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PostPosted: Thu Jul 22, 2004 9:57 pm 
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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:

http://www.pbase.com/image/31680536.jpg
Better China keyboard

http://www.pbase.com/image/31680595.jpg
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.

--------

Comparison Pictures

The pictures, as anyone interested will already have seen from Bluedoc's and others' fine posts on the subject:

http://www.pbase.com/image/31679715.jpg
Boxes shipped to me with FRUs listed

http://www.pbase.com/image/31679719.jpg
Different keyboards side by side. The China keyboard on the right is the better, lighter-touch one.

http://www.pbase.com/image/31679718.jpg
From the back. Again, the China board on the right is the "better" one off the 7XU t42p 15".

http://www.pbase.com/image/31679716.jpg
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.

http://www.pbase.com/image/31679720.jpg
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.

http://www.pbase.com/image/31679717.jpg
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.

----

Typing Speed

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).


Last edited by Kenn on Wed Nov 23, 2005 10:45 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 22, 2004 10:03 pm 
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I actually thought I had a Chinese keyboard, so I went and asked them for the Thai keyboard. Then I discovered I already had the Thai keyboard. I had the raised right side problem, which I thought was due to it being chinese. Well, after flattening out the tab with a needle nose plier, the problem was fixed and I have a perfect keyboard now :)

Though it doesn't beat my Microsoft Natural (one of the original ones that were built solidly, not the new ones). Though my typing speed on my laptop now matches my speed on the desktop.

:)

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 22, 2004 10:20 pm 
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Nabeel,

Do you have a 14" thinkpad? I think they're still shipping mainly with the Thai keyboards.

I had one of the original microsoft Naturals, they were certainly one of the better modern rubber-membrane keyboards made.


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 22, 2004 10:32 pm 
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Yeah, I have the FVU, 14"
I guess they are, mine came with the Thai.

I wish they had a PS2 -> USB adapter, I'd like to use it with my TP. But it's alright, the TP keyboard is just fine. All older equipment is quality, now it's all plastic hunks of junk

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 22, 2004 10:38 pm 
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ThinkPadder
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I haven't tried it with my thinkpad, but they do have PS2-to-USB keyboard adapters. Unfortunately, some of the older keyboards (I think including the MS natural) may use proprietary ones. With modern motherboards and laptops not even including PS2 ports anymore, some of my old keyboards require a Keyboard-to-PS2-to-USB daisy chain, which still works quite well :)


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 23, 2004 6:48 pm 
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anybody have trouble getting a new keyboard in canada?


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PostPosted: Fri Jul 23, 2004 10:44 pm 
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Logi7 wrote:
anybody have trouble getting a new keyboard in canada?


yes, they won't send you one. You have to take the TP to a local business partner, and let the techs look at it. Since it is a subjective thing, it will be hard to covince them i think. besides, it's a waste of time. you usuall have to leave your tp with them for like 3-4 business days. IBM USA is much more efficient.


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 24, 2004 12:02 am 
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Great post, Kenn. Very helpful and informative. Nice pics, too.


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 24, 2004 12:36 pm 
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nabeel,

What do you mean when you say you've flattened out the tab?
Is that the piece of the metal by the arrow keys?

Mike


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 24, 2004 1:04 pm 
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Yeah. I just flattened it a bit, and then put the keyboard back in and forced it to go under the plastic on the palmrest, and that worked.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 25, 2004 12:12 am 
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I just took apart the keyboard on my 2373-GUU 14" model and it came with the Thailand keyboard. Even before taking out the keyboard I checked for the flex issue you guys mentioned on the right hand side of the keyboard. There was no flex. Now when I took it apart I did notice where the right bottom side of the keyboard was located there was a strip of cushion? lining, possibly to help the keyboard uphold itself better.

Not sure if others have noticed.

Another thing I did notice as well is the T42 keyboard did not have the depth, travel, and feel of the keyboard on the X31.

Another thing as well, is the left hand side palm rest flexes as well as right below it are the empty PCMCIA slots, if you apply a bit of pressure on it. I'm going to find some dummy PCMCIA slot fillers and see if that helps.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 26, 2004 9:48 am 
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Hi Kenn --

I'm a programmer, so I use my keyboard alot. Great post.. thank you!

Just got my T42 today. its a 2378 DUU. A 14" model.

I didn't understand from your posting, whether or not there are options for the 14" model.

When I look under the keyboard of my model they are black, not blue.

Does the 08K5044 keyboard have blue underneath?

