I Hate this Keyboard!

March 18, 2008 by in hardware, Max PC, The Pit Blog

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The word “performance” usually means CPU, memory, disk, or video performance to most people. That’s usually what I mean by it too. But after several months of experience with one particular notebook, I’ve found a component that has destroyed performance more than any other: the keyboard.


When PC Pitstop did a bloatware survey last year, we had several notebook PCs that we couldn’t return. I took one of them, the Toshiba Satellite A135, to use as a Windows Vista test system. Initially, I tried leaving all the preinstalled crapware on the system to see how it would perform. After a few weeks of that, I couldn’t stand it anymore. At least the crapware situation can be fixed, though, unlike the keyboard.

I hate this keyboard.

Take a look at the pictures of this notebook. On the left side, next to the keyboard, are five bar-shaped buttons. One is the power button; the other four are media player buttons. You can launch Windows Media Player with a single dedicated button click! You can play, pause, stop, or skip songs! Throw away your IPods, lads and lasses, and put the Toshiba Satellite A135 in your pocket!

Toshiba Left

Somewhere inside Toshiba headquarters, a hardware designer was thinking, “What users really want is four buttons to the left of the keyboard that control the media player. Let’s put lots of space between those little buttons too, so they take up a lot of room and we can put hieroglyphic labels above them.” Never mind that Toshiba also ships crapware that runs and provides on-screen controls for that. No, Toshiba must have done some expensive market research that concluded users were rioting in the streets for those dedicated buttons.


Wide-screen notebooks offer an opportunity for a keyboard with normal key spacing. Toshiba decided that a scrunched-up keyboard was just fine. But hey, anyone can shrink keys to a tiny size and make them hard to press. Toshiba engineering kicked it up a notch and decided that the typical PC key layout needed some of the same attention they paid to designing media player controls. The Delete key is usually in the upper-right corner, but Toshiba moved it to the bottom right, near the space bar. To balance out the stupidity, they moved the tilde key to the bottom-left side of the space bar.

Toshiba Right

To compound the craziness, Toshiba decided to put the context menu key in the coveted spot vacated by Delete. Half of you are probably thinking, “Context menu key? What’s that?” It’s the key most keyboards have that will open the right-click menu when you press it, and it usually has a picture of a cursor and a menu on it. You can get the same functionality by pressing Shift-F10–or of course, by right-clicking. To keep the context menu key company, they squeezed the Windows key just to the left. I am totally mystified by this choice. On most full-sized keyboards the Windows and context menu keys are next to the space bar, but Toshiba swapped them for the Insert and Delete keys? What were they thinking?


I am a touch typist, so keyboard layouts make a huge difference in how quickly I can get my work done. Most of the time, I work on PCs with reasonable keyboard layouts. This makes the Toshiba Satellite A135 even more of a challenge to use. Every once in a while I need to use the Delete key. Reflexes send my hand up to the upper right, only to be foiled when a right-click menu appears on the screen. I also find myself pressing the hard plastic area just to the left of the stubby tab key, just above the all-important media player launch button.


I hate this keyboard. Oh, did I mention that already?


Oh, and I typed this on my old Gateway portable computer. It only has 384MB of RAM so it doesn’t run XP all that quickly, but the keyboard is a dream. Darn, I really miss those Toshiba media player buttons. NOT.

90 Responses to I Hate this Keyboard!

  1. Chris Storer says:

    I have this laptop now and I want to replace this keyboard with a modern, functional layout. I don't know where to find one.


  2. Connor says:

    While I don’t have a Toshiba anything, my Acer still gives me grief. Usually, whenever I’m typing up something long, my palms touch the touchpad (which ought to disable when typing) and *POOF* I’m typing somewhere else entirely, fouling up my whole document. There must be a better way. I’ve tried using the touchpad disable key, but guess where Acer put that? Right. Next. To. The. Start. Button. So if I misaim, I blow my whole computer sky high.

    Sigh.


  3. LK says:

    My letters rubbed off my Toshiba Satellite keyboard in less than 5 months also.What can I do?


  4. LA says:

    Oh – and I forgot to mention – this happens especially often, if you touch the touchpad WHATSOEVER.


  5. LA says:

    I hate the Toshiba so much. What I hate about it (which I think is related to the keyboard) is this: very often, it spontaneously, with no apparent connection to what you are doing on the keyboard, changes “pages” (flicks over to a page forward, if any, or back). So, it just did that, and ended up wiping out a long email I was writing, which I will have to start completely over. I HATE IT!!!! I will not buy this model again.


