The MK850 is one of the peripherals supported by Cooler Master's Portal software. Large and clear, the main UI has a hardware selection list on the left (in case you have multiple supported CM bits connected) and a tab-based structure for the sub-menus.
The Aimpad tab lets you customise what Aimpad keys are enabled in each mode and what controller inputs they are mapped to. You also get a manual sensitivity control slider with the same function as the dedicated keys in the top-right, but this time you actually get to see the current setting.
The Lighting tab has a list of effects to choose from, and lets you customise colour choices for both foreground and background effects e.g. a static background colour that also ripples in the foreground colour in response to keys being pressed. Speed and direction can also be customised where relevant, but this tab isn’t as intuitive as it could be, especially when doing a per-key static pattern. Still, the multi-zone and multi-layer effects – the most complex ones – are pretty easy to get to grips with, and most users will likely find software easier for lighting control than hardware.
Because of its plug and play nature, key programming is limited compared to what you would get from Corsair or Razer, for example. Still, you can remap and disable all main keys easily enough, and custom functions do include some Windows commands like Browser or Email as well as user-made macros. The keymap is intuitive, but the drop-down menus are messy and cramped, and the lighting for which keys have been assigned to what should be clearer too.
The Macro tab is simple with a clear left-to-right process for naming, recording/editing, and assigning your macros. Setting delays, however, needs to be easier, but otherwise I’m satisfied with the implementation here, and it’s easy to set different playback methods for your custom commands.
The Profile tab is a basic profile manager for the four onboard profiles. You can assign auto-switching for one .exe per profile (this won’t carry over plug and play, though), and importing and exporting is also supported.
As I come to the end of a 3,000 word keyboard review, it’s time to
question all my life choices bring things to a close. At £210 the MK850 has its eyes firmly set on the premium market, on gamers who want top-end hardware and the very latest features, but the same could be said for £150 keyboards. The difference, of course, is Aimpad, and unfortunately I’m not sold on Aimpad being worth as much as Cooler Master thinks it is.
In terms of positives, the MK850 holds its own in terms of features and design next to top-end units from Corsair, Razer, and Logitech for the most part. All the bells and whistles are there, with USB 3.0 connectivity and excellent hardware-level customisation standing out. The Portal software needs work in multiple areas, but the core design is solid.
Aimpad, though, feels like it has limited use. Not only is it limited to just eight keys, but your ability to tweak what it can do is also hampered compared to what you can do with Wooting keyboards, though I can’t comment on qualitative differences between the two implementations. The in-game advantage will vary considerably by title, but I reckon only a handful of titles will benefit massively from this; controllers are pretty great for a lot of games still and far cheaper, while the most serious of players in certain game types will look towards specialised controllers rather than enhanced keyboards.
I’m perhaps not enough of a gamer these days to benefit from Aimpad, but the consensus among young whipper-snappers in the office was similar to mine, in that the tech is cool to have as an extra but not something they’d want to pay so much more for. This makes the £210 price problematic. Despite the many, many features, it’s still too hard to justify in its current implementation. As such, I’m gonna go buy a quarter of a car instead. Or maybe some new clothes…
October 14 2021 | 15:04