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Cherry gets serious about laptop keyboards, will debut its ultra-thin mechanical keys on the Dell Alienware m15 and m17 R4 this April

Cherry gets serious about laptop keyboards, will debut its ultra-thin mechanical keys on the Dell Alienware m15 and m17 series next month (Source: Dell)
Cherry gets serious about laptop keyboards, will debut its ultra-thin mechanical keys on the Dell Alienware m15 and m17 series next month (Source: Dell)
Cherry has successfully shrunk its mechanical keys for ultrathin laptops to make it theoretically possible for models like the MSI GS66, Aorus 15, or Asus Zephyrus to come with integrated Cherry keyboard options. The first laptops to sport the new Cherry keys will the Alienware m15 and m17.
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Mechanical keys from Cherry made their debut on the massive 18.4-inch MSI GT80 Titan a few years ago. The problem, however, was the sheer size, weight, thickness, and price of the GT80 that made the Cherry keys out of reach for most users. After a few more years back in the incubator, Cherry has finally developed specialized mechanical keys that can fit onto existing ultra-thin laptop designs and reach a much wider audience of gamers.

The new laptop mechanical switches come with a board design of just 0.6 mm and they are roughly 6 times thinner than a traditional Cherry Red switch. The manufacturer took inspiration from the gull-wing doors of a DeLorean for the unique actuation as shown by the image below. The tech works differently from scissor and butterfly keyboards due to the individual parts and spring mechanism involved. Cherry is promising an expected lifetime of 15 million keystrokes per key which will hopefully outlast the lifespan of the laptop.

Key travel will be just 1.8 mm compared to 2.0 mm and 2.2 mm on classic Cherry Red and Blue switches, respectively. The manufacturer says the new switch will not be associated with any colors for now but that it will be somewhat comparable to the desktop Blue switches in feedback characteristics. And of course, anti-ghosting with n-key rollover are supported as with any decent gaming keyboard.

The first laptops to sport the new Cherry keys will be the upcoming 15.6-inch Alienware m15 G4 and 17.3-inch Alienware m17 G4 from Dell. Both models will have the exact same chassis skeletons as their respective G3 counterparts meaning Dell didn't need to adjust the thickness of the laptops just to support the Cherry keys. Weight, however, may be slightly different gen-to-gen and buyers can still configure with non-Cherry keys for cheaper starting prices.

The ultra-low profile (ULP) Cherry keystroke will have an actuation pressure point of 65 cN at 0.3 mm of travel and an actuation operating point of 50 cN at 0.8 mm of travel (Source: Cherry)
The ultra-low profile (ULP) Cherry keystroke will have an actuation pressure point of 65 cN at 0.3 mm of travel and an actuation operating point of 50 cN at 0.8 mm of travel (Source: Cherry)

We're feeling quite cautious on how well the new Cherry keys can appeal to laptop gamers. Previous attempts at special laptop keys have fallen flat with little to no staying power. Examples include the Apple butterfly keys which suffered from quality issues, the Razer Blade 15 optical keys which were only available for less than a year, and the XPS 15 2-in-1 MagLev keys which are no longer selling from Dell. History isn't on Cherry's side when it comes to "luxury" keyboard technology on laptops.

The thicker Area-51m laptop will not have the Cherry options as they will be launching exclusively on the m15 and m17 series for the time being. If the new keys prove popular, however, then we can see them eventually expanding to more models in the future.

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Allen Ngo
Allen Ngo - Lead Editor U.S. - 4531 articles published on Notebookcheck since 2011
After graduating with a B.S. in environmental hydrodynamics from the University of California, I studied reactor physics to become licensed by the U.S. NRC to operate nuclear reactors. There's a striking level of appreciation you gain for everyday consumer electronics after working with modern nuclear reactivity systems astonishingly powered by computers from the 80s. When I'm not managing day-to-day activities and US review articles on Notebookcheck, you can catch me following the eSports scene and the latest gaming news.
contact me via: @AllenNgoNBC
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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2021 03 > Cherry gets serious about laptop keyboards, will debut its ultra-thin mechanical keys on the Dell Alienware m15 and m17 R4 this April
Allen Ngo, 2021-03-18 (Update: 2021-03-15)