Cooler Master MK850 AIMPAD Mechanical Gaming Keyboard Review
Published: 28th February 2019 | Source: Cooler Master | Price: |
Any time a new technology is introduced, admittedly in this case a fairly new tech, the key to winning over the audience is, in a large part, making it feel old and familiar. It should be an addition to a pre-existing formula, rather than a wholesale rewriting of the rule book. We see this in smartphones with their gradual evolution whilst retaining a familiar operating system, or applications where new features are a part of the whole but the main tools are still where you expect to find them, or in the hardware world wherein, for example, the ray tracing and AI elements of a Nvidia RTX card are additions but don't require you to bin all your old titles.
Analogue keys really made their mark with the launch of the Wooting One keyboard. It was very different to all that had come before, with a tenkeyless design, fully analogue switches across the board and a pretty complicated software package. It was the perfect early adopter product wherein you got out of it what you were willing to put in and required a fair investment of time and energy to really fully utilise all it had to offer. The Cooler Master MK850 AIMPAD is much more likely to find a home in the mainstream thanks to its commitment to being an excellent keyboard first and foremost, and the AIMPAD elements an addition on top of an already great product but ones that you could safely ignore if you had zero interest in them. Most importantly the pricing, whilst very much at the premium end of the market, is such that even if you spent your whole time with it using it just as a flagship mechanical keyboard you wouldn't feel short changed.
Build quality is outstanding. Probably the market leader at the moment is the Corsair K95 Platinum, and the MK850 is every bit as bombproof as the legendary build quality of that particular product. Indeed at this price point the K95 Platinum ends up being the biggest rival for the Cooler Master, and the MK850 AIMPAD isn't found wanting in any regard. The chassis is extremely robust with no flex at all and a premium feel thanks to its aluminium fascia. The keycaps are thick, high quality plastic which lessens any vibrations and typing noise. The cable is lengthy and detachable, with an easy to fit Type-C on the keyboard end and a regular Type-A connector on the PC end. We're also big fans of the ability to route the cable out of the back of the MK850 in three different spots. Additionally the lighting is exceptional, capable of being richly saturated if necessary whilst also replicating the more subtle shades if that is your bag. The quality of the RGB is perhaps best shown in the yellow, which is yellow, and not some slightly green abomination. Lastly the extra keys - dedicated media keys and AIMPAD controls alongside twin wheels - all feel of the very highest quality. We often find that the non-MX keys suffer when compared to the legendary feel of the main 105, but that is not the case here.
As a keyboard, free from any AIMPAD considerations, it is up there with the very best. As we said at the start the key to success is having the analogue options being an addition to the overall package, and Cooler Master have knocked it out of the park with the MK850. If you didn't know it had fancy optical sensors underneath the main WASD+ cluster there is nothing to give it away. Of course it does though, and the usability of the AIMPAD keys is splendid. They are supremely easy to configure in the fantastic software, and support the full range of key travel. Admittedly most of us who play games that need a gamepad, own a gamepad, but there are many times when it isn't to hand, or is charging, or you're just more comfortable using the old familiar keyboard and mouse combination. Here the MK850 comes into its own, letting you have the subtlety of analogue character movement and the accuracy of mouse firing. It's the best of both worlds. There is a small adjustment period whilst your muscles learn their new tasks, and fine tuning this is the icing on the cake for the Cooler Master design. Anyone who has had to set up analogue axes - whether in flight sims or driving games or whatever - knows the frustration of loading the game, trying your settings, quitting back to the hardware application, adjusting, back round again. With the AIMPAD controls on the top right of the MK850 this can be done - like everything about it - on the fly. So you can fine tune your experience without all that rigmarole.
Combining the legendary Cherry MX switches with peerless build quality, brilliant lighting, one of the best software packages on the market and wrapping it all up in a package which makes the idea of analogue keys an easy-to-use reality, the Cooler Master MK850 AIMPAD is right up there with the very best keyboards on the planet, and even with that premium pricing it feels like a bargain and wins our OC3D Enthusiast Award.