Help Me, LAPTOP: I Want a Notebook with a Classic-Style Keyboard

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In the past few years, we've seen a huge movement toward island-style (aka chiclet) keyboards on laptops. While most users seem to either like or at least tolerate keyboards with a larger gap between keys, reader Mary is not one of them. In a comment, Mary writes:

I am literally going insane trying to find a 12″ – 14″ laptop with a traditional keyboard. I tested a chiclet keyboard in the store and it was uncomfortable and painful. My wrist and fingers hurt terribly within 2 to 3 minutes of constant typing. The keys were too far apart from one another, flat, and harder to press; which is an absolute nightmare for a touch typist. The manufacturers can’t even decide on single name for these horrible and recently widespread keyboards (chiclet, island style, premium raisied tile, isolated style keys).

The keyboard is one of the most important and under appreciated parts of any notebook. If you're comfortable typing, you can work more quickly, effectively speeding up the human part of the computer interface.

Mary is right to place a priority on typing accuracy. However, in our experience, island-style keyboards are not necessarily less comfortable than ones which have little or no space between the keys. For example, our favorite notebook keyboard of all-time is the island-style unit on the Lenovo ThinkPad X1, which provides the best tactile feedback in the business.

In most cases, island-style keyboards have the same 19 to 21mm of travel, which is defined as the space between the middle of each key and the key next to it. To keep travel the same and increase the space around the keys, manufacturers sometimes make each key a little smaller, but the shape of the keys usually matters more than their size. Keys with a concave surface are easier for touch typists to feel so that they avoid adjacent letter errors.

The palmrest is another important, but often-ignored part of the notebook typing experience. A nice soft-touch palmrest cradles your wrists and makes long typing sessions more comfortable, while a short palmrest that leaves your wrists hanging over the lip can put additional strain on your shoulders. 

Ultimately, the most important thing is that you are comfortable with your keyboard. If you are uncomfortable with island-style keyboards, a number of notebooks still come with classic-style keys. Budget notebooks like Toshiba's Satellite L755 and HP Pavilion G6 use traditional keys as do business notebooks like the Lenovo ThinkPad T420 and Dell Latitude E6420. We particularly like the ThinkPad T420's keyboard because it includes oversized delete and Esc keys that are easy to hit.

Author Bio
Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director on
Add a comment
  • Judith Says:

    Is there a 13" laptop with old-style keyboard .. no flat surface keys wanted

  • stv pls Says:

    I never bought a new laptop, I only buy used ones with old stiles keyboards like lenovo tinkpad x400 that can have an i5

  • LTRL33 Says:

    The Dell E7440 has a keyboard that looks like it should do the trick for touch typists. The top surface is flattened so the height isn't that of a conventional desktop style keyboard but each key is abutted to the next one making the surface area quite large and it has more travel than a chiclet. It's 14.1" available with an i5 or i7 processor with AC wifi and up to 16GB ram and SSD hard drives, also the rarer 1920 x 1080 FHD screen is better than the 1366 x 768 version. Read the review at
    I've just switched from a Samsung N110 netbook with a lovely keyboard to a Dell XPS13 with the chiclet design and it's literally a pain to type on with lots of missing letters here and there because of the vague feel of the activation point and lack of feedback I think I may have to sell it on. The crazy trend for ultra thin laptops is about looks and not function sadly. I hope this helps?

  • X-Ray Says:

    "19 to 21mm of travel, which is defined as the space between the middle of each key and the key next to it." - how the heck did you come up with that??
    Keyboard travel is the distance between the neutral position of a key and its activation point, in other words, how far a key will "travel" down when pressed before its corresponding input is recognized/recorded.

  • hefty smurf Says:

    Sigh. Learned to properly type in 5th grade on the Apple IIe.

    Guess I'm officially an old fogie. I regularly peruse Ebay for used laptops. I figure I'll buy enough laptops and replacement keyboards to tide me over until I die in 50 years.

