The Best Laptop Keyboard Yet Devised By Humankind

Laptop ergonomics are always a compromise. If you put in long hours on a laptop, you know how important comfort and usability are to productivity. So getting the best possible ergonomics given the constraints imposed by the design requirements is extremely important.

It seems many hardware design engineers have forgotten this. The quest for thinner, lighter, cheaper seems to have overshadowed comfort and usability, durability and ruggedness. With each passing hardware generation, we see the same refrain: “The new keyboard is not so bad, once you get used to it.” If we have to get used to a “not-so-bad” keyboard with every generation, doesn’t that suggest that they’re getting worse over time?

And yet, the keyboard is the one component of a laptop that you have the least configuration options for. There are no choices, no upgrades; the keyboard is the keyboard, and you get whatever the manufacturer designed. That means it’s all the more critical that manufacturers give their customers the best possible keyboard.

What if manufacturers gave us keyboards that didn’t take “getting used to”, but felt fantastically comfortable from the moment you used them?

Without a doubt, the best keyboard I have ever seen or used on a laptop has been the keyboard of my Lenovo ThinkPad T61p. It’s no secret, and everyone who’s used one knows how good they are and how far short any other laptop keyboard compares. This keyboard is so good that I’ve continued to use my T61p originally purchased in 2007. After my original T61p died this January, I shopped around looking at the new ThinkPads… and after looking at what was available, I went to eBay and bought myself another T61p.

I won’t be able to do that forever. Already, I feel a need for a machine that can support more than 8GB of RAM, and the new Core i7 CPUs are so much faster than my by-no-means inadequate 2.4GHz Core 2 Duo. And the battery life we see with the current generation of “ultrabooks” in 2015 is impressive.

Will we ever see a return to the keyboards of yore? It wish that it was not in doubt. But I have hope. It appears that Lenovo has finally responded to customer feedback, when this spring they brough back the old style trackpads with physical buttons that had disappeared with the 540 generation. And today, it appears that they are actively soliciting fans of the old ThinkPad brand to ask them what features made the old ThinkPad so legendary. And they updated the X1 Carbon with a more standard keyboard layout in response to complaints and criticism over a senseless radical departure from the norm. Perhaps we’ll glimpse perfection again someday.

To be sure, we will not see a return to greatness if we fail to recognize the things that made the best keyboard of all time so great.

Close to perfection

Behold, The T61p keyboard in all its glory.

T61 keyboard - crop

Let’s take a look at what makes this keyboard so great.

The Good

Full-size keys, spaced the correct distance apart. This makes typing for long periods of time less tiresome, especially for people with larger hands.

Scissor Switch technology allows for longer travel for a laptop keyboard, which is more comfortable than “chiclet” keys. It’s not a full height keyboard like you’d find on a desktop class machine, but it’s very close, giving it a good feel and making it more comfortable again for long typing sessions.

The layout of the non-standard keys is ideal.

It’s important to appreciate how critical the placement of these keys is. Let’s look at them in detail.

A full row of Function Keys, F1-F12. In many newer layouts, this row is eliminated and the F-keys are combined with other keys. This makes compound keystrokes impossible if the F-key needs to be pressed at the same time as the key it is combined with. That’s probably pretty rare, but it is still nice to have this row of keys to themselves. I think keyboard designers eliminated this row in order to make room for larger trackpads. I don’t like large trackpads for a few reasons, which we’ll get into in the Trackpad section.

A full row of real F-keys

The arrow key cluster. Most importantly, the arrow keys are all full-sized, and arranged in an inverted “T” formation. Many keyboards save a key by squishing the up and down arrow keys into the space of a single key, putting all four arrow keys in a line, but this space savings comes at a cost of making up and down half sized, and makes controlling games that use the arrow keys way harder.

The other important thing about this cluster is the presence of the “Previous page” and “Next Page” buttons to either side of the up arrow. These are often replaced with “Pg Up and Pg Dn” buttons. I like “previous” and “next” here because it makes navigating web pages with this cluster very fast. I don’t have to move my fingers at all and I can scroll and hit the Back button or Forward button in a web browser. It’s very convenient, and I really miss it whenever I have to use a keyboard that doesn’t have this layout.Arrow Keys + Fwd-Bck buttons = awesome document & browser navigationThe Insert|Delete|Home|End|PgUp|PgDn cluster. I really like these where they are, too. Being at the top right corner of the keyboard makes them simple to find by feel, without having to take my eyes off the screen. The Home/End and PgUp /PgDn pairs go very naturally together for navigating text documents with the keyboard. These navigational shortcuts are a great alternative to scrolling with the mouse wheel, and for moving the cursor when text editing. Insert and Delete change the cursor mode, Home and End can take you to the beginning or end of a line of text, while Ctrl+Home or Ctrl+End will take you to the beginning or end of the entire document. Pg Up and Pg Dn are better for scrolling than the mouse is, moving an entire window height up or down at a single keystroke. Clustering them in this arrangement makes for very intuitive and quick document navigation using the cursor, and enables me to be much more productive when working in text files or reading than if I have to move my hand to the trackpad or mouse.

