The general consensus is that NMB keyboards are the best, ALPS is a close runner-up and Chicony, while still excellent by any laptop standards, lags behind the other two in quality (tactile feedback, noise, etc). This post discusses English (U.S.) language keyboards only.
Chicony FRU 39T7178
ALPS FRU 39T7118
NMB FRU 39T0958
When you order a Thinkpad, you cannot specify which keyboard; it's luck-of-the-draw which one you get. If you call IBM/Lenovo to order an NMB keyboard and give them the part number you can' t order an NMB. You will be sent one of the other two kinds in its place. Lately, IBM/Lenovo has been putting NMB part number stickers over the Chicony part number stickers to essentially "re-brand" the keyboards. You can tell if you have one of these keyboards by looking closely at the back of the keyboard. If you see a white sticker over another one, you're a victim.
There is also an easy way to tell which keyboard you have without opening up your Thinkpad. First, here's an overall comparison:
CLICK TO ENLARGE PICTURES
Back side of all three keyboards:
Front edge of all three keyboards:
Chicony - backslash springs - top left to bottom right
ALPS - forwardslash springs - top right to bottom left
NMB - blue pad springs
The keyboards look identical from the top. But if you take a paper clip and gently lift up the front edge of the down-arrow or right-arrow at the bottom right of your keyboard, you'll see either a back-slash (top-left to bottom-right) if it's a Chicony, forwad-slash (top-right to bottom-left) if it's an ALPS, or blue circular pads if it's an NMB.
You can't accurately compare the typing feel of the keyboards without using them installed correctly on a Thinkpad. There is a big difference between the feeling and sound of the keys when the loose part is sitting alone vs being installed in a unit.
After spending solid software development time on all three keyboards (multiple samples of Chicony and ALPS, just one NMB), my personal opinion is:
Chicony - Good - Grade B-. They're kind of mushy, with just decent tactile feedback. Between several Chicony keyboards there is inconsistent feel. Some are more "clacky" sounding than others. I have one that is very quiet. The mouse buttons are very good, better than the ALPS. Most people report the worst typing speed is on the Chicony and I agree.
ALPS - Solidly good - Grade B+. ALPS keyboards have a consistent quality. ALPS keyboards feel very good with a stronger feedback than the Chicony. My only complaints with this keyboards is that the mouse buttons, over time, seem to develop a "squeakyness" to them. If you hold a button down and mouse the pressure point around your finger, you can hear (and feel) some sticky travel. Also, the larger keys (space, shift) tend to make more noise than the rest of the keys.
NMB - Excellent - Grade A. I can type all day on the NMB and enjoy every minute. It's at least as good as, if not better than, the NMB on the T40 series. I'm not giving the NMB an A+ because older Thinkpads, 600 series for example, had even better keyboards. NMB's are quiet, solid, have fantastic feedback and give the machine a feeling of world-class quality.
I purchased my NMB keyboard from an upgrade website after getting a tip from someone else on this forum. Now that Chicony's are being re-branded as NMB, it may not be possible to find them anymore with a lot of digging. Two E-bay sellers I contacted had posted ads for NMB keyboards but, after asking, they were actually rebranded Chicony's.
I want to close this post by emphasizing that all three keyboards, even Chicony, are WAY better than pretty much every other keyboard I've seen on other notebook computers. I shelved an almost-new Dell 8600 because my fingers would get caught momentarily between the keys. The best non-Thinkpad notebook keyboard I've used is probably a Sony, and I would give it a grade of D+. With non-Thinkpads, I would actually travel with a wireless full-size keyboard in my luggage to avoid using the keyboard on the notebook. If you have a Chicony, be happy that you have one of the best notebook keyboards in the industry. If you've got an ALPS, even better. NMB? Remove it and send it to me right away - I want a spare in case someone steals my T60p.
(Edited one time to fix a broken link to the second image)
(Edited second time to add these two Edited comments)
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When i tried to order a danish NMB for my T60p from the danish/scandinavian IBM part store, i was told that they didn't have the NMB in stock and could offer me the Chicony or Alps instead.
Knowing the quality of NMB, i told them that i was quite a bit of an NMB fan, and said i would wait till they became stock again.
Then I was told that they actually NEVER EVER had the danish NMB in stock and they will never could get them. I find that very surprising
So i have chosen an Alps and i think the quality is very good, actually better than the NMB on the T42 which i liked already. I was almost sure that i would like the Alps, but it turned out differently:
The keys are more tight on the ALPS in a good way, whereas the NMB is quite mushy in comparison. I didn't notice this very much earlier because i have nothing to compare to.
I.e. putting your middle and index finger on the left shift key, you can easily wriggle the key around - it's very spoingy on the NMB.
Also, just recently i learned that the NMB hinges really seems sub-par for long durability. The white plastic hinge part which connects to the PCB is very fragile, because it is only held by two small plastic parts which are less than 0.5x0.5 mm long and wide.
Still... the Alps keyboard feels a little cheaper in the key travel.
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These pics confirm that I am a lucky recipient of an NMB, and I've got to say, this is absolutely the best laptop keyboard I've ever used.
(Current) T460p | i7-6820HQ | WQHD | nVidia 940MX | 72Wh Battery | 32GB RAM | 2TB Samsung 850 Pro SSD (Retired) T420 | Core i5-2520M | HD+ | Intel HD 3000 | 57Wh Battery | 16GB RAM | 1TB + 250GB Samsung SSDs
the "parts no." on my order says:
42V8195 SBB KEYBOARD US ENGLISH
hmm, I tried checking the part#'s for the t61's,
http://www-307.ibm.com/pc/support/site. ... MIGR-67916
but still no dice... I guess I'll just have to wait and see : )
T60P - 8744-J2U (LG 15.4" WSXGA+, 2.0GHz, 4GB DDR2, 500GB 7200RPM, FireGL 256MB, Vista Business)
T60 - (15.4" - WSXGA - 2.0GHz, 2GB DDR2, 320GB)
R40 - 2681 (15" XGA, 2.2GHz, 1GB RAM, 40GB)
Where did you buy the "NMB keyboard", i.e. what is the name of the "upgrade website"? Also, was the keyboard new or refurbished?
