Lenovo ThinkPad USB Keyboard Review

by Reads (45,524)
  • Pros

    • ThinkPad keyboard for your desk
    • Sturdy design
    • Built-in mouse control
  • Cons

    • No touchpad or USB hub
    • Huge palmrests

When most people think of the best keyboard on the market, the Lenovo ThinkPad keyboard is always at the top of the list. Lenovo recognized this and came out with an external keyboard designed for desktop and notebook users who want the same typing experience but might not own a ThinkPad. In this review we take a look at the newest ThinkPad USB keyboard and see if its updated design is worth buying.

Lenovo ThinkPad USB Keyboard Specifications:

  • Legendary ThinkPad keyboard look and feel
  • Low profile, ergonomic design
  • Integrated TrackPoint
  • Spill resistant design
  • Function (Fn) key provides access to variety of ThinkPad features
  • Red backlit buttons for volume and microphone mute
  • Volume up/down keys
  • 3-year warranty
  • Compatible with Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7

Build and Design
The new ThinkPad USB keyboard uses the same keyboard assembly from the newer ThinkPad laptops, with a plastic frame and palmrest surrounding it. Compared to older design made under the IBM name they removed the touchpad and updated the keyboard to the newest version seen in the ThinkPad T400s and X200 series. The design is very basic with a thin frame and a large fixed palmrest. Lenovo kept the same large palmrest design from the older model even though they removed the integrated touchpad. This turned out to be an arguing point for some of the editors in the office. Some were split on it being wasted space and others enjoyed the added comfort of it being a huge palmrest.

The keyboard feels every bit as good in the external frame as it does inside the ThinkPad T400s. The plastic frame does a good job of providing support while laying flat and only has minimal flex when it is supported by its two extending feet. The design also incorporates rubber pads which keep the keyboard firmly planted on your desk. Lenovo did a good job of making an external chassis for one of their keyboards usually only seen in notebooks.


In Use

The keyboard is very comfortable to type on with its broad built-in palmrest. It is long enough where you can have your fingers resting on the keyboard and the edge of the palmrest isn’t digging into your wrist. The typing surface is identical to the keyboard on the T400s with the only difference being a springy feel if you press hard enough while it is supported by the two extending feet. Individual key action feels smoother than my old ThinkPad USB keyboard and is much quieter too. I think the biggest advantage of using one of these keyboards is you never have to transition between two standards if you own a desktop and laptop. Most desktop keyboards use keys with very long throws and if you are used to only typing on laptops your typing performance suffers.

Lenovo includes quick access keys on the top edge of the keyboard which allow you to adjust volume, mute the microphone or speakers, and launch the ThinkVantage software suite. If you are using it on any other type of computer the main keys work but the ThinkVantage key does nothing. I have found that on multiple systems no additional drivers are required to get those buttons to work, but that is only tested under Vista and Windows 7.

The primary difference between the old design and the new design is the lack of touchpad on the new model. Lenovo stuck with just a pointing stick … which you either love or hate. I find myself falling in-between the two extremes: I can put up with it if needed, but I still use the touchpad or external mouse if it’s available. The TrackPoint control works very well and operates just like it would on a notebook. The drivers allow scrolling through the use of the center mouse button or it can be configured to act as a middle button for tab control. The cursor did wander on occasion, but no more than what I have seen on current laptops which incorporate a pointing stick. When this happened it generally corrected itself quickly.


Old ThinkPad external keyboard

New ThinkPad external keyboard

Another item that Lenovo removed from the keyboard compared to the older model was the onboard USB hub. On my current keyboard if I have a USB memory stick I can plug it into the top of the keyboard, instead of hunting for an available port on the back of my docking station. Whether this change took place to save costs or to reduce the thickness of the keyboard, it is one feature I miss from the older design.


Old ThinkPad external keyboard base

New ThinkPad external keyboard base

Old keyboard (left) height vs. new keyboard (right)

Thickness comparison between the new keyboard (top)
and the old keyboard (bottom)

Conclusion
The new Lenovo ThinkPad USB keyboard is pretty nice if you want the same keyboard experience on a computer that is not a ThinkPad. The new design removes the touchpad and onboard USB hub, but uses the newest keyboard design seen on the latest ThinkPad models. The typing experience is as good as the old model and nearly identical to typing on the laptop itself. If you own a previous model the biggest change you would have to put up with is the missing touchpad … but if you can get past that it is an excellent value. The new price of $59 is much lower than before, but you miss out on some previously included features. The bottom line is if you need a ThinkPad keyboard no matter what the computer might be, the ThinkPad USB Keyboard is your only option.

Pros:

  • ThinkPad keyboard outside of a ThinkPad
  • Sturdy design
  • Built-in mouse control

Cons:

  • No touchpad or USB hub
  • Huge palmrest might annoy some



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