Alienware has always been one of the first companies I think of when I think of PC gaming. The brand — which is now a Dell subsidiary — always had the coolest PC cases, such as the Area 51 Aurora. While they still release some pretty impressive pre-built PCs, the brand’s peripherals are… let’s just say, less exciting.
Alienware’s latest gaming peripheral is the Alienware AW420K: a wired mechanical gaming keyboard, and the brand’s first tenkeyless (TKL) model. The AW420K comes with Cherry MX Red switches, double-shot PBT keycaps, and per-key RGB… and that’s about it. It retails for $149.99, which is pretty expensive for a keyboard that has almost zero exciting (or even distinguishing) features.
Luckily, Alienware is no longer the only company making gaming PC peripherals, so there are plenty of other keyboards to choose from on our list of best gaming keyboards.
Alienware AW420K Specs
|Switches||Cherry MX Red|
|Onboard Storage||5 Profiles|
|Connectivity||USB Type-C to Type-A|
|Dimensions (LxWxH)||367.2 x 147 x 55.7mm|
Design of the AW420K
The Alienware AW420K is a tenkeyless (TKL) mechanical keyboard that costs quite a bit but lacks distinguishing features. It’s black, wired, and comes with double-shot PBT keycaps, which are a nice premium touch that will ensure longevity over ABS keycaps. The alphas look fine on the keycaps, but the function keys look like they’re stickers — it’s a little bizarre how pasted-on they look. It’s not exactly a high-end aesthetic.
Underneath the AW420K is a cable routing cut-out leading to the USB Type-C header and two flip-up feet. The switch plate is metal, which would be nice if it expanded across the entire top of the case — but it doesn’t.
Like 99% of the gaming keyboards on the market, this board features per-key RGB, which can be configured using Alienware’s Command Center peripheral software.
Gaming keyboards aren’t necessarily designed around typing experience, but this doesn’t mean the typing experience should be terrible. Many gaming companies, such as Razer, Asus ROG, Cooler Master, and Corsair, have realized the typing experience is an important factor, and have added features such as case foam and hot-swap PCBs to give users a better experience.
But not Alienware.
Not only does the AW420K feel uninspired, design-wise, it also sounds pingy and has stabilizers that tick. The keycaps feel fine, but you can get basic double-shot PBT keycaps on many keyboards (or… anywhere).
I loaded into the newest addition to the Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 game mode: DMZ, hoping to unlock the M13 assault rifle (and I did!) and test out the AW420K’s gaming capabilities. I don’t wear a headset while I’m gaming, and this meant I could hear the ticking from the spacebar constantly — it was too loud and consistent to ignore. However, this is a personal pet peeve — other gamers may not notice it, especially if they wear a headset while gaming.
I’ve also been playing the game Scum lately. Scum is an online zombie survival game similar to PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds in that you need to craft your own shelter and not starve. While I was put off by the amount of stabilizer rattle and case ping in the AW420K, the Cherry MX Red switches are light enough (with their 45g actuation force) that I experienced no fatigue — even after hours of chopping wood. The shine-through keycaps were also useful in-game, as it’s been pretty gloomy in New York lately.
Software of the AW420K
The software backing the AW420K is Alienware’s Command Center, which is what you can use to control all of Alienware’s peripherals, so that’s convenient. Command Center lets you do everything from customizing the keyboard’s per-key RGB lighting to recording and assigning macros. The keyboard does have onboard memory, but it only has enough room to store five onboard profiles — meanwhile, the Corsair K70 RGB TKL can store up to 50 profiles and has the same retail price tag (and you can probably find it even cheaper, since it’s been out for over a year).
I’ve never been one to complain about software support for keyboards because I don’t believe in high polling rates, but many hardcore gamers do — and the AW420K and Alienware’s Command Center do not deliver those.
Whether you like Alienware or not, there’s no denying that they’ve long been a cornerstone of PC gaming. While some of their peripherals, such as their monitors — check out the five-star Alienware AW3423DWF QD-OLED gaming monitor, for example — this keyboard falls flat. I can’t recommend this keyboard at all, especially not for the price.
The Alienware AW420K is $100 too much, and it can’t go toe-to-toe with other similarly-priced keyboards, such as the full-sized Corsair K70 RGB Pro, and it’s not nearly as impressive as other TKL gaming keyboards, such as the pricier but much more impressive SteelSeries’ Apex Pro TKL. I hate to say it, but I was just very disappointed overall by how uninspired the AW420K turned out to be.
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