Examining the Cooler Master MM830 gaming mouse and its d-pad

Our initial impression when the Cooler Master MM830 gaming mouse launched was that the OLED seemed like no more than a bauble, while the d-pad built into the left-side thumb rest was actually a promising feature. Now that we’ve had a chance to spend some quality time with CM’s latest and greatest mechanical rodent, we have clarity on both of those items.

In addition to a startling number of “M”s in its name, the CM MM830 sports a PixArt 3360 optical sensor that’s capable of 100-24,000 DPI, which is about 5x more than anyone will ever use. There’s no acceleration, but it does have angle snapping (which you can disable), and the lift-off distance is adjustable up to 2 mm. You can store up to four profiles on the 512 KB of onboard memory. 

The MM830 is a right-handed gaming mouse, not quite ergonomic per se, but shapely. I have to say that I like the contour. The palm rest sits firmly in my hand, and the mouse is long enough that I can comfortably lay my fingers on the left and right click buttons. Note, though, that I have slightly large hands; if you have anything less than above-average-sized hands, you won’t be able to use a claw grip on the MM830.

The exterior is PBT plastic, but it feels a little plasticy (not in a good way), and its surface is ever so slightly textured. I’m sure some people will like the change from a completely smooth surface, but I found it a tiny bit irritating to my fingertips after a long day of clicking. I also started seeing a small amount of wear after just a day or so. It’s not as pronounced as what I’ve seen on some other black plastic mice, and it didn’t seem to get worse as the days wore on. 

The MM830 is balanced. It’s not a light mouse per se; Cooler Master has it listed at 162 g with the cable, but it feels much lighter, closer to the 122 g sans cable that’s in the spec sheet. The lightness may partly be an illusion, because most of the heft is in the middle rather than the front or rear. This was a correct choice on Cooler Master’s part, given that this mouse is so heavy and palm grip-friendly. 

Subjectively, the left and right buttons feel a little heavier and have a more pronounced travel than I’m used to. That’s not a bad thing. The scroll wheel is stepped rather than smooth, and it’s rather light. Its placement is perfect for my finger length and hand size. Obviously that won’t necessarily be the case for everyone else, but it certainly made me happy.

There’s also a DPI button and the four d-pad buttons on the left side. There are no buttons on the right side. All of the buttons are programmable (except for the left click), as are the four lighting zones. There are separate lighting areas on the scroll wheel, behind the scroll wheel, and along the bottom edge of the palm rest. There’s a glowing CM logo on the palm rest, too. 

Underneath the mouse are three large feet for a smooth ride on multiple surfaces. On the left side, towards the front of the MM830, is an OLED display. 

The utterly useless OLED display that is still kind of cool

We’ll get into the weeds with the d-pad, but to be blunt up top: The OLED display on the MM830 serves no practical purpose. Ostensibly, it displays helpful information like in-game stats or the current DPI. You can also set it to display logos and such. The problem is, you can’t see the screen when you’re actually using the mouse, which defeats the purpose of having it in the first place. 

I mean that literally. With the mouse sitting on my mousepad, I can’t see anything that’s displayed on the screen. If my torso was a foot shorter, I could see the screen with a quick askance glance. It’s positioned such that your thumb won’t occlude it—but that grown adults and especially tall children sit at too high an angle to see it. 

I mean come on, that’s fun, right?

That’s not to say it isn’t a neat feature. If you want to trick out your mouse for [reasons], this is a fairly unique way to do so. Just don’t expect any practical benefit. 

 

Let’s talk about this d-pad situation

There is nothing I can write about this d-pad on this mouse that everyone will agree with. We’ve had sufficient spirited debate on its merits just within the TR ranks. 

One point of contention is that, like the OLED display, the d-pad might just be a marketing gimmick. The assertion is that it’s merely a four-button cluster, like any other mouse that has extra programmable side buttons, but with a more sensational name. On the other hand, you could say that these buttons are specifically meant to evoke a d-pad—which is to say, Cooler Master presumes that people will map some of the d-pad inputs you find on a game controller to these buttons, in a similar layout. I’m of the mindset that Cooler Master created this button array for the latter purpose and that we should evaluate it as such. 

