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Ask Slashdot: Which Laptop Has The Best Keyboard? 300

Slashdot reader Rock21k is thinking of replacing an old laptop. But... All newer laptops seem to have wide spacing between the keyboard keys, which I hate... At one time, this used to be for consumer laptops but most major companies have done it for business laptops as well... Probably over time I might get used to it, but definitely not the first choice. I understand I can use an external keyboard but that defeats the purpose of a laptop! Do you also hate wide spacing between keyboard keys? Which brand do you find least annoying? Leave your best answers in the comments. Which laptop has the best keyboard?
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Ask Slashdot: Which Laptop Has The Best Keyboard?

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  • It's a Feature (Score:4, Insightful)

    by chromaexcursion ( 2047080 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @01:15AM (#55538523)
    Wide spaced keys are closer to a desktop keyboard layout.
    Manufacturers consider this a feature, not a problem.
    The smaller the laptop, the tighter the key spacing. If you want tight keys, you need to look at a small screen.
    Most wireless keyboards have tight key spacing. You might look at those.
    • "Give me an IBM Model M keyboard (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Model_M_keyboard). . . or give me death!"

      Actually, I would really love to have an old Teletype keyboard (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teletype_Model_33) . . the keys were round and the touch clean and crisp.

      And you could take your days work out with a paper tape, instead of a USB stick like today!

      • Unicomp (Score:3, Informative)

        by DrYak ( 748999 )

        "Give me an IBM Model M keyboard (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Model_M_keyboard). . . or give me death!"

        And the same old factories (and even a few old timer personnel) are still churning out buckling spring mechanical keyboard under the Unicomp [pckeyboard.com] brand name.

        (This message was typed using one of these).

      • the keys were round and the touch clean and crisp.

        I think your memory has gone clean round and crisp! The ASR33 keys were a total pain - uncomfortable and way too stiff, and typing at exactly 10 cps was not fun or convenient either.

    • by piojo ( 995934 )

      The smaller the laptop, the tighter the key spacing. If you want tight keys, you need to look at a small screen.

      Maybe, but I would look for laptops with a numpad and tab/capslock/enter/backspace keys. That will necessarily mean the center keys aren't too widely spaced.

    • by dabadab ( 126782 )

      Wide spaced keys are closer to a desktop keyboard layout

      It has nothing to do with that. If you care to compare an older Thinkpad T's keyboard (T4x, T6x) to a contemporary one you will realise that they are of the same size - it's just that the deeper, better keybed has been replaced with a much shallower, cheaper and inferior version and that leads to the seemingly larger gaps.

    • The smaller the laptop, the tighter the key spacing.

      I wish this were true. Instead, I see 15'' laptops with the same keyboard as 12'' ones, and empty space on the sides. Or a numeric keypad crammed in to keep the keys small, and offset the typing area towards the left.

      Numeric keypads on laptops are a special annoyance for another reason -- they often break the tradition where you can use keys 7/1/9/3 as Home/End/PgUp/PgDn when NumLock is off. These days, you generally need to press down Fn to access keys like PgUp/Dn, if you're lucky to have them at all.

  • I'm still waiting for a laptop with an ergonomically shaped keyboard (and a corresponding concave screen to match, so that you can close the lid ;) )

    • At work I am on the second generation of chiclet keyboard. I am not a big fan of it. I expect they shrunk the key size down, because I miss like crazy on it.

  • by OrangeTide ( 124937 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @01:22AM (#55538541) Homepage Journal

    IBM ThinkPad 701c "butterfly" keyboard

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Carewolf ( 581105 )

      Nah, just ThinkPad T420 and family.. The last awesome ThinkPad keyboard, though the current ones are still the best one available on a laptop produced today.

    • I owned a 701c. No the edges didn't flex like one of the other comments purports, at least not unless you used the weight of your arms to press a key instead of just your fingers. The overhang was only about an inch on either side, so there just wasn't enough leverage for it to flex significantly. IBM did a great job designing it.

