Cooler Master has launched the MK850 mechanical gaming keyboard with eight configurable pressure-sensitive keys that can mimic the analogue input of a console-style game controller’s analogue sticks and trigger buttons. This allows gamers to have a bit of both worlds – the comfort of a desktop keyboard and the sensitivity and accuracy of a controller. The Q, W, E, R, A, S, D, and F keys on the Cooler Master MK850 are equipped with infrared sensors that can measure the position of a key all along its 4mm actuation length. Users switch between standard keyboard and various styles of controller-centric input by switching between five profiles designed for different types of games.

Cooler Master uses infrared technology developed by a company called Aimpad. What the MK850 keyboard does is essentially emulate an Xbox controller plugged into any Windows or Linux PC. Gamers can use slight finger twitches and adjust the pressure of their key presses to register different intensities of input, for example when controlling a car’s acceleration and braking or simply moving around in a first-person shooter.

Setting up and using the Aimpad feature isn’t going to be very easy though, and games will have to support analogue controllers. According to Cooler Master’s own FAQ, the analogue keys have to be calibrated each time the feature is turned on, which can take a little time. Some games might not recognise the virtual controller as Player 1, in which case the keyboard might need to be unplugged and reconnected.

Users are advised to switch profiles rather than turning the Aimpad keys off. The default profile M1 turns the Cooler Master MK850 into a standard gaming keyboard, and you use it as you would use any other. M2 is is the first-person shooter mode, and only W, A, S, and D become pressure-sensitive to emulate an analogue stick. M3 and M4 are for driving and flight simulators respectively, giving you analogue triggers for throttle and a stick for direction control. M5 is for MOBA games, giving each key a hair-trigger actuation point.

Aside from its signature feature, the Cooler Master MK850 uses Cherry MX Red keys which are a popular choice for mechanical gaming keyboards. There’s also a padded wrist rest that can be attached magnetically, and two precision wheels within reach above the F1-F4 keys allowing you to adjust your DPI sensitivity, volume, or lighting pattern, amongst other things. The MK850 has a detachable braided USB Type-C cable, and the keyboard is constructed using aluminium. Of course there’s also programmable per-key RGB LED backlighting.

The Cooler Master MK850 is now on sale in the USA priced at $200. There is no word as yet as to the pricing and availability in South Africa.