The Lenovo ThinkPad X100e and ThinkPad Edge 13 have a completely new keyboard design. For the first time, Lenovo is using a chiclet, or island-style keyboard. Lenovo likes to call it an isolation keyboard, since the defining characteristic is that there’s more space between each of the keys.The company has posted a detailed article about the new layout on its blog.

In order to accomplish this, the keys are flatter. That leaves you with pretty much the same amount of surface area per key that you would expect on other keyboards.

Of course, Lenovo is hardly the first company to produce laptops with isolation keyboards. Apple has been doing it for years, and island-style keyboards are all the rage on netbooks these days, with popular models from Toshiba, Asus, and MSI all featuring a similar layout. But there are a few differences between the ThinkPad isolation keyboard and most of those other keyboards.

First up, the Lenovo keys are actually concave. Sure, they look flat compared to to an old-school ThinkPad keyboard, but there’s a little curvature on each key. Lenovo also touts the solid frame of the keyboard with a stainless steel base plate.

Most isolation keyboards also have square keys, while the Lenovo keyboard features a curved design at the front of the keys. I don’ t think there’s any real practical advantage to this feature, but it does allow the ThinkPad X100e keyboard to look a bit more like other ThinkPad keyboards which could come in handy if you’re a longtime ThinkPad user who fears change.


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12 replies on “Lenovo on the new ThinkPad keyboard”

  1. This is bad. Thinkpads have always been the gold standard in keyboards. No one else — not even Apple — comes close. Changing to a new design just to be trendy will hinder usability.

    It’s not about fearing change. It’s that one design is objectively, demonstrably better than the other. And IBM’s design was simply categorically better in every way.

  2. Just don’t lose the Track Point, it’s one of the best features of ThinkPads.

  3. I am one of those Thinkpad people and I think this is great. The keyboard on my T60 is fantastic and I can type so fast and without errors on it. I have been waiting for Lenovo to release a Thinkpad class netbook and that X100e seems to fit the bill. I love the UltraNav setup since I find the traditional touchpad to be slow. Now if only it didn’t get so hot… (and also had the N450 in there instead of AMD)

  4. The first “isolation” keyboard was on the first generation Texas Instruments 99/4 home computer. I learned to touch type on one, so that I could re-type in programs faster, as there was no storage and occassionally my Mom would trip the circuit breaker with a faulty vacuum cleaner we had! I got up to near Guiness record speeds on that keyboard, and loved it dearly. All the critics panned it as stupid, and it was replaced on the 99/4A with a standard “touch” keyboard.

    I recently tried several netbooks with chiclet keyboards, assuming I would like them since I still have found memories from my past. Gads, they were horrible. My fingers slid everywhere. They wobbled and angled as they were depressed. There was no click or feedback as to when they were pressed. My old 99/4 chiclet keyboard had concave surfaces, and zero wobble as the key was depressed, and a first stop at the bottom.

    As borax said, I am simply slower typing chiclet keyboards, no matter how trendy they look.

    I still love my HP2140 and it’s keyboard. I can’t explain why, but for some reason I type faster on it than any other of my keyboards.

  5. It’s not about “fearing change,” it’s about Lenovo caving to market pressure and delivering a keyboard that’s cheaper to make. I’ve tried out both times, and the chiclet style *reduces* my typing speed !

    1. completely disagree with borax99 comments..
      I have been using this chiclet keyboard for a while and its simply superb and there is no typing speed issues..!

  6. To be honest I just don’t dig the isolated style keys on any the machines the use them. It’s all about the use of white space and while the case color peeking through the keys might be aesthetically pleasing to some, I think it looks like someone’s idea of “modernity”. There seems no practical reason for the isolated keys, so it just is different for the sake of difference or for the sake of artistic reinterpretation.

  7. “First up, the Lenovo keys are actually concave. Sure, they look flat compared to to an old-school ThinkPad keyboard, but there’s a little curvature on each key.”

    Hooray! Completely flat keys are trouble, as I tend not to notice that my fingers have gone off the edge of them until I start typing gibberish on the screen.

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