11/2021 by HOLGER DASSLER, FRIEDRICH STIEMER - Back to overview

With the Ultra Low Profile, CHERRY MX has reached a milestone in the development of mechanical switches: It has succeeded in creating the lowest-profile mechanical model in its own portfolio so far, which allows new technical possibilities in the design of notebook and desktop keyboards with an extremely low profile in the high-end segment. As a launch and development partner, Alienware is introducing the first high-end gaming notebooks with this new keyboard technology with the m15 R4 as well as m17 R4 series, impressively demonstrating how well the MX Ultra Low Profile fits into this area of use.

In March 2021, CHERRY MX and Alienware introduced the brand new MX Ultra Low Profile, which is an ultrathin switch perfectly suited for use in notebooks. Alienware has introduced the m15 R4 and m17 R4 series, which stand out from the manufacturer's portfolio in terms of low profile and maximum performance at the same time: You can choose between different 10th generation Intel Core mobile processors for these gaming notebooks. There is also a choice of GPU models up to an Nvidia Geforce RTX 3080. A maximum of four terabytes of integrated memory and 32 gigabytes of DDR4 RAM are available. Our review sample is also equipped with a 1080p display with a lightning-fast refresh rate of 300 hertz. 

The cooperation with Alienware started more than three years ago. The goal of the collaboration was to create a full mechanical switch experience and bring it to the laptop form factor - something that had never before existed. And developing the MX Ultra Low Profile was no easy task, as the requirement was to integrate the benefits of a desktop mechanical keyboard into a slim, mobile gaming notebook to offer true gaming feel on the go. To ensure that the requirements for a keyboard designed specifically for laptops were fully met, the experienced team at Alienware also contributed to the development. As an industry leader in the field of gaming hardware, the company can rely on decades of experience and always knows how to inspire with innovation potential.

During the development of the new switch, many materials and mechanics were tested with many prototypes to finally achieve the CHERRY MX Ultra Low Profile. With this, CHERRY MX really moves at the current limit of what is technically possible: The overall height was reduced to just 3.5 millimeters. This means that the development team has realized a mechanical switch that is once again around 70 percent smaller than the MX Low Profile introduced in 2018 and even six times smaller than the original MX switch.

To achieve this extremely low profile form factor, the engineers had to come up with a completely new switch design that differs from the previous MX design. First of all, the CHERRY MX Ultra Low Profile lacks the traditional housing and plunger components. Instead, it uses a two-piece stainless steel keycap mount inspired by the upward-opening wing doors of the iconic DeLorean sports car. The wings are preloaded by a single spring and are part of the mechanism. This design allows for extremely precise operation. Together with the billion times proven Gold Crosspoint contact system, which has been technically modified especially for this switch, the MX Ultra Low Profile achieves superior durability compared to previous notebook keyboard solutions. Other components of the MX Ultra Low Profile include two translucent polymer elements and the metal base frame.

The MX Ultra Low Profile is also CHERRY MX's first mechanical SMD switch that can be soldered directly onto the PCB thanks to special connection pads. This space-saving solution enables seamless integration into particularly thin and slim keyboards for laptops as well as desktop applications, as all necessary components can be placed on just one side of the PCB. This assembly process also enables keyboard manufacturers to increase production efficiency through automation. 

Due to the special design of the MX Ultra Low Profile, the respective SMD LED (RGB or single color) is located directly underneath the switch. Together with the translucent thermoplastic parts, a balanced and consistent illumination is achieved that brilliantly expresses all 16.8 million colors of the RGB spectrum. This means that the keycap is brightly and above all homogeneously illuminated.

Those who decide on the integrated keyboard with CHERRY MX Ultra Low Profile in the Alienware configurator will get RGB single-key illumination that can be customized via AlienFX and synchronized with other compatible devices within the Alienware ecosystem. For a completely reliable typing experience, 100 percent anti-ghosting with N-Key rollover is also present. Combined with the outstanding responsiveness and tactile feedback of CHERRY MX Ultra Low Profile switches, gamers get a true mechanical notebook keyboard in this slim form factor for the first time.

New benchmark and innovation leader

CHERRY MX has not only developed the lowest-profile mechanical switch in its own range with the brand-new Ultra Low Profile and setting a new benchmark especially within the notebook segment but is also pushing the keyboard market forward with new innovations as a technology leader. As a new, patented standard, the model will influence the industry in the coming years and possibly decades. Particularly for the notebook segment, the Ultra Low Profile will enable solutions that were not technically possible before.