Future ThinkPads may all have chiclet keys

The days of the famous ThinkPad keyboard may be numbered. As PC World reports, pictures of a couple of upcoming ThinkPads—the X320 and W530—show "AccuType" chiclet keyboards in place of the traditional (and, some might say, iconic) keys.

What’s the difference, you ask? Well, see below:

Top: Old ThinkPad keyboard. Bottom: New, AccuType keyboard. Source: Lenovo.

The AccuType keyboards have been around in ThinkPad Edge laptops as well as Lenovo’s other, cheaper, non-ThinkPad laptops for a few years. PC World says the company touts the design as follows:

An AccuType keyboard features a modern look and feel. Its flatter keys with a slight inward slope create a comfortable crevice for your fingertips; this design allows a more fluid, spacious and comfortable typing experience when compared to standard keyset designs.

This isn’t the first time Lenovo has messed with the traditional ThinkPad keyboard formula. Not long after the company took over IBM’s PC business, ThinkPads suddenly grew Windows keys and double-height delete keys. I suppose this is just another step in the same direction.

But I can’t say I’m terribly thrilled with it—or what Lenovo has been doing with the ThinkPad product line these past few years. Some of today’s ThinkPads seem overly clunky, and they lack a certain tightness and elegance from the pre-Lenovo days. I used to be a proud ThinkPad T41 owner, but these days, I’m toting a MacBook. It seems sturdier and has a better finish than anything I’ve seen Lenovo put out recently.

Comments closed
    • Hirokuzu
    • 7 years ago

    As long as the new design has the same feel as the old one, I’m okay. If they get rid of the spill resistance, I’ll be peeved, but I’ll just be more careful.

    Edit: ARGH. Home and End keys are in horrible positions. And on another note, this reminds me of that comic Fred Silver posted…
    [url<]https://techreport.com/discussions.x/21192[/url<] Cyril, the typo with the x320 made my heart skip a beat 🙁 you had me going there...

    • LoneWolf15
    • 7 years ago

    I love my ThinkPad T420; it’s the best of the ThinkPads I’ve owned (T61, T400, T420, and brief ownership of a T60, R500, and a Z60m). It’s got the second-best keyboard of the bunch (T60 wins).

    If they change to chiclet keyboards, I’m going to be very disappointed. If I wanted a chiclet keyboard, I’d get a non-business laptop, it’s that simple. I buy the T-series for a reason; I want a pro-level business laptop, with performance, functionality, and efficiency. Function over (or perhaps through) form. I want some travel to my keys; a potential change like this could mean I go back to Dell’s Latitude line.

      • 5150
      • 7 years ago

      Have you seen Dell’s latest Latitude line? Easily the worst line I’ve seen from them since the pre-D620 days.

    • barich
    • 7 years ago

    I don’t mind Lenovo’s chiclet keyboard. The keycaps are slightly concave, and it feels similar to type on to their regular keyboards.

    What I will mind is if Thinkpads adopt the keyboard layout shown in those images. That’s completely unacceptable.

    • Washer
    • 7 years ago

    The chiclet keyboard on the X1 is just as good as the standard keyboards on the traditional Thinkpads. I have a feeling there will be a large contention of people who go nuts over such a change. My question would be where are those people when it comes to the Thinkpad touch pads… which are awful. In my opinion the gap between a decent and great laptop keyboard isn’t very large, but the gap between the current Thinkpad touch pad and say a MacBook one is massive.

    The nub is overrated too. The accuracy isn’t great and there’s no fine control of the movement rate. There’s no way I could use it as a replacement for a touch pad, even the Thinkpad touch pad.

    All that said… Thinkpads are still awesome. I miss mine. I love the plastic they use for the chassis shell (it just feels right), love the sturdy chassis and hinges, and love the wide array of ports.

    • Bensam123
    • 7 years ago

    Mm… I don’t have a Thinkpad, but the few I’ve seen and used would make me want to buy one if I ever got a new laptop. The design is very elegant in a traditional industrial design. It’s all business and people looking at it know that. I really enjoyed the original keypad cluster, but this new one doesn’t look all that different from a normal computer, which is stupid. It ruins the aesthetic as well as probably not being nicer on your fingers.

