May 21, 2012

Lenovo ThinkPad X230 Tablet - Precision Keyboard Details

[updated June 21, 2012]

Gear: Lenovo ThinkPad X230T, Convertible Tablets, X230T Accessories List.

There are several changes on the X230T keyboard. Some positives and negatives.

Build Quality
If you thought that island/chiclet style keyboards were crappy, well you will be happy to know that the X230T's keyboard is very good. The keys feel solid.

I have owned a DV6T QE that has a island/chiclet style keyboard and the feedback is rather hideous. The X230T gives a very good feedback (ie the keys have some pressure, and they bounce back nicely).

Key Placement
Personally I detest having the Fn key on the lower left side of the keyboard, I would rather have the Ctrl key. Ctrl key all the way to the left makes a lot of sense in smaller keyboards (think about it). Of course, over time you will get used to the key placement, or you can swap the keys in the bios.

There are a few other changes, which I'm not going to go over because you can view them on the images below and on the close-up images that I recently took.

How to Swap Fn/Ctrl Keys:
  • Shut down Windows.
  • Turn on the system.
  • Wait for the ThinkPad screen, and then press F1.
    • This will launch the Bios configuration.
  • Go to "Config" tab. (use arrow keys)
  • Select "Keyboard/Mouse".
  • Enable "Fn and Ctrl Key swap".
  • Press Escape and go to the "Restart" tab.
  • Select Exit Saving Changes.

With the keys swapped you can have a more pleasant experience. BTW, you can also disable the touchpad under the "Config" tab.

Backlit Keyboard
With Fn+Spacebar we can control the backlit keyboard. There are 3 modes with this keyboard which are: off, brightness 1, brightness 2. In a very dark environment the 1st brightness level will be sufficient.

In my opinion the Touchpad is kind of useless when compared to the Trackpoint. With the Trackpoint in use and the Touchpad disabled the surface of the touchpad now becomes a palm rest. ;)

Hope that helps and gives you some ideas of what this system has to offer. Enjoy!

Note: I know the video felt rushed, but I don't have much spare time these days. Plus staying up late at night to make videos is taking a toll on me mentally. I'm very picky about trying to have decent audio and video, and night time is 'the time' to film.

[posted May 21, 2012]

The keyboard Lenovo placed in the W520 and X220T featured roomy keys and each press felt great. The X230T has a brand new keyboard that goes by the name of "Precision keyboard". The Precision keys look very different when compared to the previous keys, but it is a "Lenovo keyboard" that should be great for long typing sessions. BTW, a neat addition is backlit keys (yay!).

Lenovo mass produces keyboards (to minimize costs I presume) and since the X230T is still not out we must look at an existing system that has the same keyboard, and I'm talking about the ThinkPad X1.

Transcript from the video + images.
"ThinkPad is about continuously seeking perfection. I'm not talking about change for the sake of change, I'm talking about making it better. Better looking, easier to use, simpler, and of course more desirable.

X220T Keyboard

ThinkPad enjoys a rich heritage of typing excellence, it's the gold standard. When we make a change it's deeply considered, we must evaluate and study everything we do to ensure it's perfect.

The industry wide movement to island-style keys clearly makes sense, it simplifies and modernizes the design of any keyboard. The problem is, a lot of people overlook the human element. They don't think about how does a person actually type on it, they are just focused on what it looks like. This is the mistake that my team will never make.

Through a lot of effort, we optimized the design of the key shape for our excellent keyboard. There are three essential ingredients. First, a larger key-tap creates a bigger target for each key press. Secondly, a curved or dish shaped across the top of the keys allows users to align their fingers with the intended key, better alignment leads to better accuracy. Lastly, we maintained a smile shaped curve at the bottom of the key, this creates more space between the rows of the keys. We call this space the forgiveness zone. A larger forgiveness zone leads to less accidental typing of the adjacent keys.

Months of hands on studying and user research has lead to us having boxes of reference models. Just as a quick example, here's what we call full press model. One of the keys is shown in the down position, this allows us to asses the field of adjacent keys when a key is pressed. It's an essential tool that allows us to judge the comfort of different key shape concepts.

We also scrutinized the force feedback of the individual key press, that's an essential element for every ThinkPad keyboard. On the X1 the feel of the key press is as good, if not better, than any previous ThinkPad.

We have moved keys that predate the PC, like Sys Request to a layer that preserves the function but avoids visual complexity. Most people have no idea what these keys even do.

