Update, 6/12/17, 6:40pm PT: Dell replied with some more details. We've altered the copy below to reflect the new information.
Original article, 6/12/17, 4:05pm PT:
Like so many other companies, Dell is getting into the gaming peripherals market; in this case, it makes sense because Alienware is, after all, a gaming brand--and one that until now has lacked it own branded peripherals. Further, if you buy an Alienware system, you may as well pop for the peripherals to match, or so goes the logic.
There are four new Alienware peripherals--two mice and two keyboards. Each line has a more budget friendly model and one that’s slightly more high-end, with commensurate prices.
Who Are These For?
This launch feels a little off, though; the provided press materials were virtually devoid of any meaningful information, and what is there feels like it was written for people who have never heard of gaming mice or mechanical keyboards. (After requesting additional information, Dell responded with more.)
Take, for example, this description of the keyboards’ switches: “With mechanical spring-loaded keys (KaiHua brown switches), the responsive and snappy typing experience offers a competitive edge against standard (membrane) keyboards.”
There’s also this description of the backlighting: "The backlighting on the keys is very important when the gamer is in a dark room in order to find the right keys faster."
That’s all technically true, but it’s just an odd way of phrasing it. There’s also a description of what macros are, as well as a facile claim that while Dell’s keyboard’s don’t suffer from ghosting, “most existing keyboards” do. (That’s true of membrane keyboards, but considering the veritable explosion in the number of mechanical keyboards on the market, including quite inexpensive models of unknown quality, we would take issue with “most.”)
We don’t wish to sound cruel; it’s possible that the segment Dell is targeting here are indeed those people who need to be persuaded to switch to better gear and truly have never heard of serious gaming peripherals before. Even so, the lack of some key but basic details in the release raise an eyebrow.
What We Know About The Keyboards
Both of Alienware’s keyboards will use Kailh Brown switches. There are no other switch options at this time. Both the Alienware Advanced Gaming keyboard (AW568) and Alienware Pro Gaming keyboard (AW768) will make use of the Alienware Control Center software for configuring key assignments and other settings. (Dell did not include any further information on the software, nor do we have any screenshots.) Both keyboards offer NKRO.
The AW568 appears to lack any backlighting, but judging from the press images, there’s an LED strip under the lip of the chassis that provides an underglow. Presumably, you can control that via the Alienware Control Center software. Perhaps surprisingly, the AW568 sports a bank of five left-side macro keys, and it has three dedicated media buttons on the top right side. (So does the AW768.)
The design is reminiscent of pre-X-series Razer keyboards, with a smooth, stylized top panel and keys nestled beneath it. The AW568 costs $90, which, considering the software support and macro keys, sounds like a pretty solid deal on its face. On the other hand, it lacks any onboard storage, so you can’t create or save any macros directly from or to the board.
The AW768 looks to have more or less the same chassis as the AW568, but in silver instead of black. It, too, seems to have LED underlighting, but it also offers backlighting for the keys. Alienware claimed that it’s RGB, but oddly, it’s not per-key--instead, there are 13 lighting zones.
This model does have 256KB of onboard storage, but there's no word on how many profiles you can keep. The AW768 also got a volume roller and different dedicated button configurations. It costs $120.
There’s also a removable palm rest, which is sold separately. Dell did not include an image, but we know that it will cost $25.
What We Know About The Mice
The Alienware Advanced Gaming mouse (AW558) and the Alienware Elite Gaming mouse (AW958) are the two rodents in the Alienware family. The former has the PixArt PMW3325, and the latter sports the PWM3360.
Both are supported by the Alienware Control Center, and you can program the mouse buttons. The release also mentioned “RGB Alien FX Lighting,” which is just the name of the lighting system Dell made. So then, the AW768 keyboard will use it, too.
Both models let you toggle through DPI settings--three steps for the AW558 and five for the AW958.
The more expensive AW958 boasts swappable side panels so you can customize the grip somewhat, and it also includes removable weights so you can configure the mouse’s heft to your liking. Unfortunately, Dell neglected to mention the starting weight of the mouse, but there are four weights of five grams each.
According to the release, the AW558 has nine buttons, but we count only six--L/R click, scroll wheel, DPI switcher, and left-side navigation buttons (x2). We assume the AW958 has the same configuration, although one of the images leads us to believe that there may be a trio of left-side thumb buttons, too.
All of the above will be available on June 13.
We presume, because of the name of the lighting, that both mice offer RGB lighting, although the provided images are one color only. In fact, we’re not entirely certain there are images of the AW558; what Dell provided appear to be renders, not photos, and all four look strikingly similar. It could be that the two mice are identical save for the removable bits of the AW958, but we have no way of knowing at this time.
That makes the prices hard to evaluate. At $50, the AW558 is probably a solid deal (again, the configuration software is clutch), assuming there’s a decent sensor in there. The AW958, at a cost of $90, is a bigger gamble.
As we mentioned, we’ve asked Dell for more information.