Stroke per stroke, the keyboard is the part of your notebook you interact with the most. A great keyboard can make you more efficient, allowing you to enter text quickly and comfortably. On the other hand, a poor keyboard, can cause shoulder, wrist, or finger soreness in addition to a raft of typos. To help you choose a notebook with a great keyboard, we’ve scoured our lab for the some of the best (and worst) examples.
Best: Lenovo ThinkPad T410s
Lenovo’s business notebooks have long set the gold standard for notebook keyboards, with their strong tactile feedback and concave surfaces that make it easy for touch typists to feel the boundaries between keys. The keyboard on the ThinkPad T410 and T410s takes Lenovo’s keyboards to the next level by enlarging some of the most important keys, including Esc and Delete. This series is the one to get if you’re serious above comfort and accuracy.
Best: Apple MacBook Air (11-inch)
Despite being one of the thinnest and lightest notebooks ever, the MacBook Air 11 manages to provide an excellent typing experience, with large keys and a spacious palm rest. Where most 11-inch systems either provide shrunken keys (Sony VAIO YB Series) or short palmrests that leave your wrists hanging off, the 11-inch Air provides a typing experience that’s equivalent to the best full-size notebooks. If you’re shopping for something larger, note that all the other MacBooks use a very similar keyboard design.
Best: Toshiba Satellite T235
Though Toshiba uses a wide variety of keyboard styles on its notebooks, almost all of its designs provide good key size and comfy palm rests. The 13-inch Satellite T235 is the best example, because it has particularly strong tactile feedback. Plus, the smooth metallic surface of this ultraportable’s keys and palmrest is extremely pleasant to touch.
While not a disaster, many of ASUS’s keyboards have given us issues, from the flexy base on the N53JF to the stiff keys on the U36JC. The G53Jw’s keyboard is particularly mediocre because, even though the chassis is extremely wide on this 15-inch system, the keys are extremely cramped, with an undersized numeric keypad and arrows keys, both essential for gamers. Worst still, the completely flat surface of the keys makes it more difficult to position your fingers and avoid adjacent-key errors.
Worst: Acer Aspire One D255
Perhaps it’s too easy to pick on a netbook, but Acer’s Aspire One D255 suffers from a trifecta of issues: a short palmrest that keeps your wrists handing off the edge, stiff keys, and a base that flexes underneath your fingers while you type. The D255 is hardly unique among Acer systems, as the Gateway ID series suffered from significant keyboard flex and the TimelineX 1810T has an uncomfortably short palmrest.
MSI's gaming system has springy keys, but some odd key placement and sizes. First, the keys are smaller than we’d like because MSI leaves a wide margin of extra space on either side of the keyboard and the right shift key is very undersized. The system also inexplicably has an extra backslash key between the left ALT and the spacebar, leading gamers who need to hit that ALT key to fire in a losing situation.