I think we can all agree that a laptop’s keyboard is one of the most important aspects of the computer. It’s the primary input method, the part of the notebook you touch the most, and its quality and comfort affect your experience more than almost anything else.
So why is it that there are still laptop designers and engineers in the world that think mucking around with keyboard layout and key size is okay? Not just on smaller systems like netbooks or 11-inch ultraportables, but on reasonably-sized 13 and 14-inch laptops?
I’m currently reviewing the IdeaPad U400. While I have mostly positive feelings about it, the positivity seeps away every time I accidentally hit the Home key when reaching for BackSpace.
I occasionally hit the PgUp key instead of Enter, but this isn’t as much of a problem. The Up Arrow crowding out my Shift key is, though.
There are two big problems with this layout. The first is that oft-used keys like BackSpace, Shift and Enter are smaller than they should be. These aren’t those funny keys people rarely use like ~ or ` or even | and \. These keys are used for almost every sentence written and most of the keyboard-based interactions one has with a computer.
Why, in the name of all that is electrically charged, would you mess with the size of these keys?
The second problem is that they’re smaller to make room for keys that do not need our time and attention. Why do arrow keys need to be that big? Why do Home, End, PgUp and PgDn need their own dedicated keys at all?
The only time I use Page Up and Down is when I’m on a laptop that has really terrible or no two-finger scroll on the touchpad. And that is a problem unto itself (and a separate post). It’s been years since I used Home or End. I stopped doing so when I started using more comfortable mice and touchpads became non-annoying.
These antiquated keys are there because they’ve always been there, but they are not as important as their placement indicates. Certainly not more important than a correctly-sized BackSpace or Shift key.
Lenovo, of all laptop makers, ought to know better. I know that the IdeaPads aren’t as robust as the ThinkPads and the keyboards aren’t the same, even when they look similar. Still, maybe the IdeaPad designers and engineers should wander over to where the ThinkPad designers and engineers work and take a peek at their keyboards. Do they have Home, End, PgUp, PgDn or arrow keys crowding out more important keys? They do not.
That’s a useful clue.