ThinkPad Type-Off: Is Lenovo’s New Island Keyboard Better or Worse?

 ThinkPad Keyboard Face-Off

Lenovo ThinkPads have a strong, almost cult-like following, and for good reason. This sturdy, high-performance line of business notebooks has long-set the gold standard for keyboard quality, with fantastic tactile feedback, great key layouts and slightly convex keys that are easy to find by feel. So when the company ditched the classic keyboard for a new island-style unit on its entire 2012 lineup, many ThinkPad fans were understandably concerned.

Would the new keyboard be as good as last year’s model or was Lenovo just trying to make its notebooks look more contemporary, while sacrificing quality? To answer this question, we put last year’s ThinkPad T420 (classic keyboard) head-to-head against the new ThinkPad T430 in a no-keys-barrred type-off. We also talked to Lenovo’s Chief Designer David Hill and Keyboard Guru Aaron Stewart of Lenovo to get their perspective on the change.

Key Placement

In order to simplify the keyboard and free up some space, Lenovo removed the tiny 7th row of keys that appeared in the upper right corner of the keyboard on the T420 and previous-generation models. As part of the move, some keys relocated to other parts of the keyboard and others just didn’t make it. 

The Break/Pause and Scroll Lock keys were completely removed, though you can still launch either of those functions through key combinations (Fn + P gives you pause). However, since both of these functions date back to terminal computing and the MS-DOS days, we doubt that many people will miss them. Gone also are the Application key, which sat between the right ALT and CTRL keys, and the page forward/back buttons that sat atop the arrow key block.  Nobody will mourn for the menu key, which did nothing more than emulate a right click, but the forward/back buttons were useful for navigating in a web browser. 

The Application Key on The ThinkPad T420

The Page Up and Page Down keys have been relocated from the upper right corner of the keyboard to the lower right, adjacent to the arrow keys, which is a different place than where you’ll find them on most keyboards, but still makes sense because they help you navigate through documents just like the arrows. The Print Screen button sits in a rather bizarre location, to the right of the right ALT key. 

Page Up / Page Down Keys Moved

“The PrintScreen function is the one legacy function that our data suggests that people use quite often. So we put a new key where we had some availability, but we also like the idea of putting it next to Alt,” Stewart told us. “Not everyone knows this, but Alt + PrintScreen will print just the active window, not the entire screen. So there was some method to why we put it next to that Alt key.”

Print Screen Key Moved on ThinkPad T430

Winner: Thinkpad T420. Though we appreciate the simpler layout and don’t miss the keys that were eliminated, we prefer having the Page Up, Page Down and Print Screen keys in the upper right, which is consistent with their standard position on desktop keyboards and most other notebooks.

Key Size and Shape

By reorganizing the ThinkPad’s keyboard and moving to an island-style design, Lenovo was able to provide noticeably larger keys on the ThinkPad T430 than it has on the ThinkPad T420. By our measurements, that results in the average letter key being 14-percent wider and 7-percent taller (7 x 7.5 mm versus 8 x 8 mm).

The Keys are Wider on the ThinkPad T430

There’s the same 10.5mm of space between keys on both generations of keyboard, but because the sides of the keys are no longer sloped on the T430, there’s a sharper delineation between keys, making it easier to feel one’s way around and avoid adjacent key errors.

Old vs. New Key Design, Courtesy of Lenovo

Key ThinkPad T420 ThinkPad T430
A 7 x 7.5 mm  8 x 8 mm
L 7 x 7.5 mm  8 x 8 mm
?/ 7 x 7.5 mm  8 x 8 mm
Spacebar 51 x 7 mm 50 x 8 mm
Esc 7 x 11.5 mm 11 x 5.5 mm
Delete 7 x 11.5 mm 11 x 5.5 mm
Backspace  17 x 7.5 mm  18.5 x 7.5 mm
Spacing between keys 10.5 mm 10.5 mm

Unfortunately, not all the keys got larger in the transition from the classic style keyboard on the ThinkPad T420 to the island-style unit on the ThinkPad T430. The Escape and Delete keys, which were enlarged for easier targeting on the T420, have been shrunken down to match the size of all the functions keys in the sixth row.

The Spacebar is a wash as it its 1 mm wider on the T420, but 1 mm taller on the T430. However, the Backspace key is a solid 1.5mm wider, making it easier to erase your typos.

One advantage all ThinkPad keyboards have over many competitors is their concave key shape, which allows your fingers to easily latch onto the correct key without accidentally slipping over to an adjacent one.

“If you have square fingers type on a square keyboard,” Hill told us. “But having that slight concavity gives you an advantage, because not only does it feel better, but it also kind of directs your finger toward the center of the key and helps mitigate any mispresses or incorrect keystrokes.”

