The Cherry MX mechanical switches are well-known in PC gaming land, but have never made their way to gaming laptops. This has changed today with the Alienware m15 and m17 R4, the first laptops to feature the chunky, clicky switch under their keyboard.
Of course, you can’t squeeze the high-travel Cherry MX Red or Blue Switch into a laptop without sacrificing modern portability standards – there’s nowhere near enough space.
Cherry says it’s the engineering solution – its “ultra-low-profile mechanical switch” – for three-and-a-half years, working hand-in-hand with Alienware on design. The challenge focused on shrinking the switch to fit a much smaller form factor without losing the feel of the keys.
So, no, these keyboards will not be the same as the mechanical keyboards you use with your desktop setup. The head travel is just 1.8 mm, which is only 0.1 mm higher than the current rubber dome Alienware keyboard. But according to Cherry, you need a long journey to recreate the feeling of a true mechanical keyboard in such a small package.
The operating point is the main area of contention, which occurs when a signal is sent to the keyboard. With these ultra-low-profile keyboards, Cherry is using an operating point of 0.8 millimeters, with the remaining millimeters of overtrail. This long overtrail is one that makes a mechanical keyboard feel different from a typical rubber dome switch, which activates under the keeper. For reference, the operating point of a standard mechanical keyboard is 2 mm.
Cherry says the switches are closest to its Blue Switch feel, but mentioned that there will be a learning curve for using the keyboard, whether you’re coming from a desktop mechanical keyboard or a traditional rubber dome laptop keyboard.
You should not expect these switches to be as loud as any external mechanical keyboard. Low-profile switches are already quieter than the original MX switches because of their low volume. On laptops, they are going to be even smaller. However Cherry stated that every keyboard has a noticeable click. You can hear the sound in the tweet below.
& mdash; ALIENWARE (@Alienware) March 17, 2021
Of course, keyboard changes will not come in the base models of the Alienware M15 and M17 R4. This is a $ 150 upgrade to add to the Cherry keyboard, which will still support per-key RGB backlighting.
Apart from the keyboard changes, the Alienware M15 and M17 otherwise remain unchanged in the fourth generation.
Alienware is not the only company to use more touch keyboards in gaming laptops. Razor launched a version of its Razor Blade 15, which had a keyboard that uses the company’s optical light sensor technology to emulate the feeling of a mechanical keyboard. The older Razer Blade Pro also had a true mechanical keyboard in its large chassis.