Insert-Delete-Home-End-PgUp-PgDn = logical layout perfection

Print Screen, Scroll Lock, and Pause/Break. These don’t get used a whole lot by most people. I use Print Screen all the time, to make screen captures, but the other two hardly at all. Putting them up here out of the way works. Having Print Screen at the left edge of this 3-key row makes it easy to find by touch, without having to take my eyes off the screen to look for it.


While we’re looking at this group, note the power button (the circular button at left.) While not part of the keyboard, proper, I will remark that I find the power button difficult to find by touch. If I’m fumbling around in the dark, it’s easier to find the ThinkVantage key, which feels more like I’d expect the power button to feel like. So, one thing I could recommend is change the power button, locating it closer to a corner of the keyboard, and give it a shape and feel more befitting a power button.

Keycaps shape and feel

All the keys are just shaped right. These keycaps are close to what old classic IBM Selectric typewriters and Model M keyboards felt like, and those were some of the best keyboards ever manufactured.
The best type of keys for a laptop

The Enter key isn’t L-shaped, which leaves room for the \| key directly above. The \| key doesn’t really have a reason to be larger, but it keeps symmetry with the Tab key on the left side, and helps a touch typist feel this edge of the keyboard. Esc isn’t double-sized, as it is on some later model Lenovo keyboards — I think making it the size of the Ctrl key, slightly larger than the standard key, would make it easier to find by touch. Ctrl is slightly wider than standard, but I like that, although it would be better if Ctrl were in the position occupied by Fn, where it belongs. Backspace is another good key to be larger than standard, as it is used frequently by most, and this makes it easier to find in the top right corner.

Sufficient Key Rollover: a must have

[Updated 4/20/2016]:

Keyboard Rollover is is the ability of a computer keyboard to correctly handle several simultaneous keystrokes. N-Key Rollover (NKRO) is the ideal — it means that the keyboard can handle any number of simultaneously key presses. At a minimum, a good keyboard should have 6KRO.

I’ve mostly used high-end keyboards that have high #KRO or NKRO, and have only recently encountered a keyboard with low KRO. Unfortunately this happens to be my new ThinkPad P50, which is a great laptop in most respects, but it has a paltry 2KRO. If I’m holding down more than two keys simultaneously, a third key press often is not detected (depending on which keys are down). This makes the keyboard hopelessly unsuited to gaming, and as a game developer, this is really not acceptable.

You can test the key rollover of a keyboard by holding down both shift keys simultaneously and then trying to type the alphabet. If any letters don’t type, your keyboard has low rollover. This should never, ever happen on a high end machine. Or any machine, really.


Fn/Ctrl positions should be swapped

On most keyboards, the Fn key is nested between the Ctrl and Windows keys. On the T61p layout, this is reversed. There’s no reason for it, and it’s one of the most common complaints about the T61 layout. In fact, there are even third party firmware hacks to remap the keys into their preferred positions: Ctrl outside, Fn to the right. In the ideal keyboard layout, Ctrl should go first.

switch Ctrl-Fn positions

Controversial items

10-Key or not 10-Key?

Many widescreen laptops have 10-key numeric keypads these days, much like 104-key extended keyboards on desktop keyboards. This forces the main keyboard off-center with respect to the screen, which means that the users arms and hands will have to skew left of center the majority of the time when typing, which feels awkward. Unless you do a large amount of numeric data entry, a 10-key is not necessary or recommended for a laptop keyboard. Thankfully, at least the trackpad is still centered under the space bar, keeping it directly between the hands on most laptops with extended keyboards that incorporate a 10-key pad. But typing on the QWERTY keyboard, with the hands offset relative to the screen is less comfortable. The extra keys of the 10-key pad also add to the complexity and cost of the keyboard.

Most users don’t need a 10-key pad, and can live without. Unless you’re doing heavy numerical data entry, they don’t add of value. You could always buy a USB 10-key pad as a peripheral and use that if you needed one. Before laptops started sporting 10-key pads on the right of the main keyboard, they used to use the Fn key to use the right half of the keyboard as a sort of slanted 10-key option. I’ve never bothered switching into this mode, and don’t miss a 10-key pad. So, my preference would be for a regular QWERTY keyboard, without a 10-key pad, and the QWERTY keyboard and touchpad centered in the laptop chassis.