Lenovo says that the level of concavity should be the same on the new keyboard as the old, but in our testing, the old T420 keyboard’s keys felt just a little a bit deeper than the T430′s. However, the more curved shape on the bottom of the T430′s keys combines with the flatter top to create a greater “forgiveness zone” between keys, potentially reducing errors.

Greater Forgiveness Zone

Winner: ThinkPad T430. The larger letter keys and clearer delineation between them make targeting easier on the T430.

Tactile Feedback

Perhaps because they are distant descendants of the IBM’s clicky original PC Keyboard which itself descended from the IBM Selectric typewriter, Lenovo’s ThinkPads offer the strongest tactile feedback you can find on a notebook. This allows users to type faster, because they get a quick and clear confirmation that their strokes have been accepted by the keyboard. 

Fortunately, both the classic ThinkPad T420 keyboard and the island-style T430 keyboard provide plenty of tactile feedback. Lenovo says that both keyboards have exactly the same underlying mechanism and the same amount of key travel.

Lenovo's Underlying Key Mechanism

“The mechanics beneath the keys are basically the same. There’s some adjustments needed to handle backlighting [on models that have the backlight], but that doesn’t affect the touch and feel,” Stewart said. “Underneath the keys, it’s virtually the same.”

However, in our subjective tests, the T420 and T430 keys did not feel exactly the same. While a few members of the LAPTOP preferred the ThinkPad T420′s level feedback, most of us agreed that the T430′s keys were noticeably springier.

Winner: ThinkPad T430. You can never be too rich, too thin or have too much tactile feedback. 

Audible Feedback

It’s not enough for a keyboard to feel comfortable to your fingers; it needs to provide a nice sharp clack to let you know that your strokes have registered. Unfortunately, most notebook vendors prioritize silence over typing comfort, but not Lenovo. 

“Audible feedback and force feedback are directly related, so there’s kind of this careful balancing act between having a nice level of force feedback and this kind of quality tone of audible feedback,” Stewart said. “We’ve actually tested the idea of ‘soundless’ key press and a vast majority of people that we’ve involved in that kind of study do not prefer it.”

Both the older ThinkPad T420 and the new ThinkPad T430 offer a decent amount of audible feedback. However, the keyboards sound completely different.

When typing on the T430, the sound had more high frequency transients, sharper rise times and a spikier more metallic feel. In non-technical terms, the T430′s keyboard sounds a lot more like a classic mechanical keyboard while the T420′s keyboard sounded more muted and rubbery. 

“It’s really important, just like closing a door on a BMW, it has a certain sound that telegraphs quality,” Hill said of the ThinkPad’s keyboard sounds.

Winner: ThinkPad T430. The T430′s island-style keyboard sounds more like the original IBM PC keyboard, which set the gold standard for audio feedback. 

User Typing Performance

To see if there’s a noticeable difference in typing speed or error rate, we asked five LAPTOP staff members to take the Ten Thumbs Typing Tutor test on both notebooks and record their scores. The results were pretty much the same on both systems. Some users were able to achieve faster typing rates or lower error rates on the T420 or T430, but even these deltas were so tiny that they could be attributed to random changes in the user’s performance from one instance of the test to another.

Words Per Minute

Winner: Tie. Users achieved nearly identical typing scores on both the ThinkPad T430 and its predecessor.

Special Features

Both the classic ThinkPad T420 and the brand new ThinkPad 430′s keyboards are spill-resistant, using a drainage system to route any water or soda  out the bottom of the system. Both notebooks also come standard with an overhead light that emanates from the top of the bezel, enabling users to see the keyboard and touchpad, even in dark environments.

However, the new ThinkPad T430 is available with an optional backlit keyboard. For an additional $40 when configuring your ThinkPad Lenovo.com, you get an LED light behind the keys which can be set to low, high or off. Business users who do a lot of work on airplanes will really appreciate the backlight for typing on all those dark red eye flights.

Winner: ThinkPad T430. The backlight option puts the newer model over the top.

Verdict

ThinkPad T430Though some users may prefer the classic ThinkPad keyboard’s look and key placement, the new island-style keyboard delivers in the areas that matter most:  comfort and efficiency. With its larger key surface, slightly stronger tactile feedback and even more satisfying sound, the new keyboards found on the ThinkPad T430 and the rest of  Lenovo’s 2012 T, W, and X series ThinkPads provide an even better typing experience than their industry-leading predecessors.

