We love a good mechanical keyboard here at RPS, but until recently our desire for non-stop clicky clacking has only been sated by full-blown desktop keyboards. There have been a handful of gaming laptops released over the last few years that have come with varying degrees of mechanical keyboard, but most haven’t held a clacky candle to their desktop counterparts. Happily, Alienware have just announced the world’s first gaming laptops designed in collaboration with renowned switch maker Cherry, bringing a new ultra low profile switch to their refreshed Alienware m15 R4 and m17 R4 laptops for 2021.
The partnership, codenamed Project X, has been three years in the making, according to Alienware. The aim was to create a “binary mechanical switch experience” but in a laptop form factor, and you can hear exactly what their new ultra low profile Cherry MX switches sound like in the clip below.
— ALIENWARE (@Alienware) March 17, 2021
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The new stainless steel switches stand just 3.5mm tall, which is quite a bit smaller than the regular 18.5mm MX switches you get on a normal gaming keyboard, and even Cherry’s 11.9mm MX Low Profile switches look positively enormous when you put them all side by side. You still get a decent 1.8mm of travel with these tiny switches, too (down from the 4mm you’d get on a regular MX Red), and Alienware say they have a self-cleaning mechanism that’s been tested for 15 million keystrokes per key.
That’s impressive stuff, and Dell say they’ve been able to add these keys into the m15 R4 and m17 R4 without making them any thicker than previous models, too. That’s always been one of the biggest challenges about including mechanical keyboards in gaming laptops, as their increased size over standard chiclet or membrane-style keys has often added some extra bulk to the laptop’s chassis.
The catch, of course, is that opting for Cherry MX models of the m15 R4 and m17 R4 will add quite a lot of extra cost onto their respective prices – $150, in the case of the US models, although Dell’s UK versions don’t seem to have been updated with the new options just yet. That said, considering the base model of the M15 R4 already starts at a whopping $1800, perhaps another $150 isn’t quite as extravagant as it first appears.
I’m hoping to get an Alienware m15 R4 in for testing at some point, as this together with the m17 R4 are just some of the many gaming laptops that have also been refreshed recently to include Nvidia’s RTX 30 series GPUs, too. Fingers crossed I’ll be able to kill two birds with one stone and test a Cherry MX model at the same time so I can see what all the fuss is about.