Alienware is taking a stab at the low-profile mechanical gaming keyboard. Potentially a best-of-both-worlds option for hardcore PC players, such keyboards blend the technical benefits of mechanical switches with the quick actuation and familiar, laptop-esque typing feel of low-travel keys. Alienware’s $159.99 AW510K brings the style and polish you’d expect of the longtime gaming brand (and its parent company, Dell). Thin and sleek with useful features like USB pass-through and a volume roller, the AW510K looks nice and delivers a solid typing experience. Unfortunately, it also carries a little bit of Alienware’s baggage—namely, a penchant for high prices and obtuse software.
What’s Black and White and RGB All Over?
The AW510K is a surprisingly conventional full-size keyboard. It has 105 keys, including shared media controls on the F9 through F12 keys, though it does have a dedicated mute button and a plastic volume roller. At 1.13 by 18.4 by 6.1 inches, it’s a little deep, but not in a way that would impact your typing. As mentioned, it has USB pass-through, a useful feature that I’d frankly expect from any keyboard that costs more than $150.
The AW510K’s main attraction, however, is its low-profile Cherry MX Red mechanical switches. The keys have a very light touch and are quick to depress. With 1.2mm of travel to actuation and 3.2mm to a full press—versus 2mm and 4mm, respectively, for standard Cherry MX Reds—the actual difference in distance between the two designs isn’t all that large. Even so, if you’ve used mechanical keyboards before, the keys may feel as if they’re stopping short.
That said, after testing a few low-profile mechanical keyboards, I’ve come to prefer low-profile Cherry MX Red switches to the original. Unlike standard Cherry MX Reds (or most other standard linear switches), the Alienware’s keys don’t have that shaky “hair trigger” feel, where a key fully depresses at the smallest touch. Both keys require 45cN to actuate, so the shallower travel seems to lead to a more comfortable, balanced press.
Despite this, it does feel as if there should be, well, some more going on here, given the price point. Like Razer, Alienware puts a premium on its brand and its deliberate, mildly avant-garde aesthetic. Given the brand, I’d also call it spacey, but most gaming keyboards have some semblance of that, too. The AW510K does have a look, though: The white keys and white plastic top plate are underlined by a thin black line at the bottom. (You can opt for a dark gray version if you prefer.) The sides are mildly angled, to the point where it almost looks as if they’re curved.
The RGB lighting plays an outsized role in establishing the look. The per-key lighting is very bright and, on the white model at least, bounces off the top plate so the whole keyboard seems to take on the color of the lights. If you like RGB lighting, few keyboards look more “lit up” than this one.
An Alien Command Center
The AW510K relies on Alienware’s general configuration app, Alienware Command Center, for remapping keys, creating macros, and changing the RGB lighting. In these basic functions, Command Center is competent, but its feature set is limited in some minor ways. For example, you can create as many profiles as you like, but can only attach each one to a single game or app.
And though it looks polished, Command Center can be confounding to navigate. Not all of the sections are clearly marked, nor do the buttons create a clear path to reach various controls. In some cases, buttons appear, but work only in certain circumstances. For instance, the AW510K can store up to five profiles in onboard memory. You cannot upload a profile until after you’ve created and saved it, and only then when you put the profile in editing mode.
It’s ultimately a minor hindrance, and you can learn what to do, but most configuration utilities have less of a learning curve.
The AW510K offers a very good typing experience, but that feels like the bare minimum for an elite $159.99 keyboard. From the wireless low-profile Logitech G915 to the Corsair K95 Platinum XT, it’s fair to say that you should expect all the bells and whistles—macro keys, dedicated media controls, and so on—and something that uniquely stands apart from the rest.
I enjoy how it feels to type on (and play with) the AW510K, and I probably would consider it a top choice if it were competing with midrange-price options like the Razer Huntsman TE or the Cooler Master SK600 series (which also uses low-profile Cherry MX switches). As it stands, though, this Alienware model can’t quite keep up with other elite-level keyboards in its price range.
Alienware AW510K Low-Profile Mechanical Gaming Keyboard Specs
|Number of Keys||105|
|Key Switch Type||Cherry MX Low Profile Red|
|Key Backlighting||RGB Per-Key|
|Media Controls||Shared With Other Keys|
|Dedicated Shortcut Keys||No|
|Onboard Profile Storage||Yes|
|N-Key Rollover Support||Yes|