When I looked at the original Libretto I remember thinking that the keys were just too small to type on comfortably. In fact I vividly recall comparing the Libretto keyboard to the one on my Psion Series 5 PDA and coming to the conclusion that Psion had squeezed a far better keyboard into a much smaller device. To be fair though, Psion didn’t have to also squeeze in things like a hard disk, colour screen, proper CPU or memory, but the fact remained that typing on my Series 5 was easier than typing on the Libretto.
I had assumed that when Toshiba resurrected the Libretto, updating the keyboard would be paramount, but unfortunately it feels much like the one I used all those years ago. Putting it simply, the keys are just too small to type on. Now, anyone who reads my notebook reviews regularly will be aware that I usually don’t have a problem with small keyboards, since I have pretty small hands. However, the keys on the Libretto are too small even for me to type on. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not impossible to type on the Libretto, but you’re not going to be typing very fast. No matter how carefully I positioned my fingers, as soon as I tried to raise my typing rate to a respectable speed, I started miss-spelling pretty much every other word.
Unfortunately, the keyboard seems to be a victim of dimensions – in an effort to make the Libretto as small as possible, Toshiba has made it almost unusable as a mobile computer. The chassis would only have needed to be extended by a couple of centimetres to make all the difference. Making the device 2cm wider would have allowed the keys to be that little bit larger, since there’s already plenty of space in front of the keys that could have been utilised. In fact, if Toshiba had stuck to the original Libretto’s trackpoint placement, there would have been even more room for larger keys. You see the original Libretto had the trackpoint mounted in the lid, next to the screen, while the selector buttons were on the back of the lid – the new Libretto has the trackpoint and buttons located below the keys, like a traditional notebook, despite the fact that there’s plenty of space next to the screen.