Author Topic: Laptop Keyboard Tiny Keys  (Read 554 times)

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Online gnuarm

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Laptop Keyboard Tiny Keys
« on: April 22, 2021, 05:45:59 pm »
<rant mode on>I get that PCs are GUI oriented devices, but keyboards are still an important part of using them.  It seems that over the last decade the keyboards on laptops have been sacrificing the key sizes for no apparent reason.  This is on 17 inch laptops where the overall outline of the keyboard is some two or three inches smaller than the laptop as a whole, so it's not about fitting into the machine in any way.

It started with shrinking the function keys along the top row of the keyboard.  They are used less often, so I guess they figured they are not so important. 

Then they made the arrow keys smaller.  I think the designers were going for a "look" that is sleeker and symmetrical.  They wanted to shove the cross arrangement of arrow keys up into the outline of the keyboard.  That was fine as long as they made room for the actual keys, but at some point they started to make the up and down arrow keys half height so the two fit in one key outline.  I've even seen some that make all four keys the same height leaving extra space above the stunted left and right arrow keys. 

Then I realized they have also been shrinking the width of the numeric keypad keys.  That is more subtle at approximately 3/4 width or maybe 2/3 width.  More recently I've seen them drop the entire numeric keypad entirely leaving 5 or 6 inches of unused space on the sides of the keyboard. 

WTF?  :-//

The last laptop I bought was a Dell Precision M6800, a rather expensive machine new, but bought used at a decent price.  Even this machine has 3/4 size arrow and other keys.  But it is actually wearing out and is a hot bastard!  I've been looking for a new machine for over a year and no one has the full set of features I want, a graphics chip (not built into the CPU), 32 GB of RAM, a 17 inch display and a decent keyboard.  Some of the Asian brands get close, but they always crap out on the keyboard either with small keys or leaving off or making hard to access some of the navigation keys.  They will have a key primary function "SysRq" and the shifted function "Home".  WTF? <rant mode off>

Is this just me?  Do I need to get over it and just live with the crap they sell? 

Oh yeah, almost forgot... don't get me started about merging the touch pad keys into the touch pad.  Grrrr...  |O
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Offline Benta

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Re: Laptop Keyboard Tiny Keys
« Reply #1 on: April 22, 2021, 06:02:10 pm »
I've gone the other way, for the same reasons you describe.
My laptops are all (3 pcs.) HP/Compaqs of 2008...2010 vintage.
The keyboards are full-size and very tactile.

Now, Win 10 is not an option here. They're all installed with Lubuntu 20.04 and are waaay faster than my 2 year old Win 10 machine (Lubuntu cold boot: 25 s, shut down 2 s).

I understand your rant, keyboards on modern laptops is design over function.

PS: a 6910p or 8530w cost 50...80 $ on ebay.
 

Online gnuarm

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Re: Laptop Keyboard Tiny Keys
« Reply #2 on: April 22, 2021, 07:02:50 pm »
Thanks for the moral support.   The machines you list might be fine for many things, but I run simulations and other CPU and memory intensive programs so that such an old machine would not work for me.  I don't think FPGA or analog simulations run any faster on different operating systems.  Or I should say any slower.  They all run slow, it's just a matter of how slow.

I guess I could dedicate a decent desktop to running simulations and such leaving the laptop as a console. 
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Offline bd139

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Re: Laptop Keyboard Tiny Keys
« Reply #3 on: April 22, 2021, 07:06:49 pm »
Buy a thinkpad. best laptop keyboard out there and arguably a good keyboard on its own.

It's got all the right keys, none of them are shifted or FN'ed or overlayed other than the media keys, everything is discoverable, they all have exactly the same actuation force, grouping is spot on.

