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Cooler Master MK850 IR keyboard wants to make your Playstation and XBox controllers obsolete

Cooler Master says its MK850 IR keyboard can make your Playstation and XBox controllers obsolete
Cooler Master says its MK850 IR keyboard can make your Playstation and XBox controllers obsolete
Is it time to throw away your console controllers for a keyboard? No, it's not. The Cooler Master MK850 is ambitious, but it just can't replace the tactility and range of motion of traditional joysticks.

Not to be confused with the Logitech MK850, the Cooler Master MK850 is a full-size per-key RGB mechanical keyboard designed for gamers. What makes this one so special, however, is that it integrates "Aimpad technology" on eight keys (QWER and ASDF) in order to provide a level of analog control similar to the joysticks on console controllers. In other words, these eight specific keys can register precise inputs that specific game genres can benefit from including driving, flight sims, and other movement-sensitive gameplay.

First, let's get some basic features out of the way. The MK850 is an upper-range gaming keyboard meaning it houses the usual set of auxiliary functions that most gamers have come to expect. For example, there are two USB-A ports along the back edge of the keyboard, two large retractable rubber feet to angle the keyboard deck, and dedicated media keys and macro keys along the top and left edges, respectively. A soft palm rest is included in the box which attaches to the front edge of the keyboard magnetically. Cheaper mechanical keyboards like the Rosewill K85 tend to use plastic latches instead.

Technical details on the keyboard such as weight, depth, and more can be found on the official manufacturer product page here or the Amazon page here.

Cooler Master MK850 is currently shipping for $149 USD
Cooler Master MK850 is currently shipping for $149 USD
Packaging includes extra keys, key remover, USB-C to USB-A power/data cable, and soft palm rest
Packaging includes extra keys, key remover, USB-C to USB-A power/data cable, and soft palm rest
Palm rest attaches magnetically to the front edge of the keyboard
Palm rest attaches magnetically to the front edge of the keyboard
Underside of keyboard is plastic
Underside of keyboard is plastic
Soft palm rest surface is susceptible to unsightly fingerprint buildup
Soft palm rest surface is susceptible to unsightly fingerprint buildup
2x USB-A ports along the rear
2x USB-A ports along the rear
The two free-scrolling wheels are customizable
The two free-scrolling wheels are customizable

We especially appreciate that the keyboard integrates two free-scrolling wheels for easier adjustments whereas most other mechanical keyboards would integrate only one wheel. Both wheels and all keys - except for the three Aimpad keys near the top right corner - are customizable via the Cooler Master MasterPlus software.

There are a few aspects about the MK850 that could be improved upon. The five media keys, for example, are not backlit unlike the rest of the keyboard and so they can be difficult to see when under dim ambient lighting. Furthermore, the labeling of secondary functions on some keys is far too small and not as brightly lit as it could have been. For example, the F9, F10, and F11 symbols are well-lit while the secondary function symbols immediately below them are significantly smaller and dimmer. A more evenly lit keyboard would have been preferable.

Rear feet tucked in for sitting flat on the desk
Rear feet tucked in for sitting flat on the desk
Rear feet opened for elevating the keyboard
Rear feet opened for elevating the keyboard
Front edge of keyboard
Front edge of keyboard
Rear corner of keyboard
Rear corner of keyboard
Only the eight QWER and ASDF keys have exclusive IR sensors for the Aimpad sensitivity controls
Only the eight QWER and ASDF keys have exclusive IR sensors for the Aimpad sensitivity controls

Another feature that could have been better is the USB cable recesses on the bottom of the keyboard. These cavities are supposed to secure the USB cable in place underneath the keyboard deck, but the cable tends to pop out quite easily which can potentially tilt the keyboard on one side when it is laid flat. It's a great idea that's unfortunately poorly executed.

The per-key RGB lighting features are similar to what you'd find on the Cooler Master K653 since the manufacturer employs the same MasterPlus software across its per-key RGB keyboards. The software itself is quite large at over 300 MB, but it's worth installing nonetheless in order to fully exploit the functions available.

Front edge also lights up...
Front edge also lights up...
... but the palm rest covers it completely
... but the palm rest covers it completely
The glossy plastic along the top and front edge don't blend in well with the aluminum keyboard deck along the top
The glossy plastic along the top and front edge don't blend in well with the aluminum keyboard deck along the top
Handy key combination card. Many of these options are easier to toggle with the Cooler Master software
Handy key combination card. Many of these options are easier to toggle with the Cooler Master software
A screw is hidden under the tape for warranty purposes
A screw is hidden under the tape for warranty purposes
The carved out slots are a good idea for guiding the cable, but the cable pops off too easily
The carved out slots are a good idea for guiding the cable, but the cable pops off too easily
The three glossy buttons activate only when the keyboard is powered on
The three glossy buttons activate only when the keyboard is powered on
Red Cherry keys. Brown and Blue are also available
Red Cherry keys. Brown and Blue are also available

The Aimpad feature can be toggled through a dedicated button on the keyboard. When activated, the QWER and ASDF keys become lit and they can be individually calibrated if needed. These eight keys (or only the WASD keys if desired) mimic the left analog joystick on a traditional console controller. The software already has preset functions for FPS, driving, flight, and MOBA style games, but users can customize the actuation point and deadzone sensitivity if desired.

When testing the racing game F1 2021, we would set W as 'RT' (accelerate), A as 'Left', D as "Right', and S as 'LT' (brake) much like on an XBox controller. The sensitivity to inputs involving turning and accelerating is noticeable when driving, but we find that these precise inputs are much more difficult to perform than just on a regular joystick. For example, pushing a finger down a quarter of the way on a keyboard key is more tiring on your hand than simply tilting a joystick in any one specific direction for precise wheel turns. There's definitely a learning curve involved to the point where we would rather just use an actual controller or steering wheel instead for a more "natural" feel.

Spending $150+ USD on a feature that a regular controller can do better is a tough sell. Gamers might be better off skipping Aimpad for the less expensive Cooler Master K653 or SK622 and then using those extra funds saved for a traditional controller instead.

The five media keys are not backlit
The five media keys are not backlit
Glossy buttons activated. These cannot be customized unlike the rest of the keyboard since they are dedicated to Aimpad mode
Glossy buttons activated. These cannot be customized unlike the rest of the keyboard since they are dedicated to Aimpad mode
The smaller symbols under the larger F9, F10, F11, and F12 symbols are more dimly lit and difficult to see during use
The smaller symbols under the larger F9, F10, F11, and F12 symbols are more dimly lit and difficult to see during use
USB-C power/data port is underneath the keyboard and not along the rear edge
USB-C power/data port is underneath the keyboard and not along the rear edge
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Allen Ngo
Allen Ngo - Lead Editor U.S. - 4840 articles published on Notebookcheck since 2011
After graduating with a B.S. in environmental hydrodynamics from the University of California, I studied reactor physics to become licensed by the U.S. NRC to operate nuclear reactors. There's a striking level of appreciation you gain for everyday consumer electronics after working with modern nuclear reactivity systems astonishingly powered by computers from the 80s. When I'm not managing day-to-day activities and US review articles on Notebookcheck, you can catch me following the eSports scene and the latest gaming news.
contact me via: @AllenNgoNBC
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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2021 10 > Cooler Master MK850 IR keyboard wants to make your Playstation and XBox controllers obsolete
Allen Ngo, 2021-10- 6 (Update: 2021-10- 6)