Do any modern Laptops have even halfway decent keyboards?

User avatar
mattlach

25 Feb 2019, 22:36

So,

I was using my 2012 era Dell Latitude E6430s the other day (I don't usually use my home laptop, as I prefer my computing at a proper desk, but due to fire and flames it was temporarily out of commission).
laptop_dell_6430s_grande.jpg
laptop_dell_6430s_grande.jpg (41.86 KiB) Viewed 1269 times
As I was using it, I was struck by how much better the keyboard on that thing is than any other recent laptop I have used with their horrid flat next to zero travel scissor switches.

Curious what kind of switches it had, I tried to pop off a keycap, but they are either glued on or just stuck, and I didn't want to wreck it by prying so I left it in place.

I think they are probably rubber dome, but if they are, they feel better than any other rubber domes I have used. There is a healthy amount of key travel, and almost a tactile bump in them, that makes typing pleasurable, much more so than that flat scissor-switch feel.

1.) Can anyone confirm what switches this laptop has?

2.) Are there any current laptops that have nice keyboards, or are they all those terrible scissor switch designs in the interest of thickness?


Much obliged

samuelcable

25 Feb 2019, 22:50

Laptop makers need to start using the cherry lp switches... They have great potential, and shouldn't make the board too thick.

Esrelith

25 Feb 2019, 23:23

Personally, I find the keyboards on the dell XPS lineup to be pretty good. Their travel is limited, but much more than other keyboards like the new macbook butterfly switches. I recommend trying them out.
samuelcable wrote:
25 Feb 2019, 22:50
Laptop makers need to start using the cherry lp switches...
Unfortunately, they won't, as not enough people care.

User avatar
matt3o
-[°_°]-

26 Feb 2019, 07:47

samuelcable wrote:
25 Feb 2019, 22:50
Laptop makers need to start using the cherry lp switches...
unfortunately they are hardly low profile because of the cherry mx compatibility stem.

Menuhin

26 Feb 2019, 11:22

What is "halfway decent"?

If rubberdome are not mechanical, then all Topre boards are not either.
And the chiclet switches ("scissors") are more mechanical than Topre in its moving mechanism.

If you want "true mechanical", in a lot of people's mind in the community defined as "mechanical and without any rubberdome element" (the truly awful new Macbook metal spring plate keyboard is by definition full mechanical) - you may have to go back to use one of the IBM "portable" computer such as 5140, 5150, etc.

For laptop, I settled on the Thinkpad especially their earlier series. They at least have tradition of respecting the keyboard as a very important element of the laptop. I don't like their new recent years half-moon key-shape, but they posted Richard Sapper's earliest prototype of Thinkpad and that already has such key shapes... I am just old school.

User avatar
Dingster

26 Feb 2019, 11:44

Most modern laptop with the best keaybord you are gonna get is probably a thinkpad X230/T430 with a classic keyboard mod (NMB keyboard ofc).
Chiclet doesnt feel bad, but the layout sucks.

keyboard Kultist

26 Feb 2019, 13:21

Mostly I find laptop keyboards so horrid that I use an external one if I use a laptop for an extended period. I have an HP Zbook, just love it, except for the keyboard.

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adhoc

27 Feb 2019, 12:00

Generally, I find laptop keyboards atrocious. However, I find the Microsoft Surface keyboard surprisingly OK.

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cineraphael

27 Feb 2019, 16:47

I have an IBM Thinkpad T43 and man does it feel like a good dome with a slider! I tried it with my dad's new Lenovo Ideapad and It a massive difference!

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abrahamstechnology

27 Feb 2019, 17:05

Sadly, all modern laptops seem to be complete trash. All they care about is copying Apple, caring more about "thin and light" then actual build quality, and slapping massive, flimsy widescreens on everything that flex like crazy and are a portability nightmare.

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cineraphael

27 Feb 2019, 17:51

abrahamstechnology wrote:
27 Feb 2019, 17:05
Sadly, all modern laptops seem to be complete trash. All they care about is copying Apple, caring more about "thin and light" then actual build quality, and slapping massive, flimsy widescreens on everything that flex like crazy and are a portability nightmare.
The Chiclet keyboard started with IBM PC Jr then it made to way of an Apple Aluminium keyboard and then it spread to all the laptop manufacturer! Imagine if IBM PC Jr come with a Model F Instead of a godly awful chiclet keyboard by IBM, then the invention of Chiclets Key Never happen and we enjoy a classic style keyboard to this day!

