It appears that a major obstacle to getting laptop makers to provide better keyboards is getting them to understand what properties matter to users.
I’m just one small person, but I am trying to raise awareness of key rollover and why it matters to laptop users.
A while ago, I had a chat with Lenovo Support. I had noticed that they had added an additional keyboard option to the P-series ThinkPads, and was hoping (though not holding my breath) that it might mean the new keyboard SKU would be for a model with acceptable rollover. Spoiler: The new keyboard option is for backlit or non-backlit keyboard, but they appear to have the same, poor, unacceptable key rollover characteristics as when I purchased my P50 last March.
But at first when I discussed with Lenovo Sales Support, they didn’t even understand what rollover is. I guess that’s not terribly uncommon; it’s a geek thing. But when your customers are geeks, it’s important to be able to speak about things they are concerned with, understand those concerns, and care about them.
Sales Rep: Hello, thanks for contacting Lenovo. My name is Quentin E.. I am reviewing your information now.
Me: Hi Quentin
Sales Rep: Hello, my name is Quentin with Lenovo Sales REP ID# #2900723431, at the end of this chat there will be a short survey that will pop up, Survey ranges from 1-9 and 9 being the highest, if you don’t mind taking a second to let my managers know how I am doing.
Sales Rep: I will be more than happy to assist with your purchase today
Me: I have a question about the ThinkPad P50. Last spring, I bought a P50, and at the time there was only one option for the keyboard. I see now that you are offering the choice of a backlit keyboard.
Me: I am very satisfied with my purchase overall, but with the keyboard I was very disappointed that it does not support N-key rollover.
Me: I am wondering what the key rollover property of the current keyboard offerings is?
Sales Rep: Are you looking to purchase an new keyboard today?
Me: potentially, if it offers improved key rollover to my current keyboard.
Me: are you familiar with what key rollover is?
Sales Rep: No I am not familiar
Me: that article will explain; it is the ability of the keyboard to register multiple simultaneous key strokes
Sales Rep: Are you interested in wireless keyboard ?
Me: I am a video game developer, and I have found that for my work in programming and testing video games that I make, the built-in keyboard does not reliably catch key strokes when more than 2 keys are pressed down at the same time. I’m forced to use an external USB keyboard if I am testing games. But I would like to replace the built-in keyboard with a keyboard that can hadnle multiple keystrokes, if that were a possibility.
Me: i’m not interested in a wireless keyboard, to answer your question.
Sales Rep: http://shop.lenovo.com/SEUILibrary/controller/e/web/LenovoPortal/en_US/catalog.workflow:item.detail?hide_menu_area=true&GroupID=460&Code=0B47190
Me: Like I said, I’m currently using an external keyboard, since the built-in keyboard doesn’t support N-key rollover…
Me: I’m just trying to find out whether there are any replacement keyboards available for the P50 that support higher key rollover. i’d prefer N-key, but 5 or 6 key rollover would be a major improvement.
Sales Rep: This is the only keyboard option for the P50
Sales Rep: other than the wireless keyboard
Me: I am seeing that there is an option for a backlit keyboard on the P50 — I don’t recall that being available when I ordered mine. If you could tell me what the key rollover property is for your offerings, it would be very helpful.
Sales Rep: can you provide the part number
Me: I’m looking, but i don’t see the part number. In the “configure to order” options for the P50, I see two options now: “Keybaord with Number Pad – English” and “Backlit Keyboard with Number Pad – English”
Me: and under help me decide it says this:
Me: Lenovo has refreshed the keyset on all ThinkPad laptops, outfitting them with the ThinkPad Precision Keyboard.
Me: This new keyset allows a more comfortable, fluid and accurate typing experience with it’s slate of individually rounded, spacious, and low-set keys. The ThinkPad Precision Keyboard simultaneously delivers a modern look and feel to your ThinkPad.
Sales Rep: That is only an option when config
Me: So I am wondering if this means that they have improved the key rollover property of these refreshed keyboards
Me: Surely the keyboard is an FRU that can be ordered? I would be interested to do so if you could tell me the key rollover.
Sales Rep: You can contact the parts department for additional information keyboard
Sales Rep: 855-253-6686 op 4
Me: would you be able to pass feedback along to the system engineers who design the ThinkPad line, to let them know that this is an important characteristic?
Me: I would be willing to pay as much as $100 extra for a keyboard that supports N-key rollover, it is essential for my work.
Sales Rep: You can give the information to the parts department also
Me: this matters a great deal to me. As a satisfied user of the T-61 model, I felt it had the best built-in keyboard of any laptop I’ve ever used.
Me: I even wrote a detailed article on why it is the best.
Me: It is one of the most popular articles on my blog.
Me: I will mention this to the parts dept as well.
Me: does the parts dept have a web chat feature or or email? or just phone number to reach them?
Please wait while we transfer your chat to the next available agent.
Service Agent is your new agent for the chat session.
Customer Service Rep: Hello, thanks for contacting Lenovo. My name is Mikella T.. I am reviewing your information now.
Me: i was chatting with Quentin a moment ago, and then I guess he transferred me to you. Are you in parts?
Customer Service Rep: Hello Chris
Me: are you able to see my questions?
Customer Service Rep: Are you trying to reach the parts department
Me: Not really. I am just trying to get an answer to a question about the characteristics of the built-in keyboard for the ThinkPad P50.
Me: in the “customization” options for this model, it says “Lenovo has refreshed the keyset on all ThinkPad laptops, outfitting them with the ThinkPad Precision Keyboard.
Me: This new keyset allows a more comfortable, fluid and accurate typing experience with it’s slate of individually rounded, spacious, and low-set keys. The ThinkPad Precision Keyboard simultaneously delivers a modern look and feel to your ThinkPad.”
Me: I purchased a P50 last year, and at the time there was no option; I’m now seeing an optional backlit keyboard, and the description above suggests that the keyboards you’re shipping now may be different from what were shipped a year ago.
Me: so I am interested to learn the “key rollover” property of the currently offered keyboards
Me: my P50 does not register keystrokes if I have more than 2 keys pressed simultaneously (it may or may not register a third keystroke at that point). This makes it a poor keyboard for playing games. I am a game developer, so spend a lot of time testing games that I am making.
Customer Service Rep: Ok , so we are not the appropriate department for that
Me: so if the keyboards now offered have improved rollover, i would be interested to purchase and replace the one that i have.
Customer Service Rep: Perhaps the number provided by sales can assist you with that inquiry
Customer Service Rep: As this is customer support
Me: Quentin did give me the number for parts, but only a phone number. it is better for me if i could use chat or email to reach them. is that possible?
Customer Service Rep: Sorry that is the only contact information that we have
Me: ok what was the number again?
Customer Service Rep: 855-253-6686 op 4
Me: ok thank you.
I give them credit for trying. Normally their sales support people are very helpful and can provide detailed information, but it doesn’t seem like anyone at Lenovo have bothered to document their keyboards rollover characteristic, as though they don’t care or aren’t even aware that rollover is a thing.
I did call the number the Customer Service Rep gave me, but it didn’t get me anywhere. Their technical people still could not answer the question.
I suppose I could try ordering one of the new “ThinkPad Precision” keyboards (with a name that has Precision in it, you’d really hope that it would mean that the keyboard is capable of detecting precisely which keys are down at any given time, no matter which or how many.)
Perhaps I will stop by a local computer store and test out their ThinkPads to see if their keyboards are registering new keystrokes.
Seems like a pretty long shot….
Even so, I hope my fellow keyboard geeks can raise their voices and make themselves heard. If Lenovo gets enough feedback from users, I think it could make a difference in their future offerings.