My T495:

« Last Edit: April 22, 2021, 07:10:06 pm by bd139 »
 
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Online gnuarm

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Re: Laptop Keyboard Tiny Keys
« Reply #4 on: April 22, 2021, 10:19:47 pm »
Thanks for the suggestion, but I don't see a numeric keypad at all on that one.  I've looked at Thinkpads.  But they have gone over to the dark side as well in the newer models like Dell.  That's why I'm typing on an 8 year old M6800. [attachimg=1]
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Offline bd139

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Re: Laptop Keyboard Tiny Keys
« Reply #5 on: April 22, 2021, 10:22:23 pm »
P15 / P17 / T15 have numeric pads. I don't need one though.

I have a new work issued Dell Precision 5550 as well. That is the worst keyboard I've ever used. Worst laptop as well - get super hot, weighs a ton and despite pretending to be made of metal it bends enough for the touchpad to click when you pick it up. Also unreliable. Avoid the new Dells like the plague :--. Thinkpad keyboard is 100000x better.
 

Offline MrMobodies

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Re: Laptop Keyboard Tiny Keys
« Reply #6 on: April 22, 2021, 11:05:01 pm »
I have seen those keys (in the thinkpad picture) on a Sony laptop and found they were really shallow and uncomfortable.

I had a Toshiba Equium laptop given to me about 10 years ago where the keys were kind of squished a bit to make room for the media buttons on the left that I'd hardly ever use or need and I found I keep on pressing the wrongs keys due the positions I am use to.

It looked very much like this one:




It's good that they still have the pointer and buttons which is what I use but I prefer the keys from my W700 than being like that and so shallow.
« Last Edit: April 22, 2021, 11:11:19 pm by MrMobodies »
 

Offline bd139

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Re: Laptop Keyboard Tiny Keys
« Reply #7 on: April 23, 2021, 06:16:58 am »
Thinkpad ones have a lot of travel. The key tops are chiclet style though.
 

Offline Ranayna

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Re: Laptop Keyboard Tiny Keys
« Reply #8 on: April 23, 2021, 07:02:18 am »
The thinkpad keyboard may be of good quality.
But whatever moron decided to put the FN key in the lower left corner  :box:

I generally use my laptop stationary, and then i have an external keyboard connected.
When i am mobile, i rarely need to type long texts, the keyboard of my DELL Latitude 7400 serves well enough for that.
 

Offline bd139

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Re: Laptop Keyboard Tiny Keys
« Reply #9 on: April 23, 2021, 07:03:08 am »
There's a BIOS option to swap Fn with Ctrl if you want  :-+

The rationale is that it's easier to press the offset ctrl with your thumb if it's slightly further to the right.
 

Offline Ranayna

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Re: Laptop Keyboard Tiny Keys
« Reply #10 on: April 23, 2021, 09:14:41 am »
I have not used a thinkpad in ages, but that FN key placement apparently has traumatized me :p
I would not even think about hitting crtl with my thumb though. I always use my my pinky for left crtl and shift, but i have to admit that i never learned to properly type. My thumbs are always on the spacebar.

But good to know that there is a setting for swapping the keys.
 
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Online gnuarm

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Re: Laptop Keyboard Tiny Keys
« Reply #11 on: April 23, 2021, 02:34:03 pm »
I think it was two laptops ago when I would rest my thumb on the touch pad buttons working them while moving the index finger as the mouse.  Then on a Lenovo they combined the touch pad with the buttons making that impossible to do.  I could not get used to using the touch pad with the integrated buttons on top of the palm swipe being unmanageable so I had to turn off the touch pad to even use the durn laptop. 

That Lenovo had many, many issues.  When it finally succumbed to some illness I just let it go and never looked back.  The Dell from eBay is ok, but it is a high end unit, heavy and hot!  I actually use it in my lap most of the time so in the winter it's better than a cat, but in the summer I need an asbestos apron, seriously!  I actually looked for a lap top cooler that would work in my lap, but never found anything that was worth consideration. 

The heat problem might be partly due to dust, but I'm too chicken to start ripping it apart for a cleaning.
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Offline Tomorokoshi

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Re: Laptop Keyboard Tiny Keys
« Reply #12 on: April 23, 2021, 02:52:14 pm »
My old one was a Lenovo. It has a very natural feel. I don't get lost, although they did make some keys too small.