The first question, then, is whether the company got the hardware right. The second question is whether or not there’s a point to having a d-pad on your mouse. 

Let me feel those buttons

To the first question, I would answer with a resounding “almost.” Usually, mouse side buttons are light, which for the most part is desirable. You don’t want to have to offer more than a gentle nudge of the thumb to navigate forward or back while you’re browsing online, after all. They’re also usually longish and thinnish. By contrast, d-pads are typically more centered and symmetrical and require more force to actuate. 

The d-pad on the MM830 is, unfortunately, not symmetrical. Instead of a cross with four arms of equal lengths, each arm is a different length. I (think) I understand that Cooler Master fiddled with this layout to accommodate the way your thumb would lay on the side of a mouse versus on top of a controller’s d-pad, but when you get right down to it, the thumb lays exactly the same. It’s just that the mouse’s d-pad and your thumb are 90° from where your thumb lays on a controller’s d-pad. 

In other words, it would have made more sense from a layout perspective to copy and paste a regular d-pad to the side of the MM830. Instead, Cooler Master inexplicably pulled and stretched the arms until they were asymmetrical. The decision on where to place the rearmost button of the d-pad is particularly curious. It’s really hard to strike it; you have to rock your thumb back and press it with your inside knuckle. That’s odd and not especially comfortable, and it makes no sense to put it there. 

The bottom button of the d-pad is also kind of tough to hit. There’s a sloping thumb rest on the side of the MM830 that, for the record, I like just fine, but that button sits on part of the slope. The slope partially blocks my thumb when I try to hit the button, which is frustrating. You’re supposed to be able to swish through the d-pad with one gesture, but the MM830’s d-pad simply makes that impossible. 

The d-pad has other things going for it, though. In addition to the firmer feel, the buttons are stylized, with squared-off ends. It’s a pronounced tactile experience all the way around, and I like how that feels. 

So then, what we have is a half-baked d-pad experience: The layout is off, but Cooler Master more or less got the actual buttons right.

What do you even need a d-pad for?

Hardware considerations aside, it’s fair to ask why you would need or want a d-pad on your mouse in the first place. D-pads on game controllers are usually on the left, after all, whereas you have to use your right hand to use it on the MM830. Thus, even if you can map d-pad controls 1:1 from a gamepad controller to this mouse, your muscle memory doesn’t translate. Plus, as some have pointed out, if you want d-pad controls while you’re gaming, just use a freaking game controller. 

To an extent, that’s obvious, but I’ve been around long enough to know that the way each individual works out their input devices, button mapping, settings, macros, and even lighting is extremely subjective and personal. Sure, maybe you’re not going to find millions of people who have been dying for a mouse with a d-pad to program, but it’s all but guaranteed that a certain number of folks will be over the moon about it. 

 

It seem clear that the intent is to use the d-pad for gaming. We’ll get to that in a moment. But let us not overlook those who, like me, generally use the same mouse for work and gaming and will plan to assign functions to those four buttons. I pretty much can’t rock without at least forward and back nav buttons on a mouse, so that’s a must for me. 

Unfortunately, the MM830’s layout makes this a far less pleasant experience than you get with typical nav buttons. As I mentioned, the back button is just too far back; I wish it was moved up maybe a centimeter. The placement of the forward nav button is fine, but its firmness and stylized shaped make it a little tougher to press than I’m used to. I can’t just lightly squeeze my thumb to actuate it. (I’ve said all that before; but in this context, it’s not a good thing.) 

Alternatively, you could program the top and bottom d-pad buttons for forward and back navigation. Regardless, I do like having an extra couple of buttons for macros and miscellaneous functions. Of course there are myriad options. I played with various button assignments, with mixed results. For example, my favorite keyboard command of all time is Alt + Tab, but you can’t actually program it with Cooler Master’s Portal software. (More ranting on that in a bit.) But, for instance, I found that setting the up arrow on the d-pad to Ctrl + C and the down arrow to Ctrl + V was super handy. 