      Its critical flaw (at least for me) was the complete lack of a wrist rest [staticflickr.com]. I had to carry a cushioned wrist rest around with it in my bag to be able to use it comfortably.
  • by Cyberpunk Reality ( 4231325 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @01:35AM (#55538577)
    For me, it's ThinkPad or nothing, just for the keyboard. I cannot stand modern laptop keyboards. I still use an X220 specifically for the keyboard, and greeted with great joy the news that there will soon be a new, classic-style ThinkPad release.
    • by kjr71 ( 127862 )

      This new ThinkPad with a classic style keyboard was released last month, it is the 25 Anniversary Edition. Availability is limited and so far there's no indication if they plan to ever use the newly engineered keyboard with backlight and the classic layout in any other models in the future. I got an Anniversary Edition as soon as it was available and yes, I do like the keyboard a lot.

    • by lucm ( 889690 )

      I agree, I really miss my x220. But have you tried an Alienware? I'm not a fan of the bulk and weight, but the keyboard is amazing.

    • I'd agree, although I think the T460 has a decent enough keyboard too.

  • Spacing is good (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Misagon ( 1135 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @01:35AM (#55538581)

    Studies made in þe olde typewriter era have shown that having a wider surface on top of the keys leads to more unintentional key presses.
    The standard surface width is 1/2" or 12 mm, and with standard width (what is usually meant when talking about "key spacing") being 3/4".

    I think that what Rock21k is actually referring to is what is called "island keys" or "chiclet" keys.
    I don't think that whether the keys' skirts are angled or go straight down matters that much. The problems are rather that chiclet keyboard tend to have flatter surfaces but more often entirely flat, wider surfaces and less key travel than other keyboards.
    MacBook "Pro"'s keyboards with its ultra-flat "butterfly" scissor mechanism is especially bad.

    Also, some popular chiclet laptop keyboards (such as MS Surface "Type Cover") have very low surface friction, so fingers slip more often.
    Low surface friction wouldn't have been so detrimental to keyboard feel if the keys had been dished and had more space between them.
    Older keyboard keys tended to be made of plastic, such as ABS or PBT which has good surface feel even when glossy but backlit keys tend to be painted with a slippery paint layer with laser-ablated legends.

    • Re:Spacing is good (Score:5, Insightful)

      by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojoNO@SPAMworld3.net> on Monday November 13, 2017 @04:32AM (#55538921) Homepage Journal

      The curved surfaces help your fingers auto-centre. As you type your fingers can feel how far off centre they are and your brain makes corrections, resulting in fewer errors. With flat keys there is less tactile feedback on finger positioning.

    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      Studies made in Ãf¾e olde typewriter era have shown that having a wider surface on top of the keys leads to more unintentional key presses.

      Back then, keys were already pretty wide, you can easily make the keys too wide as well as too narrow.

      However that isn't the issue with chicklet keyboards. If you look at a desktop keyboard you'll notice that the keys have a slight concave shape, this directs your fingers towards the centre of the keys, flat keys tend to increase typos because you ca

  • I like spacing between my keys personally since it helps reduce mistypes. Also, if the action mechanism is good, then accidentally hitting the edge of a key shouldn't trigger a stroke, so a little spacing helps in those cases as well.

    There are 4 things I find important in most keyboards I use. Travel, key face shape, spacing, and mechanism; in that order of importance for me. Travel and mechanism are closely related most of the time though, but mechanism affects the "feel of action-ing" the key and there is