Still, some people will want 10-key pads and others will not — and the number who do not is not inconsequential. But the number of people who can’t live without a 10-key pad is much smaller than the number of people who don’t need it. I would prefer not to have a 10-key pad in my ideal laptop. This would be a good item to make a configuration option at time of purchase. Modular, interchangeable keyboard FRUs that have or omit the 10-key pad would be a great solution.

Are backlit keyboards necessary?

Again, some people like them, and some don’t. Illuminated keys can be helpful when typing in low light conditions, but they drain battery and add cost to manufacturing, although probably not significantly, since most laptop keyboards seem to use them these days. Most of them have an option to turn the backlight off and adjust the brightness level, and this seems to be the best choice. It enables everyone to be happy. On laptops which have this feature, I just turn the backlight off, and touch type as always.

Which type of switches is the best?

This is subjective and people can have their own opinions. These days, there are three main types of keyboard: chiclet, dome, and buckling spring. The T61p keyboard had scissor switches, a type of dome switch. These work and feel great — almost as great as buckling spring switches.

I find “chiclet” keys to be fine, I can use a chiclet keyboard without issue, and type fast and with confidence with them, but I still prefer the feel of the scissor switch keys on my T61p. Some people prefer the lower travel of the chiclet key, and manufacturers favor them today because they enable thinner designs. But I really prefer the feel of the full travel key caps, and the scissor switches in the T61p keyboard give a closer approximation of the way full travel keyboards feel.

The biggest disadvantage of the scissor-switch keyboard is that it adds to the overall thickness of the machine, but I strongly believe that thinness is a highly overrated feature. With ultra-thin laptops approaching 0.5 inches, there’s not much room left to go thinner. And there’s plenty of leeway for making a laptop a little thicker to allow for a better keyboard. The T61p is 1.4 inches thick, and I’ve never once felt that it was an issue. I would much rather have a thicker, heavier laptop that is more rugged and will hold up to years of heavy use, and has more room for expansion or battery, than a ultra thin and light laptop.

Really, though, on the switch type, I could go either way. Chiclet keys feel nice enough to be acceptable, but for longer typing sessions I truly like the additional travel and resistance of scissor switches. This is an area where making it a configurable option would be nice. A modular, interchangeable FRU keyboard offering the user their choice of chiclet or scissor switch keys would make everyone happy.

Pointing devices

While we’re at it, let’s look at the pointing devices. First, we have the TrackPoint stick, the red nub. People who use them really love them, and they don’t get in the way of people who don’t. They’re a vital part of the ThinkPad brand and image, and should never be done away with.

Next, we have the touchpad. The touchpad is surrounded top and bottom with physical mouse buttons. these are well designed and robust. Positioning them top and bottom is important because it makes them reachable to both the thumb and fingers, regardless of where the hand is positioned on the keyboard or touchpad, which makes using the buttons quicker. We also see a middle mouse button, which is useful for Linux users.

As for the touchpad itself, it is only 2.25 x 1.5 inches — which is ideal. Newer generation notebook PCs have trended toward larger touchpads, which allows for greater precision with reduced sensitivity, but I really prefer this smaller size. It is not so large that it becomes an easy target for accidental bumps by the palm of the hand. I never accidentally brushed the touchpad on my T61p with the heel or palm of my hand when typing, which means I never accidentally click the mouse cursor away from where I’m typing. I do have this problem on many newer model laptop keyboards, and it is a constant, huge annoyance.

The touchpad is not multi-touch capable, and that would be a good improvement to add to this design. It does have scroll regions at the right and bottom edge, which are configurable.

The UltraNav touchpad driver is excellent, with lots of configuration options to get it to work just how the user prefers.


What else?

It’d be great if keyboards were more interchangeable in laptops, across different models and manufacturers. It would take a great effort of the industry to standardize the top half of all laptop chassis to have the same shape and size space for a keyboard. But there’s no reason it couldn’t happen, if manufacturers decided to standardize, or if a manufacturer decided standardize within their own product lines. The computer industry has standardized on other things, so why not a standard to allow laptop keyboards to be more interchangeable between different models and makers? This could spur innovation in improving keyboards, since users would not longer be stuck with whatever the designers engineered for a particular model — users would be free to upgrade and choose the style and layout that they prefer.

I doubt that it will happen on an industry-wide level, that we’ll be able to buy generic commodity keyboards from any maker and put it into any laptop, there’s just too much inertia for it. But it could happen if the industry decided it wanted to. Even if it didn’t want to, manufactures could standardize more within their own model lines, and offer a greater variety of keycap types and layouts to satisfy the preferences of different customers. I expect the main reasons they don’t do so have to do with cost, and to some extent integration and aesthetics issues. But these are not insurmountable issues.

