Mechanical keyboards have practically been the Holy Grail for gaming laptops. We've seen PC makers like Razer and MSI give them a shot, only to dump the concept entirely. So when Alienware decided it wanted to go down the same path, it enlisted the help of experts from Cherry MX, makers of popular keyboard switches. After three and a half years of development, Alienware announced today that its fourth-generation M15 and M17 (R4) laptops will finally feature mechanical keyboards.
Cherry MX couldn't just fit its existing switch designs into Alienware's laptops; its original MX key measures 18.5mm tall, while the newer low-profile model is 11.9mm. Both are too large to fit into slim notebooks like the M15, which has a maximum height of 19.5mm while closed. So, the company's rep tells us, it worked with Alienware to develop more than 160 prototypes. Eventually, they landed on a new Cherry MX "ultra low profile" design, which measures a mere 3.5mm tall. If you've seen some of the company's teaser tweets over the past few months, you can probably figure out its inspiration: the gull-wing doors of the iconic DeLorean.
The new switch offers 1.8mm of key travel, 0.4mm more than the Alienware M15's standard keyboard, and it didn't require changing Alienware's slim laptop designs. And yes, it still sounds like a clicky mechanical keyboard too. The company says each key has been tested for 15 million keystrokes, and it offers stable typing with a two-piece keycap setup. And, as is typical for gaming keyboards, there's 100 percent anti-ghosting support, which keeps it from stalling when you hit multiple keys. There's also per-key RGB lighting, because of course.
You'll have to pay an additional $150 to equip the M15 and M17 with the Cherry MX keyboard, but that's not a huge surprise. It's also the sort of cost hardcore gamers would easily accept if it helps their performance. The real question for Alienware and Cherry MX is if this attempt at portable mechanical keyboards will stick. Given all of the effort involved, it seems like something Alienware is aiming to keep around for a while. Unfortunately, we haven't been able to test out the new keyboard yet either, but we're eager to get our gaming paws on them.
Beyond the keyboard, the new Alienware M15 and M17 have the upgrades you'd expect: Support for Intel's 10th-gen CPUs (we're still waiting for faster 11th-gen chips) and up to NVIDIA's RTX 3080 GPU. We're still waiting on pricing and availability details.