Was the Chicony you reviewed, the OLD loose/soft key, long travel version, or the NEW Chicony direct from Lenovo (relabeled NMB)?
I have one of the NEW relabeled Chicony keyboard, and I think the feel is BETTER than the ALPS that originally shipped with my T60p. The relabeled Chicony I received direct from Lenovo had a slightly shorter keystroke travel than the ALPS, and was just as firmer as the ALPS.
Another posting on the elusive NMB keyboard:
Eitherway, i know IBM keyboards are always better even if it's a Chicony than any Dell i've used. I don't know much about Sony ones but i had a Dell C610 for a while and it wasn't bad but i love typing on my T42 (can you tell? LOL )
Now, perhaps it is just me with too much imagination in thinking there is an hint in this, but guess what is the order in which the makers are listed in the spare parts manual?
NMB, ALPS, Chicony. And the price, $ .50 higher for NMB.
T420s NVIDIA graphics. Nice, then MB failure.
T400s Workhorse. two of'em, both faulty display with vertical stripes.
T43 °very nice° - MB reflown and dead, two of'em.
T42 15°, dead onboard wireless.
T40, dead memory slot, stolen from me
T30, stolen from me
I find this NMB keyboard on my T60 to be quite "clicky" and "crisp," whereas my older keyboard-- I don't know the manufacturer, as I've sold the machine-- was much "softer" to the touch, not as noisy; I suppose the keystrokes on the older one were a bit longer, but it had a more "comfy" feel;
are NMB's typically so "crisp"? I actually assumed that I had a relabeled keyboard, as so many have reported; but with a flashlight and paperclip I confirmed the presence of the underlying blue pads. I will add however, that it is probably the most solid keyboard I've ever experienced, on any computer (my fondness for my T60 w/flexview grows by the day)
The T42 I have now has the blue under the arrow keys, so I guess it is an NMB.
On the T42 I use now, I find my fingers occasionally catching under the keys. I do not recall this ever happening on my previous T42. I had read of this happening with another user, and I really didn't see how this could happen until it happened to me. I touch type, but I was never a fast typist. As far as I am concerned, I believe I prefer my previous keyboard where my fingertips didn't catch under the keys. I am concerned that I may pop a keycap off one of these days.
I just searched for the post and found that davidspalding said he had a Chicony keyboard on his T43, and he was catching his fingertips under the keys. Hmmm.
http://forum.thinkpads.com/viewtopic.ph ... 516#120516
http://forum.thinkpads.com/viewtopic.ph ... 688#120688
http://forum.thinkpads.com/viewtopic.ph ... 736#120736
Anyone else want to weigh in on this issue?
I have an R51 that has a similiar design as the NMB keyboard, but the rubber is white instead of blue. Does anyone know what company manufactured it? The keys feel firmer on the R 51 and do not travel as far compared to the T60 Alps keyboard. Both keyboards are excellent.
It's tight and solid feeling with very little play in the keys, I agree, but I also find the keys a little too resistant for my style of typing, requiring just a touch too much effort to register. However, they do not bottom out easily like some other keyboards (including my Thinkpad-style external keyboard).
The one thing I hate about all TP keyboards is how easily and quickly the textured surface gets worn smooth, both on the keys and the palm rest. Either the plastic sucks or my sweat is particularly corrosive.
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Looks like everybody got a NMB except me! I have a Chicony and it's actually pretty good. I enjoy typing on it, but it does feel like an A- compared to previous A+ Thinkpad keyboards I've had.
Prior to the T60, I had (have) a T23 - fantastic keyboard.
Prior to that, I had (have) a 600X - whenever I pull it out to play a Win98 game I have on it (Grand Prix Legends), I'm always struck by the quality. The keyboard is magnificent on this machine!
1 x T42, 2 x T41, 4 x T40, 2 x T30, 1 x T23, 1 x T22
Ex-main: T23 1.13Ghz, 20gig, XP SP1
Ex-ex-main: 600X - 10gig 256mb Win98 - very fast on Win98!!
I have an NMB keyboard on my T42 and I managed to catch my fingernail under the keys a couple of times, and popped a key once. It's not as big a problem as it seems - you just stick the key back on.GomJabbar wrote:Anyone else want to weigh in on this issue?
A laptop keyboard with inherently shallow keys cannot be 100% proof againts catching something under the keys. On my laptops it doesn't happen often enough to constitute a problem, though, and I am a fairly fast typist.
I am very satisfy with my alps one as well, but it is just not as good as the nmb one.
The only thing I complain is that the mouse buttons. They are too soft (but very quiet). One of my friends got nmb keyboard on her R60e, and the left edge of the left mouse button falls down after 6 months because of rapid use. And the middle button doesn't register properly if you don't press it hard. So I am worry that the same problem will come to me later. But generally this is a very good keyboard.
DVD-RAM, NMB UK English, 14.1 1400x1050.
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All.paOol wrote:i would like to know as well.BradS wrote:Which keyboards are found on the T61?
With the man who takes me from my horse, and leads me to a bar."
The man who took her off her steed, and stood her to a beer,
Were a bleary-eyed Surveyor and a DRUNKEN ENGINEER.
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