For me, a better keyboard is still well worth paying some premium for. A keyboard that doesn’t feel cramped, has a familiar layout for ALL keys, and a satisfying feel, for me, would be something I’d easily pay another $50-100 for, if it were an option to purchase an upgraded keyboard that was just the way I like it.


Add a Comment
  1. Hey – found this post by accident. I totally agree with you re: the best keyboard. I had the same ‘board on my X301. In fact I had several because I wore them out typing on them. Also very easy to change on that series of THinkPad. Now I have the “CHicklet” keys of the X1 Carbon 3rd gen. You’re right – they’re not terrible, but because the laptop is half an inch thick the travel is limited. Lenovo was bright enough to get rid of the ridiculous “adaptive” soft keys of the X1 second Gen, but there are still a couple of issues. #1 these keyboards are not going to be anywhere near as easy to replace. The reason there’s the “CHicklet” keys is to allow an uninterrupted web of carbon fiber to give the laptop structural strength. That means everything has to load from the bottom, and it will require a complete disassemble – a total take-apart – to get to the keyboard. It looks do-able, but it’s not going to be the “one screw and a connector” deal of past ThinkPads. The second issue is (still) the function keys. I have a cpl technical apps I use daily which use the function keys. Unfortunately I can’t get Lenovo to release control of them – so instead of “unlocking an onscreen object” in my CAD software, the F12 pops up the stupid Metro interface. With Win10 right around the corner I’m going to wait before doing anything too radical, but I might try AutoHotKey or similar as a band-aid.

    Anyway – great post.


    1. Thanks for commenting, and those insights from using the Carbon X1. It’s really encouraging to me to see the response from Lenovo to long-time ThinkPad users. Too long in coming, really, but still better late than never. It would sure be great to see my dream keyboard become a reality in the next generation.


    2. I am a current X301 user/owner since .. 8 years ago? My X301 was one of the 1st gen to have 8GB and 128GB SSD (my cell has 1/2 that now!), I love the keyboard. Hence, my reading posts like this. I am drawn to the X1 as I am a thin, light laptop fan, but must have durability that these machines offer.

      Does anyone know of a configuration that is newer than ‘200x when I think I bought this one (Thinkpad X301). I am mostly a business user and text edit via keyboard, so, my navigation keys on my work computers and my laptops have to match fr my maximum efficiency.

      I would honestly trade flashy graphics or better sound or number of USB ports or docking abilities or… pretty much anything to have a newer and faster 11″+ screen with this exact same keyboard layout: T61p keyboard layout

      My main focus is in the arrow key cluster and the Ins/Home/PgUp,DelEnd,PgDn cluster. When I have to use someone’s computer at work (I’m in IT) that doesn’t have this layout, I feel like someone snuck some big logger-style gloves on my hands and told me to edit a document or type HTML or SQL and not spend more than 10 seconds looking for a CTRL+Shift+End key combination.

      Any input would be greatly appreciated.

      I’m new to this site, so I hope this posts.

      Thank you and good luck to all who are still seeking a new machine, but are limited by our own person idiosyncrasies/productivity requirements!



      1. That’s kindof my point in writing this article: that I really, really want to see the T61p keyboard in a present-day spec laptop machine. Unfortunately, I don’t know of anything that exists in today’s market. It’s my hope that Lenovo engineers might read this article and take the feedback to heart and re-incorporate some of the design elements that made this keyboard so great into their new designs. Over a year after I first published this article, it’s still one of the top view-getters on my site, so I’m sure that it has resonnance. I think it can only help if people who read this article and agree with it make their opinions known.


        1. Hello. I don’t know if you check the thinkpad subreddit on reddit. A guy has been announcing the sales of several old X series thinkpads with present-day specs. If I recall correctly, only the chassis is used. The motherboard is designed by some Chinese modder. If you still yearn for those IBM-type keyboards, definitely take a look. Prices seem reasonable for a custom built laptop by someone who doesn’t run a production line.


          1. Wow, that just goes to show what lengths some will go to in pursuit of their ideal keyboard. I sure hope Lenovo’s paying attention to that.


  2. Good Article. I’m just in the process of looking for a replacement for my trusty HP Pavilion 7000D (2004 era). It has done magnificent service over the last 11 years, but I’m now finding the limitations of its 70GB disk and P4 single core processor not to mention the withdrawal of support for windows XP. When I bought it the salesman was visibly amused that I was buying it mainly on the touch and feel of the keyboard rather than it’s (then fairly high) specification. Now alas I cant find anything that I feel I would be comfortable typing on for more that a few minutes. I cant stand these chicklet keys. Also the layout is important. my first laptops demonstrated the loss ion productivity constantly moving between a 102 key AT keyboard and the laptops, so the pavilion, with all its keys in the same places – was a very major productivity boost. Sadly I will probably end up buying something with an awful chicklet keyboard and taking a spare PC keyboard around the world with me!


