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Thread: RANT: Does anyone make a laptop with a keyboard that *doesn't* suck?

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    Previously known as epp_b Top Geek's Avatar
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    RANT: Does anyone make a laptop with a keyboard that *doesn't* suck?

    So, my laptop is 5-and-a-bit years old now and I've been starting to look for something new.

    This is a work machine (web development, programming, etc.), and just about the most important aspect for me is the keyboard, specifically it's layout and quality. But, in my quest for a new laptop, I have not found single new machine that has the standard keyboard layout the way it should be.



    The way a laptop keyboard should be (HP nc8430).
    Notice the INS/DEL/HOME/END/PGUP/PGDN cluster arrangement on the top right and the FN key between the left CTRL and WinKey, also where it should be.





    Even better than the nc8430's keyboard: the IBM classic laptop layout at it's peak (except the swapped CTRL/FN buttons, but those could be reversed in the BIOS). A true he-man's keyboard, one for getting actual work done.

    I can't find a single new laptop that has a proper keyboard layout like the ones above. Dell used to have a good layout on everything except for their ultra-compact laptops, HP used to have it on most or all of their professional business line laptops ... but no more. ThinkPads used to the last refuge of the professional PC user, but then Lenovo pissed all over that legacy and completely ruined the keyboard.



    How Lenovo disgraced the ThinkPad legacy: island keys, no F key grouping, swapped CTRL and FN and, worst of all, INS/DEL/HOME/END/PGUP/PGDN randomly sneezed into place.


    No, this is not just whining about the good'ol days. Us typists and programmers use a keyboard all day, every day; we look our keyboards fewer times in a day than can be counted on one hand. That key cluster I mentioning is extremely important for working with text efficiently. The reason I keep banging on about it is because we use it constantly, automatically and without looking (how you Mac users manage to stay sane or actually accomplish anything with virtually no useful key jumping short cuts is beyond me).

    I can accept change when it's genuinely useful, carefully considered and dictated by function, but these BS keyboard layouts are just change for the sake of change (or "style" ... whatever that is). I switch between using an external (standard) keyboard and my laptop keyboard regularly and I need the layout to be as closely-structured possible. Do you have any idea how much additional time it will cause me to spend on a project if I've having to constantly hunt for keys? Yeah, I didn't think so.

    Then it just gets plain stupid: F keys where the F function is actually the secondary function, leaving the primary function mapped to some seldom-used media control. And don't even get me started on keyboards that are so cheap and flimsy, I could swear they have a base made of tracing paper.

    Listen up, laptop designers: WE DON'T WANT YOUR FULL-RETARD KEYBOARDS.

    Leave that to Apple, the rest of us need to actual work done.

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    Labcoatguy's Avatar
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    Aw hell. Here I was, about to bring up the greatness that is the Thinkpad keyboard, and then I see even they've fallen. Well crap. I'm currently on a Thinkpad T420 and they still have a real keyboard. I'm still getting used to the enormous "Delete" key and the moved "Insert" key, but with that move I can at least see why they did it.

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    Sgt. Maj. Buzzkill narf's Avatar
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    I quite like my work laptop's keyboard, despite rarely using it:



    A small nibble is the delete key, I never find it...
    Last edited by narf; November 6th, 2012 at 5:10 PM.
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    Previously known as epp_b Top Geek's Avatar
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    I'm currently on a Thinkpad T420 and they still have a real keyboard. I'm still getting used to the enormous "Delete" key and the moved "Insert" key, but with that move I can at least see why they did it.
    See, that's a change I can accept, there is some real logic to it: I rarely use the INS key and quite frequently use the DEL key. I'm pretty sure most people are like this as well.

    Logitech has done the same thing on some of their keyboards, including the one I'm using (Logitech Illuminated Keyboard) and I like it. Other thoughtful changes are the smaller F keys (it's actually really nice, since it's less awkward when using them with CTRL or ALT), using a semi-shallow key travel and just keeping the whole thing simple and reserved. I think this is probably the best keyboard I've ever used.

