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Input Devices

Pointing Stick Keyboard Roundup 195

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the don't-point-that-at-me dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Blogger pettijohn went on the search for the best USB external keyboard with a pointing stick. He found exactly three products that fit the bill in the market, so he bought all three and wrote a proper roundup review."
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Pointing Stick Keyboard Roundup

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  • by AccUser (191555) <mhg.taose@co@uk> on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @11:56AM (#32183180) Homepage

    It's a clit mouse.

    • by toastar (573882) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @11:59AM (#32183230)

      It's a clit mouse.

      It depends on who your talking to:

      http://xkcd.com/243/ [xkcd.com]

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by FooAtWFU (699187)
      On an IBM^H^H^H^H Lenovo laptop, it's a TrackPoint. Much more convenient than the lame touchpads most computers have (with the possible exception of Apple) and can give you much finer control. And you don't need to move your hands from the typing position at all, so it's even more convenient than an external mouse for quick tasks.

      The one downside is that it will start to chafe your fingertip if you use it for hours and hours and hours on end.

      • by sznupi (719324)

        The one downside is that it will start to chafe your fingertip if you use it for hours and hours and hours on end.

        That's only for those of weak mind, who give up early. Similar thing to the one with guitars...

      • Somewhere I have an old IBM mouse with a TrackPoint stick instead of a wheel. Was nice for scrolling about in huge spreadsheets or poorly designed web sites. Even for vertical only scrolling it was better because applying more pressure made it scroll faster.
      • by RobertM1968 (951074) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @01:24PM (#32184212) Homepage Journal

        On an IBM^H^H^H^H Lenovo laptop, it's a TrackPoint. Much more convenient than the lame touchpads most computers have (with the possible exception of Apple) and can give you much finer control. And you don't need to move your hands from the typing position at all, so it's even more convenient than an external mouse for quick tasks.

        The one downside is that it will start to chafe your fingertip if you use it for hours and hours and hours on end.

        Nah, not really. IBM/Lenovo usually shipped them with at least two different types of trackpoint caps... the original cats tongue and a domed, wider, more rubbery one with little raised grippy dots on it. And there are about 3 more aftermarket styles to choose from as well (commonly found on eBay).

        I prefer the cats tongue ones myself, but they wear down a lot quicker than the others. But new out of the box, they seem the most responsive. Once old, the "grippy-dot" ones become the best - and the cats tongue ones start to slide under your fingertip, which may be the cause of the "chafing" you are noting. I thoroughly hate the concave aftermarket ones and find them near unusable. Some of the convex aftermarket ones (that are different than the two original options) are ok - but not as good as the two original designs. At least in my opinion.

        I'm a proud owner of one of the IBM ThinkPad TrackPoint keyboards (which btw, also came with a neat carrying case (leather or pleather or something), and multiple IBM M13 Trackpoint keyboards in black and beige (which are IBM Model M keybeasts... err, keyboards... with trackpoints).

        For those looking, the IBM Thinkpad TrackPoint keyboard reviewed in the article comes in two "styles" I remember. Mine is a Model SK-8845 (the BETTER model). The difference between the two are one (mine) is not Thinkpad branded (simply IBM branded), the other is Thinkpad branded. The SK-8845 model comes with a USB hub and two USB ports, uses only one USB connection to your computer, and has dual height adjust legs (2 legs on each side - a short set, and a taller set), and a cut-out compartment to tuck the cable into when travelling with it (no tie-wraps or rubber bands needed). There's also a slight difference in key layout. The insert/home/del/end/pgup/pgdn key row and the escape key on the model I have is actually normal.

        AND the other major difference (which I hate) about the model I have, is that it also comes with a touchpad, and two additional (Right/Left) mouse buttons below the touchpad. With the IBM/Lenovo drivers, one can select "use both" or "use Trackpoint" or "use touchpad" - without, both are enabled. Followed by one other big difference... there is no mic control/microphone in the model I have.

        Regardless, if you are looking for one, I'd recommend the model I have.

      • by rsborg (111459)

        Much more convenient than the lame touchpads most computers have (with the possible exception of Apple)

        The only thing that could take me away from a trackpoint was the elegant and powerful trackpad of my 2006 Macbook (the unibody models have even nicer trackpads).