    1. Good luck with your search. If you find something you really like, come back and mention it.


  3. Hi Chris, thanks for the post. Our daughter writes a lot of stories so a couple of years ago we bought her a “writing laptop” — we ended up buying a used Dell Latitude D630. It’s running out of gas and I’m looking to replace it. I suppose a used Thinkpad T61P could be a reasonable replacement. But was also wondering which newer model (not fancy…it’ll mostly be for typing stories) you might recommend. Mainly I’m interested in something for her that has a newer processor and maybe more RAM. (She has a Sony VAIO ultraportable for other general purpose work).

    Also, on another note, I have a Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro, which I love in most every way EXCEPT that the keyboard bugs the heck out of me. I’m not a huge fan of chiclet style keys in general and the ones on this laptop are flat and seem to have pretty shallow travel. Any thoughts on which ultraportable might have the best keyboard?

    Thanks again!


    1. Thanks for reading, but I wouldn’t know where to begin with a model recommendation for your daughter. I don’t follow hardware that closely unless I’m looking to buy something for myself, these days. I just recently bought a Lenovo P50, which I’ll be reviewing soon, to replace the venerable T61p. But I can’t say that it has as good a keyboard as what I’ve been used to, sadly. I don’t know of any current model laptop that has a truly good keyboard anymore.


  4. fantastic discussion on what features are important and how in a keyboard

    just what I needed to read today

    I am looking at laptops for the first time in 10 years (I usually live on my IPAD and IPHONE)

    keyboard quality is one of main reasons for looking at new laptops

    I plan on using it not only as my at-home full range computer, but also for substantial writing

    thanks for the wonderful analysis (I found it by a google of “best laptop keyboard”)


  5. BTW. ThinkPad W500 does have same keyboard. It is awesome.

    But the best keyboard for me is T41p. A little more compact, yet full, and combined with 4:3 screen at 1440×1050 just perfect. If only we could something like that with current SSD, CPU, memory and graphics. Hmm.


  6. I stumbled upon your article while doing a “Google” search on “best laptop keyboard”. Since I don’t need the latest & greatest system, after reading your article I promptly found a nice “tricked out” Lenovo T61p on eBay (2.5 GHz 4 Gb RAM w/ 120 Gb SSD). I am awaiting it’s arrival. Historically I found the Mac PowerBook 1400C to have a fantastic keyboard. Unfortunately the 1400C is way past its prime as a travel/writing companion. It’s heavy, no way to find replacement batteries, & it’s saddled with an outdated OS even with CPU upgrade swap, OS 9 is best you can do. But we are talking a system from two decades ago! When the Lenovo arrives I think I’ll load Linux onto it. I’ve had good luck with Linux Mint Xfce. I’ve found Win 10 to be sluggish & I don’t like the need to “connect to the mothership” it appears to have on my wife’s desktop system. Thanks for a great article & good advice.


    1. Enjoy the T61. I found that it ran Ubuntu very well, and I expect you’ll have similar results with Mint.

      I don’t recommend Windows 10, period. Windows 7 runs well on this hardware, albeit not as fast as on a more recent CPU. The minimum RAM to run win7 decently these days is 8GB,which the T61p supports. I like to run without a swap file, and found that I would run out of memory with too many browser tabs open. It’s crazy to think that 8GB isn’t more memory than I’d ever need for casual computing.

      I’m now using a Lenovo P50 with 64GB as my everyday machine. It’s keyboard is sadly not the equal to the T61p, but in all other respects it’s a good laptop.


  7. I almost purchansed this brick because of the keyboard that it comes with.

    Looks like they have updated it to more modern gear.

    It is a lot of money for a laptop and the thing weighs like 10lbs, but it has a MECHANICAL keyboard.

    Really I want a mechanical keyboard laptop with ultra book parts all around it. I don’t care that it would be 1/4″ thicker than it has to be, it doesn’t add much weight.


  8. Good Article. Modern OEMs has totally messed up the keyboard layouts. You exactly stated all the points that I had in mind.

    #1, I really hate including a numpad into the laptop keyboard. It really feels awkward when typing aligned to the left side of the screen.

    #2, Stuffing the UP and DOWN arrows into a single row. I don’t have any idea why they are doing such a stupid thing.

    #3, Placing the “Fn” key to the bottom left. It’s almost gone, and they now place Ctrl to the left, I guess.

    #4, Removing the F1-F12 keys row. Many people still need them.

    #5, Non-standard positioning of the “Enter” key – sometimes they fill it in two rows, sometimes they make it just the size of an alphabet key.

    I absolutely love my HP Pavilion dv4 keyboard layout – – which is great, it includes all the F-keys, properly placed arrow keys, and all the 6 navigation keys, and still all aligned and well-placed into a 14 inch laptop. I really can’t find a good replacement for this.