  6. joe says:

    I have a problem with my toshiba satellite a-135. soon after re-start a beeping sound never stop, only by cliking on Esc this thing stop. after that the password is already been field with a bunch of dots. also the S letter is not working at all.
    What can i do to fix this problem.


  7. ziggy says:

    I would like to SHOOT THAT PERSON RESPONSIBLE FOR PUTTING THE FN KEY TO FAR LEFT. PERIOD.


  8. admin_papa says:

    Good Day

    Just wanted to share my new experience.

    If your Windows XP fails to run due to an error corresponding to lost HAL.DLL, invalid Boot.ini or any other critical system boot files you can fix this by using the XP installation CD. Simply boot from your XP Setup CD and enter the Recovery Console. Then run “attrib -H -R -S” on the C:Boot.ini file and delete it. Run “Bootcfg /Rebuild” and then Fixboot

    Regards,
    Carl


  9. Amy says:

    I am the proud owner of another Toshiba Satellite laptop with a krazy keyboard. No matter what I am doing, whether I’m typing in Word or another other application or even just moving around with the touchpad, my cursor will randomly jump around whatever window I’m in or even open new windows – it’s particularly fond of spawning multiple IE instances one on top of another or hiding my current email message window behind everything else. ARGHHHH. Very frustrating. And it is a shame because it’s the only thing that keeps this laptop from being GREAT.


  10. Karen says:

    Oh – I forgot to say that I LOVE the volume thumbwheel!!


  11. Karen says:

    I have an A105 notebook and really like it. Have not had any trouble and have lugged it all over the place. It is my primary computer. I have a wireless keyboard for use at home but usually don’t use it.


  12. Kathy L. Dean says:

    Oh, this is so funny! I did not read through all postings, so this may have been covered. I have an “old” Toshiba Satellite 1955-S803. I still use it on trips; sometimes! I always have a keyboard and mouse plugged into it since the IR has never worked correctly. I bought a “Service Policy” that was USELESS. It would have cost me more to mail and repair the damned thing than go out and buy a new laptop.

    The keyboard is “removable” as is the added mouse. Neither ever worked. I should reword that. If you pressed down really hard on a certain spot while the keyboard was locked into position, it would sometimes work. But, it would only work for about 30 seconds, so you had to type really fast.

    The only good thing I can say about the Toshiba laptop, was it was a workhorse. I stayed in a trailer when my house was being built, and I had a printer, fax machine, mouse, keyboard, extra modem, and heaven knows what else plugged into it with a USB extender. Well, two, four port USB extenders. And the Toshiba never blew up!!!

    I used it for my MS Roads and Trips for awhile, but now I have a Prius that has a navigation system. Poor Toshiba laptop! Gawd, it’s annoying…Kathy in Williams Oregon


  13. Bryan says:

    I’ve had my Toshiba for a little over a year now. I agree that the keyboard sucks…
    That is, it sucks until you use it for 3 days and figure out where all the keys are. Then there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the keyboard. Heck, they even put the ~ key in easy reach next to the space bar — that makes signing my wiki comments easier! (~~~~ adds a sig/date)

    Every time I start using a new keyboard it feels weird at first. And then you use it and you get over it. Dave, if you don’t like your computer that much I’ll be glad to take it off your hands :) I absolutely love my Toshiba.

    (PS: You forgot about the best part of the whole computer: the little thumb wheelie for volume. Now I don’t have to take my hand off the keyboard when an awesome song comes up!)


  14. Christopher Tracy says:

    I’m suprised that anyone would buy a Toshiba product in the first place – even for testing.


  15. John says:

    What a bunch of whinging bunnies a lot of you are.

    I use a wide range of different desktp computers and laptops with many different keyboards and 99% of the time, generally without problem. Yes I’ve had a couple of desktop keyboards die, but one was after coffee was spilt all over it! The other was an ancient H.P keyboard – very ancient.

    Both my wife and I have owned Toshiba Satellites A30s (Pentium IVs with XP Home) for about 3 years and cannot sing their praises highly enough – they’re great. Far superior to anything else out there – H.P., Dell, Acer, Sony, IBM etc. The build quality, performance and support are second to none – better than most.

    If you don’t like what you bought, you obviously didn’t do enough research first. Caveat Emptor – buyer beware, you can only blame yourselves.