    They should’ve contemplated switching to mechanical keys instead. I can see a ton of people flocking to their laptops for just that… It would be one of the first with mechancial keys too.

    • brucethemoose
    • 7 years ago

    Laptops are getting more and more similar to each other these days, and not in a good way. As an iconic business brand, I thought Lenovo of all companies would buck the trend, stay conservative, and keep the old.

    • mekpro
    • 7 years ago

    @techreport It’s X230 and not X320.

    • colinstu
    • 7 years ago

    I feared this was going to come, and sure enough… here it is.

    Thankfully I bought an X220 back in June of ’11… love the keyboard 😀

    Now if only I got around to replacing the junk 7200rpm drive in there with an SSD.

      • mako
      • 7 years ago

      I was waiting for Ivy Bridge, but I’m seriously considering getting an X220 now.

        • colinstu
        • 7 years ago

        Do it! It’s a good buy. There are some IB laptop reviews out… the battery life savings isn’t as good as I’d expect it to be.

    • lonleyppl
    • 7 years ago

    I love my W520, but the keyboard isn’t up to par with the original IBM ThinkPads. That being said, the laptop and it’s keyboard are way better than the crap Dell is putting out now.

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 7 years ago

    Those red nobs are useless when a good touch pad is in place. In general the layout of a think pad is to much for all but the most ardent power-users.

      • Flying Fox
      • 7 years ago

      Useless for you, but it’s almost the only way to go for me. I do not have to move my fingers far from the base positions in order to operate the nub. The classic Thinkpad nub and keyboard were geared more towards the touch typist.

      • ludi
      • 7 years ago

      I used a refurb ThinkPad back in college for a couple years, and my first impression of the cat-tongue was “what am I supposed to do with this?”

      Then I used it for a couple weeks and said, “Oh.”

      A trackpoint nub invokes very high precision tracking with minimal repetitive stress on your wrist. I could perform pixel-level image editing with the same accuracy as an external mouse. Some of the most recent trackpads are close to that now, but the trackpoint has been doing it for 20 years.

      • eofpi
      • 7 years ago

      I used to use a trackpoint for gaming. I’d like to see someone play TF2 with a trackpad.

        • Beelzebubba9
        • 7 years ago

        I’ve played FPSs with a trackpad before!

        Terribly.

      • siberx
      • 7 years ago

      Those red nubs, with some practice, are still better than any touchpad on the market. I guarantee you I’m faster with one than you’d ever be with an apple touchpad or anything else you could come up with short of a trackball or full mouse. I’ve had more than a few people remark at how fast/precise I am mousing on my vintage X41T (with an SSD in it, it’s still faster than most notebooks out today), and the first thinkpad x-series tablet that comes with one of these keyboards (or lacking a trackpoint) will be the last one I consider for purchase.

      It’s unfortunate that IBM/Lenovo set such poor defaults for their trackpoints though – they require by default *way* too strong a force to move the mouse at a reasonable speed. The first thing I have to do with a new install is disable mouse acceleration and turn the slider all the way to “Light touch” on any thinkpad I have; then I can use the thing at very high speed/precision with no wrist or finger strain at all. I get the feeling a lot of the poor opinions of the trackpoints are people who were just using them at the defaults, where they actually feel quite heavy and slow.

      If that keyboard is actually coming to their X230T too, then I’ll buy an X220T and say goodbye to the last bastion of notebooks designed for people who actually get work done. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep it alive until nobody’s using notebook computers at all anymore and we’re all linked directly into our systems or something…either that or some other company wakes up and realises there’s still a market for well designed, well built notebooks.

        • Hirokuzu
        • 7 years ago

        I totally agree with the trackpoint comment. I haven’t actually adjusted the sensitivity of the trackpoint, but i still love it for general use.

        Though I do have to disagree with your x220T preference, not because of the keyboard, but because of aspect ratio. The portrait mode on the x220t (from my experience) makes it hard to read documents full screen because it’s 16:9 (letter size is too wide to actually be read portrait).