Overall Winner: ThinkPad T430

Round ThinkPad T420 (classic keyboard) ThinkPad T430 (new keyboard)
Key Placement X  
Key Size and Shape   X
Tactile Feedback   X
Audio Feedback   X
User Typing Performance X X
Special Features   X
Total: 2 5


AUTHOR BIO
Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
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  1. facelessghost Says:

    I’m typing this on my new T430 that arrived yesterday. I never had a chance to use the classic Lenovo keyboard, but I don’t think anyone will find much reason to complain about this new one. I was recently using both a MacBook Pro and an older Acer, both of which had the best keyboards I’d ever used. But this one is so much better that there’s truly no comparison. The backlighting is a nice bonus. When it comes to Lenovo keyboards, believe the hype.

    Now, if only Lenovo could explain why it’s “legendary build quality” includes a slightly bowed lid and a loose battery that rattles around . . .

  2. InresponseTO Says:

    @facelessghost so are you saying that the fruit company NEVER-EVER have a defected leave the plant??? the answer from lenovo will be the same as any other multi billion dollar company:

    “We make the best with the least amount of money, we could careless about what you and what you think your entitled to. If you don’t feel our product is up to par with YOUR standards than please go and buy from someone else, it’s not like were holding a gun to our head.”

  3. steadystate88 Says:

    I was initially very disappointed that the new Thinkpad adopted island style keyboard, but from this article & feedback from other people, I feel better. Maybe I will change my mind about never upgrading my X220 to X230 at some point. But why did Lenovo also have to change the key placement (which attributed to the only low point in this review)? These are two separate issues, and people would have less concern if they just adopted island key but kept that gorgeous 7 row arrangement that people love? Thinkpad gained its reputation in part from its legendary keyboard, and it baffles me why they decided to introduce so many changes all at once.

  4. facelessghost Says:

    I don’t think I said that at all. This was a comment about Lenovo; I only mentioned Apple to say that their keyboards are excellent, but not as good as Lenovo’s. By your logic, I also just said that defective laptops never leave the Acer plant.

    You’re right–no one made me buy a Lenovo. I made my own decision after doing extensive research. One of the key factors that led to my decision was Lenovo’s reputation for impeccable build quality. That’s what makes my experience so disappointing. I’ve had plenty of cheap laptops, and none were anywhere near as good as my new ThinkPad. But they all had two things in common: their lids lay flat against the base, and their batteries didn’t rattle around.

    Let me finish with a summary to avoid any future confusion about what I am and am not saying:

    1. Lenovo makes great keyboards that are better than Apple’s (also excellent) keyboards.

    2. Despite the reputation that ThinkPads have for being solidly built, MY ThinkPad T430 has two major flaws, and I find that very disappointing. Potential customers may want to consider that when making a decision.

    [Also, concerning my original post, "its," not "it's." Oops.]

  5. Jakub Says:

    Hardcore ThinkPad fans mostly do not have problem with new keyboard design, but with layout… after reading many articles about this new keyboard, I still don’t understand, why the 7th row was taken away.

  6. tomasfejfar Says:

    facelessghost: The loose battery is a feature. It’s because the battery heats up when charging it expands. Try the difference between hot battery and cold battery. There should be much less space with hot battery ;)

  7. smileman Says:

    for some reason i can’t hear the sound on the typing video on either my SGS2 (stock browser) or 2011 Air (Chrome and Firefox)??

  8. chizad Says:

    I actually use the Pause key fairly regularly, as Win+Pause brings up the System Properties screen in Windows. The Win+Fn+P combination with the new keyboard isn’t terrible, but I’ve got my muscle memory trained to smack Win+Pause so it’s going to take some getting used to.

  9. Florian Hassel Says:

    Hi,
    well I cannot agree with the positive assessment of the new keyboard. I use a X220 for 2 months, and have just gone over to a shop to test all the new Lenovos including the X1.
    None of the new models, including the X1, while better than I feared from the forums, offer that kind of type feeling that made Thinkpads so unique.
    I for one will definitely put off the Lenovo-line until they bring back the old keyboard.
    Besides, my suspicion is that the new keyboard was done for simple cost-cutting, nor for quality. It would have been interesting to hear some precise details from you or the Lenovo guys on the economics of the old/new keyboard.
    Regards
    Florian Hassel

  10. Magnus Says:

    Hi,
    in the T420 key size picture you put 8mm which should go to the other picture and vice versa.
    Still a very nice article.
    Regards
    Magnus

  11. Aharon Says:

    You didn’t mention the placement for the function keys and up/down/right/left.

    on T420, the function keys are put into groups-of-four, Thus you can easily sense the space between F4 and f5.
    on T430, they are in one line with the other 4 navigation buttons.
    No way you can reach F6 or “Home” key in the dark, without counting the buttons…

    Thisi s a big minus for T430

  12. Latharn Says:

    “Nobody will mourn for the menu key, which did nothing more than emulate a right click”

    I WILL!!! Why I must grab a mouse or find an arrow if I have focun onf the file??? Just hit a button and choose for example “Run as Administrator” in Win 7. I am using it a LOT.

