Qpad are a brand that may not be as familiar to PC friv gamers of recent times than other brands such as Razer or SteelSeries, but they’ve been making top quality gear for PC gamers for a very long time — with a lot of pro-gamers favouring their products over the years. Their latest offering comes in the form a mechanical keyboard, the MK-85. I’ve been using it for a while now, for gaming, typing, and other keyboard-using tasks. So here’s what I think.
The first thing you’ll notice upon receiving any product is the packaging. The MK-85 comes in a box that’s just big enough to hold the keyboard itself, which is well packaged and held in place with a quality foam. There’s no polystyrene here. Along with that, there’s simply a driver disc (hang on to this, I’ll explain later), a key pulling tool, 4 orange key caps to use as desired, and a small quick-start guide sat in the box. You’ll also want to use your strong hand to take it from the mailman as, being a keyboard of the mechanical variety, it’s fairly weighty.
The good stuff really begins when you pull it out of that packaging, though.Upon first glimpsing the MK-85, it looks stunning. The whole keyboard is covered in a kind of rubbery material, similar to that which a lot of gaming mice have implemented. It not only looks a hundred times better than raw plastic, but it’s a whole lot nicer to the touch as well. Although, it’s a bit of a dust and fingerprint magnet; you’ll be forever wiping it down to keep it looking at its best. But, I once heard that keyboards harbour a lot of bacteria, so it might be a good thing.
And if you thought it looked good when you opened it, wait until you plug it in. The MK-85 features a single red LED light behind every single key, which really brings it to life when you give it some power. Where other backlit keyboards are lit in a few different areas, the multitude of LEDs in the MK-85 means that every single key is lit to its full potential — it gives a real bright red glow to the board, and there’s no dull areas. This is all adjustable between various brightnesses, and a pulsing effect, by way of holding down the function key and pressing “2″ or “8″ on the Num Pad.
Which brings me to another point, the function key. It’s something we don’t often see on gaming keyboards, but anyone with a laptop will be familiar with the idea. You may have noticed from the pictures that the MK-85 doesn’t have a bunch of extra keys dotted around it like many others, but by holding down that function key, you get access to media commands and five macro keys, which are located on the F1 to F11 keys. F12 doubles as way to switch between profiles that you’ve setup, switching between a “gaming” and a “PC” mode. My only gripe here is the location of the function key. It’s set to the right of the space bar, so to hold it down and press the keys in the top left (mute/volume), you’ll either need two hands or strangely long fingers like Jimi Hendrix.
The MK-85 works a treat by simply plugging it in, but to get the full programmable featureset from it, you’ll want to install the drivers. Which is where we get back to that disc I mentioned before. I hope you kept it, as upon performing my usual routine of going to the manufacturer’s website to get the latest version, I realised it’s not to be found there. So it seems this disc is your only method of installing the software. Once installed, it does everything you’d expect, how you’d expect. It’s far less pretty to look at than something like the SteelSeries Engine software, but does its job just fine.
Another thing to be noticed upon plugging it in is one of the MK-85′s biggest features, there’s only one USB plug to connect. That may sound like a strange thing to list as a feature, but this powers the keyboard, the backlighting, and the 2 port USB hub that sits in the top right. Most keyboards with a hub use 2 USB connectors, but the MK-85 does something even bigger with its single plug, it offers full n-key rollover. It’s the world’s first keyboard to do this without using a PS/2 connection (which is being phased out) or multiple USBs, meaning that keys will always register properly if more than one is pressed at the same time, no matter the combination. This is, obviously, a hugely beneficial feature to have while gaming — and it’ll leave you with more ports open for other peripherals. There’s also ports for headphones and a microphone sat on the top right edge, which require two 3.5mm jacks to be connected. These three connectors are all bunched into one chunky cable, which is nicely braided to not only look good, but also helps avoid tangling.
Let’s get to actually using Qpad’s MK-85, though, shall we? Which I have to say is an absolute delight. Being mechanical, there’s no sloppy-feeling rubber domes hidden beneath the keys. Having an actual mechanised switch beneath each key offers a smooth and solid action with each press. It makes the world of difference when using them, and will mean they last a whole lot longer too. This particular model makes use of Cherry MX Red switches. They require a minimal actuation force (just 45 grams) and are of a linear nature, which means there’s not a tactile click feeling as the key actuates (something that the brown, blue and black MX switches have). They still activate before fully depressing the key, though, which is great when tapping a key to strafe a little in an FPS, for example. It’s also amazing for typing. Upon getting used to the keys — which takes a little while, as any first time mechanical user will admit — the tiny force required to make the keys register means your fingers can dance about the keys, with less missed presses and far less fatigue.
With the recent resurgence in mechanical keyboards, and the vast array of different switches on offer, it really does come down to preference as to which is right for you. Some will say that certain switches are better for certain genres of friv gaming, but to me it’s really a matter of preference. What I will say, though, is that the non-clicky keys (reds, blacks etc.) are, in my opinion, the best for someone who’s using them for a variety of uses of genres. But most importantly, the choice is there, which is isn’t when using a rubber domed board — and Qpad do offer the MK-80 for those who want blue switches with a tactile click to them.What is certain, is that you’ll never go back to a non-mechanical board ofter you’ve dabbled with Cherry MX switches of any kind.
When you mix these keys with the ridculously solid build quality of the MK-85, its rubber finish that just makes you want to touch it all the time, and the wonderfully comfortable wrist rest, you end up with a keyboard of the very finest quality. As with most good mechanical keyboards on the market, you’re paying a premium to get that extra quality, but in the case of the MK-85, it’s most certaily a case of ‘you get what you pay for’.