On the whole, though, the MM830 isn’t a productivity mouse. The d-pad is too much of something and not enough of something else. 

Is it a different story for games? Well, I always feel a little more comfortable moving my fingers around on my mouse buttons versus the keyboard; I get all locked into the WASD cluster and have to think—even for the briefest of brain cycles—about other keys. (Yes, I’m trash at gaming.) I’d much rather use extra mouse buttons even for things like reloading, specials, grabbing stuff, and so on.

 

Using the Portal software 

It’s almost a tired punchline at this point to say that a given company’s configuration and customization software is flawed. It’s no less true of Cooler Master’s Portal software for the MM830, although a lot of it is well thought out, and I didn’t experience any stability issues.

It’s a big and relatively uncluttered UI, neatly divided into sections: Buttons, Performance, Lighting, OLED, Macros, and Profiles.

We won’t burden you with a lengthy description of the lot. You can see most of you need to know about your options by looking through the screenshots. 

A few items are worth pointing out, though. In the Performance area, note that you can set four stages of mouse sensitivity and can assign different values to the X and Y axes. The DPI adjustments are reasonably granular in that you can make adjustments in increments of 200. You can also adjust the button response time, in 4-ms increments, turn off angle snapping, tune to a new mouse surface, and more. Just click Apply to make your tweaks take effect. 

Configuring the lighting is more complicated and confusing than it needs to be, though. There are four lighting zones, and changing to one static color or setting a universal color cycle or breathing effect is easy. A click here and there, and you’re all set. 

But setting lighting for the various zones is odd. You have to click Multizone in the list of LED Mode options, and that gives you a drop-down menu of sorts. (That bit is fairly terrible UI.) You can then click each lighting area, in turn, to activate them. The logo on the palm rest actually has six spots you can enable or disable. But you can’t click the DPI indicators at all. 

What’s really annoying is that you can’t assign different colors to different lighting zones. You can only assign different effects. In other words, let’s say (for whatever accursed reason) you wanted the scroll wheel lit in yellow, the logo in red, and the bottom edge of the palm rest in green, all as static colors. It can’t be done. You can either make all of them one static color, or make one of them a static color, another have color cycling, and the other have a breathing effect. You have the illusion of options, but you’re actually quite limited. 

You are able to create custom colors, though, and there’s an RGB color wheel you can pick from if you don’t want to punch in R/G/B values, but it doesn’t show you a preview as you click and drag the cursor through it. You have to click on a certain spot to see the preview of the color. When you have a color you like, you click the little preview box and drag it to one of the “+” boxes under “Custom Colors.” You can save up to seven custom colors to go along with the seven preset colors.

It’s really easy to set display items for the aforementioned OLED screen with Portal. In that area of the software, you just tick the boxes of the items you’re interested in (like CPU usage, RAM usage, current DPI, etc.) and click Apply. You can also create your own graphics. Click to create a new profile, tick the Customize box, and then click Add New Artwork. You can upload 96×24 black or white Bitmaps, or simply draw something in the GUI box. 

To create macros, enter a name in the box and hit the record button that’s tucked away at the bottom of the window. Perform your macro and click the stop button when you’re done. You can edit the delays, which is nice, but otherwise it’s pretty limited. You can’t edit the order of keypresses nor the actions themselves. And you can’t create an Alt+Tab macro, because even during recording the software thinks you want to Alt+Tab. I’ve encountered this in other softwares before, and I find it maddening. But even if you can’t create the macro you want by performing keypresses, at least let me manually create what I want. Not so with Portal. 

 

About those programmable buttons

But we’re mainly here to talk about those buttons. Cooler Master gives you loads of options, beginning with full programmability of all but the left click button. You can even program the scroll up, scroll down, and click of the scroll wheel. 