User avatar
abrahamstechnology

28 Feb 2019, 06:20

I know, right? If only Wozniak never left Apple, then the wouldn't have stopped using Alps switches in their keyboards. I suspect it was Wozniak who decided to go with Alps in the first place.

keyboard Kultist

04 Mar 2019, 03:40

Didn't the horrid TRS 80 coco have a chicklet keyboard at least a couple of
years before the IBM pc jr? I seem to recall that was pretty atrocious.

davkol

04 Mar 2019, 14:11

MSI GT80 laptop w/ Cherry MX Brown tenkeyless

Image
source: Trusted Reviews

Jaki1122

04 Mar 2019, 14:23

Here is the review of that "laptop" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4FFYD8pufc
As a note, the touchpad can be used as a numpad if you want.

HungerMechanic

04 Mar 2019, 15:38

This is a question that comes up frequently on the Thinkpad forum on reddit.

There's a lot of anxiety there over the chiclet keyboards that Lenovo switched over to, and also their declining quality.

The Thinkpad keyboards are actually pretty good by today's standards, even if the layout is inferior to the old classic keyboard.

However, it's important to note that not all Thinkpad keyboards are created equal.

First of all, there are around 3 different manufacturers for the keyboards, and that has an impact on quality. So you're playing a keyboard 'lottery' with many Thinkpad models.

Second, not all Thinkpad keyboard experiences are the same. In the lineups of the last few years, the 'fat' models (T470, T480) had higher keyboard travel, because of the depth of the machines. The thin X1 Carbon models had less travel, but a very solid feel because the keyboards are integrated tightly into the roll-cage design. The middle-of-the-road 'S' models (T470s, T480s) had kind of mushy keyboards sometimes, because they weren't packed into a tight roll-cage as in the Carbon, and didn't have the deep travel of the 'fat' models. So it made a difference which Thinkpad you were purchasing.

These model lines are starting to be rationalized again this year, so I don't know how it applies to the 2019 models. But people are complaining about the keyboard travel on the new X1 Extremes, which is said to be less than earlier models.

So Lenovo has been playing games with the keyboards, and you have to look out for that.

As far as other keyboards go, the 3rd generation butterfly keyboards on the newest Macbooks are said to be less awful than the preceding generations, not that it makes me a fan.

The Surface keyboards are indeed above-average. It's just the stupid Alacantra material so many of them are embedded in that undermines them. There's even a separate standalone Surface keyboard that's pretty good for what it is.

If Microsoft would make a true Surface Laptop made of normal materials [like carbon fibre or plastic], a little fatter for repairability and battery life, it would be a pretty decent laptop.

One thing that's now selling for insane prices in the aftermarket is the Lenovo Thinkpad 25th Anniversary Edition. It's just a T470-era Thinkpad, but with the Classic Keyboard. The same keyboard found on the T420 and earlier models. It makes all the difference to some people.

HungerMechanic

04 Mar 2019, 15:48

Also, Dingster is right. The X220/230 is considered the last of the really nice X-model keyboards among Thinkpad enthusiasts.

I was using my sister's old T420 a few months ago, and it was a revelation. It was almost like typing on a desktop-grade rubber dome, when compared to modern laptop keyboards.

Jaki1122

05 Mar 2019, 05:03

If you dislike the previous MSI, there is an alternative, the predator 21X, again with Cherry Brown switches.
https://www.acer.com/ac/en/US/content/p ... redator21x
Image
It really annoys me how horrible today laptops are, not only on the keyboard side, but also on general quality, and specially, if you are on budget laptops, the really awful displays. I have a few quite old (10+ years old) laptops lying around and literally ALL of them (specially the old Lenovo Thinkpad T400 and the Acer Aspire 6930G) have better keyboards than any new / modern laptop I have tryed.
I read somewhere online that Clevo also had good keyboards on their laptops, but I had never used any of them nor I know of any special model.

User avatar
Darkshado

05 Mar 2019, 07:08

There's common management between the boards of Clevo and Chicony (as mentioned in this press release from 2013).

Back in 2012, before I knew a single thing about mechanical keyboards I bought a Clevo P151EM (review I wrote at the time) and the non-backlit chiclet keyboard was from Chicony, backlit ones on the P150EM were from a company called Sunrex.

I haven't paid close attention to their lineup since but if they're still using Chicony you shouldn't go too wrong with Clevo keyboard-wise.

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abrahamstechnology

06 Mar 2019, 00:46

Those aren't laptops, they are pretty much luggables (although much more gimmicky than the luggables of old)

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Howard81

06 Mar 2019, 00:59

I’ve stuck with my ThinkPad X220 for this very reason!