  • The 25th anniversary ThinkPad. You'll pay more for it than you would a comparable machine, but it has a 2007 era ThinkPad keyboard rather than the more modern ThinkPad keyboards (the P50 and X1 Carbon have great keyboards, but without the travel of the 25th Anniversary). If keyboard is really important to you, go with that.
  • by sgunhouse ( 1050564 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @01:55AM (#55538627)
    Not certain if the poster meant larger keys (like desktop keyboards) or larger gaps between keys. If the former, then it's a feature to mimic desktop spacing as much as possible. If the latter, I'm not sure what he means "wide" - on a real keyboard, the tops of the keys would have even wider gaps.
    • by gfxguy ( 98788 )
      Yeah, I don't get it, but now I'm thinking maybe it's a younger person who grew up getting accustomed to the more cramped keys that were on a lot of laptops, instead of an older person (like me) who grew up on traditional keyboards and had to start using cramped laptop keyboards. Now laptops are generally getting better at the desktop experience - people who were accustomed to cramped keyboards might complain.
  • by Lodragandraoidh ( 639696 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @01:55AM (#55538629) Journal

    In my opinion, the best keyboard on any laptop computer was the Toshiba T1200 keyboard circa 1988. Very much like the IBM Selectric / M-series buckling spring switch keyboards - in a portable form factor. I have yet to find another laptop keyboard that can match the feel and speed of typing possible with that machine. You could beat hell out of it, and it would just keep going. You can read about the T1200 laptop and see images of it here. [wikipedia.org]

    In 1988 I was in college, and I want to say I was one of the first, if not first person to use a laptop computer for taking notes in class on my campus (I didn't see ubiquitous laptop use in school until the 1990s). There were PC and Unix workstations and kiosks on campus - but they of course were not portable by any stretch of the imagination.

    As for current machines - nothing has come close in terms of keyboard ergonomics.

  • I never use laptop keyboards. When I have to travel for business purpose (rarely, thank God!) I take a 10-keyless keyboard with me, and if that's not possible, yes I type on the laptop's keyboard if I have to.
    For all other cases I have a full sized keyboard connected to my laptop through a port replicator.

  • A desktop style keyboard is the "best" keyboard. If you really need a good one then you may as well bring a desktop keyboard with your laptop.

    Beyond that it comes down to personal preference and how you type. Just go into multiple computer stores and test different laptop models to see how you like the keyboards.

    In may ways this is like asking what the "best" car is without knowing anything about your personal preferences, style, usage, etc.

    • "A desktop style keyboard is the "best" keyboard"

      Actually, I like my (11 inch laptop) thinkpad keyboard with trackpoint so much that I bought a usb thinkpad keyboard (with trackpoint) to replace my workplace desktop keyboard and mouse. Those desktop-keyboard designers are too creative with the shape of the left shift, right enter/backslash, and del keys. Moving the right hand all the way over the cursor pad and num pad to reach the mouse feels inefficient to me.

      Disclusure: I'm an emacs user who uses keyboar

  • From PCWorld [pcworld.com], "The Predator 21 X features a full-height mechanical keyboard using Cherry MX brown switches. Acer isn't the first laptop maker to integrate full-height mechanical keys, of course, but it's a nice touch. The keys are individually RGB-lit, too. If you don't like the colored WASD keys, Acer includes more sedate black keys in the box." It's probably not the laptop you want, but that seems like the answer to your question in absence of additional constraints.

  • Thinkpad or bust (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Neo-Rio-101 ( 700494 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @02:34AM (#55538731)

    Gotta be those classic Thinkpads with the best keyboards

    Although, I'd love to use a laptop with a built-in IBM model M buckling spring "clicky" keyboard - just to annoy everyone in the coffee shop.
    Pity we'll probably never see one.

  • Get the laptop you like, but get one with USB-C. Reasoning as follows;

    I really consider the keyboard of most laptops to be "good enough". Would I want to work a full day on it? I don't want to, but in a pinch I could. I'd rather walk up to my desk at work or in my private office. With USB-C, you hook up a single cable and everything is connected: power, monitor, mouse, and a decent keyboard that's good on the ergonomics.

