pre-built profiles, the default console profiles provide a totally viable baseline to jump in and play. All the basic controller inputs are mapped and ready to go, with standard sensitivity settings you can tweak as needed. It’s typically better to go with a game-specific profile when one is available, but the core experience is largely the same. That’s good, as the library of game profiles is relatively small at the time of writing, especially for the Nintendo Switch.
Each profile, whether it be for a specific game or system, provides plenty of settings to tweak. There’s key binding, which lets you assign different keyboard keys and mouse buttons to the various buttons, triggers and sticks of a controller. You can also create macros, which let you define a sequence of up to 8 controller commands that you can then execute with a single button press.
Most of the customisation options pertain to the mouse and how its inputs are translated into joystick commands. Along with adjusting the raw sensitivity of the mouse, you can define Turn Speed acceleration to compensate for in-game limits on joystick turn speed. A feature called Mouse Traction Control ignores small vertical mouse movements when making large horizontal movements, keeping your view locked level when performing 180- or 360-degree spins.
Joystick dead zone settings are another important feature. Most games apply dead zones to joystick movement so that small movements – such as those that occur involuntarily on older, worn joysticks – don’t cause your aim to jitter all over the place. With a mouse, however, dead zones can prevent precise aiming from registering. Reducing the dead zone in the KeyMander app can compensate for this.
Folks who really want to optimise their mouse performance can define their own mouse curve. A mouse curve represents the relationship between the speed of your mouse movements and the speed of in-game aiming. You could, for instance, adjust the curve so that small mouse movements are slow and precise while larger movements remain fast and responsive.
First- and third-person shooters benefit the most from the KeyMander 2, with the app featuring a dedicated Aim Down Sights (ADS) section for defining mouse settings that only go into effect when aiming down sights.
Beyond sensitivity options, the KeyMander app also features a Turbo mode that rapidly mashes a single controller input when you hit a button on your mouse or keyboard. Any controller input is fair game, and you can adjust the level of intensity to mash at different speeds. This is a particularly great feature for accessibility, as it helps folks with dexterity limitations overcome games that feature button-hammering quick-time events.
Just as important as the depth of customisation is the fact you can change any of the above settings on-the-fly and see the changes immediately. Being able to tweak sensitivity settings and instantly feel the difference is tremendously useful, and it greatly simplifies the process of finding the optimal settings for each game.
Along with enabling keyboard and mouse controls, the KeyMander 2 lets you use official PS4, Xbox and Nintendo Switch controllers on other platforms. For instance, I tested using the Xbox Series X controller on the Switch, and it worked flawlessly. Just like with the keyboard and mouse, you can map buttons and adjust sensitivity settings as you see fit.
Should you buy the KeyMander 2?
- Buy it if you want greater speed and accuracy in console shooters
- Don’t buy it if you’re expecting a perfect 1:1 translation of the PC mouse and keyboard experience
The KeyMander 2 is an impressive device. Enabling mouse and keyboard support on consoles that don’t natively support it is no mean feat, and the tricks the KeyMander 2 pulls to overcome many of its challenges are both crafty and effective. You’re not getting quite the same speed and precision of a PC mouse-and-keyboard setup, but it comes respectably close in many cases.
I also want to shout out the accessibility options the KeyMander 2 unlocks. It allows folks who have trouble operating standard controllers to use peripherals like trackballs, foot pedals and other diverse input methods. Any device that makes it easier for more people to play games deserves praise, especially given the KeyMander 2’s reasonable price tag.
Pricing and availability
3 x USB Type-A, 1 x microUSB
Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, PS3, Nintendo Switch