If you’ve ever read any of my ThinkPad reviews over the years, you’ll be well aware that I am, to put it mildly, a fan of the keyboards that they sport. I am therefore very relieved to say that despite the thin and light nature of the X300, the keyboard is every bit as good as I would expect from a ThinkPad. It’s hard to actually describe what makes ThinkPad keyboards so good, but believe me when I say that no other notebook manufacturer has managed to eclipse IBM, and now Lenovo when it comes to keyboard construction. Even though the chassis on the X300 is very thin, the keys still have an amazing amount of travel, while the lovely “clackety clack” noise that has always accompanied ThinkPad keyboards is still there, especially when you’re typing at speed. The keys themselves are also perfectly sized, with just the right amount of dishing, ensuring that your fingertips slide right to the centre for each strike.
It’s not just the action of the keys that Lenovo gets so right, the design is just as important. For as long as I can remember ThinkPads have sported seven row keyboards, meaning that fewer keys have to share functions, while keys like Home, Page Up and Page Down aren’t squeezed into bizarre positions as seen on many other notebooks. The cursor keys for instance are dropped slightly from the main keyboard, but Lenovo also goes to the trouble of making fingertip shaped cut-outs in the wrist rest directly below them, making it particularly simple to slide your fingers into place. You also get large Tab, Caps Lock, Shift, Return and Backspace keys, just the way I’d want them. The one and only thing that Lenovo can be criticised for is positioning the Fn key at the bottom left where the Ctrl key should be, but even this cardinal sin can’t change the fact that the keyboard on the X300 is an absolute joy to use.
Lenovo has done just as good a job with the pointing devices too. IBM invented the TrackPoint and in my opinion it’s a far better pointing device than the more common touchpad. The great thing about the TrackPoint is that you don’t have to move your hand away from the keyboard to use it, while you can also move your pointer right across the screen without having to reposition your finger, or have the sensitivity turned up sky high.
Although other manufacturers now use TrackPoints on their notebooks, none of them can compare to the original and best examples seen in ThinkPads. The actual TrackPoint, or nipple as some like to refer to it, has a soft and tactile feel, making it easy to manipulate with delicacy. The example on the X300 has a flat shape to it, but you can also get convex or concave versions, depending on which you feel most comfortable with. Below the Spacebar are three buttons which work in conjunction with the TrackPoint – the left and right buttons act just like left and right mouse buttons. The centre button is a scroll lock – when you press it, you can then use the TrackPoint to scroll through documents without having to go near the scroll bar.
Of course there are many out there who simply can’t get to grips with a TrackPoint, and for those (slightly misguided) users, Lenovo has also included a touchpad. Positioned directly below the TrackPoint buttons, the touchpad has a widescreen aspect ratio to match the screen, while the textured surface makes for very accurate pointing. There are two wide buttons below the touchpad, while the far right and bottom edges can be used for scrolling.