The default GUI shows you the top of the MM830, but you can click in the upper right corner of the window to toggle to a side view, so you can peep the side buttons. There you’ll see a curious “Tactix” label on the top d-pad button. This button is central to the whole operation. It serves like a Fn key on a keyboard, letting you enable secondary button features. Thus, within each of the four profiles, you not only get nine programmable mouse buttons, you get an additional eight when you press the Tactix button. That’s 17 total button assignments you can make on each layer. 

To see what those secondary buttons do and to configure them to your liking, click the “Standard View” button on the bottom left of the window to toggle to “Tactix View.” 

This is where the d-pad idea comes fully into play. On a game controller, you get different d-pad functions depending on what you’re doing. Let’s say you’re playing PUBG; the basic d-pad controls let you equip your melee weapon, equip or change your throwable, change fire mode, and change or hold a consumable. You should be able to map all of that to the MM830’s d-pad. If you’re in Aim mode, the d-pad lets you zero in, zero out, reset zeroing, and change fire mode. You should be able to map those to the Tactix layer. 

You can also just use two different profiles, one for each of those modes. It’s just as easy to engage the Tactix layer as it is to switch profiles. Both just require the press of a button. Twist! In order to use the Tactix layer, you have to press and hold the Tactix button. That means you’re supposed to somehow press hold one of the d-pad buttons while clicking another. It’s as difficult as it sounds. 

Aside from the curiously difficult dual-button pressing, the biggest downside here is that you have to do all of this manually. That can be an arduous task, but if you’re willing to put the time in, go for it. 

Note that we had some initial software troubles. After being unable to bind the side buttons in games at all, Cooler Master confirmed that the issue is a known bug. The company had a software update just about ready to go when we reached out, so we waited a day or so for version 1.5.6. By the time we actually got to installing it, version 1.5.7 was ready, and so was a new firmware update. Obviously, then, the software has a history of issues, but CM is also clearly on top of pushing out updates. 

But there’s no way to update Portal from Portal. To force an upgrade, you have to wait for CM to push one out and hope you’re prompted to install it when you launch the application. To bump from 1.5.4, I had to run the original EXE file, and when I uninstalled/reinstalled, it prompted me to update. 

 

Game on? Almost

For programming the MM830’s d-pad for gaming, the mouse continues its theme of “almost.” First of all, the default button assignments are such that only the forward/back buttons can be changed. The other two (up and down) are programmed for Tactix and Profile Switching, respectively. So if you go into a given game and try to bind one of those two, it won’t work. To make them bindable within a game, then, you have to reprogram them from within Portal. The problem with that is you can’t just make them open and bindable; you have to assign something to them, and you have to choose that something from a list. 

The list is extensive and includes every conceivable mouse control, key and key combination, media control, and so on. That’s great if you want to assign something from that list; if you want to bind that button to a d-pad control in a game, though, you have to kludge it. For example, if you want to bind the d-pad controls in Overwatch to the MM830’s d-pad, you have to first pick four inputs that aren’t in the game. Two are easy—mouse nav forward and back—but you need two other random ones. Let’s say arrow up and arrow down. (Fun fact: Portal doesn’t recognize arrow left or arrow right for some reason.) 

So, using Portal, you’ve remapped the d-pad on the MM830 thusly:

-Forward nav → forward nav

-Backward nav → backward nav

-Tactix (up) → arrow up

-Profile Switch (down) → arrow down

I’m already annoyed, aren’t you? Now, you can go into the bindings in Overwatch and change them to whatever you want. Let’s say you hunt down the four functions that the game shows would be mapped to a controller’s d-pad, which happen to be:

-D-pad up = spray menu

-D-pad down = communication menu 

-D-pad left = hero information

-D-pad right = next weapon

To bind those controls to the MM830’s d-pad, enter the bindings area of Overwatch‘s options,  click each of those items in turn, and press the corresponding button on the MM830’s d-pad. But the name of each binding will be whatever button assignment you made in Portal. If you follow the above, you’ll end up with:

-D-pad forward = appears as “5” = performs “spray menu”

-D-pad backward = appears as “4” = performs “communication menu”

-D-pad up = appears as “up” = performs “next weapon”

-D-pad down = appears as “down” = performs “hero information”

That feels, and is, just a little more complicated than it should be. But there’s one. More. Twist. The buttons on the MM830 only click; they don’t click and hold, except for the Tactix button. For example, you can’t use the MM830’s d-pad to accelerate a vehicle (not that you would anyway), because to accelerate you have to hold down a key. So you have to be careful which bindings you give to the MM830, because not all of them will work like you’d expect them to. Some effectively won’t work at all.