    1. That HP layout is pretty good. The Home|PageUp|PageDown|End column at the right side works well for document navigation.


      1. Thank you for the great article; makes me feel less lonely because when I explain my frustration with chicklet keyboards I am usually met with rolling eyes by non power users. I doubt many journalists want to give up “real keyboards” in the interest of thinner models. I have been nursing a Dell Latitude D630 but it gets more difficult every month. I also love the Lenovo laptops you identified. While we are at it hear, i also favor removable batteries in the interest of safety.


  9. I am looking to buy such a keyboard for gaming but none of them have it. My laptop has the same keyboard


  10. Hi. I have long forgotten about it, but my motive to go for Lenovo x200 3 years ago was exactly the keyboard.

    In the meantime, I thought it was not the best idea to buy an old computer, but it turns out to be as fast as my partner’s new hp 8gb with 64 bit windows 10!

    Quite recently, however, I have needed to spend 100 hours typing. Wow, the keyboard is the best I have ever used. One of the causes of success of the brand.

    Thanks for a good article.


  11. I’m glad to see I’m not alone. I’ve resisted upgrading my laptop for a couple years largely due to the inputs on modern laptops, but it’s time now. I have a T520 with basically the same keyboard. It was an upgrade from a T400 I had several years prior. I’ve had a T450s at work for a long time. I’ve used many T430/T530’s. I’ve used the Gen3 X1 Carbons. I’ve showroomed the T560.

    And being pissed off at Lenovo for their spyware scandals and terrible keyboards over the keyboard over the last couple years (they’re finally getting better at least) I even bought the Dell 3510 this year and as far as the keyboard it suffers all the same complaints as the new Lenovos (actually with a few key location changes, it’s basically a Lenovo knockoff down to the trackpoint nub with slightly poorer ergonomics, but slightly better key layout and better function alternate key availability imho). For other reasons I returned the 3510, but it was a very solid laptop, especially perf wise.

    Now after showrooming laptops from every major vendor I’m still stuck between another Dell 3510, the P50, and the T560… And none of which I’m all that excited about which is disappointing and made me hesitant to even spend the money when the T520 with a fast SSD and ram upgrades isn’t even that bad. My biggest complaint with the T520 is the aging display that doesn’t hold a candle to the modern 1080P IPS or 4K displays.

    It really is disappointing how almost every keyboard from all of the major vendors are so similar and how I so universally dislike them all.

    I will disagree on your one nitpick about the ctrl and fn key needing to be swapped though. The ctrl key as it currently sits fits right on my pinky so much easier than the fn key, although with enough time I can learn to use either.


    1. I prefer to swap ctrl with Fn because it’s standard that ctrl is in the corner position, and any time I have to switch computers, I have to adjust. But otherwise, I don’t mind ctrl being to the right of Fn, and it does make it easier to reach other keys with one hand. It’s not a major issue, and I think having it a bios configuration option works for everyone. I just wish that the key caps were the same size so I can swap their positions so they’re correctly labeled.


  12. I have a lenovo x60 and the keyboard layout is absolutely my favorite thing about this laptop — currently typing on it. But the hardware behind it f-ing sucks and the stupid battery life is just terrible in 2016. I have been considering the lenovo yoga 12 as a replacement but i am having such a hard time pulling the damn trigger because of the f-ing keyboard. I considered a dell xps 13 but the keyboard is awful, laptops are just trying to copy apple its just sad.

    If people from lenovo are reading, then please consider this:

    1. I DON’T CARE about having a laptop that is as thin as paper, 0.75″ (ish) with the laptop closed is FINE

    2. I HATE chiclet keyboards, bring back the scissor switches

    3. I HATE 16×9, I want a computer not a tv, USE 16×10

    4. FIX THE DAMN TRACKPAD — is apple really the only company that does this correctly?

    5. Resolution should be in the 4-5k range — OBVIOUSLY this drains the battery, THAT’S OKAY

    Basically what I want is the lenovo yoga 12 form factor, with a quad/hexacore i7 (not dual core) and up to 64 GB of ram. Get rid of the SSD and replace it with m.2. ALWAYS go for speed. DONT worry about disk space because that WILL improve overtime.


    1. I've been pretty happy with my P50, other than the low key rollover, and a few other minor quibbles. A 4K display, 64GB of RAM, and a M.2 SSD drive is definitely nice in 2016.


  13. Absolutely. I am typing this on a T400 with identical layout. I could be choosing to type this on any number of later devices with (dare we say it) Apple inspired minimalist keyboard designs, but despite the relative advantages of more recent technology, when I want to be productive – to be 100% keyboard integrated – this keyboard is still way out in front. It is still by far the best I have come across, period.

