Lenovo, stop killing Thinkpad keyboards!

I love Lenovo, and I love my Thinkpad. Their keyboards are (were?) just perfect. I’ve seen people spending a lot of time modding Thinkpad laptop keyboards to use them with their computers. But now, it seems things are getting worse and worse.

Let me start with the tablet buttons first, since I’m a Tablet user. Let’s take a look at how the “evolution” looked over the years:

Overview of the different thinkpad tablet buttons

Overview of the different thinkpad tablet buttons

Left to right, oldest to newest.

The X61t had three buttons, as well as really nice direction keys. I’m sure they’re all very useful in the tablet mode. Also, everything relevant was displayed on the plenthora of LEDs, and of course you could control the LEDs from userspace for notifications and nice things like that.

The x201t, my first thinkpad lost the direction keys, but at least had four buttons and still all the LEDs.

The x220t which I have now only has two buttons left, and 3 LEDs facing the user. There is a sleep and a power LED on the other side. This might make sense for the sleep LED so you can know when it’s closed, but makes no sense whatsoever for the battery LED. I, like, totally want everyone except me to see the orange light when my battery is low, right?

For the x230t it seems they killed the bluetooth led. Oh well, it looks ugly, but I’m okay with that. I just don’t get it.

Now that this is over, let’s take a look at the evolution of the legendary keyboard. Between the x201 and the x220 not much changed. Esc and Delete got double-height, F-keys were shifted one to the right, the volume keys got bigger and easier to handle. That’s all fine, that actually was an improvement.

Thinkpad X220 keyboard

Now let’s see what Lenovo did for the x230 and all other new Thinkpad models (the W ones for example as well!):

Thinkpad x230 keyboard

I can’t speak about the precision keyboard itself and if it still feels that awesome, since I’ve not tested it yet. But let’s take a closer look at some of the giant fails with the keyboard layout:

Home/End keys on x230t

There are no Scroll Lock, Num Lock, Pause, Break and SysRq keys. If you wonder where Page Up/Down went, that’s going to follow in a second.

It seems you can use Fn+{B,S,C,P} (unlabelled) for Break, SysRq, Scroll Lock and Pause. I still find it disturbing…

Oh right, and there is A LOT of free space there. Because everyone needs free space instead of keys.

F-Keys on the x230

The F-Keys are not grouped into groups of four with a little bit of space in between, making it cumbersome to use them in the dark. Many Fn-functions (including the media keys on the arrow keys) are gone.

Print screen key on x230t

The menu key was removed and replaced by a Print Screen key. Because everyone needs Print Screen in a location they can easily reach by just moving one finger, RIGHT? I used the menu key as a compose key, good there’s xmodmap and I don’t need a Printscreen key.

Arrow keys on x230t

Now the thing which annoys me most: The Back/Forward keys are gone. FUCK YOU. These were perfect for switching workspaces in my window manager. Now there’s Page Up/Down there. AAAAAAARRRGGGH!

Since it seems impossible to switch the new keyboard with an old one, I’m not sure if my next laptop will really be a Thinkpad. And if so, I’ll xmodmap the hell out of it.

Oh right, one more thing: With the Thinkpad Helix they killed the dedicated Trackpoint buttons as well:

Trackpoint of the Thinkpad helix

And there are plans to kill Capslock as well… sigh

17 thoughts on “Lenovo, stop killing Thinkpad keyboards!

  1. tabpclover

    Very well said ( Have you ever used the T43p – they were the best) Believe it or not the paint on the keys on my T43p flouresces under the thinklight. (T60p ‘s keys don’t flouresce) T43p had beautiful top grey row of Fn keys, T60p had all black. I bought the T43p as the keyboard was so beautiful and functional in the photos. T43p is thinner than T60p and actually feels built like a tank compared to T60p. Guess what T60p was the first model after IBM was acquired by Lenovo.

    The only reason I did not mod my T43p was that T43p had single core processor and T60p was the first machine with dual core processors and T43p is a bit slow today.

    Another aspect I would like to add is the screen resolution and aspect ratio. I work on a modded Thinkpad T60p with QXGA (2048x 1536) resolution, 4:3 aspect ratio in a laptop which has a build of 2006!!!.

    You cant get such a machine today except with a few Thinkpad enthusiasts.

    I bought my first Thinkpad in 2011 (old T60p, T43p, X61 tablet, x60, ) all in one year – all old machines- all bought off ebay. I fell in love with these old beauties. And today I bought my last thinkpad X220 tablet (only reason for buying was the keyboard with trackpoint)

    Alas Alas

    (Thinkpad is finally dead. It died a slow painful death. Lost it glorious unique aspects one by one. Finally it lost its heart and soul. The dead body remains. Ashes to ashes dust to dust. Amen. RIP. Your creator (IBM) has moved on. People have moved on. You will live as a legend)

  2. Daniel

    Can agree, lucky I bought a T420S, so it will last few years, and hopefully Lenovo will realize its error until then, just would like more angry users doing revolt, or simply stop buying the new ones…

  3. David Ammouial

    Fn+S for SysRq. Great. Now how can you do an emergency disk sync (Ctrl+Alt+SysRq+S) on your Linux box?

    I know that Lenovo is getting more and more intimate with Microsoft, but that one’s a hard one.

  4. jeff

    L3NOVO SUCKS!!! I have a x220 tablet and i will never get a an ibm/lenovo pos again. They used to make high end, expensive machines. Now, they only make gargage machines. You may as well buy apple!!

  5. Axel

    True words. As someone who has been using Thinkpads for nearly 1.5 decades now (even the Thinkpad USB keyboards on my desk) I have to agree. Right now I’m using a Thinkpad T430s (missing the physical buttons below the red nob) and I can confirm that every generation got worse.

    I started with an A21p, A22p, T20, T21, T40p, T540w, T420, etc. (I might have missed a few). Nowadys keyboards are MILES behind that of my old A21p.

  6. Cylov

    Its a nightmare what they have done to this brand.
    Have been a traditional thinkpad user for more than 10 years and this will end now.

  7. Bala

    FUCK Lenovo! The keyboard change to island layout is one thing. The layout change is awful.
    “Now the thing which annoys me most: The Back/Forward keys are gone. FUCK YOU.” My sentiments exactly!! Just purchased a 450S, the machine looks great. Open the lid, the torture starts. If I am forced to learn a new keyboard, why would I stick with Thinkpads? Lenovo just opened the market for me by adopting the ‘standard’ layout – I could now go with Samsung, Sony, apple etc.
    RIP the legendary thinkpad. I am mourning you today. 🙁

  8. Ali

    I have been using T460s for a couple of months now, I still did not get used to it. Simply it sucks, scrolling up/down with pageup pagedown keys is a pain in the … . Good luck hitting the home/end keys on the regular basis, it is impossible, I often end up hitting the insert key which changes the behavior of my text editor… You have to look to those keys in order not to hit by mistake another key. I really miss my old x220 with its awesome classic keyboard.

    As I could not stand the chiclet layout anymore, I got an HP 840 G3 which has better keyboard layout than my T460s, which I sold it out.

  9. Nik Mitev

    I had a x200, amazing keyboard. x230 – a bit worse but still miles better than any competitor’s.
    Recently bought x260 and that is just average 🙁
    Tweet @lenovo #thinkkeyboard 🙂


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