  16. Jack says:

    I too have a Toshiba laptop and it is used everyday. It it is a Tecra A8. I have had it for about a year now and in that year the paint has started to wear away and the screen is falling down. Most laptop should not do this after a year. I am very disapointed with Toshiba. This laptop is not worth the $3000 I paid for it. Toshiba pick up you act!!!


  17. Chris says:

    It’s still a lot better than the Gateway keyboard. In Gateway’s infinite wisdom, they placed the Fn key right next to the Ctrl key. If you do a lot of ctrl-c, ctrl-v, etc., you are constantly hitting the wrong keys.


  18. Colin says:

    I am another one who was unfortunate enough to buy a Toshiba laptop. The layout of the keyboard was the least of my problems. Mine was an A60 and I rue the day I bought it. It overheated even when doing nothing, and the battery would only last longer than 20 mins if the thing brightness was way down low, in which case it was impossible to see anything unless it was a dark room. How can Toshiba get away with making such junk???


  19. bruce says:

    stay away from hp and dell.they are usless junk.buy an alienware or go to systemax.com and help support made in the u.s.a. my computer from there came with a 3 year warranty and is manufactured in the u.s.a.and the customer support is amazing.


  20. bruce says:

    i’d never buy a cheap computer.i have an Alienware for my laptop.beat that.and i have a logitech G15 keyboard as my choice for my desktop.even though it’s primarly for gaming,it works great for many applications with the Gkeys.you’ll need to record them to the specific key,but it’s great.


  21. Pat says:

    I LOVE my keyboard – on a HP Pavilion laptop wide screen – they used the extra space to put a number pad, so the whole thing is like a normal keyboard – THE reason I bought that particular laptop.

    My boyfriend has the other solution. He bought a wireless keyboard and mouse, and uses that with his laptop. Can set the laptop, keyboard (normal size and style), and mouse ANYwhere he wants.

    Hey, we both love our laptops and keyboards!!!!!!!


  22. Scott says:

    As with all things of manufacture, not all product is created equal. Have been using a Toshiba A205 for over a year and have had LESS problems than my previous daily driver made by DELL. Who ever buys anything without test driving it to make the dash is user friendly is NUTS. Once a product is in use, it is entirely up the the user to maintain and get used to its maintenance requirements. PC Pitstop is must for that service.


  23. Jim says:

    Well, I am an old timer. I still plug in my Northgate Ultra keyboard (circa 1984) and can type like h— (I learned touch typing in high school). A weird layout but it sure beats any of the keyboards on the market in the last 10 years or so. It types like an IBM Selectric typewriter (the one with the ball). I also use two IBM keyboards on other machines. If you can find one of these, get it. You will never go back to a crappy made in Asia keyboard, laptop or desktop.


  24. Blah8 says:

    Pfft. This keyboard is pretty bad, yes, but at at least feel lucky that it has a full-size right Shift button. The HP dv9500 laptop I’m using now has one the size of a normal alphabet button and it drives me crazy. Not only do I have to squish my hand together to type a question mark, but it’s flush against the “Up Arrow” key, so I frequently (twice already while typing this message)accidentally hit that and end up typing either a line above where I want to, or I end up hitting both the Shift and the R. Arrow key so it highlights (and subsequently overwrites) the last line and a half of text. All of the buttons mentioned in this article are ones that I use such that I move outside of my neutral typing form to hit them – in other words, it’s easier to adjust to them, rather than adjusting to a key that is within the normal hand movements of typing, if you get what I’m saying.


  25. Richard says:

    I have owned 3 toshiba laptops from 1996 and ALL of them had the delite key in the same place. I now have another a laptop with the delite in the upper right corner and am still looking for it, down by the space bar. As for the touchpad, yes, if you toch it while typing it will affect where the typing will show up on the page. On my Toshibas they didn’t have a touchpad. For me I would perfer NOT having a touchpad. It does take time to remember where the keys are. Remember practice makes perfict.


  26. foozlesprite says:

    Oh and to anybody that has keyboard problems that can’t be fixed immediately, you have at least one other option besides a USB keyboard…use the on-screen keyboard under accessibility options. My fiance spilled some water on my laptop and I had to use it for a while. Cheers!