    I quite like my work laptop's keyboard, despite rarely using it.
    Case in point: you rarely use. If you had to use it on a regular basis to write scripts or type up large documents, you would feel my pain.

    Just looking at that, I can't tell you how many times I'd reach for DEL and hit INS. Yuck.
    Last edited by Top Geek; November 6th, 2012 at 5:19 PM.

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    Sgt. Maj. Buzzkill narf's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by epp_b View Post
    Case in point: you rarely use. If you had to use it on a regular basis to write scripts or type up large documents, you would feel my pain.

    Just looking at that, I can't tell you how many times I'd reach for DEL and hit INS. Yuck.
    I have a real keyboard next to the laptop, in front of a real monitor. That's the reason for rarely using the laptop's keyboard, not a lack of typing. Can't beat a loud, thick, heavy son-of-a-keyboard to hack around on
    What's the point of typing if the entire building can't hear you?
    Last edited by narf; November 6th, 2012 at 5:28 PM.
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    I agree, chiclet has less tactile feedback (fuck noise, I want to feel my keyboard!), it's harder to service or clean, the profile is too low, and the travel distance is too far. However, Apple has set trend and now everyone follows it, because it looks cooler and is thinner, and that's all what matters to the customer vulgaris.

    I've tested hundreds of laptops, and I'm yet to find one with a good keyboard. T60 IMHO was the last one.

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    Can't Start His Wank argatoga's Avatar
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    I hate membrane keyboards in general (all laptop keyboards). In fact laptop keyboards are worse than the $5 PC ones as the key travel is almost non existent. Every key press you are pounding your finger onto a hard surface.

    A bad layout is less of an inconvenience than the damage you're causing your fingers by pounding them constantly throughout the day. Proper mechanical keyboards provide feedback and encourage the use of less force. Buckling spring being the superior technology in this regard.
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    Teen Wankeler thevictor390's Avatar
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    My work Latitude meets some of your criteria but not others.... at least the control key is in the right place, there are no islands/chiclets, and the delete key is slightly larger than the others.. The arrow keys are also full size.


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    Previously known as epp_b Top Geek's Avatar
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    I've tested hundreds of laptops, and I'm yet to find one with a good keyboard. T60 IMHO was the last one.
    I'm looking at a W520. It's about one of the last good ones before they ruined the keyboard and it's a beast of a machine.

    My work Latitude meets some of your criteria but not others.... at least the control key is in the right place, there are no islands/chiclets, and the delete key is slightly larger than the others.. The arrow keys are also full size.
    FN in the right spot, non-chiclet keys and a large DEL key constitute only about 2% of my frustration. The other 98% is the key cluster that is supposed to be 3x2. So far as I'm concerned, that keyboard is useless.
    Last edited by Top Geek; November 6th, 2012 at 6:22 PM.

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    Re: RANT: Does anyone make a laptop with a keyboard that *doesn't* suck?

    Quote Originally Posted by epp_b View Post
    I'm looking at a W520. It's about one of the last good ones before they ruined the keyboard and it's a beast of a machine.


    FN in the right spot, non-chiclet keys and a large DEL key constitute only about 2% of my frustration. The other 98% is the key cluster that is supposed to be 3x2. So far as I'm concerned, that keyboard is useless.
    I do believe the last gen E series Latitudes use the "legacy" latitude key layout. (E6400/E6410, E6500/E6510) I don't like the feel of those systems from a percieved quality perspective (they're not as nice as my D630 or the E6x20+) but they arent bad overall if you're willing to compromise on the latest components.
    Last edited by rickhamilton620; November 6th, 2012 at 8:58 PM.
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    Previously known as Speedtouch Davetouch's Avatar
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    If you don't like laptop keyboards then buy an external keyboard or don't have a laptop. If you need the portability then get a tablet and external keyboard. If you don't want that then man the fuck up.
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    Previously known as epp_b Top Geek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Speedtouch View Post
    If you don't like laptop keyboards then buy an external keyboard or don't have a laptop. If you need the portability then get a tablet and external keyboard. If you don't want that then man the fuck up.
    That response shows how little you really know about doing actual development work on a real computer. Tablets are useful only for dicking around.
    Last edited by Top Geek; November 6th, 2012 at 9:23 PM.