My new one is an HP Z Book. They keys are square with no sculpting. They copied the Apple design. No feel, no feedback, very little throw. Very easy to get lost. The Up and Down arrow keys are short and wide, making it very easy to hit the wrong key. No separate PrtSc key; it's activated by a Function combination. Home, Page Up, Page Down, and End are all in a column down the left side. It's very easy to hit one of those by mistake.

Part of what forced all these strange key positions is they added some extra projector and telephone keys for hipsters.
 
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Offline bd139

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Re: Laptop Keyboard Tiny Keys
« Reply #13 on: April 23, 2021, 03:44:31 pm »
I think it was two laptops ago when I would rest my thumb on the touch pad buttons working them while moving the index finger as the mouse.  Then on a Lenovo they combined the touch pad with the buttons making that impossible to do.  I could not get used to using the touch pad with the integrated buttons on top of the palm swipe being unmanageable so I had to turn off the touch pad to even use the durn laptop.

Yeah that was the T440 design which sucked. I've got a T440 here on the left and if you look closely you'll see it doesn't have that issue. I replaced the entire touchpad assembly in it with one from a T450 (along with other upgrades). Another joy of thinkpads is they are quite hackable if you want a custom build...



Main thing is that's 7 years of laptops and the design has barely changed into any form of minimalist wankery - they are always the same!

Missing is the Dell 5550 pictured below which has the WORST keyboard on any computer I've ever used. Touchpad is awful too. I hate that machine. It wasn't designed by anyone who actually uses a computer for anything useful.



This spends its entire time docked on a Dell thunderbolt dock with a proper keyboard, mouse and monitor plugged into it so I don't have to touch it or go near it  :-DD
« Last Edit: April 23, 2021, 03:49:32 pm by bd139 »
 

Offline SilverSolder

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Re: Laptop Keyboard Tiny Keys
« Reply #14 on: April 23, 2021, 04:07:45 pm »
Everything seems designed by n00bs, for n00bs these days.

We are entering a world where you are not supposed to actually type anything on your computer,  in addition to there being so much white space in web layouts that there is almost no information there anyway! 

Apparently, we are just meant to sit and admire a perfectly white-pixeled screen, contrasted for styling reasons with the suggestion of a gimped keyboard copied from Apple, and a similarly gimped touch pad the size of a football field with no buttons to distract the aesthetic experience!

Don't tell these losers that the perfectly white screen works great as a reading lamp...  or they'll find a way to gimp that too!




 
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Offline ebastler

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Re: Laptop Keyboard Tiny Keys
« Reply #15 on: April 23, 2021, 04:26:31 pm »
There's a BIOS option to swap Fn with Ctrl if you want  :-+

The rationale is that it's easier to press the offset ctrl with your thumb if it's slightly further to the right.

I used the remapped Ctrl/Fn keys when I had a Thinkpad a couple of years ago, but of course that confused others when they wanted to type on that machine. Couldn't Lenovo make these keys the same size so you can swap the keycaps too when you remap them?

And what is that argument about pressing Ctrl with your thumb? That key is on the far left of the keyboard! :scared: I am not a proper touch typist, but have always used my pinky to press the Ctrl key.
 

Offline bd139

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Re: Laptop Keyboard Tiny Keys
« Reply #16 on: April 23, 2021, 04:34:46 pm »
There's a BIOS option to swap Fn with Ctrl if you want  :-+

The rationale is that it's easier to press the offset ctrl with your thumb if it's slightly further to the right.

I used the remapped Ctrl/Fn keys when I had a Thinkpad a couple of years ago, but of course that confused others when they wanted to type on that machine. Couldn't Lenovo make these keys the same size so you can swap the keycaps too when you remap them?

And what is that argument about pressing Ctrl with your thumb? That key is on the far left of the keyboard! :scared: I am not a proper touch typist, but have always used my pinky to press the Ctrl key.