    It appears we are awash in an industry of glossy subpar design imitations … bring back the focus groups! Or at least put the right people in them.


  14. Get a refurbished X220. More or less the same keyboard you show. Lenovo really should bring back these nicer keyboards.


    1. I’m now using the current generation P50, which doesn’t have as good a keyboard and trackpad, but it’s better than the last several generations of ThinkPads. And it’s got fantastic hardware specs.


  15. Agree pretty much what you said. Although I’m not a frequent typer, nor someone that is very particular, I share the same sentiments of missing/craving the keyboards found on the older Lenovo/IBM range. I didn’t use it for long (as the IT department assigned a different model to me) but I still fondly remembered using the T420 and since then, found no other laptop keyboards better than it.

    I was wondering why no vendors/OEMs continue to make such good laptop keyboards when there are so many manufacturers going into desktop mechanical keyboard product ranges. Any modern range of laptops that you come across having “decent” keyboard? (I don’t have high hopes of finding anything like the T420…missed typing on it so much)


  16. Ah, finally people who wouldn’t roll their eyes when I whine about my new laptop keyboard. Sorry Toshiba lovers out there but my brother bought me a Toshiba Satellite in 2016 and hands down that thing has the very worst keyboard design I have ever typed on. First the keys are sort of gummy feeling chicklet style and set too far apart. Before my old Dell up and died when I installed Windows 10 (which I hate), I was a hobby writer. I could whip out a two thousand word count paper in a couple of hours. Now with this new Toshiba I have such horrible hand fatigue I just can’t take it and have stopped writing and my desire to write is what I was really looking for in a laptop. On top of the keys the rim on the laptop actually cuts very sharply into my wrists and once actually broke the skin on my wrist. BROKE THE SKIN AS IN CUT ME! I am not familiar with all the models etc but I really want a normal, not flat and non responsive keyboard. At the same time I don’t want an older laptop that takes forever to load and makes web browsing a nightmare. I have tried all the laptops on display and with the exception of an apple bluetooth keyboard I have yet to find one that has the good old standard clicks a bit when I type feel. When I whine about these issues everybody thinks I’m crazy and now I am so happy to see that maybe I am crazy but not about my gripes about the new keyboards. I hope soon there is a solution.


  17. Where do I get a New Lenovo ThinkPad T61p under £1000. It looks old, but is perfect for me (used to touch typing). I am looking on ebay but they are not new, or not the same layout. I use a mouse. I am 70 and HATE new laptops. I live in Wales, UK.


    1. Hi Pauline,

      I’d be happy to sell you my old T61p for £1000, shipped and insured, to you in Wales, UK. I tried sending an email at the address used for this comment, but it was returned undeliverable. Get in touch with me via this website if you’re interested.


  18. Navigation keys should not be the smallest, because on average they are used most often.
    They should not be shifted down, because that makes Ctrl+ Alt+ combination awkward.
    Arrow keys should not be far away from PageUp/Dn/Home/End/Del keys, because they are used together and should not require a hand stretch.

    The “best keyboard devised by humankind” is one of the worst in my opinion, as it fails all the above. I have had a laptop like that for many years, and because I do a lot of editing and typing and navigating and Ctrl+ pressing writing code for a job, I have never stopped wondering at its sheer awkwardness, lack of comfort, logic and common sense, though I had to make do, with the hand often aching after a long day of hand stretching and jumping between the two tiny clusters.

    Because, before that I used a keyboard with normal height arrows with Up under Enter to the right of Shift, which doesn’t need to be the 2nd biggest key on the keyboard, wide enough to press with a foot, with vertical Page keys beside the arrows (also same height) in a column with Del next within easy reach (it is used with the arrows all the time when editing text), then Ins beside Enter (similarly frequent use on editing), and finaly horizontal Home/End above Backspace and Ins (as those mostly navigate to start and end of horizonatal lines).

    That is the best keyboard layout ever designed by humankind (on Digital VP/Ultra series just before it sold to Compaq, which was then bought by HP: There have been a few variations on it since, mostly with Page keys for some reason inserted in the middle between Home and End, and Sony Vaio AW once having one with a numeric keypad beside (the best layout if you want a numeric keypad as well: The closest most recent one I’ve seen was Lenovo Idea 100 with the only difference being Home/End and Ins/Del swapping places (

    Unfortunately, those good layouts (that should be able to be reprogrammed to suit if needed) are mostly on cheap laptops with low res screens. The rest is some kind of a wanton orgy of illogical design with the most often used keys half-sized and postioned in every strange and awkward way (like horizontal Page keys to each side of Up) or with half of them missing altogether to be pressed with an extra Fn key (like on the clever Macs).