I'd like to figure this out without having to take my thinkpad apart first.

Thanks-
Matt


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 26, 2004 6:58 pm 
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Just discovered that my new 14" T42 (2378 DUU.. one of the express models) has a 08k4986 "assembled in china" keyboard. It has the black underneath the keys.

:(

The keyboard definately feels flimsy & has a major bounciness to it on the right side around where the arrow keys are.

Matt


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 26, 2004 7:15 pm 
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Doh, sorry to hear that! If the keyboard bothers you, just follow the drill.

Call IBM service at 1-800-426-7378. You should be routed to Atlanta, Georgia.

Tell them "I'm not satisfied with the keyboard. I'd like to exchange it with FRU
08K5044 for the 14" t42."

If you get routed to Gold team, wait, say hello, repeat above statement.

Wait 3-5 days.

Replace keyboard.

Enjoy.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 26, 2004 8:47 pm 
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Hi Kenn --
Thanks so much for this info. My wrists are (hopefully) going to love you for this.

But, I just tried this. Got routed to Atlanta. :)

The guy I got said that they can't do it. :( He also said that the "Gold Team" requires some type of authorization or special contract.

I have just depot service level of warranty (extended to 3 years). Is this enough to get the Thai keyboard?

Thanks-
matt


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 26, 2004 9:44 pm 
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Ooh, I don't know what difference that makes... One of my machines was 3-year on-site, with 3-year thinkpad protection added on (that call was routed to gold team when I asked for the keyboard).

My other machine was purchased through a 3rd party retailer, and the 3-year thinkpad protection was backordered when I called, so it was probably also listed only as 3-year depot. The person who answered that call just gave me the 14" keyboard when I asked for it, even though my machine was a 15".

I would just keep calling back, and emphasize that the current keyboard is unsatisfactory and not up to par with the other thinkpads you've owned/used, and that you have the correct FRU for the replacement...

Good luck!


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 26, 2004 9:50 pm 
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Kenn wrote:
My other machine was purchased through a 3rd party retailer, and the 3-year thinkpad protection was backordered when I called...


OT, I know, but how is a warranty backordered? :-)

--Adam

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 26, 2004 9:58 pm 
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I think maybe the guy I talked to was new on the job. Or maybe because he was working the night shift, he wasn't as good as the folks that work during the day. Makes sense -- put the smart one on the day shift to better serve the biz. customers during biz hours.

I'll try again tomorrow.

Matt


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 26, 2004 10:00 pm 
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mpease -

I have the same model you have.

When I called, I explained that the keyboard was "flexing and dropping down" on the right side when I pressed on the arrow keys. I get a bit of creaking when this happens, so I let the rep listen to it over the phone. They are sending out the THAI keyboard, although I did not mention it specifically. I think the Chinese FRU is not available currently.

My suggestion is to call back, and only talk about the problem that you are having. Do not mention that you want a particular country of origin for your part. I think that this will work against you with some of the reps.

By the way, I am only replacing mine because the keyboard does exhibit the symptom of too much flex on the right side. I really do not care where the new one is made, as long as it fixes the issue. Believe me, I have been to many electronics factories in Thailand, and China. Just because something is made in one place vs. the other does not necessarily have any bearing on the problem.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 26, 2004 10:08 pm 
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It is a fact that with the keyboard, the arrow keys will sink down with your typing, making it very difficult to do a good typing. I told them I tried to reseat the keyboard and found not helpful, the keyboard was defective. With that, I got them to send me a new wonderful Thai keyboard. It only took me 3 mins.


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 26, 2004 10:59 pm 
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I work in Canada, and their service tech said they can't send me the KB. I have to leave my laptop at some third party place so they can check it, which takes 3-4 business days! I need my laptop everyday, so it was a pain to deal with them (called twice). I just called again today, and got them to transfer me to the US service. I got my laptop in the US, so it qualifies. The service was a breeze. They asked what's wrong with it, and ordered the part for me. That's it. You just have to return the defective part within 30 days. I got them to send it to my parent's place, so when it arrvies, I'll just go over there and get the new KB.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 27, 2004 12:17 am 
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admsteiner wrote:
Kenn wrote:
My other machine was purchased through a 3rd party retailer, and the 3-year thinkpad protection was backordered when I called...


OT, I know, but how is a warranty backordered? :-)

--Adam


Yeah, silly isn't it? A couple of days ago, I received a UPS shipment from them with that little paper leaflet full of fine print describing the "Thinkpad Protection Program."