  • MikeB Says:

    Still looking here too. I'm a touch typist and cannot stand using the chicklet style keyboard that's on every laptop. There's a market here, but apparently no one is noticing.

  • Susal Says:

    Well, a couple years late on this article, but judging from the comments, it's clearly still relevant. I, too, am a touch typist like the wind. I type assertively (and play piano), so my fingers just pound those keys sometimes and it's quite satisfying to feel the key travel... But not on a chiclet keyboard. I absolutely abhor them - they're crap- and all the new laptops only seem to have them. That sucks. Give me a top-performing laptop that doesn't have a stupid goony chiclet keyboard, pleeeeeeease!

  • NeoPhantom Says:

    I have also been going insane and getting pissed off with my inability to find anyone else who cares about this aspect of keyboards. It's such a simple aspect of design that is getting ignored completely and treated like it makes no difference to the typing experience.

    Finding this article was a nice relief that I am not the only human being with this dilemna and I've gone through about 2 old failing ebay computers now just because of my need to have a laptop with this style keyboard.

  • janet Says:

    I've just refurbished my ZG5 Acer. I do a lot of creative writing, and it has a keyboard that feels like a big 102 keyboard, even though its only 3mm thick! For serious typing, reject all this touch screen and 'scrabble counter'rubbish

  • Jodi Says:

    Hi. I jusr tried to post something that was deleted. It's 2015 and I hope this site still works.
    I need an old fashioned keyboard for a 15.6 Laptop. What is a good Laptop for this. Apple and Dell are Too expensive for me. If you can't think of some, can you think of a few that are Very similar. Any good places or Internet sites (if possible) that carry them. Thanks much.. Jodi

  • Jodi Says:

    I appreciate your site. I'd like to get a reasonably priced 15.6 Laptop computer. I am used to typing the old-fashioned way.

    Any Laptops that are good quality. Dell and Apple are Way too Expensive.
    Please name Computer and Model Also name the stores that might still carry these kind.

    If you can't find the old fashioned kind-what is the Next Best thing? Thank You Very Much in Advance.It's 2015, so I hope this gets answered.


  • John Smith Says:

    I hate these stupid "island style" keyboards with a passion. They keys are tiny, have small excursion (distance travelled by a key) and come to a hard stop hurting your fingers-- everthing a comfortable keyboard shouldn't be. But they are cheaper to manufacture and manufacturers who assume every design from Apple is automatically the gold standard, have moved to the stupid chiclet design. Lenovo was the last holdout but now in an apparent bid to cut costs have thrown in with their lot too. Make no mistake - the new Lenovo chiclet keyboard which they are trying to market as better than the classic is CRAP. I know because I fell for the marketing and bought one and now stuck with it (bought new from eBay so return wasn't easy). My only recourse is to buy used.

  • Rebecca Says:

    Wow -- I must have man hands, because I am definitely a "touch typist", and I just purchased the Dell Inspiron 15 VR with the "island" keys -- and I love it! I think it's super fast and less annoying because the corners don't like...pull up when you are typing super fast. love love love love love

  • Ray Says:

    I just bought a Dell Inspiron 15R. I do not know how anyone uses one of these chicklet keyboards. Even more so I cant believe its the new standard, and that Dell doesn't make non-Chicklet keyboard. I've been a database developer for 12 years and am totally struggling with this keyboard. The spaces between the keys are the worst for me. My hands are sore from having to stretch my fingers. Ive read that "I will get used to it." But that simply isnt true. My gf bought a Lenovo laptop w chicklet keyboard in January, and I never got used to that one, and neither has she. In the end, I'll be returning this new laptop and buying something like the Dell XPS 18. I'm really in shock that this type of huge change to the laptop has been accepted by the masses. I just dont understand it. Seems like big steps backwards in productivity. Please Dell, offer an option to this chicklet keyboard. I would pay $100 not to have it.

