Page 2 - A Closer Look - Hardware and Software
The look of the Cooler Master ControlPad is much more standard and minimalist when compared to the design of an average keypad, which typically has more of a gamer appearance. The Cooler Master logo outline on the wrist rest is a satisfying design choice, as it does not make the product look too busy and uses space that would look awkward if left blank. At first glance, the ControlPad resembles a detachable numpad due to its almost square, uniform shape, along with the keys numbered 01 to 24. It has a very small footprint, especially if the user decides not to use the wrist rest. The brushed aluminum plating on the top of the ControlPad and of the wrist rest gives it a nice weight and a premium look. The two-wheel controls at the top of the board fit in with the design well and have a grippy texture on them for easy scrolling.
The Cooler Master ControlPad measures approximately 103.8mm in width, 137mm in length, and 42.42mm in height. The included wrist rest adds an additional 89mm to the length of the unit. Looking at the mass of the unit, the ControlPad weighs in at 0.23kg, which is fairly light. However, this is not unexpected of something this size. The top plate of the ControlPad is made out of brushed aluminum, causing the keypad to have no flex whatsoever. Other than the top plate, the rest of the keypad is made out of plastic, but this does not take away from the overall build quality.
The Cooler Master ControlPad has a very uniform layout. Unlike other keypads, the keys are in a five-by-five grid with the bottom right key being two keys wide. This is to be used as the spacebar on the unit. Looking at the top right of the keypad, there are four profile indicator lights that can be customized for your key profiles. The precision wheels at the top of the board are made of aluminum and have a smooth feel to their rotation, yet still have enough resistance so they do not feel like they will start spinning without you touching them. Unlike other gaming keypads, the ControlPad does not have a thumb stick. At first, I was hesitant as I became used to using the thumb stick on other common gamepads like the Logitech G13. However, it did not take long to get used to changing those stick controls to keys. The wrist rest is comfortable, although having it right against the keypad feels a little too close. I found myself having to pull the wrist rest away from the keypad in order to comfortably rest my wrist and forearm during use. The magnetism of the wrist rest is very weak and is almost unnoticeable when connecting it to the ControlPad.
The keycaps of the Cooler Master ControlPad are made of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, also known as ABS plastic. ABS plastic is known for being smoother and more prone to getting a shine and wearing out over time. In addition to the base set of keys, Cool Master also sells dedicated keycap sets for programs such as Photoshop, Illustrator, and Premiere Pro. These keycaps are also ABS plastic. Since Cooler Master is expecting the user to use the ControlPad as their main gaming controller, it may have been beneficial for Cooler Master to include keycaps made of polybutylene terephthalate or PBT plastic instead, as this material is stronger and more durable.
The Cooler Master ControlPad supports full N-key rollover, meaning every single key press will register even if they are all pressed simultaneously. With this, there will be no ghosting issues, where some keys may not be registered. This will be useful for gamers or fast typists as the faster key presses can be recognized at the same time.
Taking a peek underneath the keycaps, our model of the Cooler Master ControlPad comes with Cherry MX Red switches. The ControlPad comes with two options, which is Cherry MX Red or Gateron Red switches. If you are unaware, red switches are linear switches. This means that when pressing the switch, there is smooth up and down travel with no tactile bump or click. The Cherry and Gateron switches both have an actuation force of 45g, 2mm travel to actuation, and a total travel distance of 4mm to bottom out. Although the specifications are the same, Gateron switches are typically smoother in my opinion, but do not have as long of a lifespan as Cherry switches. The review unit provided has Cherry MX Red switches.
The reason that the Cooler Master ControlPad only comes in linear switches is because it comes with Aimpad technology, which is something we have first seen in the Cooler Master MK850 mechanical keyboard. This means that every switch on the ControlPad is pressure-sensitive using infrared sensors. The idea is to simulate the use of an analog controller for games that might require more precision. This is intended for driving or first-person stealth games, as you can partially press down a key to simulate a joystick being partially moved forward. If you are playing a driving game, you can partially press a key down if your course needs correction instead of tapping the keys little by little to steer the car where you want it to go. The pressure sensitivity takes some getting used to. Having played games on a keyboard for years, partially pressing down a key was something that went directly against my muscle memory. However, once you get used to the action of slowly pressing a key, your precision when steering does increase. That being said, the amount of control you would get out of the ControlPad will never be as comfortable or intuitive as using a gamepad or steering wheel in my opinion.
The pressure sensitivity also added another factor to the switch selection of the ControlPad. When pressing a Cherry MX Red slowly, you can feel every bit of friction in that switch. It even sometimes causes the key to get slightly caught on the way down, because you are pressing it so lightly. From this experience, I would recommend going for the Gateron option of the ControlPad as it will give you a smoother keystroke for when you really need that pressure sensitivity.
On the back of the Cooler Master ControlPad is the USB Type-C port to connect the unit to your computer. The included USB cable is braided, adding to the durability and has a Velcro strap for storing the cable. There are small teeth in the cable run on the bottom that hold the cable in place when you plug it in. The way the connector is made acts as a brace that prevents the cable from bending in ways that might break the adapter.
Located at the bottom of the ControlPad are four rubber feet on each corner of the keypad. The feet on the back of the keypad extend out to raise the edge of the ControlPad for people who prefer a steeper playing angle. Four rubber feet are located on the wrist rest as well. These feet proved to be grippy enough that I never had the ControlPad sliding around while in use. There was only occasional movement of the wrist rest towards the ControlPad as the wrist rest is very light. While the construction of the wrist rest feels nice, the light weight does make the wrist rest feel cheaper than the rest of the unit.
The ControlPad requires the software MasterPlus, which is a 176MB file at press time and is needed to control the key mapping and RGB colors of the keys. From the main screen, you can navigate the tabs for lighting, key mapping, macros, and profiles. The software comes with a plethora of different effects as well as individual key customization. The color can be controlled right down to the specific RGB code, giving you endless customization possibilities. In the mapping tab, you can customize every key to be regular keystrokes, media keys, controller buttons, and even dual-action button presses, which utilize the pressure sensitivity to have a half button press being one action and a full press being a different action. In the macro tab, new macros can be recorded and assigned to keys. These macros can also include delay and be set to repeat if so desired. Finally, in the profile tab, you can create up to twenty four profiles and assign different color patterns for the indicator lights. From this screen, you can also export profiles to send around to people and import profiles from the internet. The ControlPad does have 512KB of built-in memory, so you can always use your profile without having the application turned on in the background.
Overall, MasterPlus is an easy to understand software with an intuitive interface and I did not find myself needing to look up and tutorials on how to use it. The only downside, however, is that there are no preset profiles that directly map to a controller. The default layout is on the left side of the keyboard where you would have your hand for WASD. Personally, I found that finding an optimal layout for controller mapping is time consuming, as it can vary from game to game and can take some trial and error to find what works. In addition to this, there does not seem to be any place online where people are sharing profiles. This was surprising to me as they made it very easy to export your profiles, although this could end up being more of a community-driven idea.
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. A Closer Look - Hardware and Software