        I did always hate the "drift" issue that I had with trackpads (even in thinkpads from 2 years ago).

        • by gauauu (649169)

          I did always hate the "drift" issue that I had with trackpads (even in thinkpads from 2 years ago).

          Most of the time, if you just leave it alone when the drift starts, it will auto-recenter and correct itself. Generally it's only when you keep messing with it that the drift continues. (I've gone through a number of thinkpads for years now, and never had one where the drift wouldn't auto-correct itself if you left it alone for a minute or so).

          • by rsborg (111459)

            Most of the time, if you just leave it alone when the drift starts, it will auto-recenter and correct itself.

            Yes, and more recent trackpoints do not have as many drift issues... but why should I even bother when the Macbook trackpad is more precise in scrolling and pointing, and has no such issues at all? I loved my trackpoint 10, even 5 years ago. It's 2010. If they haven't fixed the drift issue, I'm not going back (unless I'm forced to, like at work).

    • by Kazymyr (190114)

      It can be used to defend yourself if someone attacks you with fruit.
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=piWCBOsJr-w [youtube.com]

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @12:35PM (#32183618)

      IBMer's referred to it as the Centrally Located Input Thingy

    • It's a clit mouse.

      Can't be. Too easy for most people to find.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I've never understood why so many people have difficulty finding the clit... it's not exactly rocket science; it's pretty well front and center!

      • It's a clit mouse.

        Can't be. Too easy for most people to find.

        The clit is easy to find. Sometimes you do need to coax it out of it's hiding place.

    • by d3ac0n (715594)

      It's a nubbin. As in: "Who wants to touch my nubbin?" /donut

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      I am the master of the clit! Remember this fucking face. Whenever you see clit, you'll see this fucking face. I make that shit work. It does whatever the fuck I tell it to. No one rules the clit like me. Not this little fuck, none of you little fucks out there. I AM THE CLIT COMMANDER! Remember that, commander of all clits! When it comes down to business, this is what I do. I pinch it like this. OOH you little fuck. Then I rub my nose with it.

      Quick aside: Why does FF's spellchecker not like the word cli
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by mcmonkey (96054)

        I don't have mod points today, but thank you for making it worth my while to bring my laptop (with clit) to this meeting.

  • chiropractor (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @12:01PM (#32183270)

    >After a chiropractor urged me to...
    >chiropractor

    Oh dear....

    • In general chiropractors are full of shit. However this is clearly an instance of something where there is ample research to backup the claim that using a laptop display is going to hurt your back.

      In fact workers comp claims are often filed because of poorly setup desks with monitors that are either too high or too low.

      • by Sir_Lewk (967686)

        If your chiropractor is trained and operating as a physical therapist, then you should just call him your physical therapist.
        If your chiropractor is acting as a physical therapist, but is not trained as such, then you should go find a real physical therapist.
        If your chiropractor is acting as a chiropractor.... Oh dear...

        • by pavon (30274)

          It is interesting how stereotypes differ in locations.

          Where I grew up, we didn't have any quack chiropractors who thought they could heal cancer with back manipulations. It was just a synonym for back doctor. Physical therapists were who you went to to relearn how to walk after a serious accident. The idea of going to them for back pain or ergonomic advice is just bizarre to me.

          • by Locklin (1074657)

            Look up the history of chiropractors. The term (and accompanying philosophy) has always been quackery.

  • by Itninja (937614)
    I have consistently chosen ThinkPad laptops for the very reason that they had these things. But, after a long period of screen navigation, I would get this wicked blister on my fingertip. I wish they had one that, instead of being a textured nub, was more like the XBox360 analog stick (but smaller).
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      You can get one that is concave instead. It's much more comfortable than the "eraser tip" style. Below is a link to a set of different styles you can buy from Lenovo.

      http://shop.lenovo.com/SEUILibrary/controller/e/web/LenovoPortal/en_US/catalog.workflow:show-category-with-items?category-id=44A77E4BFC554CEBA4D064394A24A0B8

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Jeffrey Baker (6191)

      When you buy a thinkpad new in the box, it comes with a little bag of replacement pointer tips in various styles. I prefer the original dot texture, but I do hate that it collects filth easily.

