Back in January, Dell’s Alienware mechanical keyboard experiment seemed all but DOA. At the time, based on circumstantial evidence, I speculated that the line was coming to an end, but it appears that Dell is keeping the patient alive. Timed to coincide with Gamescom 2019, the company announced two new mechanical keyboards, the AW310K and the AW510K.
I was wrong that the Alienware mechanical keyboard line was done for, but I was right that any continuation would bring a significant change to the lineup. The AW510K is a low-profile keyboard, the company’s first of this type. You can add the AW510K to the small-in-number-but-large-in-scale roster of keyboards bearing Cherry’s MX Low Profile RGB Red switches– a group that includes keyboards from Corsair and Cooler Master.
There are plenty of keyboards that employ Kailhua’s low-profile Choc switches, including Logitech, but most of them are from smaller keyboard makers. The bigs seem to favor Cherry’s lowpro option, when they can get their hands on the limited switch inventory. It’s not likely that Dell is going to sell its Alienware keyboards in any volume approaching Corsair, but its overall company size and scale likely helped it score a deal with Cherry.
The AW510K’s chassis doesn’t appear to be especially low-profile, though. It’s listed at 2.94 cm thick, which–especially if you take the height of the keycaps into the overall equation–is fairly standard. The caps themselves are half-height, which in my opinion is the ideal keycap for lowpro switches.
The list of specs is fairly typical–programmable RGB lighting and keys through the Alien Command Center software, 1,000 Hz polling rate, NKRO, a long braided cable, a few dedicated media keys, flip-down feet, and a volume roller. It has a pair of bulges on either side that give it a sort of Alienware-ish design look, and it comes in black or silver.
The other new kid on the block, the AW310K, looks solid enough but–to borrow a line from “Arrested Development”–it’s as “Anne as the nose on plain’s face.” Other than the bulgey sides, there’s next to nothing that makes it stand out from any other mechanical keyboard with a “floating keycap” design. It’s black on black, with white legends, and it has Cherry MX Red switches. There’s a USB passthrough, flip-down feet, NKRO, white LED backlighting, programmability with the Alienware software, yada yada.
There’s nothing at all wrong with a plain keyboard, and in fact some people rather enjoy a more subdued look, but it’s a bit odd for a gaming brand to go that direction. Usually, you get lots of blaring lights and garish chassis features. My guess is that Dell wanted a demure option to inexpensively pair with other Alienware gear–a theory that’s partially borne out by a blurb in the release materials that says “Designed for Alienware M15, M17, Area-51, Aurora, Aurora Ryzen Edition.”
Indeed, at $100, the AW310K is priced just about right. The $160 price tag for the low-profile AW510K is arguably a little high, but not unreasonable for the feature set you’re getting. (Both will be available on August 20.)
So then, Dell’s new keyboard strategy is twofold: Try and scoop up some of the emerging lowpro buyers and offer a budget mechanical keyboard to customers who are buying other Alienware gear. It’s not dead, but it is different than before. Which is not a bad thing.