The X1 also introduces the ultimate in keyboard illumination. Progressive LED back lighting lets you keep working even in the dark.

The ThinkPad X1 keyboard story demonstrates, clearly, our pursuit of perfection. It's a job we are never satisfied with, it's never over, we are always looking for the best. I think the X1 is the best keyboard typing experience we have ever delivered."

One feature they did not mention in the video was the spill resistance. Lenovo has released a few images of the X220 laptop's bottom, and there are drain holes. We can stipulate that the X230T will also be spill resistant, just like the X220T was.

Laptop Magazine's X1 review states that it is "the best laptop keyboard we've ever tested".

X230T launch in June!


Backlit keys are off.

Backlit keys are on, press (Fn+Spacebar) to switch among modes: low, high, and off.



  1. Jesse, here is the question - does the screen wobble as you type on the keyboard.
    As I saw at the videos - your base desk or table (that white stand - I don't know) is not hard fixed and there are some kind of shake persist. And I can't understand - does screen wobbling or not? Does screen has good fixation?

    P.S. sorry for my bad english ;)

    1. The table I use is a wobbly piece of junk. It was like $5 and I get what I paid for.

      While typing the hinge and screen do not wobble drastically. Because of the design, the X230T's hinge is not as rock solid as normal laptops, so there is a tiny bit of wobbling. The wobbling is nothing to be deeply concerned about. Of course, in a few years the hinge will have been used many times and therefore the wobbling will increase. (it happens to all systems and it is normal)

      P.S. Your English is good. ;)

    2. More info on the wobbling.

  2. Thanks a tonne Jesse. The fn / ctrl key swap was driving me mad!! Am sane again! I thinnk ;-)

  3. Hey Jesse,

    Do you ever try to remove the keys from the keyboard in order to clean it? If so, what is the proper way to do it? Thanks!

    1. I would not recommend removing keys for cleanup, as it's a hassle and a waste of time. Just using an air duster once a week should keep the keys clean enough.

  4. Hi Jesse,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to create videos, compile information, and provide reviews!

    I just received a new x230t from Lenovo and I'm hoping that you might know how to "re-map" the 'page up' and 'page down' keys so that they perform the 'back page' and 'forward page' functions found on the old IBM/Lenovo keyboards? I can't seem to find whether or not Lenovo included this as an option and I'm struggling without those functions (been using the keys for about a decade....old habits die hard).


    1. Use AutoHotkey with a script.

    2. Thanks for the quick response! I had seen AutoHotKey mentioned for disabling keys; don't know why I didn't think to check if it could also re-map. Much appreciated!

  5. I can't seem to get the backlight feature to work on my new x230 tablet. The light icon is on the spacebar but Fn + Space does not activate the light and the screen shows a light with slash through indicating light off. Is there a setting I need to adjust??

    1. Update drivers and the feature should begin working. There is also the possibility that you have a X230T that does NOT have backlit keys.

  6. Hello Jesse
    Thanks very much for all your videos and information, it really is helpful, likewise I am having a problem with the X230T in turning on the keyboard backlight feature, pressing the FN+Spacebar together simply shows the icon with a slash, but does not turn on the back light. Can you please assist. Many thanks - Ian

    1. Update drivers and the feature should begin working. There is also the possibility that you have a X230T that does NOT have backlit keys.

    2. Hello Jesse

      Thanks very much, the touchpad is now fixed, by installing the new drivers, much appreciated.
      Kind regards

  7. Hi Jesse,
    I've just bought my lenovo x230t last three weeks. I found there are problems with my keyboard keypress, for example my keyboard PgUp button perform as delete and PgDn button perform as insert button, etc. if i look at your page, your keyboard has different keyboard layout with mine. Mine is exactly the same with the following link:


    I have tried to update the driver from lenovo website (lenovo x230t type 3434), but it still doesn't work :( . Can you help me how to solve this problem?
    Thank you in advanced for your kindness help.


    1. I would recommend that you download AutoHotKey and write a script so the keys perform what you desire. Some links:

    2. Hi Jesse,
      Thank you for your recommendation. I'll try it on my x230t.


  8. I have purchased a brand new x230 and the keys have stopped working. The think pad allows me to move the cursor on the screen but I can not click on anything. Do you have any ideas on how to fix. Thanks!!

    1. You could buy the parts and replace them. If you lack experience with repairs then you could send it to Lenovo for repairs.