    Damned new keyboard.

  13. Hemlige Arne Says:

    I have a Lenovo X1 Carbon as my new work computer (I had a Dell Latitude 6400 before) and I find the keyboard much nicer than the dell, except on one point, the “#¤”#¤ print screen key…
    As a swedish user, we do not have alt next to it, we usually have ‘Alt Gr’ and then ‘Ctrl’, now we have ‘PrtSc’ inbetween. I find myself taking screenshots all the time when I actually want to press Ctrl…

  14. Vhotor Says:

    “Nobody will mourn for the menu key, which did nothing more than emulate a right click,”
    What? Nobody? I use the menu key on my current thinkpad much more than the print screen key. Why should I move the mouse when I can just press Menu and then hit the appropriate letter for the command that I want. For example, in the file browser, I can type the first few letters of a file to select it, hit the menu key, and then hit “R” to access the properties information for that file.

    What is lenovo thinking except to cut their costs? They could easily have implemented the island keyboard style while maintaining the current layout.

    Also, this review makes no sense. You credit the newer keyboard for improvements in theoretical efficiency thanks to its wider, flatter keys, and your testing shows nothing in terms of typing speed improvement.

    As a final negative, the new keyboard trackpoint feels recessed into the keyboard. It feels a lot harder to use than the trackpoint on the legacy thinkpad.

    Lenovo needs to seriously think about the Thinkpad legacy that has given them success today. Why should I purchase a thinkpad when thinkpads have less and less features that make them thinkpads. Why would the IT procurement manager order thinkpads for the entire company when thinkpads have few unique features to offer? Thinkpad is still a great brand with solid design. I care about keyboard layout more than key design. Keep the island style; restore the previous layout that we have come to know.

  15. vampiric Says:

    i prefer the old layout. though the new one is not bad and actually still better other make’s

    however for me, if x and t series come out with the same layout with cheaper edge series, i can’t find any reason to buy them paying extra bucks.

    with cloud service, my data are all safe, so the stability is not crucial matter as much as before.

  16. globalzorian Says:

    I also mourn deeply for the “menu key”!!!
    It is damn useful. Lenovo did not make a good decision on this, IMO.

  17. LightDancer Says:

    The downside of the (increasingly) audible “click” is if you use the computer during a business conference to take notes — as I do extensively. Quieter in those applications is much much better. I am just upgrading from a T410 to the T430. The 410 was noticeable in a meeting. Maybe time to buy an auxiliary keyboard.

  18. Doug Chandler Says:

    I received a T430 as a replacement to my old T400 as my new work device (they only use Lenovo). I am extremely disappointed with the 6-row keyboard layout to such an extent that it now makes my work slower. I am a power keyboard user, resorting to using the mouse when I have to since it is too slow for me (I love keyboard shortcuts, etc.). They seem to have placed the importance of cosmetics over usability which I think is completely wrong for this device.

    This article says that Pause and Break are legacy and no-one will miss them, but as Microsoft is moving more towards scripting again with PowerShell, these keys are going to become more important again, they always have been important for dropping into a command window anyway. It also mentions that nobody will miss the context menu key, but this is one of the special keys I use the most, along with the Page Back and Page Forward which have also gone. I don’t know where Lenovo have got their ideas from but they are clearly not from users!

    This is a summary with what I have found the differences to be:

    Numpad – gone
    SysRq – gone (apparently Fn+S does this)
    ScrLk – gone! (apparently Fn+K does this)
    NmLk – gone
    Pause – gone (apparently Fn+P does this)
    Break – gone! (apparently Fn+K does this)
    Page Back – gone!
    Page Forward – gone!
    Context Menu (right-click) – gone! (apparently Shift+F10 does this)
    PrtSc – moved to where context menu was
    PgUp – moved to where Page Back was
    PgDown – moved to where Page Forward was
    Special Function (Fn+) keys have moved around:
    - Windows Lock Fn+F2 -> Fn+F3
    - Power settings (Fn+F3) – gone!
    - Webcam – new on Fn+F6
    - Mouse (Fn+F8) – gone
    - Eject (Fn+F8) – gone
    - Hibernate (Fn+F12) – gone!
    - Contrast Up (Fn+Home) -> Fn+F9
    - Contrast Down (Fn+End) -> Fn+F8
    - Light (Fn+PgUp) -> Fn+Space
    - Track Skip Back (Fn+Left Arrow) -> Fn+F10
    - Track Skip Next (Fn+Right Arrow) -> Fn+F12
    - Play/Pause (Fn+Down Arrow) -> Fn+F11
    - Stop (Fn+Up Arrow) -> gone

    There are also a lot fewer indicator lights:
    Bluetooth – gone
    WAN – gone
    Caps lock – gone
    Num lock – gone
    Power indicator – gone
    Battery indicator – only on outside of case
    Mains indicator – gone
    Sleep indicator – only on outside of case

    In my opinion, this is a huge step backwards in usability, as this unit is supposed to be mobile I cannot carry around a keyboard to get the additional keys I used to use all the time. I am now looking to see if there is any sort of upgrade to a ‘normal’ keyboard. And seeking to exchange my new laptop for something else.