    1. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, of course. I never had a problem with the half-height keys on the T61p keyboard.

      How are arrow keys used in conjunction with Home|End and PageUp|PageDown? I’m not familiar with that…

      I did use my T61p for 8 years, which is 2-3 times longer than the average laptop lasts, and about 1/5th of my total life, and 1/4 of the time I’ve been using computers, and about 1/3 of the time I’ve been able to touch type. And, for a laptop keyboard, for document editing/navigating as well as for gaming, I’ve never used a better keyboard than on the T61p.


      1. How are the arrow keys used in conjunction with Home|End and PageUp|PageDown? All the time and every time when viewing or editing any text. Vertically: up/down a line, up/down a page (that’s why it makes no sense to have Page keys placed horizontally). Horizontally: Left/Right a character, Home/End to the beginning or end of the line (that’s why it makes sense to have Home/End keys horizontally).

        Also that’s why it makes sense to have Del key close by as well, rather than at a stretch. Also Ctrl-Up/Down in Excel all the time or Alt+Left/Right in a web browser etc (which makes you twist your wrist if arrows are shifted down).

        The layout that I have described in my opinion beats yours hands down by pure logic based on usage frequency and economy of movement. Maybe you simply got accustomed to that, because you had to without an alternative. I have been forced to get accustomed as well, the only difference being I knew better.


        1. I think I understand what you were trying to say now. Earlier, I thought you were suggeseting that there were keystroke combinations that employed Home/End and PageUp/PageDn with the Arrow keys at the same time, like a Home+Up or something… and I don’t know of any such combo keystrokes.

          What I can say about that is that on my T61p, I did use the arrow keys in conjunction with CTRL and SHIFT all the time, to move the cursor through text documents. Arrows alone will move the cursor one space at a time, or one row up/down at a time. CTRL+arrows will advance the cursor one word at a time, or a paragraph at a time (or sometimes one page or screen at a time). SHIFT + Arrows selects text, and can be used in combination with CTRL to make selecting text faster. Home and End move the cursor to the begin or end of the row, with CTRL to the begin or end of the document, and with SHIFT will select from the current location of the cursor to the begin or end of the document, but there’s never a need to use Home/End with the Arrow keys at the same time. With PageUp/PageDown, it’s most useful for scrolling through a document for reading/browsing, a page or screen at a time, and can be used in conjunction with SHIFT to select text also, although I don’t often find it useful to do so, but there aren’t keystroke combinations that involve arrows + PageUp/PageDn that I’m aware of. But I think you’re saying that you will switch between the two as needed, using arrows for small, fine cursor movements, and Home/End PageUp/PageDn for coarse cursor movements.

          That’s what I do too, and with my T61p keyboard I found it was very easy and natural to find the arrow cluster as well as the Home|End/PageUp|PageDn cluster. The arrows were at the bottom right corner of the keyboard, every easy to find by touch, and the Home|End/PageUp|PageDn were at the top right corner of the keyboard, again easy to find. My right hand could switch between the the top and bottom corner of the keyboard with ease, and rapidly, and it became second nature to me so I didn’t have to think about it, and could navigate through documents and select text very rapidly using just the keyboard, more quickly and more precisely than with a mouse, track pad, or track point. In my opinion, the layout was logical and the best design, for those reasons.


          1. Perfectly logical. Most often used keys the tinyest, the ones used together far apart, arrows shifted down for wrist strain with Ctrl combinations. One can get accustomed to and become adept with anything. Goudini got accustomed to unshackle himself and did it with a breeze. The laptop makers count on it: make sure the laptop look pretty, either with lots of keys (with numeric pad) or as little as possible, no matter how awkward navigating functions are – the users will get accustomed to it, they have no choice. Like the switch from 16:10 to shorter 16:9. Why don’t I build my own China factory if I don’t like it.
            Happy New Year.


  19. Fn and CTRL should not be swapped. The default position on the Thinkpad keyboards is ideal. With the default position, you can slide your left thumb underneath and reach the CTRL key, meaning you can leave the rest of your fingers in home row position. People who want CTRL on the far bottom left usually reach their pinky down to press it, which moves the hand way off of home row.


    1. The nice thing is that Lenovo have made swapping them an option in their official BIOS, after unofficial BIOS hacks to provide this popular feature were circulated. I can see both sides of it. Standard keyboards put ctrl in the bottom row, left most key, so it’s in the corner, which is very easy to find by touch. It’s what most people are used to, and expect, and it’s following a standard. On the other hand, Fn is hardly ever used, so putting it further away from the home row keys makes some sense for the reasons you gave. I think it’s a good compromise to let people decide their preference and set their BIOS as they see fit. I would only like for the key caps to be the same size, so they could be interchangeable, and then I could swap the key caps if I decide to use the BIOS setting.


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