Mechanical keyboards are popular with gamers because they provide tactile feedback and tend be faster than other types of keyboards. So it’s no surprise that most desktop keyboards designed for gamers feature mechanical key switches. But it’s less common to find laptops with mechanical keys because they tend to take up more physical space, making them hard to fit into notebooks at a time when PC makers are largely focused on making mobile computers thinner and lighter.
Enter the new Alienware m15 R4 and Alienware m17 R4 gaming laptops from Dell. They’re the first to be available with an option for new “ultra low-profile” key switches designed with German key switch maker Cherry MX.
While traditional MX switches measure 18.5mm and low-profile switches are 11.9mm, these new ultra-low profile switches are just 3.5mm tall, allowing them to fit into more compact notebooks that measure less than 0.8 inches thick.
According to Dell and Cherry MX, the new switches features a design “inspired by the upward-opening gull-wing doors of the iconic DeLorean sports car,” which seems like an odd source of inspiration. But the switches replace the “traditional housing and plunger components” with a two-piece mechanical keycap mount featuring a spring and stainless steel components. Cherry MX says it should deliver 1.8mm of key travel, responsive, tactile feedback and precise actuation.
Customers will have to pay a hefty premium to get these switches though – Dell says they’re available as $150 add-on over the price of the Alienware m15 and m17 laptops with per-key RGB lighting.
Both laptops are available with up to an Intel COre i9-10980HK processor and up to NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 graphics. The 15.6 inch model has a starting weight of 4.65 pounds and measures 14.2″ x 10.9″ x 0.8″ while 17 inch models are 15.7″ x 11.6″ x 0.9″ and have a starting weight of 5.5 pounds.
Dell says opting for the new Cherry ultra-low-profile key switches has no affect on the laptops’ dimensions.