It's a long-held belief at Laptop Mag that Lenovo's ThinkPads have some of, if not the best, keyboards. Not only because of the rubber nub but because the keys themselves are supremely satisfying to type on. So it only makes sense for Lenovo to give the cult-like fanbase for its keyboards an external solution. That's where the ThinkPad TrackPoint Keyboard II comes in.
As the name suggests, this isn't the first version of its kind; The new version is very similar to the ThinkPad Compact Bluetooth Keyboard with TrackPoint but with a new design and improved connectivity. I've been using the TrackPoint Keyboard II for the last week and it has lived up to the billing with snappy keys, an ultraslim design, and a reliable Bluetooth or 2.4-GHz USB connection. And yes, you pointing stick diehards will appreciate the familiar rubber nub and center click button.
Despite a comfortable typing experience and sleek design, the TrackPoint Keyboard II isn't for everyone. There are some inherent limitations to its ultraslim design, including the lack of a wrist rest and backlit keys.
Thinkpad TrackPoint Keyboard II design
The ThinkPad TrackPoint Keyboard II looks like it was extracted from the deck of a ThinkPad laptop. Not just any ThinkPad, but something as sleek as the X1 Carbon. I say that because this thing is seriously thin and compact, at 12 x 6.5 x 0.5 inches and 1.4 pounds.
Those who already love the ThinkPad keyboard will enjoy the familiarity of this external version. Signature red paint trims the left-and-right discrete buttons and the rubber pointing stick -- that rubber nub in the middle of the keyboard. On the bottom-right is a diagonal ThinkPad logo and a black Lenovo tag is faintly visible on the opposite corner.
On the top edge of the keyboard is a housing for the USB dongle, a USB-C charging port and two switches for moving between operating systems and connectivity methods. On the right side is a power switch.
The ThinkPad TrackPoint II has a very low profile so using it on a flat surface can put a strain on your wrists. For a better typing angle, you can flick down the legs beneath the keyboard.
Unfortunately, one of the legs on my unit was very loose, and when I gently fiddled with it, it broke. ThinkPads have a reputation for being durable, so I was startled when this happened. I haven't come across similar reports, so it's possible this unit sustained damage in transit or was defective. I wouldn't let it deter you from buying the TrackPoint Keyboard II, but it's definitely something to watch out for.
Despite using standard ABS plastic (sorry, no carbon fiber), the rest of the keyboard feels pretty stable and Lenovo claims it has a lifespan of 10 million key clicks.
There is no wrist rest and not enough room to place your entire palm underneath the keys, so consider investing in an external pad.
Thinkpad TrackPoint Keyboard II connectivity and setup
Connecting the ThinkPad TrackPoint Keyboard II to your laptop or phone is a breeze. You first need to turn the keyboard on by flipping the switch on the right side. On the top are two more sliders for switching between Windows 10 or Android, and Bluetooth or USB.
I opted for a USB connection so I could keep the dongle -- which can be stored neatly in a slot on top of the keyboard -- connected to my computer and not worry about fiddling with a Bluetooth connection. Words appeared instantly after I input the 2.4-GHz USB dongle and started typing. I haven't run into any connection issues over the week I've been using the keyboard.
I switched over to Bluetooth when I needed to plug in an external webcam to one of the precious USB-A ports on my Dell XPS 15, and the keyboard performed just as well. When I moved the knob on top of the keyboard over to Bluetooth, my laptop alerted me that a new device had been found. I finished the setup process by hitting "connect" on the notification and punched in a code on the keyboard.
Thinkpad TrackPoint Keyboard II keys and TrackPoint
ThinkPad owners will feel right at home typing on this chiclet-style keyboard. It has those gently curved scissor-style keys and the snappy, tactile feedback we've come to love over years of reviewing Lenovo laptops. My fingers effortlessly bounced from one key to the next as I wrote this review. It's not only the springiness of these ergonomic keys, but also the decent amount of travel they provide that makes this so fun to type on.
Those who haven't typed on a ThinkPad before might need to get used to the high actuation force -- these keys have a weightiness to them. I find the pronounced bump to be very satisfying, as it rewards my fingers with a slight pat each time I complete a keystroke.
It's because of that hefty bump that I can't type my fastest on the ThinkPad keyboard. I ran up 108 words per minute with a 93% accuracy on the 10FastFingers.com typing test. Those are decent results, but I couldn't hit my 119-wpm average or 95% accuracy.
While I'm not one of the cult followers who use the rubber nub, aka the TrackPoint, I had no issues using it as an alternative to a touchpad or mouse. It's the same dimpled red rubber circle popularized on ThinkPad laptops. If you've used one before, then you know that, as far as pointing sticks go, this one is the best.
Accompanying the TrackPoint is a center button for scrolling through or zooming in on a page. Again, everything worked as expected -- I scrolled around articles written in Google Docs by using the center button.
Although everything works as advertised, I wish Lenovo sold a version of this keyboard with a touchpad. Until then, I'll have to settle for using a wireless mouse.
Thinkpad TrackPoint Keyboard II keyboard layout
The TrackPoint Keyboard II has a pretty standard layout. The 84-key keyboard doesn't have a numpad, but you do get shortcut keys for adjusting volume, screen brightness and second-screen projection modes. The arrow keys are very small, but the inverted-T shape makes them easy to use. Above those arrow keys are miniature PgUp and PgDn buttons that are difficult to press without accidentally hitting a nearby key.
My biggest gripe with the keyboard, and, for that matter, the layout of most Lenovo laptop keyboards, is that the Ctrl key is located to the right of the Fn key. It's much easier to use the Ctrl key for shortcuts like copy (Ctrl+C), paste (Ctrl+v) and select all (Ctrl+A) when it's the bottom-left most key. On the TrackPoint Keyboard II, I had to remember to move my pinkie one key to the right.
Thinkpad TrackPoint Keyboard II features
Apart from the TrackPoint nub and some useful connectivity options, the ThinkPad TrackPoint II doesn't have many features.
The keys aren't backlit. There is no headphone jack or USB port. You get discrete left-and-right click buttons, but there is no touchpad and the palm rest is too small for my hands (you can forget about your wrists a break). Also, the USB-C port is for charging only -- not connecting peripherals or charging other devices.
The one noteworthy feature of the ThinkPad TrackPoint Keyboard II is support for 6-point entry for the visually impaired.
Thinkpad TrackPoint Keyboard II battery and charging
Hooray for USB-C! There aren't many peripherals using the standard so I'm happy to see Lenovo bring it to the ThinkPad TrackPoint Keyboard II. Of course, this is a wireless keyboard, so you'll only need to use the USB-C port every two months when the battery dies.
The ThinkPad TrackPoint Keyboard II is perfect for slipping into your bag during travel or using on the couch as you take a much-needed break from your home office. It has a slim design, reliable Bluetooth and USB connectivity options and, in typical ThinkPad fashion, excellent key comfort.
That said, there wasn't enough space in this portable keyboard for certain features. There are no wrist rest or ports and the keys aren't backlit. I also had some durability issues with my particular unit, so be sure to read user reviews before adding it to your cart.
Overall, the ThinkPad TrackPoint Keyboard II is a sleek keyboard with comfortable keys and a reliable pointing stick. It's great for using with a tablet or when you're traveling or lounging around the house, so long as you're aware of its limitations.