What you need to know
- For the first time, CHERRY MX mech switches will feature in Alienware laptops.
- Alienware and CHERRY have been working on 'Project X' for three years.
- The keys feature 1.8mm of travel and are similar to CHERRY MX Blue switches.
- The Alienware m15 r4 and m17 r4 will both offer the $150 option.
Gaming PCs and gaming desktops have always had their differences. The processors, the GPUs, the screens, and even the keyboards have always been compromises when going mobile. But one of those is about to change as Alienware and CHERRY have been cooking up some official 'low-profile' mechanical switches for the first time in gaming laptops. (Razer tried with the 2017 Blade Pro, but it fell flat with gamers.)
The new Alienware m15 R4 and Alienware m17 R4 – two of the company's flagship gaming laptops – are getting CHERRY's exclusive low-profile but full-on mechanical keyboard switches bringing a tactile feel wherever you go.
The collaboration has been three years in the making (under the name 'Project X'), which tells you how hard it was to go from full CHERRY MX switches at 18.5mm, to the regular low profile (11.9mm) to the new ultra-low-profile design for laptops at just 3.5mm.
The design leverages stainless-steel mechanical components that were "inspired by the upward-opening gull-wing doors of the iconic DeLorean sports car," hence the teaser from Alienware a few weeks ago.
The CHERRY MX switches appear to have little trade-off. Key travel is still a deep 1.8mm (Lenovo only hits 1.5mm on its ThinkPad line for comparison, while Apple hovers around 1mm). Durability is decent, too, at 15 million keystrokes, which while far below that of desktop keyboards, should still be ample for laptop usage. Users are still getting double-shot (two-piece) keycaps and bold-based cross-point contact system to "ensure absolute precision and wobble-free keystrokes."
Perhaps the most impressive result of this team-up is Alienware's laptops have not changed in dimensions.
The switches themselves are similar to CHERRY MX Blue switches, so think tactile with audible clicking versus linear Reds or MX Greens' extreme-clickiness. CHERRY teased the sound of the new keyboards on Twitter, which you can hear here:
Super 🍒 sweet 🍒 news is dropping tomorrow. Until then 🤫@cherrymx pic.twitter.com/YKkdMhpG7aSuper 🍒 sweet 🍒 news is dropping tomorrow. Until then 🤫@cherrymx pic.twitter.com/YKkdMhpG7a— ALIENWARE (@Alienware) March 17, 2021March 17, 2021
There are also the usual gaming keyboard characteristics too like 100% anti-ghosting, N-key rollover (NKRO), fully programmable keys for macro key assignments, and AlienFX per-key RGB backlighting with up to 16.8 million brilliant colors.
As to the m15 and m17 laptops themselves, no surprises there as Alienware is upping the game with up to NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop GPUs and the latest 10th Gen Intel Core processors. There is also Alienware's "HyperEfficient Voltage Regulation technology to extend performance for the long haul, up to 4TB of storage, a micro-SD card reader, and Thunderbolt 3 capable of PD fast charging."
Interestingly, the CHERRY MX keys are an optional configuration as users will have to shell out an extra $150 for the privilege. Considering only the most hardcore will appreciate what Alienware and CHERRY have done here, that premium makes some sense.
Alienware is hosting a live AMA on its discord channel today at 3 pm ET, hosted by tech experts Eddy Goyanes of Alienware and Michael Schmid of Cherry, which you can see at discord.gg/Alienware.
Will these new Alienware laptops move up in our best gaming laptops roundup? We'll be finding out in a few weeks when we review them.
This 15-inch laptop has options for powerful RTX 30 graphics and a 10th Gen Intel Core processor in a thin and powerful design. It also has several display options with fast refresh rates. New for 2021 is an option for exclusive CHERRY MX ultra-low-profile mechanical switches.
This 17-inch laptop has an option for a full power NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 Laptop GPU, and you can pair that with up to a 10th Gen Intel Core i9- 10980HK processor, all in a thin and powerful design. New for 2021 is an option for exclusive CHERRY MX ultra-low-profile mechanical switches.
Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.
Get the best of Windows Central in in your inbox, every day!
Thank you for signing up to Windows Central. You will receive a verification email shortly.
There was a problem. Please refresh the page and try again.