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Cooler Master ControlPad – Are less keys actually better?

We recently had the chance to spend some time with a new product that Cooler Master has been working on for quite a while now. The ControlPad is their new fully reprogrammable, 24 key keypad that was designed to be used for a combination of productivity and gaming that also has some pretty cool tech built in.

Design

The design of the Controlpad has a pretty modern overall look. It has a brushed aluminum top plate with an anodized gunmetal finish and a pretty solid plastic base. There are two large aluminum scroll wheels at the top that have a slightly rough texture to help with grip and four profile indicator lights. It does also come with a detachable magnetic wrist rest included that has the same overall design with a soft foam cushion wrapped in black matte PU leather that is actually pretty comfortable. The overall build quality is pretty solid and you shouldn’t have any durability issues with everyday use.

Flipping it over

The first thing you’ll notice underneath is the cut out for the included type-C cable there is also a small channel to guide the cable neatly out the back. The Controlpad has two rubber non-slip pads in the bottom corners and two rubberized flip out keyboard feet, Cooler Master stuck a rubber pad on the back of each foot to help keep the controlpad in place even when the feet are collapsed. There is also a non-slip pad in each corner of the wrist rest so its not going anywhere either.

That cool Tech I mentioned

The ControlPad uses Aimpad technology which pretty much makes standard Cherry MX or Gateron red mechanical switches work like the triggers or thumbsticks on a controller. Instead of the key being either on or off, it becomes pressure sensitive and reads how far the key has moved. Maybe pushing the button harder when you’re losing might actually make a difference now. 

So how do these switches make the controlpad special? Well, you can reprogram them to do almost anything, giving you way more options than standard mechanical switches. They can work together to give you the smoothness of a controller’s thumbstick or be programed so that individual keys to do multiple actions depending on how hard you press.

Software

Cooler master’s MasterPlus+ software can be used to reprogram all 24 of these switches with custom recorded macros, different keyboard and mouse inputs or to control things like media playback and RGB lighting. You can even switch between 24 customizable profiles at the push of a button giving you even more options. It can do pretty much anything, you can even use it as a mouse for some reason.

They see me scrolling

The Controlpad has two large aluminum scroll wheels at the top that can be completely reprogrammed to adjust volume, scroll through lighting effects, change backlight brightness and a whole lot more. They are slightly textured to help improve grip with a completely smooth, continuous rotation that does have some resistance so it won’t scroll further than you want it to.

Custom Profiles

Having 24 custom profiles is a nice feature especially if you use a lot of macros and shortcuts for specific games and software. But it can get a little difficult to keep track of, luckily Coolermaster thought of that. You can program the Controlpad to open an application and automatically switch to the profile you made for it. There are a few presets for Adobe photoshop, illustrator and premiere pro which definitely made editing a lot easier.

Keycaps, keycaps and more keycaps

The Controlpad comes with a set of black ABS keycaps numbered 1-24 included. Cooler Master have also released a couple sets of custom keycaps designed to help you find your adobe shortcuts a lot quicker. There are sets for photoshop, illustrator and premiere pro. They also released a set for FPS games and a blank set which can customized somehow but we sadly didn’t get to try these out so I’m not too sure how that works.

Lighting

As for lighting, the ControlPad has 13 customizable RGB effects which can be fine tuned or turned off completely if RGB is not your thing. The RGB isn’t just for aesthetics this time, by color coding certain groups of shortcuts it made them a lot easier to find. Even though the RGB isn’t the brightest it does add a nice backlight.

Will your games support it?

One nice feature is that its plug and play. Your pc automatically detects it as both a controller and a keyboard, so if your game has controller support it will automatically have ControlPad support.

My experience

Gaming with it was pretty good in most games but I think the switches are designed for racing and FPS games, especially if you want to get the most out of the Aimpad functionality. The analogue input made for a pretty smooth experience when steering a car or strafing, almost like having one hand on a controller and the other on a mouse. And when I wasn’t using it as my main keyboard, I programmed it with shortcuts to control my background music and spam emotes. The one thing I did find a little confusing in some games was the top row in the preprogrammed WASD layout because the numbers don’t match the keycaps. 

Honestly where I really felt it helped was with my productivity work. The preprogrammed premiere pro layout was good but did need some tweaking. After I replaced the shortcuts I didn’t really use it made editing a lot quicker. All those milliseconds saved by pushing multiple buttons eventually add up.

Would I recommend it? 

I honestly think it depends on the situation. I would recommend it to content creators, people who work with the adobe suite on a daily basis and want to add something to their setup that can help streamline the creative process or to gamers who want to free up some valuable desk  space and replace their keyboard with something smaller. I’d definitely still recommend keeping your keyboard in arms reach in case you need to google something. The only things I really battled with was initially figuring out how to set it up and trying to remember what I programmed each button to do.

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Written by Wookie

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