Even though the public hasn’t seen much of the first collaboration between Cooler Master and analog switch technology maker Aimpad, the pair are apparently locked in for the next 18 months, at least. An official press release states that the two companies have signed an agreement that “grants Cooler Master a world-wide exclusive license to sell and distribute Aimpad patented analog keyboard technology until 2020.”
That means two important things: First, it means that even without a round of reviews and an initial production run selling to the general public, Cooler Master thinks enough of Aimpad’s analog sensing technology that it wants to have a more serious relationship. Second, it means that there are more Aimpad-enabled CM products in the offing. Both of those are promising for the future of analog switch technology in the mechanical keyboard world.
Wooting beat Aimpad to market with its wonderful, funderful, analog Wooting One. Unlike Wooting, which has its own analog sensing IP and also makes its own keyboards, Aimpad’s play has always been to create the analog sensing technology and then license it to existing keyboard makers. The company’s first big “get” was Cooler Master. At CES 2018, CM showed off a keyboard called the MK851 that used Aimpad’s analog tech on several of the keys.
I’m told that CM is actually renaming that particular keyboard from “MK851” to “MK850.” When I saw the MK851 back at CES, it had Cherry MX Red switches. The MK850 was a separate model with Cherry MX Brown or Blue switches, sans analog tech. Because you can just switch off the analog sensing, and because the MK851 had standard Cherry MX switches, CM decided they didn’t need multiple models. So then, MK850 it is! It will come only with Cherry MX Red RGB switches. Going linear is a wise choice, because analog just doesn’t make sense with a tactile bump and/or a click in the middle of the key travel. The smoothness of the keypress is integral to how a user feels out the analog controls.
The MK850 will make an appearance during Computex next week, and it’s scheduled to launch in Q3.
I don’t yet know anything further about other CM/Aimpad product(s). It could just be one keyboard; the approximately 18-month duration of the exclusivity deal is just about the right amount of time for one good product cycle. This is pure speculation, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a TKL version of the MK850, or even a standalone gaming numpad if CM is feeling saucy.
For a deeper look at Aimpad’s technology, hit the company’s website. There you’ll find lots of videos on the analog switch tech in action, as well as a couple of fine reviews of the Aimpad R5 prototype (including one by yours truly from a while back).