      • ImSpartacus
      • 7 years ago

      Yeah, you’re right.

      Those red nubs [i<]are[/i<] useless, [u<][b<]when a good touch pad is in place[/b<][/u<]. I could also say: "Those red nubs are useless, when elephants grow polka-dot wings." Since elephants aren't growing wings and touchpads aren't getting better, we need nubs.

    • Flying Fox
    • 7 years ago

    Nooo~~~~ /Vader

      • Prion
      • 7 years ago

      Came here basically to post this. Guess I’d better replace my T61 soon.

        • rhema83
        • 7 years ago

        Same. NOOOO~~~~~! Lenovo needs to stop messing around with the pro product line. Experimentation should be done on the consumer line. Until most people are raving about the new keyboard, don’t implement it on the Thinkpads!

        The last good laptop keyboard I laid my hands on was my X61 (and before that, T42). Well, those are probably going to be the last. The Fujitsu and HP laptops that my company issued me have utterly crappy keyboards. And while the Macbook Pro keyboards are pretty slick, I can’t live without a proper delete button or a trackpoint.

    • just brew it!
    • 7 years ago

    We have a Thinkpad with that style of keyboard here at work. It’s not nearly as bad to type on as you might think from how it looks; as laptop keyboards go I’d say it’s average to slightly above average. I’d rate it as “acceptable, but not great”. And that’s coming from a die-hard mechanical keyboard fan…

      • TheBulletMagnet
      • 7 years ago

      In your opinion whats the best current laptop keyboard out there?

    • riviera74
    • 7 years ago

    I think that this completely sucks. I admired the Thinkpads for a lot of reasons, and the old keyboard is one of them. This new chiclet keyboard is positively lame. That keyboard is the reason I avoided Thinkpad Edges and Ideapads: the chiclet style looks like just about everyone else’s keyboard.

    Time to shop in the Lenovo’s Outlet online for a real keyboard!

    • d0g_p00p
    • 7 years ago

    I have a X120e that uses the AccuType keys and I think the keyboard is great. It certainly is not the Thinkpad keyboard of pre-Lenovo days but it’s really not that bad.

    • HisDivineOrder
    • 7 years ago

    [quote<]But I can't say I'm terribly thrilled with it—or what Lenovo has been doing with the ThinkPad product line these past few years. Some of today's ThinkPads seem overly clunky, and they lack a certain tightness and elegance from the pre-Lenovo days. I used to be a proud ThinkPad T41 owner, but these days, I'm toting a MacBook. It seems sturdier and has a better finish than anything I've seen Lenovo put out recently.[/quote<] Multiply that statement by the hundreds of thousands and suddenly you have Lenovo executives saying, "Perhaps we should be more like the MacBook." So really, you only have yourself to blame. Congratulations. This is the free market at work. You've done well.

      • BobbinThreadbare
      • 7 years ago

      Lenovo is one of the largest growing pc makers. So the free market is voting that they want Thinkpads, and Lenovo still wants to change them.

    • BobbinThreadbare
    • 7 years ago

    Well this sucks.

    • Ethyriel
    • 7 years ago

    Personally I don’t mind the chiclet keys. Lenovo does it really well with the concave keycaps, and I figure it will stay much cleaner under the keys. But if there were any alternative on the market, the lack of the 7th row and splitting home/end and pgup/pgdn would be a deal breaker.

      • OneArmedScissor
      • 7 years ago

      So the keys aren’t actually flat? You can’t really tell in the pictures.

      I don’t doubt that they could do a chiclet keyboard with proper key travel. The thing that drives me mad about the sort I see on laptops in stores is that the keys are all flat.

        • Flying Fox
        • 7 years ago

        Just read some more comments, if they are using the chiclet style keyboard from the X1, then it may not be that bad since the keys are curved and the island shapes have a curved bottom.

        But if the keyboards are like the Edge ones then ouch.