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    Can't Start His Wank argatoga's Avatar
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    My work laptop is a T520 which has the key layout you are looking for. It's a year old if you don't mind buying refurbished or old stock.
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    Previously known as epp_b Top Geek's Avatar
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    I've had too much experience with requiring warranty service to be comfortable with refurbs. Old stock (still new in box) is fine, though. Just need to actually find it :\
    Last edited by Top Geek; November 6th, 2012 at 9:30 PM.

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    I got a Samsung RC520 not that long ago (perhaps a year) and the keyboard layout is pretty good. The quality and size of the keys is nice, too.



    Of course, there was no place to put the page up, page down, insert, delete, home and end combo as per usual, but where they ended up, it's quite acceptable. The delete is right on top of the backspace, which makes sense. For a 15" laptop, I think they nailed it.

    Edit:
    Anyone who puts the Fn key at the very left bottom corner where Ctrl needs to be should be shot.
    Last edited by mpicco; November 6th, 2012 at 9:34 PM.
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    Can't Start His Wank argatoga's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by epp_b View Post
    I've had too much experience with requiring warranty service to be comfortable with refurbs. Old stock (still new in box) is fine, though. Just need to actually find it :\
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/NEW-Lenovo-T...item43b544e4b4
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    is a big honkin' homo smib's Avatar
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    I like how swapping Fn and CTRL(which is lame) wasn't an issue on the old Lenovo kb, but is now, as if BIOS doesn't exist anymore. Also, the island keys there do not have any less surface area than the old ones, unless you tend to type exclusively on the sides of keys. I can understand Pg Up/Dn being on the bottom being an issue if you use them often, but I really think the Ins, Home, End and Delete keys being arranged as they are would be an easy transition. I also suppose not grouping the F keys could be a bit annoying, but on what laptop are the F functions secondary?
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    Quote Originally Posted by mpicco View Post
    I got a Samsung RC520 not that long ago (perhaps a year) and the keyboard layout is pretty good. The quality and size of the keys is nice, too.

    I hate recent samsung chiclets. they are too weak and soft for me, I need tactile feedback.

    Also, I had NP300V5A, and the numpad, directional keys and other function keys are too cramped together leading to many errors. This has the same layout.
    Last edited by neutron; November 6th, 2012 at 10:12 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by neutron View Post
    I hate recent samsung chiclets. they are too weak and soft for me, I need tactile feedback.

    Also, I had NP300V5A, and the numpad, directional keys and other function keys are too cramped together leading to many errors. This has the same layout.
    The keys are all the same size, unlike some keyboards I've seen , where they squish some of the keys (normally the arrow keys) into some weird rectangles. Also the tactile response on my keyboard is fine, you can tell when a key has clicked down, it's not like pushing down on a marshmallow. I only make mistakes when typing at odd angles in bed, other than that, it works great for me. The numpad I don't use much but I can see it being a good addition for someone who works with numbers on a daily basis.
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    Previously known as epp_b Top Geek's Avatar
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    I got a Samsung RC520 not that long ago (perhaps a year) and the keyboard layout is pretty good.
    but I really think the Ins, Home, End and Delete keys being arranged as they are would be an easy transition.
    nope.jpg

    I use this cluster ALL. THE. TIME. And without looking. Programmers need to be able to use it blindly and seamlessly. The deliberate physical separation and arrangement of the keys is what makes this possible. Island key arrangements tend to have exactly the same distance between every key, making it basically impossible to type by feel.

    Once you learn how to combine CTRL, SHIFT and the navigational key clusters (including the arrow keys) to work with text, you realize how inefficient, cumbersome and frustrating it is to use any other method.

    I also suppose not grouping the F keys could be a bit annoying, but on what laptop are the F functions secondary?
    I don't remember the model numbers off the top of my head, but this has been the case more than otherwise on most of the laptops I've worked on lately. It's absolutely infuriating.

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