Small Detail. Big Difference
When driving a car, the steering wheel offers simple and instinctive control. But they also offer other advantages. They provide physical feedback sensations to the driver, letting them know how the car is interacting with the road. This interaction plays an incredible role to the overall customer experience and satisfaction of driving. In performance cars, the sensation is amplified and the best steering systems inspire the driver to push the car’s ability to the limit. Of course, not all implementations of steering are the same, some provide greater feedback than others, and they come in different shapes and sizes.
We can draw a similar parallel for notebook keyboards, which is why ThinkPad continues to be recognised as one of the leaders in keyboard design and critically, the feel and physical response when typing.
Notebook Thinness v Keyboard Comfort
Consumer demand for ever thinner and more importantly, lighter devices mean the days of the clunky but reassuring mechanical keyboards are in the past. Chiclet style keyboards are the modern equivalent that offer thinner designs, but often the thinnest can be “lifeless”. Customer experience and feedback has driven Lenovo to design the ThinkPad keyboards to exert a specific amount of back pressure and key travel. Going back to the steering wheel analogy, drivers want the wheel to exert pressure opposite to the direction of turn to offer insight into the car’s state: speed, grip, amount of turn. This feel generated to the user reassures the driver. The same applies to keyboards, where this back pressure and key travel makes for a more comfortable typing experience.
“Lift and Lock” Keyboard
When the ThinkPad X1 Yoga was launched in 2016, the engineers refined the “lift and lock” keyboard from the other ThinkPad Yoga models. An engineering feat in itself, a tray surrounding the keys lifted and locked into place when the lid was rotated through 360 degrees. This provided a comfortable flat surface to use the device in tablet mode and protected the keys from accidental damage.
Despite positive customer feedback about the implementation, Lenovo engineers felt the X1 Yoga keyboard mechanism could be further improved. So they went back to work.
“Rise and Fall” Keyboard
As a flagship product, the X1 Yoga needs to look like one and behave like one. The new keyboard design, known as “rise and fall”, recreated a sleek consumer-inspired look while providing all the benefits of locking keys.
How does it differ from the previous generation? The “Lift and Lock” method raised and lowered a tray surrounding the keys. This method needed keys with less key travel which resulted in reducing the feel when typing. The new method raises and lowers the keys themselves giving a sleeker look by eliminating the need for a tray. So how does it work in practice?
- When the screen is rotated 360 degrees into tablet mode, the keys fall so they are flat. This improves the hold experience in tablet mode and protects the keys.
- When the screen is returned to a classic clamshell position, the keys rise into a normal typing position.
- Continue closing the lid and once again the keys fall for protection in a lid-closed position. This new feature also has the benefit of protecting the screen from damage and any oil substance from the keys, which have oleophobic coatings anyway to minimize the amount of oil residue that causes wear and tear.
Anything that provides the user with a tactile interface, whether it’s a steering wheel, a touch-screen or a keyboard needs to give the user the confidence that the input they provide will correspond to exactly what they need. But they should also be designed to make the users interaction simpler and easier. Function buttons on steering wheels or multi-touch gestures on displays.
With ThinkPad, the current generation of precision keyboards are a direct result of years of engineering know-how and constant customer feedback. Our objective is to not only provide the best end-user experience but deliver long term performance and innovation.
For more information on the ThinkPad X1 Yoga and the rest of the X1 family, please visit http://www.lenovo.com/think