Thumb is a lot more accurate than that piece of shit straggly thing on the other end of your hand  :-DD

I may have an advantage though because I have excessively large hands so contortions like that are easily possible.
 

Offline Kleinstein

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Re: Laptop Keyboard Tiny Keys
« Reply #17 on: April 23, 2021, 04:36:23 pm »
Things went down-hill with labtops when they started to change the screen to 16:9. Suddenly a 15 inch screen was wider than the keyboard and they had space on both sides, though not enough to fit a numerical keypad.

For serious simulations I would still prefer a desktop computer: the laptops are often relatively weak on cooling and may throttle down after a minute or so. With the graphs it also helps to have a large sceen. A 17 inch laptop is also not really portable by todays standards, but still a tiny picture compared to a normal monitor.

The control key's are often a bit out of the normal way - don't have them on a regular type-writer. For me it is usually the other hand to operate the control key.
 

Offline SilverSolder

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Re: Laptop Keyboard Tiny Keys
« Reply #18 on: April 23, 2021, 05:13:36 pm »
Improperly designed keys are worse than small keys for sure.

The laptop I'm currently typing on has full sized keyboard (despite being a 10" UMPC, the keyboard frame bezel is just a few mm), but the keys are so badly made that the tactile feedback does not guarantee a reliable trigger or no double trigger. So I have to slam the keys hard to make sure it triggers reliably, once per strike.

OTOH, on a 7" UMPC where keys are very small, the keys are very reliable and actually after a few days of use I kinda got used to it.

Still, I'm on this 10" for most of the time, just because that 7" one uses a display designed for portrait and placed in landscape, so I have to rotate the display, and that means screen tearing on Xorg, and KiCAD (and a few other wxWidget tools) don't work well on Wayland.

Pretty tough to use KiCAD etc. on a 7" device, LOL!  :D
 

Online gnuarm

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Re: Laptop Keyboard Tiny Keys
« Reply #19 on: April 23, 2021, 05:15:56 pm »
The real problem with my laptop is the screen is too small.  I'd like it to be 60 inches so I can put it on the wall in front of me, but the wall isn't big enough for that with two doors in it.  So a 17" screen actually in my lap is the best I can do. 

I've noticed over the years as the screens get more pixels the print gets smaller.  I'm sure this has nothing to do with my eyes getting older  ;).  But I've wondered if that would extend to one of those really high def screens with over 3000 pixel width.  Do the icons and print continue to get smaller? 

I know you can adjust a scaling setting in Windows, but not every program respects that.  In fact, the ones most important to me don't change, like simulators and other tools.  So should I stick with 1920 pixels or might a higher resolution display work ok?  The added pixels won't do diddly for me.  I can't see the ones I've got!  Things that are one pixel wide often are near invisible.  KiCAD, I'm talking about YOU!   :box:
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Offline bd139

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Re: Laptop Keyboard Tiny Keys
« Reply #20 on: April 23, 2021, 05:33:19 pm »
I do kicad on my desktop with a 27” 4K monitor with 150% scaling. Works nicely  :-//

Extra pixels make one hell of a difference. You don’t notice it until you go back to a shitty monitor again.
 
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Offline SilverSolder

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Re: Laptop Keyboard Tiny Keys
« Reply #21 on: April 23, 2021, 06:06:55 pm »
I prefer a big screen for almost anything...  it acts like a big desktop...  and when it comes to desktops, engineers are often hard pressed!

For a particular project, you might need a PCB design application running, as well as a simulator, Excel, perhaps mechanical CAD,  a couple of open web pages with too much white space in them so they take up too much room, etc. etc. -  life gets very tiresome in a small monitor when you have to keep swapping apps instead of just having them open permanently on a yuuuuge monitor (or 2x or 3x yuuge monitors).

Look at financial traders: they also deal with high information density, and the rule in that industry is to put up 4 - 8 (or more) big monitors so the trader never has to waste time swapping an application in or out of view...
 


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