T60 Keyboard Comparison (with embedded pics)

T60/T61 series specific matters only
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RonS
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T60 Keyboard Comparison (with embedded pics)

#1 Post by RonS » Thu Jun 14, 2007 1:22 am

There are three T60 keyboards: Chicony, ALPS and NMB. These are also the types of keyboards you'll find on the T4x series of Thinkpads. Chicony and ALPS are the most common, while NMB is hard to find. For a long time I thought that T60 NMB keyboards were a myth because I could never find one.

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:
Image

Front edge of all three keyboards:
Image

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)
Last edited by RonS on Wed Dec 26, 2007 1:32 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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#2 Post by ryengineer » Thu Jun 14, 2007 4:25 am

:Nice:

I don't mean to make anyone envy :lol: but I have an NMB too.
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#3 Post by Troels » Thu Jun 14, 2007 5:17 am

Thanks for a great review :)

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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#4 Post by Dodge DeBoulet » Thu Jun 14, 2007 6:31 am

Thanks for the pics. The FRU list for my T60 identified my keyboard as an NMB, but I was never sure since there were a number of posts saying that other keyboards were being substituted though the FRU number was the same.

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
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#5 Post by Harryc » Thu Jun 14, 2007 6:52 am

NMB here too. Thanks for the Pics and report Ron.

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#6 Post by rukiri » Thu Jun 14, 2007 10:11 am

hmm, how does one check the FRU number?

the "parts no." on my order says:

42V8195 SBB KEYBOARD US ENGLISH

edit:
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 : )

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#7 Post by hoplite » Thu Jun 14, 2007 11:08 am

Outstanding review! Thanks for the information especially after all the posts about rebranded Chicony keyboards. I was pretty happy after I peeked at my keys and saw the blue . (It looks kinda bluish green on mine though.)
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T60 - (15.4" - WSXGA - 2.0GHz, 2GB DDR2, 320GB)
R40 - 2681 (15" XGA, 2.2GHz, 1GB RAM, 40GB)

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#8 Post by smartins » Thu Jun 14, 2007 11:18 am

When I ordered a Portuguese keyboard the only one they had available was the NMB.

Unfortunately I ended up not ordering the T60 and I'm waiting for the 15.4" T61 so it's still unclear if this keyboard will fit the new model or not.

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#9 Post by heyzeus123 » Thu Jun 14, 2007 1:07 pm

A COUPLE OF QUESTIONS:

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:
http://forum.thinkpads.com/viewtopic.php?t=41755
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#10 Post by RonS » Thu Jun 14, 2007 3:33 pm

The NMB came from upgradebay and it arrived brand new. I have three Chicony keyboards right here, and I believe that they are they are what you refer to the old/soft key. I haven't seen one of the new Chicony keyboards yet.
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#11 Post by SHoTTa35 » Fri Jun 15, 2007 3:22 pm

well thank you... seems i too have a NMB keyboard. I'm not sure if my T42 would have the same keyboard as the T60 (or are they universal style, maybe not fit but just the way to tell?) but it seems as if i have a NMB! I checked under the arrow keys as shown above and i don't see a back or forward spring as showin in the pic, they look like the last one just not blue like the last one.

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 )

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#12 Post by steveschoon » Fri Jun 15, 2007 8:53 pm

I just received a refurb NMB keyboard for my T60p from http://www.compuvest.com and it's just great. Way better than the Chicony I replaced.
Steve Schoon
T60p

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#13 Post by nandaiyo » Sat Jun 16, 2007 12:06 am

very helpful info, thanks! :D
T60p 2008JH9 - 14.1" SXGA+, T7600, 4GB, 500GB HDD, Win7Ultimate64, T61 HSF

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#14 Post by mightaswell » Sat Jun 16, 2007 2:30 am

I purchased a T60 back in March and it claimed to have a NMB. I was very happy with the keyboard from day one. I read quite a bit claiming that all the newer NMB keyboards were really rebranded Chiconys, but after examining mine further it is an actual NMB. Lucky me I guess. Thanks for the info.
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A subtle hint from Lenovo ?

#15 Post by marcos » Wed Jul 11, 2007 4:42 pm

I've just ordered an NMB KB thanks to the great info given here.

