Thinkpad Compact External Keyboard


A writer or coder human-machine melds with their keyboard.  My most valuable tool is my Thinkpad Compact Keyboard.  The typing experience is sublime.  It is thin and lightweight for travel.  Like all Thinkpad products, it is built for professionals – to a higher standard than typical consumer products.

Beyond keystroke perfection, this keyboard is an antidote to the common and debilitating stress injury called “mouse shoulder.”

It has no number pad – its BEST feature..

I formerly used a conventional keyboard with a number pad to the right of the letter keys.  As a right-hander, the number pad caused my mouse to be positioned far to the right of my body centerline.  I spent most of my day in the asymmetrical position pictured below:

This WILL cause stress injuries

Overtime, I developed the dreaded “mouse shoulder.”  This is a stress injury that is caused from the constant tension of holding your right arm off to the side while working.  With little warning, I developed chronic pain in my right shoulder blade.  It felt as if I had a small needle lodged in my back muscle.  I physically could not work.

To make a long story short, it took over 6 months for this injury to heal.  During that time my productivity suffered and I had to learn to work the mouse with my left hand.  Even If I let my right arm rest for a week, symptoms would return immediately upon resuming work.  The injury simply needed immense amounts of TIME to heal.

“Mouse shoulder” is devastating if you work on a computer for your livelihood.  This is why I so emphatically recommend a compact keyboard with no number pad.

Thinkpad Compact Keyboard 2
The mouse can now be as close as physically possible to your body’s centerline.


Peerless Typing Experience and Ergonomics

Thinkpad Compact Keyboard 1

Thinkpad computers are famous for having the best keyboards on the market.  This external keyboard is no exception.

The key travel and pressure are perfect.  The key faces are slightly dished to center your fingertips.  The typing sound is quiet, yet gives sufficient feedback.


Better than mechanical keyboards and Apple keyboards

Mechanical keyboards have a cult following among computer power users.  These have keys with mechanical switches that offer a long keystroke and satisfying tactile and auditory feedback.  I have used them extensively, but find the Thinkpad keyboard superior.

Apple keyboards are also excellent, but (in my humble opinion) fall short next to the the Thinkpad (especially on the latest MacBooks with the almost zero travel keys).


Flat Matters

Also critical is how flat the keyboard lays.  This allows your hands to operate in a relaxed position rather than arching up.  As shown below, the keyboard can lay flat or slightly angled.  I recommend flat.


What is the red dot?

Thinkpad keyboard trackpoint highlight-no watermark-2

If you aren’t a nerd, you may have been wondering, “What is that red dot in the middle of the keyboard?”  That, my friend, is the “trackpoint.”  It is a little rubber nub that you can steer with your fingertip to control the cursor.  Below it are left and right click buttons as well as a middle button that makes the trackpoint button scroll.

The biggest advantage to this mouse alternative is you can control the cursor without removing your hands from the keyboard.  The trackpoint has been a hallmark of Thinkpads for years.

While I rarely use it, I think it would add value if I developed the habit.  (Especially for being able to scroll while my hands remain on the keyboard.)  It has come in handy whenever I’ve had a mouse failure.

These kind of redundancies can save your ass when you are in a 3rd world country and you can’t easily just go out and buy a new mouse.


Ideal for digital nomads

Most travel items compromise features to reduce size and weight.  There are no compromises with this product.  I would use the exact same keyboard if I was in a stationary office.  There are no bulky keyboards that offer more quality.

As far as digital nomads go, No, a laptop is NOT all you need – if you are serious.

The first thing you learn when you try to get real work done on a laptop are:

  1. The limited screen space is claustrophobic and a hard limit on your productivity.
  2. Laptops are an ergonomic nightmare.  You are always looking down and WILL develop posture problems.

All of the serious remote workers I know use laptop stands, external keyboards, and often portable external monitors.  This keeps the screen at eye level, and your posture healthy.

Thingpad Digital Nomad workstation
This was my work setup in Thailand.



Thinkpad compact keyboard thin and light
Razor Thin, only weighs 14oz/397g (for USB version)


Choose USB or Bluetooth

Thinkpad offers this keyboard in either a USB or Wireless (Bluetooth) version.  They are identical externally.

I purchased the USB version for two reasons.  First, I wanted rock solid reliability and was afraid I might experience latency with Bluetooth.  Second, the USB is slightly lighter because it does not have an internal battery.

That being said, when I get back to the States, I will purchase a Bluetooth version and give it a try.  Bluetooth technology has gotten MUCH more reliable over the past several years.  I would definitely enjoy having one less cable to carry around.


Those Sexy Thinkpad Aesthetics

Thinkpad keyboard logo
I’ll take Thinkpad aesthetics over Apple ANY DAY.

Apple makes nice hardware, but I’ll take the stealth professional look over shiny aluminum all day, everyday.  (Plus, Apple products are theft magnets in every corner of the Earth.)

Like all gear I recommend, the Thinkpad Compact Keyboard offers great engineering, functionality, and aesthetics.  Check. Check. Check.

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