Several others have posted a great amount of information regarding the debate between the feel/quality of the "Made in Thailand" and "Assembled in China" keyboards being shipping in current Thinkpads. Having just received Thai keyboards for my various T42s, I thought I would post something just so people searching later might benefit from multiple relevant hits.
First, a bit of background: I type pretty fast, and I'm a keyboard junky. My desktop system runs a Northgate Omnikey Ultra which I purchased a few years ago unused for $120. These, along with the IBM Model M keyboards, are generally considered the Rolls Royces of keyboards, and they're a product of a bygone age, when keyboard housings were made from thick plastic with heavy-gauge steel baseplates, and every key had a high-quality mechanical-action switch (or in the case of the IBM, an innovative "buckling-spring." Since they haven't been made for years, I have five Omnikeys and three Model M's in my closet for "backup" in case my current one fails, but they're generally built like tanks (and weigh almost as much), and I haven't had a single keyswitch break yet.
I mention this not boast of my eccentricities, but just to put into perspective where I'm coming from - I like to think I have penty of experience and a greater-than-average appreciation of keyboards and how a quality keyboard can be more comfortable, increase your typing speed, and possibly reduce RSI.
Now, I've recently had the pleasure to work with three new T42 thinkpads - a 2373-7XU t42p 15", a 2373-CXU t42 15", and a 2373-3VU 14.1." The 15" 7XU t42p came with an "assembled in China" 93P4840 keyboard with a glossy bezel. The 15" CXU came with an "assembled in China" 93P4840 with a matte bezel, and the 14" 3VU came with a "made in Thailand" 08K5044 "Made in Thailand" with a matte bezel.
Part numbers are listed in the link to IBM Maintenance that many have posted before:
http://www-1.ibm.com/support/docview.ws ... MIGR-46503
China Alps Keyboards 93P4840
First things first, the two 15" China keyboards were INHERENTLY different in feel and performance. The 7XU T42p (glossy bezel) had very loose keys, but with decent tactile feedback and a squeaky, flexy left-ultranav button. This allowed me to type quickly, but with a higher error rate due to the loose and easily-depressed keys. It was also noisy, the keys jiggled a bit as a ran my hand lightly over the keyboard, and when typing it sounded and almost felt like a cheap Dell, with hollow click-click-clicks. Not great, but I could live with it.
The keyboard from the 15" CXU t42 was also assembled in China, with the same FRU, but was stiff and unforgiving. I constantly missed keys when touch-typing, and did not get a good tactile response curve (the relationship between the pressure needed to push the key down and the "pop and return" points that signal when the key is activated). I HATED this keyboard, and would have returned any IBM that had it.
Though the FRUs are identical, some of the other identifiers on the backs of the two 15" China keyboards are different. Here they are:
Better China keyboard
Satan's China keyboard
Now is a good point for a disclaimer. I'm picky - some would say ridiculously so. What I perceive as unusable others may love, or not be able to tell the difference at all. I make no judgments as to the quality or durability of any of these keyboards, except for the obvious and visible superiority of the baseplate pressing and thickness of the Thailand keyboards, and their lack of squeaks and creaks in the left ultranav button. So what you should go on is your own preference. I can see MANY preferring the feel of either of the China keyboards, and even performing better with them. That's fine, I just want to provide as much information as possible for people to make their own decisions.
Thailand NMB Keyboards 08K5044 and 93P4780
Back to the story. The keyboard from the 14" 3VU was perfect. The IBM list shows the 14" only has one part number, the NMB (Thai manufacture from Thailand) made 08K5044. THIS felt more like the keyboards from the many older IBM thinkpads I've tried before, and is what I expect when I purchase a new thinkpad.
I called IBM Service (Contact IBM phone number listed from the Access IBM button) to request new keyboards for the 15" thinkpads. Both times I was greeted by UTTERY PROFESSIONAL, HELPFUL, AND OUTSTANDING customer support. The first time was level-1 support in Atlanta, Georgia. I told them I wanted a new keyboard with FRU 93P4780, and without any questions it was AirborneExpress'd to me the next day. They even sent the 14" keyboard I requested, after notifying me it wasn't the part number for the 15" (before I knew). I cost them some unneeded money there, but in the end I'm sure they're still up on me with the $250 I paid for 3-year depot/onsite/accidental damage coverage.
The second time, I was routed to the "Gold Team" for flagship support. Again, no questions, 5-minute conversation. "Here's my problem, here's the FRU of the part I want." No problem. They told me it was listed as backordered, but put in my case number and said it would ship out ASAP. That turned out to be less than a week.
The keyboards I received, 08K5044 for 14.1", and 93P4780 for 15" are PERFECT. They're Thailand-made NMBs with identical feel. The keys here are soft-touch and high-tactile response - it doesn't take much pressure to activate the keys, but you know exactly when they are activated and when they bottom out, and they spring back quickly and responsively. Perfect general feel and ideal for fast typing.
The squeak in the ultranav button is gone. The keyboard itself feels more stiff and the little flex that was there is now gone due to the slightly thicker baseplate. It's amazing how a sturdier keyboard can translate into a feeling of a sturdier notebook in general, especially since 99% of your interaction with the machine is through this device.
The pictures, as anyone interested will already have seen from Bluedoc's and others' fine posts on the subject:
Boxes shipped to me with FRUs listed
Different keyboards side by side. The China keyboard on the right is the better, lighter-touch one.
From the back. Again, the China board on the right is the "better" one off the 7XU t42p 15".
Key profiles. You can just see the blue-colored bumpers on the Thailand NMB keyboard, as well as what looks like slightly less-tilted keys, though I'm pretty sure this is just a product of the slightly different angle of the China keyboard.
A somewhat apples-to-oranges angle comparison - just note that you should be able to tell if you have an NMB (Thai) or Alps (China) keyboard by shining a flashlight under the arrow keys and noting if the bumpers are blue or gray.
Just a comparison of the bezels. They're removable (just pop the out by putting your fingernails under the top edge and popping the equidistant clips along the length). The glossy actually came with the China keyboard on the T42p, every other keyboard I've gotten (either on a machine or through IBM support) has been matte. I like the glossy for no reason other than the bling, so I'm using it now. Yes, it scratches more easily.
I generally rotate between the Huck Finn and Strategic Alliances passages on the free www.typingtest.com
java test. It's a simplistic java applet that can easily be gamed, but playing fair, I essentially memorize the passage so I'm testing maximum typing speed rather than the eye-to-brain-to-finger processing element.
On my Omnikey Ultra: 126wpm best with 5 attempts, 120wpm average.
On the 14" 08K5044: 117wpm best with 5 attempts, 112wpm average/
On the 15" 93P4840 (better): 107wpm best with 5 attempts, 102wpm average (higher error rate)
On the 15" 93P4840 (satan's): 102wpm best with 5 attempts, 98wpm average
For reference: On my HP VT6200 business laptop: 100wpm best with 5 attempts, 98wpm average. This keyboard feels both spongy and stiff, even worse than the lesser 93P4840. But I happily used it for 2 years because I wasn't expecting much in the first place.
I have yet to try a full-speed run on the new 15" 93P4780, but it feels identical to the 14", I love typing on it, and I'm sure it'll be just as fast. Even if for some reason it's not, I'll keep using this for the feel alone.
OK, that's it. It was a bit (ok, a lot) more rambling than I first expected, but the good news is, anybody who gets this far gets a cookie (Bill's treat).