    If I was purchasing this device myself this would be more than enough for me to look elsewhere. Come on Lenovo what on earth are you thinking? Get real!

    Very angry and spreading the word NOT to buy or choose this device.

  19. Peter Budai Says:

    I am dissapoited with new keyboard too, specially the misssing keys; typing is quite good.
    Why I must learn new kbd layout with each new model?
    Touchpad is also not good – is small and slow and can’t be set faster.
    Display is terrible, vertical looking angles are very small.

    There are much better ntbs with same or better price.

  20. Khaled R Khan Says:

    Lenovo… Please be Sensitive to the Thinkpad users. They are not just ordinary users. They care about quality, science, exclusiveness and tradition. Especially the T series users. We love our thinkpads and its classic design. And the original Keyboard design is the identity of a Thinkpad. You do not change that. For last 15 years, I have only used Thinpads, because their design inspired me, especially the keyboard. Please bring back the traditional design.. As a thinkpad user we do not ask for new design. only keep updating the performance, we will keep buying. Thinkpad can be compared to Porsche 911, for over 40 years the basic design remains the same.

  21. Khaled Rouf Khan Says:

    There are people who will try to find the good things in the new design. But so is a Robotic Arm may be more efficient than, a human arm, so should you change?

    There is something we call “The Traditions and Emotions and Passions”. Which makes us different. Looking at a Thinkpad would always inspire me for being more productive. It is the same kind of feeling as driving a Classic Sports car. Where efficiency and cost effectiveness is not always satisfy the pleasure…
    The new Keyboard and also some of the round design pattern of the exterior, may look flashy, but does not look rich, and inspiring.

    So if you are going to talk about the new technology and cost effectiveness and all those selling points, you most probably will win with your arguments logically.. But one thing Lenovo, you will loose for sure, is US, The Long Time Loyal Fans and admirers of Thinkpad.

  22. Ken Says:

    I also mourn the removed context menu key :\

  23. John Duffield Says:

    I started off with 700 series Thinkpads and have always loved the keyboards. I was very skeptical about the new board myself. Having used it now (T530) for a few weeks, I can say without hesitation that it is the best keyboard I have ever had……bar none. The new board alone is worth the price of admission. Keep in mind, this is coming from a rabid diehard old keyboard loyalist. JBD

  24. Ruben Says:

    I’ve been using a T420 for two years now. The keyboard layout is something I admired when it came down to the design of a layout and placement. IT offered to replace my T420 for a T430. Great idea!… I had no idea it would change how I operate completely.

    I use excel A LOT; I hate using the mouse because if I have a lot more access to specific functions without necessarily needing to locate them with my eyes – i.e. muscle memory is better than a mouse for calling functions.

    I HATE the loss of the menu key. I used it every time I pasted special values, or deleted rows (select a row with Shift Space Bar, then delete with Menu, then D… now it’s Shift Space Bar, grab mouse, right click hopefully on the same spot, then D.)

    I think it’s a horrible assumption that we would prefer new types of keys versus a better layout. They should start making interchangeable keyboards then, if they’re not going to consider the populous. I like the new keys better too, but I prefer my old layout.

  25. dk Says:

    I find that the T430 keys break more often then the T420! Perhaps because they are more susceptible to side impact?

  26. Panos Stokas Says:

    “However, the more curved shape on the bottom of the T430′s keys combines with the flatter top to create a greater “forgiveness zone” between keys, potentially reducing errors.”

    This isn’t true and the image Lenovo provides is misleading. The space between the pressing areas is clearly smaller in the new keyboards. This is painfully obvious in the arrow keys where the space is so small that the typist will spend time to feel which key he is going to press.

    Your typing test is based on the Ten Thumbs Typing Tutor test. While useful, this test does not include the kind of documents that are dramatically affected by the layout changes. Try typing some serious amounts of code without a separate area of Ins/Del, Home/End, PageUp/PageDn and then you’ll see the big difference in speed.

    The strongest evidence of Lenovo’s failure to appeal to its customers with these new keyboards is the fact that on its laptop home page — http://www.lenovo.com/products/us/laptop/ the OLD thinkpad keyboard is displayed instead of the new. Hopefully customers will force Lenovo to produce better keyboards by scrapping the new design or by at least reintroduce the 7th row of keys along with the old better layout.

