World’s best keyboards’: Lenovo’s user-experience at the forefront of design
Lenovo’s ThinkPad has an almost cult-like following. Its most avid users know the feeling of the black keys beneath their fingertips, not unlike a pianist sitting down to a Steinway taking note of the ease of fingers upon the ivory.
With precision and the user-experience always top of mind, ThinkPad keyboards have risen to the head of the pack. The curved front edge, the dished top, the sleek, modern design of each key work together to transform the ThinkPad into a distinctly different creation. And purposefully so.
The traditional ThinkPad keyboard had a seven row configuration that was solid, strong and responsive. The 701c was also a seven row but with a butterfly keyboard which was split into two triangular pieces that scissored back together as the laptop’s lid closed.
They also were the first keyboards to include TrackPoints — allowing users to navigate the machine without a mouse, an important feature for astronauts using the laptops in space or anyone working on one in a tight area like an airplane seat.
In 2011, the first ThinkPad X1 with an island-style keyboard was introduced. With this, engineers were determined to find a strategy that merged the island-style key shapes with traditional flat, square keys, keeping in mind that fingers typing are neither flat nor square.
This new shape maintained the curved front edge and dished top for typing accuracy, while still appearing sleek and modern. The technology under the keys remained unchanged.
By design, the keyboard is central to the ThinkPad experience and changes are not taken lightly. Engineers are constantly searching for ways to improve the keyboard and provide the best-ever user experience.
Before any changes to the island-style keyboards were made, Lenovo embarked on one of the most in-depth keyboard studies ever conducted for ThinkPad.
Involving people from four different countries, engineers supervised 350 hours of user testing and conducted 90 to 120-minute one-on-one interviews with different keyboard conditions. The goal? To better understand the latest about keyboard use and design preferences.
“Like a mechanic tunes the engine of a car, we could tune the way the keys responded to the touch. No one has ever been able to duplicate our knowledge of the tactile sensations of a keyboard,” said Arimasa Naitoh, lead engineer for the first ThinkPad and current Lenovo Fellow and VP, Product Group.
So the next time you sit down to work on your ThinkPad, take a moment. Close your eyes. Brush your fingertips lightly across the keys admiring their shape. Notice the way your finger pads fit perfectly on each key allowing your fingers to move freely and efficiently. And know that ease, that satisfying way they respond to your human touch, was no accident.