    • "I'VE GOT BLISTERS ON ME FINGERS!"

      Obligatory other text for loudness filter.
    • Re:Ouch (Score:5, Informative)

      by Francis (5885) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @12:54PM (#32183836) Homepage

      I found a "replacement nib" pack for Lenovo Thinkpads for a dollar. There's actually 3 different shapes that you can get, maybe one's more comfortable for you?

      I have no opinion on these sellers, but they have a picture of the 3 different types:
      http://www.6store.net/other-accessories/328/ [6store.net]
      http://www.machinaelectronics.com/store/buypart/Lenovo_Thinkpad_R61_E/91P8421 [machinaelectronics.com]

      (PS. What the heck are you doing that you give yourself a blister on your trackpoint? I personally have never had a problem, nor has anyone I know who uses a Thinkpad. They're standard issue at work, so I actually do know quite a few people who use them.)

      • by Itninja (937614)
        Maybe I have sensitive finger skin, I don't know. All I know is, that after a few days of 8+ hours of work, I get these blisters. It's gotten bad enough in the past where I start using a *gasp* mouse ;)
        • by ZERO1ZERO (948669)
          I love the think pad trackpoints as well. I have the concave pointer (like the xbox360 pad) and it's the best imo. The problem I find with the trackpoint is that my shoulder gets really tense after using it for a few hours as I find you do need to have quite fine motor controls to use it precisely. I can feel my whole arm tense up when using my finger to just nudge to pointer carefully.

          As for trackpads, never been a fan, I always end up accidentally clicking all over the place and accidentally brushing

  • Pretty Good Article (Score:3, Informative)

    by DarkKnightRadick (268025) <the_spoon.geo@yahoo.com> on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @12:12PM (#32183400) Homepage Journal

    This is actually a pretty good article. Good run down on features and problems with each. I like the Unicomp-style keyboards too much though.

    • Yeah, I myself have become addicted to this thing. [apple.com] I didn't think I'd like it, but Apple seems to have managed to shorten the keystroke length substantially relative to other keyboards, making it effortless to type on, but still gives you a good strong tactile feedback when the key is fully pressed (i.e. the key comes to a full, abrupt stop when it's at the length of its travel). Getting the function/media keys working properly in linux requires some editing of keyboard map though -- I just run a script a
  • I've been using the full-sized variant of the Lenovo UltraNav keyboard at work for a few years now (not sure if they still sell it). Mine has the numeric pad as well as a two-button touchpad underneath the regular keyboard (with the nipple).

    I do have a couple complaints for it though:
    • The finish wears off - just like my laptop keyboard. You can definitely tell that I tend to hit the space with my right thumb much more often than with my left. For that matter you can tell which non-letter keys I use the most (such as space and enter) based on what remains of the finish on the keys. Fortunately the letters themselves are still adequately visible.
    • Recently the left trackpoint button seems to have lost its spring. It doesn't have the resistance that it used to have, although if you can accept that it works pretty well. I now often use the touchpad left button instead.
    • The touchpad itself is too close to the trackpoint buttons; I often click a button and then end up moving my mouse cursor due to a clumsy thumb.
    • There is no obvious way to disable the touchpad as far as I have seen - in Windows or Linux.

    Otherwise, its a great keyboard. A bit expensive but worth the money IMHO.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Ipeunipig (934414)

      The touchpad more than likely has its own connection wiring in the internals of the keyboard.

    • by wordsnyc (956034)

      gpointing-device-settings will supposedly let you disable the touchpad in Gnome, but I have problems making the settings stick

      I have a Lenovo Thinkpad and two desktop PCs, on both of which I use the original IBM-branded Ultranav short-form keyboards (PS/2). Supposedly these are of slightly better build quality than the Lenovo Ultranav boards and can easily be found on eBay. But having one without a touchpad would be nice.

    • by bhtooefr (649901)

      Most likely the rubber dome under the trackpoint button has worn out. Find an old ThinkPad T4x or R5x that's dead, and steal the dome from its keyboard.

    • Well, just about every keyboard picks up a shine when it gets used a lot.

      I have this keyboard too and I absolutely love it.

      The left trackpoint button has lost its spring because the screw underneath it, that holds the button in place, has started to strip out of the plastic.