    • Get the laptop you like, but get one with USB-C. Reasoning as follows;

      I really consider the keyboard of most laptops to be "good enough". Would I want to work a full day on it? I don't want to, but in a pinch I could. I'd rather walk up to my desk at work or in my private office. With USB-C, you hook up a single cable and everything is connected: power, monitor, mouse, and a decent keyboard that's good on the ergonomics.

      No. A single USB-C port can't do everything. It is either USB, OR power OR displayPort.

      There is a alternate protocol that tries to do all three, but is has less power and can't do as high resolutions, and can't do fullspeed USB 3.1g2

  • by blind biker ( 1066130 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @02:54AM (#55538763) Journal

    I am FAR more productive with a ThinkPad X220 or T420 than I am with more modern laptops, because I can touch-type without ever looking at the keyboard. This is achieved by having various key sizes and spacings, which tell me exactly where on the "map" I am at any given moment. Lenovo shit the bed by switching to the 6-row keyboard with equally-spaced function keys and non-discoverable special characters, but they may be now going back to the old-and-awesome 7 row classic keyboard. The T25 is a fist step, here's hoping all their new models will have it.

    Of course, if you're a donk that needs looking at his keyboard every 5-10 seconds, then you won't understand what's all the fuss about. I notice that those same donks need shit like backlit keys, because without them they are utterly lost while typing in the dark. And spend lots of time looking dimwitted.

  • by Barlo_Mung_42 ( 411228 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @03:19AM (#55538793) Homepage

    Even as the trend to reduce key travel has continued the Thinkpad keyboards still feel great.

  • All laptop keyboards suck!
    • Yes true... but some suck more than others. My W510 keyboard for example is nearly as good as a dekstop keyboard. Me eee900 after I got used to it is probably the best compact formfactor keyoard I've used. My touch bar macbook pro is bloody terrible.

  • by oakgrove ( 845019 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @03:49AM (#55538843)

    Typing this on a Lenovo T420, this is the only answer. If you need something newer, get a T25.

  • I just got a new keyboard 2 days ago. It's a Logitech K800*. At first I didn't like it because the keys were closer together than the old Saitek keyboard I had used for years. I usually take the attitude that a keyboard is just a keyboard anyway.

    But after about a day of using this new one and getting used to it I have found I actually type better.

    To check my perception I just pulled out a ruler and measured the distance between the left edge of the "Q" key and the right edge of the "P" key on the Logite

  • Preferably one that clicks.
  • Probably over time I might get used to it

    From my experience: you might get used to tolerating it but a bad keyboard is a bad keyboard, especially when it has a terrible layout. In such a case it will always be an annoyance to work with.

    The Thinkpad 25 seems to be the only acceptable option for a programmer's keyboard right now.

  • For current day computers I'd give the current MacBooks a try. I've had good experiences with the new Apple keyboards, but some people don't like them at all so YMMV.

    If you can get your hands on an older refurbished ThinkPad with the classic keyboard, that might be an option aswell. I just bought one of the last with the classic keyboard and don't regret it the slightest.

    • For most people looking for a great keyboard, the Macbooks are a non-starter even if they can accept the OS change, because of the half-height arrow keys [idgesg.net] and lack of spacing between every 4 function keys (or lack of physical function keys on the touch bar models). For some reason this is glossed over in all the MBP reviews. Every PC laptop which dares to commit these transgressions gets dinged for it in all the reviews, but in the Mac reviews it's never mentioned.

      The Thinkpads have shrunken their arrow [notebookcheck.net]
  • Extraordinary keyboard. Deep but not too deep, quiet, and consistent. Thrash away. If you are a punishing typist like me, then you may need to replace it a few times. It's a minor irritation, but the latest one has lasted well over a year.

  • If I can't plug in a real keyboard to a laptop my WPM is gonna go way down and mistakes up. I have no idea how some people use laptop keyboards as their main keyboards. The key travel is inevitably crap and the layout is subtly different enough in terms of spacing that my muscle memory will screw stuff up all the time. I love my cherry keyboard. So much so that I bought like 20 of them so I never run out as I destroy like 1 a year. And it has a British layout with a proper big Enter key. :-)

  • What about gamer laptops with mechanical keyboards?

