Differentiation of “Isolation”

ThinkPad Edge 13

When you see this picture, you might be wondering, "Is this ThinkPad keyboard really all right?" Feel free to rest at ease. We have heard from many of our customers in user tests, through the web, magazines and in actual user reviews that "This is definitely a ThinkPad keyboard." I encourage you to not only look at the photos, but actually touch one for yourself.

There's something I'd like to say before talking about the newly developed keyboard for the ThinkPad X100e and the ThinkPad Edge 13".

I want to talk about the new trend in notebook PCs, isolation keyboards. There still is not a common consensus on what to call these keyboards. They are being called isolation, island and chiclet keyboards, etc. Here at Lenovo, we are calling them "isolation keyboards". It's not that isolation keyboards are truly a new thing. This trend started at Apple and has now been incorporated into products by many of their competitors.

The keys of the ThinkPad keyboard do not protrude from the actual frame of the notebook PC like many of our competitors. There is a frame holding our keyboard and at Lenovo, we are calling this a "frame mounted keyboard". Naturally, we have worked to maintain ease of maintenance by making it possible to replace the keyboard without actually taking apart the chassis.

Typically, isolation keyboards are thought of as having a "minimalist design that looks simple and modern," and we often hear that "the keys are separated, making them easier to recognize and making it easier to type." However, in comparison with traditional keyboards, there are both benefits and drawbacks in terms of "ease of typing". The usability of the keyboard is determined by a conglomerate of factors such as the shape of the keys, pitch, stroke, layout, feel and solidity of the keyboard. We set our sights on creating the best possible isolation keyboard, one that would be worthy of carrying the ThinkPad name.

Now, back to business.

What is the difference between the ThinkPad isolation keyboard and our competitors?

1. The shape of the keys: The top of the keys are concave, helping them hug your fingertips.

2. Stroke: 2.5 mm (* The X100e is 2.0 mm)

3. Feel: The keyboard has already been tuned to an excellent feel with the same pantograph design.

4. Solidity: The keyboard is solid all around with a stainless steel base plate with a bathtub design and a resident frame.

These 4 points clearly set us apart from our competitors. In other words, the ThinkPad design philosophy remains unchanged. This keyboard has also passed the same standards in quality testing. The keystroke of the X100e is 2.0 mm. The stroke for many isolation keyboards is less than 2.0 mm, so we cannot claim dominance here. In user tests, comparing this keyboard with the 2.5 mm stroke of the original ThinkPad keyboard, there was almost no difference in usability between them. However, those were the results for the smaller sized keyboard of the X100e, and the 2.5 mm stroke of the full-size Edge 13" keyboard is the same as the original ThinkPad keyboard.

The keys used in isolation keyboards by our competitors are completely square, but in order to maintain the integrity of this design with other ThinkPads, we selected keys with a curve in the front. This was based on the concept of making it appear as though your original ThinkPad keyboard was sprouting up right in front of you. Our designers were very strict about staying true to the ThinkPad tradition.


Air Keyboard and Edge Keyboard

There are a few other points that are different from the classic keyboard. We put a lot of time into designing the G, H and B keys shape surrounding TrackPoint cap.

What is the difference between this and previous TrackPoint designs?

1. The height of the TrackPoint cap.

-The cap is 0.4 mm lower than before.

-We increased the distance of the cap from the LCD, making it more difficult for the LCD to be broken by downward pressure.

2. The concavity of the G, H and B keys.

-Because we lowered the position of the cap by 0.4 mm, the TrackPoint cap could interfere with the keys.

-A key design that leads away from the TrackPoint cap was necessary.

The position of the TrackPoint has been reduced, but usability has been maintained. Of course, the cap remains unchanged from its original design. The key point to maintaining usability was the shape of the G, H and B keys shape surrounding the TrackPoint cap. While it's only a difference of 0.4 mm, we are aware that sensitive human fingers can feel a difference of as little as 0.1 mm. There were many designs proposed and we selected the best of them. User testing later vindicated our choice.


Section Drawing of TrackPoint and Keys



Examples of Design Study for GHB Key Shape

Honestly, though, there were a lot of difficult choices to be made all the way down to the end. When you are carrying the ThinkPad name an "awful keyboard" is a mortal wound. "Is it really a keyboard worthy of the name ThinkPad?" We asked ourselves this question over and over again during development. Fortunately, the responses that we received from folks and users who actually touched the Edge 13" of the X100e were very positive and we could finally relax.

This time it is a 6 row layout similar to the SL series, instead of the traditional 7 row layout. For those of you out there for whom it just "has to be seven rows!" you can relax. Lenovo will continue to provide you with a 7 row keyboard layout, even if it is an "endangered species". (lOl)