On the other machines that leaflet (and the acquisition agreement) was shipped in the same carton the thinkpad box was shipped in.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 27, 2004 7:16 am 
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:D :D :D

hurrrah! called tech support this morning. the kind lady in atlanta said she could send me one.... "but only because the computer would "sub" it",
meaning that because the thai keyboard part is an "official" part for my machine, that the computer could send me a new one. If that wasn't the case, she said she'd have to charge me for it.

Also got my restore CDs.

Anything else I should grab now that I'm in the 30 day window? I have the Sony batteries (regular & extended). I think I have the "short" fan, but figured I'd deal with that some other time.

Thank you all VERY MUCH. I'm really looking forward to that new keyboard... this one is starting to drive me nuts.

Thank you -
Matt


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 29, 2004 5:23 am 
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I have a T42p KTM, which is the Australian equivalent of the 14" KTU. My keyboard feels pretty good, reasonably tactile and conducive to my speed of typing (which is reasonable without being spectacular), but I can't help feeling that the keys on my just-retired T22 felt (and even sounded better). However, I don't have a squeaky left Ultranav button, nor any undue flex on the rhs.

My parts list says FRU 08K4986 which from what I've read here I am presuming is the Chinese model, although I'm reluctant to remove it just yet to verify.

I would very much doubt whether IBM Australia would come to the party in the same way that IBM USA seems to. But if someone can confirm that the 08K4986 is indeed the Chinese made version, I'll give it a try.

I am quite content to live with it though - but most people here would know what it is like - if you think you can improve, you try it.

Beautiful machine though.


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 29, 2004 10:39 am 
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nearly wrote:
I would very much doubt whether IBM Australia would come to the party in the same way that IBM USA seems to. But if someone can confirm that the 08K4986 is indeed the Chinese made version, I'll give it a try.

I can't "confirm" that you have the chinese made KB, but it would seem that way:
http://forum.thinkpads.com/viewtopic.ph ... sc&start=0

They only list one FRU now for the 14" US keyboard - the Thai made one (FRU 08k5044):
http://www-1.ibm.com/support/docview.ws ... MIGR-46503

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PostPosted: Fri Jul 30, 2004 4:14 am 
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I underestimated IBM Oz. Rang them today, told them I was a little unhappy with the keyboard on my KTM, creaked around the arrow keys, and they are sending out a new one - said courier within 2 business days. No need to send back the old one.

Asked them the FRU, and sure enough, it is the FRU 08k5044.

IBM Service. gotta love it.

Happy to post my impressions of the two after I get it and install if anyone is interested.


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PostPosted: Sat Jul 23, 2005 10:44 pm 
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Very nice write up. Thanks.

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PostPosted: Sat Jul 23, 2005 11:04 pm 
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Yeah, but is this information still current? As far as I know, the Chinese models are the ALPS and Chicony, and the Thai is still the NMB, but I have heard that the Thai might have been discontinued. Maybe its just been on backorder for awhile? Any comparison of the current lineup?


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 24, 2005 2:12 am 
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Bah. Looks like the links have all broken with the Lenovo move.

http://www-1.ibm.com/support/docview.ws ... MIGR-46503 used to be the Thinkpad T-series keyboard FRU parts list. Hopefully you can use it or those keywords to find the current page.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 24, 2005 7:10 am 
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Kenn, thanks for the detailed write-up. Like you, I use a Northgate OmniKey on my desktop (had it since my Northgate 386 and will never give it up) and I have another Northgate and an IBM keyboard waiting in the wings. I, too, am a very fast typist with speeds comparable to yours (must be that finger strength learning on Royal manual typewriters when I was a kid!).

That said, though, after going through two different flavors of Chinese and the Thai keyboard on the 15" T42 which I have since sold, I simply don't find the night-and-day difference between them that you have described. Differences I found, but none of them made me want to toss any of them...and none of them bear any similarity, not even close, to the desktop keyboards of yore.

Now, unfortunately, I have to live with a 9-lb. ThinkPad G41 with a keyboard that is substantially worse than any of the T-series keyboards. Curse my fate!

While your detailed analysis is just that--thorough--and comes with the requisite YMMV disclaimer, I fear it will create a rush for the Thai keyboard, because of how strongly you weigh its superiority. However, if any customer wants to have the Thai keyboard, then that they should have! All I can say is that this customer, who has always felt himself sensitive to keyboard issues, found little enough difference after all was said and done, to have lifted a finger in the first place.

Just my .02.

Thanks again,

Steve


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