Lets talk about the TrackPoint! The TrackPoint (aka. “The Nipple” by some, but I prefer sticking to the formal name) is and was always one of the distinguishing ThinkPad features. Its been around since the very beginning of the ThinkPad brand name for Notebooks, and was introduced in October 1992, 22 years ago. Since then, with very, very few exceptions every ThinkPad came with a TrackPoint, and since Lenovo took over the ThinkPad brand, the TrackPoint is even present in the ThinkPad-Logo in form of the red i-dot.
It is a very personal and subjective feature, a matter of taste. Some love it, some hate it. I am myself love it, as I think its the most efficient way to navigate, since you don´t have to take of your hand from the keyboard while editing a text (in fact, this article was written on a ThinkPad Compact Keyboard with TrackPoint, I love this feature so much, I also want it with my desktop keyboard – when I am using a non-ThinkPad notebook without a TrackPoint or a normal desktop keyboard without a TrackPoint, I always find myself reaching for it anyways). That is only one of the advantages of the TrackPoint, but this shall not a be a TrackPoint vs. TouchPad debate article. Also, I don´t want to talk about the dedicated TrackPoint-button debate or the coming return of these.
Instead, this article is focused on another subjective decision: The TrackPoint cap and the choice which TrackPoint cap you use.
Historically, the first TrackPoint cap which IBM used was the so called “Classic Dome” cap. It was mainly in usage in the 90s and early 2000s. That is how it looks like:
As you can see, its a very simple and basic form for the cap. It is a dome with a round top and a very rough texture. Maybe you could say it feels like terry cloth.
Pro and contra for me:
+ Faster than the other two, takes pressure more directly
+ Classic design Touch, reminds to the 90s
– Somehow harder for my fingers, they get weary faster
– Gets faster dirty
The second cap is the “Soft Dome”. Since it replaced the Classic Dome, it has been the most common cap for ThinkPads and ships with every new ThinkPad. I looks like this:
Its a similar concept as the Classic Dome (that is why the share the name “dome”), only with a flatter top and a different texture, instead of the terry cloth texture, it has several small dots for grip. This makes the texture a little bit softer and sleeker compared to the rougher classic dome.
Pro and contra for me:
+ Easy to use and not hard for the fingers, good texture
+ Very god availability
+ “Balanced” design, not big disadvantages
– Somehow a tiny little bit slower than the other caps (minor)
To complete the trio, there is last but not least another alternative: This one is called “Soft Rim”, and it looks like this:
This one is a very different form and concept compared with the two domes. Instead of being convex this one is concave with a very distinguished rim, which leads to its naming. Since your finger fits into the concave form, there is no need for a clear texture for grip as with the other two. Its not completely sleek, it has a very subtle texture.
Pro and contra for me:
+ Completely different design approach (variety is good)
– Somehow an un-ergonomical form, requires too much finger movement and pressure
– The rim might imprint in your finger if you press too much
Now, as I made clear by making these words bold, these points just count for me – you might think different and that is very fine. One can only try out the different caps and then decide what he or she likes the best. I know many guys who prefer the Soft Rim for example, which is my least favorite (but still OK). My favorites are the Soft Dome caps.
The last point I would like to bring up is about the newest models: In order to make the systems thinner, Lenovo introduced new, lower TrackPoint caps. Essentially, these are Soft Dome caps which are 1-2mm lower and have small grooves. The one I used for the picture of the Soft Dome is actually one of these.
Note that you can use other caps on Haswell and beyond machines, they are too high however and stick out 1 mm out of the keyboard – and might touch the screen when the system is closed. So using other caps is possible, but clearly not recommended.
I would love to hear you opinions: Which caps do you like the most and why?
P.S: Spare TrackPoint caps are a nice aftermarket item to buy. For older models, you can get a pack of six TrackPoint caps (2x Soft Dome, 2x Classic Dome, 2x Soft Rim), search for FRU 73P2698. For the Haswell and the upcoming Broadwell machines, you can get a pack of 10 caps (all low profile Soft Dome), search for 0A33908.