  27. Michael Fort Says:

    I’ve used Thinkpads since the late 90s, I like them and have adapted to the flatter keys with no real problems. Now there’s no numeric keypad, what I can’t do & haven’t found any way of doing is find any way of typing accented characters straight from the keyboard. This is a common task for any English speaker working in Europe. Your review does not mention it and I can find nothing about it on the Lenovo website. Any suggestions?

  28. Bloitz Says:

    Michael, not sure if you will read this but you must change the keyboard layout from US to US – international within windows. That way when typing an ‘ (apostrophe) followed by “e” for example will give you é . See wikipedia for all the foreign characters (like Alt- , for ç ) on the US-international layout.

    Kind regards

    A European guy who got sick of the terrible AZERTY-layout ;)

  29. Lusche Says:

    Because I’ve lost my T420, (I know, it’s like loosing a baby…), i had to buy the new T430. First, I was also concerned because Lenovo changed the keybord. Bu working with it for a few weeks now, i can say I highly prefer this over the old on. I can type much more relaxed, because less mistakes because I feel the keys more, due to the islandstyle. It also seems, that the pressure is taken more directly. The tactile feedback is also really good. No key got stroke uninentionally, and one still needs less force than on the old one.

    The only bad thing is, that there are less keys and that the F-keys are not grouped on the T430. But you learn to feel the position of the keys, so you can compensate that weakness a little bit.

    Excuse my English.

  30. Lusche Says:

    Yeah, but I made some mistakes in my comment above anyway :D I forgot to read through it.

  31. Irina Says:

    My old work laptop broke, so I got this new T430 lenovo thinkpad instead. I am extremely frustrated with the keyboard. The layout, the “no pause” button which I need, and last but not least, with the feel of the keyboard… In fact, it’s so bad, it irritates an old nerve injury which I had never felt with old style keyboard. Next week I am going back to the hardware department begging them for another (older keyboard-style) laptop!!! Also, tried to plug in an older keyboard to this laptop with no luck… There is no port to plug in the keyboard that I want to attach… Yes, very disappointed.

  32. Irina Says:

    ok, I found the keyboard port… I was so frustrated with the keyboard, did not look hard enough… but all the other comments are still true!! At least now I can type by attaching another keyboard to it… workaround for the time being, until I can get something better (older) laptop..

  33. Doug Says:

    I’ve logged about 250 million keystrokes over the last 18 years on an IBM model M keyboard typing 95% straight text. I’m paid by the keystroke, so I’m pretty accurate in my estimate. I’m seriously thinking of getting a laptop because current technology now allows me to work outside my office and during nice weather I would like to sit outside and work. I know I can plug my keyboard into the laptop but I want the portability and feel it’s time to get used to typing on a laptop.

    I realize with either keyboard it will be an adjustment due to the size difference, but in looking at the layouts the function keys I use most appear to be more accessible on the T430. For instance, on the T420, the delete key is above and to the left of the the enter key, which is opposite from my keyboard. The small F keys on the T420 might be a problem as I use F11 and F6 often, but I may be wrong about that. Aside from that, I see no other issues. I rarely use the mouse except when doing internet searches.

    So my question is does anyone with extensive experience on IBM PC clicky’s have a preference between the old layout and the new?

  34. Wyatt Says:

    @Doug You have good taste. To answer, my personal intuition is that having a proper layout, especially for the nav block, is much more important than the location of any one key. Similarly, the spacing of the function keys is important. And I take objection to Lenovo’s assertion that the key shape reduces mistakes; this hasn’t mirrored my experience in the slightest.

  35. Doug Says:

    Wyatt, thank you. Yes, I love my keyboard. The most used letters are half worn off and the space bar has a noticeable dip in the middle. If it ever dies, I have three more in the closet. I did manage to track down a colleague who does similar work as I and who uses a laptop when she travels. She said don’t bother as the learning curve is too long and to just use it with my regular keyboard.

    I did try a laptop with the old layout, and I have to agree with her. The production hit would be too great for more than a few hours of typing. I have yet to try one with the new layout, but based on what I see I think it would be a little less difficult to adjust. I really feel for those who are used to typing on one layout and must adjust to a new one.

    I agree on the key shape per se. On my keyboard, the keys are about a mile apart and very concave and some days I still can’t hit the the right one.

  36. Leif Kjetil Says:

    Is there any way to configure the keys on the keyboard?

    I used the menu key all the time, when the spell checker suggested to change a misspelled word, I could hit the menu key select the correct word and carry on. Now I have to stop typing and use the mouse instead. I would like to set the right alt key to be the menu key. Is that possible?

  37. Annette Says:

    I mourn about context menu key – shift+F10 isn’t supplied in Visual Studio!

