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Alienware and Cherry MX are launching what they call the first “truly mechanical keyboard” on a gaming laptop. They have added the keyboard to the Alienware m15 R4 and Alienware m17 R4.

That might not sound too exciting to people who care more about what’s on their gaming laptop displays. But the companies are convinced there are a lot of keyboard aficionados out there who like the clicking sounds mechanical boards provide. And these fans will appreciate that the companies took more than three years to design the keyboard.

Since laptops have to be so thin, it isn’t easy to get a mechanical keyboard that feels good on a laptop. That’s why Alienware turned to Germany’s Cherry MX, said Alienware’s Eddy Goyanes in an interview with GamesBeat. Cherry MX created its first mechanical keyboard back in 1983 with a design that was inspired by the gull-wing doors of Delorean sports cars. The switches had gold parts that cleaned themselves every time that you pressed them, and so they lasted longer than other keyboard switches.

Above: Exploded view of the ultra low-profile Cherry MX switch.

Image Credit: Cherry MX/Alienware

“We’ve been working with Cherry MX over the past few years, trying to perfect this, and we’re ready,” Goyanes said. It’s been a very difficult journey simply because this required having to develop a switch that is incredibly smaller than what you would normally find on a regular keyboard.”

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Cherry MX designed mechanical switches for the laptops with better immersion, precision, and reliability for gaming. The goal was to take a binary mechanical switch experience for a desktop keyboard and shrink it down to a laptop size. (There are other companies that have done this, but Alienware says it’s a first for gaming). The team went through 160 prototypes.

The original MX switch is about 18.5 millimeters high, while the low-profile is 11.9 millimeters. But the MX Ultra Low Profile switch is just 3.5 millimeters tall. That’s not a lot of distance for the stainless-steel switch to travel when someone presses it down. But the mechanical switch has a full 1.8 millimeters of travel in a self-cleaning mechanism that is tested for 15 million keystrokes per key. When you press the key, the spring-loaded assembly stretches out and the gull-wing flattens out.

Above: The Cherry MX switch has a gull-wing DeLorean look.

Image Credit: Cherry MX/Alienware

Michael Schmid, the head of technology partnering and partner marketing at Cherry MX, said in an interview the challenge is getting the quality good for a mechanical keyboard that types and feels like a real switch.

“There’s nothing worse when you’re in a game, and then your equipment is not functioning properly,” Goyanes said. “You want that tactile feel and the response.”

It has a two-piece keycap structure and gold-based cross-point contact system ensuring precision and wobble-free keystrokes. All of this was accomplished without changing the dimensions of Alienware’s thinnest notebooks to date.

You can optimize the keyboard with fully programmable keys for macro key assignments and AlienFX per-key RGB backlighting with up to 16.8 million colors.

The Alienware m15 ($1,800) and m17 ($1,900) offer a range of specs including 10th Generation Intel Core mobile processors and up to Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 graphics processing units (GPUs).

The laptops also come with HyperEfficient Voltage Regulation technology to extend performance for the long haul, up to 4TB of storage, a micro-SD card reader, and a Thunderbolt 3 connector capable of PD fast charging. It will cost an additional $150 for the Cherry MX keyboard configuration.

It’s a nice keyboard, and don’t drink Coke while you’re using it. Because if you spill that Coke on the keyboard, you’re screwed.

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