          • Ethyriel
          • 7 years ago

          I use the Edges at work, and I rather like them. They’re much better than the Logitech K750 that I use when I dock my X61t, which is one of the better chiclet designs I’ve used. I haven’t used the X1, but from what I hear, and extrapolating from my experience with the Edges, I have no problem with the actual key shape and travel.

          The layout though, to hell with that.

          • d0g_p00p
          • 7 years ago

          its the X1 style of keyboard

      • continuum
      • 7 years ago

      I was skeptical at first, but supposedly the feel of the keyboards is pretty good. My Lenovo rep says they’ve been putting a lot of work into it…

        • just brew it!
        • 7 years ago

        Well yeah, the rep would say that because that’s what he’s paid to say.

        But as I noted previously, the new ThinkPad “chiclet” keyboard actually isn’t that bad…

    • Decelerate
    • 7 years ago

    What next, remove the nub?

    “Hey, you know that thing that gives us our identity? It costs a bit more than what the competition has, so let’s remove it”

    Next week: Apple products will use Google Play: “Outsourcing is the key”…

    • NanoTec
    • 7 years ago

    “Breathable Keyboard – an Intel® Advanced Cooling Technology that allows the PC to run cooler on your lap by letting airflow through the keyboard”

    • nagashi
    • 7 years ago

    The keyboards were one of the very few things I liked about thinkpads, but the missing win key always bugged me a lot. I use it for a ton of shortcuts. It’s very useful to have an extra modifier key I’ve found. The new one looks nice, but probably not nice enough to pry me away from my mac keyboard.

    The lack of a sysreq key on my mac really bugs me though, and it looks like lenovo is dropping it too >___<;;

    • 5150
    • 7 years ago

    Those keyboards are actually pretty decent and if it means I can get a true backlit keyboard instead of the ThinkLight, I welcome the change.

    The biggest problem with a Macbook is the big, ugly “LOOK AT ME” on the lid.

      • Decelerate
      • 7 years ago

      Beauty, or lack of, is in the beholder.

      Also, from a marketing standpoint, Apple’s lids are about the only laptop lids that you can spot from a decent distance, which is gold for brand promotion.

        • BobbinThreadbare
        • 7 years ago

        Thinkpads’ color and texture are pretty distinctive.

          • Decelerate
          • 7 years ago

          Texture yes, but you can’t sense texture from afar. As for color, it’s too bland/generic to be identifiable. I used to own an X200s. The only “identifiable” element would be the red nub, but it’s small and only visible from close range.

          It’s a bit like Alienware’s logo: nice and small, but not that great in public on a product from a marketing standpoint (they have it great on close-ups in movies/tv shows like Big Bang Theory)

            • BobbinThreadbare
            • 7 years ago

            “Texture yes, but you can’t sense texture from afar. ”

            Maybe you can’t, but I call tell I’m not looking at some glossy piece of plastic from quite a ways away.

            • Decelerate
            • 7 years ago

            [quote<]but I call tell I'm not looking at some glossy piece of plastic from quite a ways away.[/quote<] But you can't tell that it's a Thinkpad (even less that it's a Lenovo, as it also does "glossy piece of plastic"). And that's the whole point of marketing a brand.

            • d0g_p00p
            • 7 years ago

            if you camnot tell if a laptop is a thinkpad from looking at the lid you must be blind. it has “thinkpad” written on the top right hand side and before that it was the color IBM logo never mind the yellow power connector that they have used forever. I personally have never seen the matte black they use either on any other laptop. I always notice a thinkpad when i see them

      • Flying Fox
      • 7 years ago

      I prefer the ThinkLight.

    • OneArmedScissor
    • 7 years ago

    I waited a year for [i<]this?[/i<] FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU

    • chuckula
    • 7 years ago

    What’s the Chinese word for Quality?

    Trick Question.

      • 5150
      • 7 years ago

      Have you seen the “American” Dell Latitude E6420 that is held together with double-sided sticky tape?

        • chuckula
        • 7 years ago

        That Dell is about as “American” as a Lenovo…

          • 5150
          • 7 years ago

          So what are you basing your original comment on then?

      • crabjokeman
      • 7 years ago

      Quality costs money and “bean counters” aren’t limited to China..

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