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Report article RSS Feed Rant: New ThinkPad Keyboard

Posted by SCΛRECROW on May 27th, 2012

First of all, this is a rant about Lenovo's decision to use chiclet/island type (i.e. Apple style) keyboards on their new ThinkPads, so feel free to go back to whatever you were reading if you're not interested. This issue probably won't bother many people, but having owned several models of ThinkPads (R31, R61, R500, SL410, X201, X220t) it is something I feel rather strongly about.

I have used ThinkPads since primary school, but if you have ever used a ThinkPad, you probably will have noticed the excellent tactile feedback and comfort that the classic keyboard delivers. Typing on the keyboard for long periods of time doesn't make my hands fatigued and I can touch type flawlessly on it, I suspect that many ThinkPad customers will also agree.

Recently, Lenovo refreshed their ThinkPad line with the new Intel "Ivy Bridge" CPUs, a welcome upgrade, however they also went ahead and replaced the "classic" keyboard that many users have grown to love with a new keyboard they call AccuType.

Lenovo already uses the AccuType keyboard on their consumer orientated IdeaPad laptops and on the ThinkPad Edge line, but to mess with the core ThinkPad line - which has been around for 20 odd years - is playing with fire.

In my view, three things are wrong with the keyboard. They have moved some of they keys around, due to a new 6-row layout, the island type keyboard looks too spaced out and the keys have a 2.0 mm stroke. The new layout is a little annoying, but the increased key spacing and decreased stroke from 2.5 mm is what worries me. You may think 0.5 mm, so what? But you will notice if you have been typing on a ThinkPad for years.

Now I ask, why do this? Why mess with a formula that makes ThinkPads different? To me it's a marketing initiative to make it look like a Mac, because isn't that what all the other laptop manufacturers are doing these days? I don't want a damn Mac clone! I want a bona fide laptop. You know, one with a real keyboard.

Change is good, maybe the new keyboard is better. But do you want to alienate customers that have been using the keyboard for almost two decades? At least give customers a choice.

Admittedly, I have not typed on one of the new keyboards, but I have used two of their current ThinkPad Edge laptops which use the island type keyboards. I can tell you that while the feel is similar, it's not the same.

I will be making my last ThinkPad purchase very soon, a T420 with a classic keyboard. For me, there is no more reason to buy ThinkPads other than any other laptop, they're all Mac clones now.

SCΛRECROW

P.S. I typed this blog on an SL410 with the classic keyboard, which is still a joy to type on. :)

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