  38. ruri Says:

    nice keyboard quality

  39. Jocque Says:

    The problem I have with all these reviews is they ignorantly ignore the fact that the new keyboards on the Thinkpads have VERY rounded off bumps on the F and J keys. As a touch typist I rely on these to find my position on the keyboard subconsciously. I have used both keyboards at my place of work, and prefer the old layout because of the more solid feel of the old keys, plus these comments about the new ones NEVER mention the fact the new Thinkpad keyboards feel very plastic-y and cheap in a way. If I scoot my fingers over the keys they make a horrible plastic squeek-eek sound that none of the classic Thinkpad keyboards do. Not to mention that yes, the new layout is somewhat stupid as well, much harder to quickly identify the keys at the top like delete and such. I also did know about Alt + Print Screen and don’t appreciate their ingenuity to “Help” me – if a company made a desktop keyboard that did these things most people wouldn’t buy it. People only tolerate this because they like Thinkpads and we have no choice (Other than living off xx20 Thinkpads).

    My main desktop keyboard is the very classic IBM Model M, the giant beige clicky keyboard from years ago. I enjoy the tactile feedback and the springy clicky clacky sound it gives. I recently took my T420 and typed a paper on it, wonderful feel. Coming from a chiclet style keyboard on a full-sized Asus the T420′s smaller keyboard still provided be far superior typing speed and accuracy. I just don’t see the chiclet keys as such a great thing, they force a typist to bottom out in order to type every time much like a membrane keyboard. It seems so alien that a company that made one of the most well regarded keyboards on a laptop period decided to change it for the “better”. What made the old keyboard not work anymore? Because it’s been used forever? If that’s the case, why are Thinkpads still boring and black and not made of metal and glossy screens? I hate this selective reasoning, they understand why a Thinkpad is a Thinkpad for those areas but the keyboard was part of it. But anymore Lenovo is trying to ruin Thinkpads, the new and upcoming models are starting to look like a Thinkpad MacBook and we don’t need that…

  40. RLS Says:

    Not sure if T430S with new island keyboard or not but…

    T430S is a pricy lousy product:
    Backlight keyboard breaks every 3 months. It breaks twice in 6 months of ownership with below average gentle usages. Different key caps broken off and can’t reattached back so it needed a new keyboard. It’s still under 1 year Depot/Express Warranty. Lenovo should recall their keyboard or extend their warranty for them.

    Lenovo provides lousy service:
    The keyboard was replaced by one of their service provider when it happened the first time.
    The second time I was told 2 options:
    1. a new keyboard will ship to me and I have to replace it myself or
    2. a depot box will ship to me and I have to ship my laptop back to them for repair which will take days
    I was told due to policy change Lenovo no longer ship parts to their service provider and I can’t have it repaired there.

    I contacted the service provider who replaced the first keyboard. They took over my issue and contacted Lenovo for me. They received/replaced the second keyboard. They told me if I followed their option 1 then I will void the warranty as soon as I open the product.

  41. Ken Says:

    I found the new keyboard *much* worse than the classic. I type about 75 wpm with excellent accuracy and few errors but found I could not come close to my customary speed and accuracy on the new machine. It dropped double letters with regularity and other letter as well. The faster I typed, the worse the problem. Gave it a few months to “get used to it” and in that time my submissions and posts and work documentation were riddled with errors that escaped proofreading and even then my typing speed was at least 10 wpm slower than normal. Switched to a slightly older machine with the “classic” keyboard and problems were completely resolved immediately. My experience does not match that of these testers at all.

  42. mehmet duml Says:

    i admit typing with that new keyboard is easier and somewhat more comfortable, i just dont agree with your opinion about the menu bar. as a heavy microsoft excel user at the office that menu key was a life saver. i recieved t430 like 30 mins ago or something and already started to suffer from the absence of menu key. searched for some key relocators though we dont have authorization to edit registry or install software QQ.. anyway that menu key is important for fast and accurate use of some software, so this keyboard is a killer for me :/

  43. david Says:

    I do not like the new keyboard.

    I make far more typos on it especially when coding.

    I find that having the old school slopes allowed for a more fluent typing experience whilst I admit the newer style might compliment someone who has learnt to touchtype to correct way.

    I am by no means a slow typer, unless using one of these island keyboards…

  44. Lenovoed Says:

    I couldnt find the PAUSE key on my T430 at a very critical time.

    Thank god for this article.

    GOD what was Lenovo designers thinking?

  45. Lenovoed Says:

    And thanks to poster Doug Chandler for providing the keyboard differences summary. Much appreciated tips here

  46. Hemingway1 Says:

    NOT having the right click/application key amounts essentially means that I cannot ever use the Lenovo T series again, which is even a little tragic for me, because I am a writer and a keyboard junkie; I have typed the sentence “could I imagine writing a whole novel on this thing?” into every laptop at Fry’s and Best buy multiple times, looking for the perfect feel, which Lenovo consistently has.