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abrahamstechnology

06 Mar 2019, 05:40

Heck, why don't we do a group buy for a luggable with a nice Alps keyboard? Like the IBM 5140 but with modern hardware.
We are already doing tons of custom cases so why not take it up a notch?

User avatar
caligo

08 Mar 2019, 20:59

Most laptops these day sacrifice keyboard quality for thinness. But Thinkpads still do a decent job in my opinion – I actually like Lenovo's new 'smiley' key design, it's by far the nicest chiclet style keyboard out there. But except for the luggable gaming 'laptops' with MX switches, there really isn't much to chose from if key travel is a priority. The Thinkpad keyboards are miles better than those from lots of other manufacturers, but the key travel is still rather shallow compared to the chunkier laptops from a few years back.

However, one definite benefit of the thin and light trend and the emergence of two-in-one laptops is that one could get something like e.g. the Microsoft Surface and a compact mechanical keyboard to go with it. Using something like a Vortex Core or a similar 40 percent keyboard, one would end up with a quite light and compact setup.

SneakyRobb

08 Mar 2019, 21:56

If you are like me and strive for insanity tier things, you could get a 51NB Thinkpad swap.

It's a T60 thinkpad with a new motherboard. It is quite extreme, fun and... I do not recommend it.

Menuhin

08 Mar 2019, 22:15

caligo wrote:
08 Mar 2019, 20:59
... e.g. the Microsoft Surface and a compact mechanical keyboard to go with it...
This is what I've been thinking about.

By the way, Richard Sapper's original Thinkpad prototype:
http://blog.lenovo.com/en/blog/richard- ... d-keyboard

SneakyRobb

08 Mar 2019, 23:47

Menuhin wrote:
08 Mar 2019, 22:15
caligo wrote:
08 Mar 2019, 20:59
... e.g. the Microsoft Surface and a compact mechanical keyboard to go with it...
This is what I've been thinking about.

By the way, Richard Sapper's original Thinkpad prototype:
http://blog.lenovo.com/en/blog/richard- ... d-keyboard
Pretty cool.

There is a funny story about this actually. There were a bunch of laws in Europe in the 70s that office equipment had to be very muted light colours and IBM set the visual standard with it's sort of pantone beige. We think of it as boring, maybe it was radical.
Perhaps people will think of apple muted aluminium as boring too. (I do)

By the time the thinkpad came around in a sort of "Apple" move, IBM decided to go against everything and make the thinkpad the black computer.

I have to dig out my "Thinkpad different shade of blue" book but I found this website that summarizes.
https://blog.sciencemuseum.org.uk/50-shades-of-beige/

"So why did IBM switch back from beige to black? According to the ThinkPad book published by IBM in 2000, a German workplace standard came into effect in the late 70s that required light colours for all office equipment.

This standard became adopted by other European countries and before long all office equipment that wasn’t beige or grey had been eradicated. Of course, computer manufacturers would then only make their products in light colours so they could sell the same products in Europe and in other countries. Inevitably, that meant offices around the world ended up with beige computers.

However, with the ThinkPad, IBM wanted to make a statement. Instead of blending into office backgrounds, they wanted people to actually notice their computers. IBM was still under pressure to create a line of pebble grey ThinkPads for the German market in compliance with their workplace standards, but they were adamant that the ThinkPad should be black. Eventually Germany approved the black ThinkPads but only if they came with a warning that they were not for office use."

Neato.
Last edited by SneakyRobb on 08 Mar 2019, 23:50, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
mattlach

08 Mar 2019, 23:49

davkol wrote:
04 Mar 2019, 14:11
MSI GT80 laptop w/ Cherry MX Brown tenkeyless

Image
source: Trusted Reviews
Jaki1122 wrote:
05 Mar 2019, 05:03
If you dislike the previous MSI, there is an alternative, the predator 21X, again with Cherry Brown switches.
https://www.acer.com/ac/en/US/content/p ... redator21x
Image
It really annoys me how horrible today laptops are, not only on the keyboard side, but also on general quality, and specially, if you are on budget laptops, the really awful displays. I have a few quite old (10+ years old) laptops lying around and literally ALL of them (specially the old Lenovo Thinkpad T400 and the Acer Aspire 6930G) have better keyboards than any new / modern laptop I have tryed.
I read somewhere online that Clevo also had good keyboards on their laptops, but I had never used any of them nor I know of any special model.
You know, I don't mind a little thicker laptops as evidenced by my E6430s in the OP post, but damn. Those two seem luggable at best.

Remind me of the first IBM Portable Computer, the 5155...

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