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.
T440s OK so far.
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
TP600 dead

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#16 Post by npish » Thu Jul 12, 2007 3:17 am

wow, thank you for such an informative post; interestingly, I've now confirmed via your images that I do, in fact, have an NMB keyboard (woo-woo), and while I do like it a great deal, I somewhat prefer the keyboard I had on my old R32;

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)

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#17 Post by dr_st » Fri Jul 13, 2007 5:41 am

Great thread, RonS.

I have NMB keyboards on my T42 and T60. They feel slightly different, but both are great. I do have the mouse button squeakiness on my T42, so I wouldn't say it's limited to Alps keyboards.

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#18 Post by GomJabbar » Fri Jul 13, 2007 7:11 am

On my original T42 I apparently had a Chicony. The FRU number was listed as 08K4986, but I could never find any definitive info on the brand, just a couple of forum posts that mention that FRU number as being a Chicony.

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
and
http://forum.thinkpads.com/viewtopic.ph ... 688#120688
and
http://forum.thinkpads.com/viewtopic.ph ... 736#120736

Anyone else want to weigh in on this issue?
DKB

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#19 Post by spwhiting@ » Mon Jul 16, 2007 11:12 pm

Ron S - thanks for the pictures and comparisions.
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.
755CD>600> R51 :1836Q4U> T60: 6371CTO.

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#20 Post by pipspeak » Tue Jul 17, 2007 12:18 am

Granted, I'm not sure I've used Chicony or ALPS on my older thinkpads (although I think I had an ALPS on my T40) but I'm not a huge fan of the NMB keyboard on my current T43.

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.
570 --> T20 --> T40 --> T43 --> T61 (4:3) --> T400 -->T420 --> T440p + X240

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Thanks for the awesome review!

#21 Post by T7TrainingSystems » Wed Jul 18, 2007 1:17 am

Wow, that was a great piece of information - thanks for going to the trouble of research and writing about it.

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!
Last edited by T7TrainingSystems on Sun May 16, 2010 1:34 am, edited 1 time in total.
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#22 Post by smci » Wed Jul 18, 2007 9:52 am

Based on the images it appears I am one of the few who have an ALPs on the T60 I received about a month ago with a 14.1 standard (1400 x 1050) lcd. I love the response and key feel and never knew what I was missing coming from a four year old Dell Inspiron laptop. Like night and day.

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#23 Post by kingmonkey11 » Wed Jul 18, 2007 1:05 pm

Just checked my T60, and it has the rubber dampers.
so i'm happy.
nevertheless I still think the larger keys such as the space bar and return are a bit rattly

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#24 Post by dr_st » Thu Jul 19, 2007 1:33 am

GomJabbar wrote:Anyone else want to weigh in on this issue?
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.

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.

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#25 Post by fanqimeng » Tue Aug 14, 2007 3:41 pm

I have just replaced my us alps keyboard by a uk nmb one. I have to say that the nmb one is fantastic. It is very difficult to describe the feeling but the feedback indeed is different from my alps one. I just don't want to stop typing on my new keyboard.

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.
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#26 Post by BradS » Tue Aug 14, 2007 4:00 pm

Which keyboards are found on the T61?

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#27 Post by dickeywang » Tue Aug 14, 2007 4:38 pm

ryengineer wrote::Nice:

I don't mean to make anyone envy :lol: but I have an NMB too.
Me 2! :)

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#28 Post by paOol » Tue Aug 14, 2007 10:15 pm

BradS wrote:Which keyboards are found on the T61?
i would like to know as well.
ordered (8/12), estimated ship date (8/30). cant wait!!!

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#29 Post by ryengineer » Tue Aug 14, 2007 10:19 pm

paOol wrote:
BradS wrote:Which keyboards are found on the T61?
i would like to know as well.
All.
"I've come a long, long way," she said, "and I will go as far,
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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#30 Post by pipspeak » Wed Aug 15, 2007 12:30 am

I've gone from an NMB (T43) to an ALPS (T61) and I have to say I prefer the ALPS. Sorry NMBers!

Still not in the same league as my external M-13 clicky :)
570 --> T20 --> T40 --> T43 --> T61 (4:3) --> T400 -->T420 --> T440p + X240

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