  • Gary Says:

    I just want to echo the sentiments of everyone else here who dislikes the island/Chiclet style keyboards. I'm 74 years old and learned to type "properly" in the military. Upon seeing the newer style keyboards out there, I can only hope this "getting old" laptop I now have, lasts me the rest of my life. I've tried the newer styles and I can barely type my own name! And on a good day, I am certain I can hit over 90 words a minute on this one. I'm as comfortable with a wrench in my hand as a keyboard. But, if it's a Chiclet or island style keyboard? It's fit for only a trash can.

  • James Says:

    I'll agree with everyone who hates these island/chiclet style boards, they are terrible. I've been typing for years and am reasonably fast. These stupid things have slowed me right down, and they are very uncomfortable. I'd buy the first good laptop that has the traditional keyboard because they simply are better.

  • Dianne Says:

    Yes! The new laptops are for the hen and peck generation of texters who don't even care about spelling or capitals or anthing else except for writing OMG! BRB! etc. It's appalling that there are no laptops for people who actually KNOW how to type properly. Sad thing is, if the manufactureres would make a laptop with a traditional keyboard, I would buy it. I won't buy another with an 'island' one whatever that is, no thanks, I know how to type.

  • Pamela Kelt Says:

    I agree with Mary and Angel. I tried some chiclet keyboards today, and I was all over the place. I couldn't manage whole words and my hands and fingers protested at the effort. Do they even test these things with people who touch type?

    I'd be happy to pay extra for a traditional keyboard. Honestly, I would.

    Re laptops with trad keyboards, I'm struggling. The HP Pavilion seems to have gone for the chiclet too, according to UK specs anyway. Are there any others? Or any laptops out there where it's easy to swap the new for the old?

    Thank God I'm not alone in this. It's driving me crazy. I'm supposed to be updating my old PC but I'm stuck - and furious!

    Any other suggestions?

  • Angel Bennett Says:

    You've got to be kidding me - is anyone a touch-typist here?! The Chiclet keyboard is a NIGHTMARE! I just recently got a computer with a Chiclet keyboard – which I was not even aware existed - and I feel as though I'm crippled when using it! That 'spacing' between the keys IS a MAJOR HINDRANCE to any experienced typist! My fingers are all over the place, I make constant typing errors, I'm completely unable to use the lower row of keys, as well as the shift & control keys; I accidentally send unfinished emails & FB posts, and have permanently deleted important documents... Nor can I correctly use the numeric row without having to look at it, as I am relinquished to do now with everything I type; as a professional touch-typist for over 30 years, with an avg. typing speed of 90 wpm, I am beyond mortified by this! I can no longer type accurately, nor am able to maintain my typing speed and efficiency - I truly HATE the Chiclet keyboard! It has taken away any pleasure in using my computer. It was obviously created for the 'hen & peck' or text-typing' generation! I've searched high and low and cannot find a budget priced personal notebook – or any for that matter with a traditional keyboard. If the manufacturers would at least create a traditional keyboard REPLACEMENT for their Chiclet computers then their customers would at least have the choice, and not be stuck with these abhorrent things! (And a plug-in external keyboard is not conducive at least for me, as I travel with my notebook and have to use it in many confined spaces – besides, for what I pay for my notebooks, I shouldn’t have to spend even more money on extra parts to replace incompetent ones.. And the Chiclet keyboard is TRULY INCOMPETENT!!

  • AC/DC Adapters for Notebook Says:

    I have an Acer Aspire 1640 laptop (2004), The keyboard is stillas brand new as the day I purchased it and has been through some harsh scenarios and still functioning. I have seen, hundreds of desk top keyboards in the trash and have personally added to that collection many times. P.S. I hav'nt spilled any water on it yet !!
    thanks, @Willow from <a href="" rel="nofollow">DC Adapters</a>

  • Chris Says:

    It's all well and good, "Help Me Laptop" that YOU like them, but you didn't answer the poor lady's question about what models are not chicklet keyboards, a quest I share. Thanks.

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