      I have had this happen to two of these keyboards now.

      Good luck finding a way to fix this problem.

      The real sorrow here is that they have indeed stopped making them.

  • While I'm glad to see Lenovo get honors for their (IMHO, awesome) keyboard design, I don't understand why the nub/clit/eraser/whatever is ubiquitous among laptop manufacturers. I find trackballs so much easier to use on laptops--particularly since there's no fuzzy-logic-acceleration involved.

    • by Hatta (162192)

      Trackballs take more space. That's really all there is to it.

      I wasn't aware that trackpoints were "ubiquitous among laptop manufacturers". Who makes them besides Lenovo? I thought everyone had moved to those awful track pads. You know, the ones that take several strokes to move the pointer across the screen and click if you tap too hard.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by j_sp_r (656354)

        You know you can configure them to move the whole screen in one swipe? Does take a bit of practise but it is almost as good as a screensaver lock ;-)

      • You know, the ones that take several strokes to move the pointer across the screen and click if you tap too hard.

        Most OS's have configuration tools to adjust both of these to your preference. 'Mouse acceleration' and 'tap to click' would be terms to look for.

      • Some higher-end Dell laptops have them, too. Look at the Latitude and Precision lines.

        Not a Dell employee or stockholder, no pecuniary interest.

    • by Eil (82413)

      I don't understand why the nub/clit/eraser/whatever is ubiquitous among laptop manufacturers.

      I don't know that I would call the trackpoint ubiquitous on laptops... If I recall, IBM has a patent on the design so other manufacturers (excepting Lenovo) have to license the technology. I haven't seen anything but Lenovo laptops using them for quite awhile.

      I find trackballs so much easier to use on laptops--particularly since there's no fuzzy-logic-acceleration involved.

      Easy answer: trackballs are much more frag

    • by sznupi (719324)

      "The nub/clit/eraser/whatever is ubiquitous among laptop manufacturers"?! I don't really care how are you posting from another Universe...I do care how to get there though.

  • by raddan (519638) * on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @01:04PM (#32183974)
    I've been a ThinkPad user for over 10 years (I tried a Sony and a Panasonic-- both were lousy machines), and the best feature in my mind is the pointing stick. Touchpads give me terrible wrist/forearm pain, especially when I'm on an airplane or train, because the seating tends to force me into an uncomfortable position. But in these spaces, I can use the pointing stick without a problem.

    Sadly, over time, my pointers start to drift to one side. At first, if I take my finger off of it, it will recenter itself. Over time, though, it eventually loses this ability. Is there some kind of calibration tool I need to run, or is this usual wear and tear? It's happened on every ThinkPad I've ever owned, including my first 365CD and my current X61.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bemymonkey (1244086)

      Sounds like you're pressing too hard. Crank up the sensitivity all the way and you shouldn't have that problem, because you won't be applying enough physical force to cause that much wear and tear.

      Obviously it'll die sooner or later, but luckily with Thinkpads, you have the option of just popping in a replacement keyboard with a new trackpoint built right in ;)

  • by gurps_npc (621217)
    Does anyone know of a good WIRELESS version? I am looking for wireless keyboard with some kind of track ball/pad/pointy thing built in. Silly to have two items (wireless keyboard plus a wireless mouse). That is just asking for the mouse to get lost, lose it's power, etc.
  • by gauauu (649169) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @02:34PM (#32185000)

    So, it seems this place is the thread to ask -- I absolutely love the nub mouse/trackpoing/whatever, but I also absolutely love a big huge rounded ergonomic keyboard. Has anyone found an ergonomic shaped keyboard that has a trackpoint-style mouse nub?

  • by DeadboltX (751907) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @02:38PM (#32185052)
    "Blogger pettijohn went on the search for the best USB external keyboard with a pointing stick."

    Is there such a thing as a USB internal keyboard?

    and did anyone else envision him poking at various keyboards with a stick?
  • by ThousandStars (556222) on Wednesday May 12, 2010 @02:50PM (#32185196) Homepage
    I believe the Unicomp EnduraPro is the same basic design as the Customizer/Space Saver keyboards [wordpress.com], which are reviewed at the link, and those in turn are modern Model Ms.

    For those of you seeking the One True Keyboard, take note.

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