ThinkPad Compact USB Keyboard Review

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Specifications

Keys 84/85/89 keys (Varies by country)
Cable length 1.5m (4.92 feet)
Cable connector
  • USB2.0 (Wired version)
  • Bluetooth (Wireless version)
Keyboard specifications (excl. cable)
  • Length: 305.5 mm (12 in)
  • Width: 164 mm (6.54 in)
  • Height: 13.5 mm (0.52 in)
  • Weight: 450 g (0.99 lb)
Packaged dimensions
  • Length: 341 mm (13.4 in)
  • Width: 201 mm (7.9 in)
  • Height: 33 mm (1.3 in)
  • Weight: 570 g (1.26 lb)
Bluetooth range Up to 10 meters (33 feet)
Warranty
  • 2 years (Europe)
  • 1 year U.S.
  • Varies by country
Battery Yes, wireless version only

Unboxing

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Typing Experience

Jonas Hendrickx: The typing experience is very close to the ThinkPad T530/W530. And the keyboard tactility was just perfect on thsese models. Yes, it is a chiclet keyboard, which may turn of some ThinkPad fans, as they prefer the older keyboard style. But its an excellent keyboard nonetheless.

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USB-port on the ThinkPad Compact Keyboard

Jin Li: The engineer/designer whom designed paid a great deal of the attention to the whole keyboard typing experience. Not only did they replicate the whole laptop keyboard mechanism in these new Compact Keyboard, they also replicated the acoustic profiles of typing on the laptop keyboard. To replicate the acoustic profile, they had properly reinforce the keyboard’s backside to make sure they are similarly well supported as the ThinkPad laptop’s precision keyboard.

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Build Quality

Jonas Hendrickx: The retractable feet are more or less resistant to scratches on normal surfaces. Although I haven’t used it yet on materials like concrete. The feet retract when you put it in your backpack. When deployed, the feet will improve the user experience by raising the keyboard a little bit off the table.

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Jin Li: The typing experience is one area where the ‘older’ ThinkPad USB with TrackPoint keyboard lacked a bit. While the Lenovo designers did use much of the same keyboard parts as the standard ThinkPad keyboard, they did not put enough structural reinforcements in the keyboard to make sure they are similarly well supported to give off the same acoustic profile when it is typed on. As such typing on the old ThinkPad USB with TrackPoint keyboard never really felt as satisfying as typing on the keyboard of a regular ThinkPad laptop. So I guess this time around the designers learned from their past mistake, and improved on the ThinkPad Compact Keyboard design to make sure that it replicates the exact acoustic profile of ThinkPad Precision keyboard, which is an excellent design consideration. The keyboard as a whole is much more rigid than the older version.

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Layout & TrackPoint

The layout is pretty much the same as on all the T440 and T450 ThinkPads, which means a 6 row layout, with PgUp and PgDown grouped together with the arrow keys, as well as the Multimedia keys being the primary functions of the F-keys. So nothing unusual here, with one exception: Different from the regular built-in ThinkPad keyboard, the F-keys are not grouped in blocks, like it was on the T430. This is not a biggie, but it certainly would be better with the F keys grouped, like it is on the T440 or the T450.

The TrackPoint used here is the same as the one used on the T440 and T450 models. Its the newer, thinner version of the TrackPoint, which means older caps can´t be used here, as they stick out a little bit too much. The TrackPoint-buttons are the same as on the T430 generation, which should be fine for most ThinkPad users, although we do wish that Lenovo would consider going back to the more rounded T420 design, as this was a little bit more ergonomic.

Verdict

The ThinkPad Compact Keyboard is a great premium keyboard for the amount of money you pay. This is the best portable keyboard on the market that you can actually put in your backpack and take with you. It provides a good typing experience and it also includes the famous TrackPoint, which is certainly the best feature of this keyboard.

The only features that are lacking here is a backlit, however, most people do no not need this. Hence, the computer guidelines recommend you to use a computer in a well-lit environment to benefit the health of your eyes.

The warranty may vary depending on where you are from, but I received a 3y warranty on my ThinkPad Compact Keyboard. You should also expect the USB keyboard to last longer as it does not have an internal battery. We would have liked replaceable AAA batteries for the wireless ThinkPad Compact Keyboard.

The range/stability of the wireless Bluetooth keyboard was a little bit disappointing at some times depending on the amount of signal noise caused by other wireless devices on the 2.4G bands. If you don´t like bluetooth and want an absolutely stable connection, then the USB version of the keyboard is highly recommended.

Driver support is excellent and the keyboard is guaranteed to work on Linux.

Pro Con
  • Affordable premium keyboard
  • High build quality
  • Warranty: 3 years
  • Retractable feet
  • Responsive TrackPoint
  • Great keyboard tactility
  • Very compact and portable
  • No backlit option
  • F-keys not grouped

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