Conclusion

The Cooler Master MM830 has a lot going for it. Physically, it has great weight balance, the surface materials are PBT plastic, and hurray for pretty lights. The left and right click buttons are a mite heavier than I’m used to, which is not a bad thing, especially for those who like a little more resistance at their fingertips. I never had any tracking issues. 

But the d-pad buttons on the left side are problematic. Although they feel well-made, and we can appreciate their pronounced squared-off design, their lack of symmetry wrecks the cachet of having the d-pad there in the first place. 

The Portal software has loads of features and is relatively easy to use, but when you get down into the granular details, it falls down somewhat. Creating certain macros is a pain in the neck, if not impossible; the lighting customization isn’t nearly as granular as it seems upon first impression; the Tactix “Fn”-like feature has practical issues; and the process of creating button assignments and key bindings for the d-pad in games is just too convoluted.

It’s all just so close to being great. I think the whole idea is a good one, and I love the effort to make the d-pad more than “just four mouse buttons,” but there are too many practical issues crowding out the good ideas. But if you’re okay with the above and really dig that d-pad, the Cooler Master MM830 can be yours for $70.

 

Comments closed
    • Kretschmer
    • 9 months ago

    That mouse is so embarrassing that I would use it with a paper bag over my hand.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 9 months ago

    Trying to guess at an asymmetric shape that will fit most peoples’ thumbs automatically means that some people won’t be able to use it correctly. I think (without using it, mind you) CM would have been better off making a four-way rocker like Nintendo, Sega, Sony, and Microsoft have been doing for years (with the exception of the Xbone and Switch, which use some sort of odd clicky button setup).

    Everything else about the D-pad aside: can you press opposing directions at the same time on this so-called D-pad and have them both register? Can I press both up and down? If so, it’s not a D-pad, it’s four buttons, and if it’s really meant to be a D-pad it isn’t that. If not, then that’s great, but it makes them less useful as buttons. What it comes down to is, a D-pad and four buttons aren’t meant to be interchangeable. Nintendo needs to figure that out, really.

    edit #1024: OMG SPELLING

      • Chrispy_
      • 9 months ago

      Yeah, not only does everyone have different-sized hands, but also among people with similar-sized hands there will be a non-trivial amount of variety in the way people grip and use the mouse.

      I think a traditional d-pad under the thumb would work really well, especially if the centered position were relatively stiff so that you could claw-grip/fingertip-grip without accidentally activating rocker directions.

      However, how you’d put that d-pad in a location that suits everyone is a mystery. Making it moveable would be amazeballs but would also increase the complexity and weight of the mouse body, likely removing structural solidity in that “pinch” area for claw/fingertip users too – resulting in the oft-criticised ‘creaky’ mouse feel.

      I don’t think there’s a solution that puts a thumb rocker under a thumb in a way that will suit everyone, or even suit most people. Even if a manufacturer does manage to put the rocker in the right place for someone, is it too stiff or too easy to press by accident, is it to larger or small for someone’s thumb, is it too grippy or too slippery?

      A little bit like switches and buttons on car steering wheels, the solution is [b<]NOT[/b<] to put buttons under the thumbs on the wheel, that would be as big a pain in the ass as this thumb rocker is on this mouse. The solution has existed for two decades; Put the buttons near the thumb but don't interfere with the area on the side of the mouse where the thumb is supposed to grip the mouse - if you put stuff there you are going to p*** off both claw-grip and fingertip-grip users, and those two segments combined are a majority demographic over the other ways of holding a mouse.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 9 months ago

        Agree with all of this. Also, I routinely press thumb buttons by accident, so I’m not the target audience for this particular deskrodent.

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