    And if keyboards are such an issue do as I do. The two places I am the most (home and office) I have a real keyboard sitting on my desk. At home I even have a dedicated screen.
    My office it not at the local coffee shop, so not an issue.

    If I travel and I know I need to work from my hotel room, I take my (small) keyboard with me. At a remote office I always can steal a keyboard. Just in case, I have a PS2toUSB converter with me all the time.

  • Thinkpads in general (Score:4, Informative)

    by Lisandro ( 799651 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @07:14AM (#55539351)

    I have a rugged Thinkpad 12" [lenovo.com] around that's still one of the most comfortable laptop keyboards i've ever used.

  • Dell XPS (Score:5, Informative)

    by Annirak ( 181684 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @07:34AM (#55539393)

    Of all the keyboards I've used in recent times, The Dell XPS series has the most comfortable keyboard and the most positive key engagement. As to the key spacing, it is a chicklet keyboard, in keeping with the current fashion. But that's where the similarities with most other brands end. Dell seems to have gone through quite a bit of effort to make the keyboard nice. It's the closest thing I've felt to typing on a proper keyboard.

  • The best keyboard on a laptop is any laptop into which I plug my clicky IBM keyboard! These keyboards, from back in the PC/XT/AT days, are built like tanks and have the best feel of any keyboard I've ever used. When my last IBM keyboard dies, I'll have to stop using computers.
  • by williamyf ( 227051 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @09:58AM (#55539783)

    It was released a couple of months ago.

    That is, if you want a somewhat MODERN system, with a good keyboard. Is a tad expensive, but that's life for you...

    Otherwise, go for one of those second hand old computers of yore. Your best bet for a good keyboard is an old laptop.

    The quest to make thinner/lighter/smaller laptops has taken it's toll on the keyboards...

    Less bessel on the screen means less surface area for the Keyboard (although the move from 4:3 to 16:9 helped a lot in this department), meaning less space and misisng keys.

    Thinner and lighter means smaller keys with less travel, and smaller key mechanisms with worse tactile feel.

    Me? I use the laptop docked most of the time, which means I use a nice HP Keyboard salvaged from a workstation (PA-RISK ultra 5000). Which has a windows key with a diferent logo, ideal for my mac ;-)
    When on the go, I try to survive with the crappy laptop chiclet keyboard.

  • The thinkpad keyboards are still great, even after Lenovo acquired the line from IBM. We lost the thinklight a while ago, and the travel is slightly less than it used to be, but they are still the best for typing. I'm typing this on an X260 right now.

    That said, the "ideapad" laptops are generally inferior. If you want a laptop with a good keyboard you only have one brand worth looking at - fortunately they have a lot of different models for you.
  • The Cheetos crumbs have to go somewhere.

  • Not when you have bigger concerns like Arrow keys (which ideally should be identical be arranged in a triangle and should have gap space like this. [imgur.com] so you can actually feel where they are without looking properly. Not enlarged to gap fill like this. [imgur.com] I'd be more concerned about having two alts and two controls because my sister's laptop only has one of one of those and it's a bloody nightmare every time I use her computer. I'm completely keyspacing agnostic. The way i figure it keyspacing helps the keylight
    • I swear it's like designers aren't even human sometimes. The way they design away spaces that are extremely useful. I get very frustrated with stuff like that.
  • Find a brick and mortar shop where they have laptops on display and try them. Thinkpads are usually a good bet.
    Keyboards are a personal thing, and what's good for you may not be good for someone else. For example some people like short-travel keys, others despise them. There is also the matter of layout, for example, no one seem to agree where the PgUp, PgDn, Ins, Del, Home, End keys should go. Do you want backlight? a numeric keypad? liquid damage resistance?

    I have no problem with wide spacing. This design

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