    But I use the application key constantly. In word processing, it instantly brings down a menu to allow spelling suggestions, thesaurus, and menus for subscript and superscript; no need to read for the mouse, move the cursor to the word I just typed, because the cursor is already there. In screenwriting and playwriting apps that I use (Celtx, Final Draft Pro), itis also invaluable, bringing down character/action/scene heading options more quickly.

    Friends of mine who are web developers and programmers also use the application key constantly, and are 4 that I know personally) switching off the thinkpad line for the same reason.)

    I don’t know what anecdotal or survey-based data the reviewer or the Lenovo team compiled to get rid of the application key, but in the last two hours I’ve surveyed over 50 models of laptops at Black Friday sales, and I have this to say to them: Your thinkpad edge is the only one that that doesn’t have the application key. And it has, otherwise, the best keyboard of the lot. Stop breaking my heart.

    Bring it back, or simply give us the option through an optional download to re-key the print-screen! For the love of efficient typing by those of us who love keyboard equivalents, PLEASE!

    There are plenty of keys in the upper right have have no key function key assignment, where print screen (also very useful, of course) could happily live…

  47. Stan Says:

    While I never used the Break and Scroll Lock keys, I disagree with the statement regarding the Pause key:

    “However, since both of these functions date back to terminal computing and the MS-DOS days, we doubt that many people will miss them.”

    Being in IT and working on *nix systems a lot (and with consoles on Windows) the Pause key was a great alternative to Ctrl-S. Looks like I’m going back to Ctrl-S, as Fn-P is too specific and has no advantage over Ctrl-S.

    The Home/End and PgUp/PgDn layout change aren’t a win for me either, regardless of the logic of the change.

  48. Orjan Says:

    Not only removing the menu key, they also made it far harder to find F10 quickly.

    I help blind user, and this new keyboard will force me to check up HP again.

    Did anyone at Lenovo really test out the keyboard layout for user who only access Windows via keyboard?

    Especially no spacing between the F-keys makes no sense. Having to count to find our were F5 is, hello?

  49. Elena Says:

    Truly hate the new keyboard, have to re-learn a lot of keyboard shortcuts, especially annoying the fact that i have to press fn plus shift plus f10 (very awkwardly!!) to get my right click option (which was just one application key on HP machine). I did not have a choice, my company replaced HP laptops with lenovo ones and now I curse lenove every single hour of my day….

  50. Peca Says:

    I recently bought new T540p. I’m very very sad. I have been thinking about new layout for very long time. I simply overlook PtrSc, PgUp, PgDn and inverted Fkeys nonsenses because I didn’t expects such bad changes. I really miss the context menu and the proper shape and layout of the whole Ins/Del, Home/End, PgUp/PgDn block. I have to close look every time I need function key due to small letters and big symbols of primary function witch are barely used. Beside hdd/ssd activity, power and battery charge indicators there are missing lights indicators for num/caps/scroll locks but there are new lights for sound/mic off and FnLock which are always lighting.
    Another story is new styled wacky-touch-pad. There are no keys at all and whole pad works as a button.
    This force me to use external mouse on travel. I refuse carry external keyboard in my backpack but I really feel like to use it.
    Those new keyboard layout and wacky-touch-pad are unforgivable changes. Lenovo goes to crap. My next notebook will be something with better keyboard layout, trackpoint and real mouse buttons.
    I fully agree with Doug Chandler and make the same recommendation for my friends and colleagues – don’t buy Lenovo.

  51. Arun Says:

    You know there is an old saying “don’t fix it if ain’t broken.” There was *nothing* wrong with Thinkpad keyboards and its layout. They were perfect. Now it is broken. My fingers knew this keyboard as back of my hands. Now Lenovo has given me a reason to look elsewhere for my next laptop.

  52. Arun Says:

    Ah, and if Lenovo execs have ANY market savvy at all, at a minimum they would offer T-Series in the *classic* style keyboard also. And while they are it, they would also offer screen resolutions which are not as vertically challenged. (We don’t buy Thinkpads to watch videos you know).

  53. igsy Says:

    I’ve used Lenovo for years, but will probably change. I use Excel a lot, and commonly need to jump to the top/bottom/left/right of a large data block. To do this you need to need to hit {End} then an arrow. On the new layout it is ridiculously clunky, and the required arm-slide distance from thumb-on-left-click is huge. The shape my hand has to go into for {End}{Right} reminds me of the piano arpeggios I used to do as a kid. My family members have four other makes between them, and this new Lenovo layout is – ironically, since it’s intended for business users – easily the worst of the lot so far as Excel use is concerned.

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