As I mentioned the other day, I have a whole lot of mini-laptops sitting on my desk at the moment. So I decided that today would be as good a time as any to do a little keyboard face-off.

I’d already kind of decided that of the netbooks I’m using this week the Samsung Go (shown in the bottom of the picture) has the keyboard that feels the best. I like the chiclet-style layout, the keys are comfortable and responsive, and their laid out quite nicely with a large right-side shift key and arrow keys below it. I’d also decided that the Gigabyte TouchNote T1028X (pictured at the top) had the worst keyboard, thanks to its extra-thin punctuation keys for the period, comma, and question mark.

But you know what? The typing test results told a completely different story.

I used to conduct a series of tests, each two minutes in length. I used different sample text for each test in order to prevent myself from becoming familiar with the text and typing it from memory instead of typing from the screen. I did discover that some tests were a bit easier or more difficult than others. For example, my typing speed on the TouchNote T1028X was much higher when typing a test that didn’t include much punctuation. So I made sure to take more than one test with that netbook.

Here are the results:

Samsung Go

  • 81 words per minute
  • 95% accuracy

Lenovo IdeaPad S10-2

  • 84 words per minute
  • 97% accuracy

Gigabyte TouchNote T1028X (little punctuation)

  • 98 words per minute
  • 96% accuracy

Gigabyte TouchNote T1028X (more punctuation)

  • 85 words per minute
  • 96% accuracy

Lenovo Ideapad S12

  • 100 words per minute
  • 99% accuracy

Clearly, the Lenovo IdeaPad S12, which has the largest keyboard of the bunch, thanks to the computer’s 12 inch display, appears to be the easiest to use. But under some situations, the Gigabyte TouchNote T1028X can be almost as easy to use. 98 words per minute on a keyboard that’s less than full size is pretty impressive.

It’s worth pointing out that I have relatively small hands, and I’ve often found that I can type faster on smaller keyboards than large ones. But what really surprised me is that the Samsung Go keyboard which feels like the most comfortable of the bunch, was actually the one I had the most trouble typing with. Just to be certain I took another test on the Samsung Go using a different bit of sample text, and my scores was virtually identical.

Of course, your results may vary.

What do you look for in a keyboard? And have you actually taken a typing test to see if your favorite keyboard is actually the one you type the fastest or most accurately on?

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14 replies on “Typing test: Bigger keyboards aren’t always better”

  1. Funny story – I was just thinking about this the other day. I like typing on my NC10 way better than on my g/f’s Gateway LT3103u, and she echoes that sentiment.

    I’m afraid that flat, featureless keys are just another “looks good, performs worse” things we seem to be getting in laptops, like glossy displays and 16:9 screens.

    1. I feel that way too. I prefer contoured keys, like those on the ThinkPad, but I seem to be able to type pretty well on the chiclet-keyed Eee 1000HE. I suppose I’ll just have to try out the test.

  2. Great article, Brad. I like the way you are highlighting usability differences among netbooks that are otherwise spec’d pretty similarly. As for the typing test, I was surprised to discover I’m about 60 WPM on either my Asus 901 (whosee keyboard I hate) and my MacBook Air with a nice roomy keyboard. I was seriously thinking about getting a 10″ netbook just to get a less cramped keyboard. After reading this article and taking the typing test, I’m no longer sure I should bother.

  3. Using the same testing method as you (, I am getting about 125wpm QWERTY over various mini keyboards and notebook keyboards.

    I wonder what I would get on a Vaio P?

  4. Probably I am typical in that I use a computer to “compose” and not to take dictation. My brain is sometimes quick, usually slower than I can type. By the way, I was kicked out of high school typing class because the teacher was afraid that would hurt my GPA.

  5. My primary computer for the last few years has been one or another ThinkPad, so even full-size keyboards seem like a step down. But I’m adjusting ok to the 751 so far. The thing that drives me crazy is the weird placement of page up/down, home, and end. Well, and the lack of the dedicated buttons for browser forward and back.

    Maybe it’s time to learn vi keybindings.

    1. It’s /always/ time to learn vi keybindings. I recommend starting with a tutorial, like nethack. Then move to an advanced tutorial, like bash.

      1. A few years back, I decided to learn emacs over vi, because having a lisp VM down to the core sounded pretty awesome. (In fact, it totally is — emacs is great.)

        But I’m still completely unimpressed with the emacs keybindings, and I finally admitted I hated them and rebound a ton of them, mostly based on CUA, but with a bunch of overridden Ctrl-key bindings for stuff I use all the time, like next window.

        Meanwhile, so many people swear by the vi bindings that I think I’ve about decided to give in to the inevitable, and retrain myself to use them. Especially since you can get vi bindings for nearly everything (emacs, of course, is an easy one).

        Maybe I’ll go ahead and tackle that when I’ve finished getting the netbook set up.

        1. No keys needed for Forward/Back on the Acer 751!

          Swipe two fingers left or right to go backward or forward! That’s assuming you have drivers that will work on your operating system (they work on XP and Vista). I love that feature.

  6. Give us a real-world calibration run – –
    Drag out that old IBM Selectric-II and use your speed on that as the baseline.

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