Cooler Master MK850 review: Top model with analog keys

The MK850 is the new top model mechanical keyboard from Cooler Master. The manufacturer has unpacked with a striking design, spacious accessories and Cherry MX switches. What should make the keyboard especially special are the analog keys? We know that of course from the Wooting One, but according to Cooler Master, the solution from Aimpad, which was used with the MK850, would work better than that from Wooting. Is that right – and does the MK850 also tick nicely?

Game controllers for the console, joysticks, and racing wheels have been providing analog input for years. On the PC it is still possible to do that. With a keyboard, for example, you can only steer your digital car over the circuit with full throttle, whereby you always go through the bends with a hard yank at the wheel. With an analog keyboard, you simply give less gas by releasing the key a little while you can take that slight turn with a soft touch. With that you have potentially much more control over your game.

Exclusive with Aimpad
When we talk about a keyboard with analog functionality, we quickly think of Wooting nowadays. Just after leaving school, the Dutch trio behind this startup realized that the recently introduced Adomax Flare tech Prism switches could have the option of not only registering or pressing a key but also far above. The rest is history; via Kickstarter, the men then raised more than 135 thousand euros for the development of their Wooting One keyboard, which is now accompanied by a second version.

The Arnhem trio, however, was not the first to invent the concept of an analog keyboard. In the United States, developer Lance Madsen had been working on the same idea for years: integrating a form of analog input into a keyboard. The starting point of his startup Aimpadhowever differs from the Wooting One in a number of ways. For example, Aimpad initially tried to sell a smaller, smaller keyboard via Kickstarter, for use alongside a normal mechanical keyboard. That idea proved unsuccessful. After a number of years of further development, Aimpad subsequently entered into an exclusive partnership with Cooler Master to release a full-size keyboard. Until 2020, Cooler Master is, therefore, the only manufacturer that can market an Aimpad keyboard. The Masterkeys MK850 is the first of these.

Eight times analog
The first Cooler Master Aimpad keyboard is called Masterkeys MK850. It is the new top model in the Masterkeys keyboard series, positioned above the older MK750. The MK850 was already announced at CES last year, then under the name MK851. The MK850 then also shown was technically the same as the MK851, except that this model would have to do without the Aimpad technology. The variant without Aimpad fell during the past year, after which Cooler Master renamed the MK851 again as MK850.

Unlike the Wooting One, the MK850 does not have analog functionality on all keys. The special analog switches that were developed in collaboration with Aimpad are only present on eight keys. On the ‘wasd’ and ‘qerf’ keys, the Aimpad switches are located next to the normal ones, as we know from Cooler Master from Cherry. For example, the touch of the keys with and without analog functionality is not different.

Prices and availability
Cooler Master has at least given the MK850 a price tag that fits a top model mechanical keyboard. You count no less than 220 euros for the input device, which will be in stores from the beginning of next week. That is a lot of money even in this segment. For example, the most luxurious keyboard from Razer, the Huntsman Elite, costs a dozen less. Another competitor, the Corsair K95 Platinum, is on average even twenty euros cheaper.

In brief
Are you looking for a new mechanical keyboard in the high-end segment, then the MK850 is an interesting option. But few other keyboards offer the possibility for analog input. If you find that function specifically interesting, then the Wooting One and Wooting Two offer the same functionality for a lower price, whereby the software implementation is also somewhat better overall. If you see analogue input mainly as a nice extra, the MK850 will face strong competition from other high-end mechanical gaming keyboards. Apart from your personal preference for brand, appearance and the used Cherry MX Red switches – Cooler Master does not offer another choice – well-known competitors such as the Corsair K95 Platinum are a few tens of cheaper, with the software of those keyboards also being more extensive.

-The less extensive software package
-Not equipped with PBT keycaps as standard
-Only eight keys with analog input; few options in the software to configure it
+Analog registration is accurate and few other keyboards offer this at all
+High-quality appearance
+Extensive feature set

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