New external Thinkpad keyboard

I ordered one of the new external Thinkpad keyboards and have been using it for a few days now.

Specs in brief: USB, no touchpad, no numpad, feels exactly like a Thinkpad T400s keyboard, and the price is right ($60).

For my own purposes, the design decisions that Lenovo made here are pretty much spot-on. This thing is fantastic; in particular:

  • TrackPoint scrolling on my desktop machine! No exaggeration, this alone is worth the price. Scrolling any other way is just… uncivilized. I look forward to using the mouse a lot less.
  • I was at first skeptical of Lenovo's decision to make a small keyboard, but I think it really turned out well:
    1. It significantly reduces the distance I have to reach to press keys like PgUp, PgDn, and the arrow keys. Alas, there are still a bunch of apps that have the poor sense to bind commonly used commands to keys like Ctrl+PgDn. I'm looking at you, web browsers. (If you wish, read more ranting about poorly chosen keyboard shortcuts.)
    2. I don't use the numpad often enough to justify having one.
    3. I like having the free desk space. And not having to reach as far for the mouse when I want to use it.
  • I like how thin the keyboard is (it's sort of wedge-shaped, and only about half an inch thick at the home row). At first I didn't think this would matter, but I definitely end up contorting my wrists much less than with my old keyboard.

And, to boot, it looks very classy— the picture above doesn't really do it justice.

Thinkpad keyboards do have some quirks (e.g. Fn key placement). I don't mind these anymore, but I know some people do. So perhaps the most useful thing that I can say in this review is that there are no surprises, as far as I can tell. If you've used a Thinkpad, you probably already know whether you want one of these Thinkpad keyboards.

The only reservation I have is that the keys seem to be spaced a little further apart than I'm used to (having become acclimated to the X series keyboards). I'm presuming that this is something I'll get used to over time, so I'm not worrying yet.

Kudos to David Hill and his team for a job well done.

ThinkPad Keyboard at the Lenovo Store

Additional notes on GNU/Linux support:

  • All the special keys (that I tried, anyway— volume, mute, and media player control) work out of the box on Ubuntu GNU/Linux 9.04.
  • TrackPoint scrolling works, too. Follow the instructions here, except in mouse-wheel.fdi, use "Lite-On Technology Corp. ThinkPad USB Keyboard with TrackPoint" instead of "TPPS/2 IBM TrackPoint". (In general, it looks like you can figure out the right info.product string to use by running xinput list and finding the right device from the list.)


  1. Strangely, if you look at all their keyboards, this one isn't there. They have a nice picture of it at the top, leading to "Unfortunately requested item was not available." I'm still going to try to get one though.

  2. @Allen: odd, what page are you looking at?

  3. From here, click on the big picture of a keyboard at the top; that takes me to here.

  4. @Allen: hmm, that looks like a picture of the old, larger, external ThinkPad keyboard. I wonder if it's been discontinued. The new one is under the "Keyboard and Mouse combo" category on the left. (Part number is 55Y9003.)

  5. I just got one of these today to use while my thinkpad is up on a laptop stand and I'm loving it. Couple of things I've noticed:

    The thing shows up twice in "xinput list", but only one entry has all the xinput properties. Kinda weird.

    The Fn keys (e.g. Fn+F4 to suspend) send, according to xev, button events not key events. Very strange - not quite sure where to go next in terms of getting these working with X.

  6. I got one too, primarily so I could ditch the external mouse, and love it. Two things:
    -- the Thinkvantage button, which I would like to use for play/pause (insofar as it's next to other music controls), shows up as a button event not key event, just as mentioned above.
    -- I very often find myself capitalizing the first two letters of a word, not just the first. I don't know why this should happen more on that keyboard than on my actual Thinkpad.

  7. Using Ubuntu Karmic I can login. However, afterwards the key mapping goes haywire with numbers/symbols mapped onto right hand letter keys. I cant seem to find a fix!

  8. press Fn + NmLk