  27. foozlesprite says:

    I have an older Toshiba laptop that also has the buttons and the different keyboard layout. I hated the media buttons and also installed all the bloatware as you did, but the smaller keyboard and different configuration actually turned out to be a boon for me. I have small hands so it helped me type better, and having the tilde key in an unusual place allowed me to set it as autorun while playing Everquest II. Don’t ask how I played Everquest II with a 1.6 megahertz Celeron M, it was pretty painful…but it was a handy place for a shortcut key like that :)


  28. Gregg L Buker says:

    Have had this P205 for a couple of weeks now and love it. This is my first Toshiba and is loaded to the gills. Touch typing no prob. Hitting the touch pad while typing turn it off. A couple of keys are in a different spot then on my Dell but so what doesn’t take a rocket scientist to re-adjust your habits to the new keys. Liked my Dell, liked my Hp. Guess what like this Toshiba too.


  29. Stephen Lee says:

    At least that keyboard has a tiny CAPS LOCK key. As I keep hitting mine by mistake when trying to hit the usually smaller SHIFT key the first thing I do with most keyboards is prise off the CAPS LOCK key so that as I look up to the screen I no longer discover my ammendment to War and peace is not all in reverse capitalisation.


  30. Chace says:

    I also own a toshiba satellite, though it is an ultraportable. The key, however, have the same layout as you describe. I am also a tough typist and feel your pain. It’s not bad once you get used to it though, had this one for about a year.


  31. Keith Elms says:

    Hate Toshiba and the keyboard/layout !!! It has repeatedly earned its nickname of TOSH*TA, THE CRAPPY LAPPY.
    - To Jann Kinzinger, join the club ref the A70. In my quest for speed I too bought an A70 3 years ago. I have never been more disappointed. The A70 is a better vacuum cleaner with the cooling air intake underneath the computer – stupid design(ers). This is most certainly the cause of your overheat problems and blue screen/shutdown. I blow high pressure air thru my air intakes to clean the filters on a monthly basis and this seems to have stopped these problems although it may not be too good for the fan bearings but obviously does not help the keyboard issue. The paint has worn off my ‘A’ key but that is about all !!
    Although warranty support does seem good I note with dismay & frustration that Toshiba has never provided any BIOS updates or Vista support for this model !!!
    HP will certainly be my next model as soon as I can justify the expense !!!
    Goodbye TOSH*TA, THE CRAPPY LAPPY.


  32. Jeff Bond says:

    Ones keyboard has worn out three times in just under two years (Toshiba sat 313 m series) they are simply not up to the task due to the printing of the letters on the keys so they rub off in under five months , Jolly bad show toshiba


  33. Alice Crayford says:

    This article is interesting, but as I just bought a Toshiba laptop, I was wondering about removing the bloatware. What is safe to remove and what do I need to leave in. Seems to take up a lot of space. I too, am having trouble with the keyboard, but mine in half french and half english, which just added to the problems. It is an A210 model.


  34. ira m trager says:

    ironically i own a 135-4427. yes the keyboard is strange and it does have those odd keys on the far left that i never use. i have had no problems and i love it. the only real problem i have is with vista and system resources. currently i am running just ie7 and 75%of my physical memory is being used. in my opinion and many others besides me since vista is such a hog with resources 2gb of ram should be the minimum. i have just gotten sp1 without crashing and if there is a performance enhancement i must be missing it.


  35. Chuck R. says:

    I also am very disapointed with my Toshiba Satellite. I bought the 17″ model to get the 10 numeric pad. I enter a lot of numeric data daily and use it as my main computer when on the road. BUT the 10 key pad is my number 1 headache. There is no recess area below the zero key as there is below the space bar. Since I and most touch typist use the thumb to depress the zero, this raise area prevent my depressing the zero. Thus I miss the zero 90% of the time even with the keyboard elevated at the back. Number 2 is the skate mouse area. The palms do once in a while touch it and zowie you are some where else typing away. The corner sweet spots are a mess. I would like to be able to switch them off and use only the mouse function. I do switch off the skate mouse function when typing, a real problem when filling out forms though. I too am very disapointed in this lap top, since I could have purchased twice the box at half the price for a desktop. Toshiba seems to be following Microsoft in throwing it out there….. don’t test it….. they will buy it anyway. Toshiba isn’t the only game in town, and I won’t be playing in there ball park next time.


  36. Cajun says:

    Thanks for the info…I’ll avoid Toshiba products since they live on another planet..


  37. Omar Abdel Haleem says:

    Hey, it’s not that bad. The keyboard works great for me; yes, it takes a couple weeks to get used to the changes, but after that it’s smooth. Be flexible, relax.

    On another note, my Satellite A135-S4527 is not so good on Vista, so I’ve gotten rid of that and switched to Ubuntu for my O/S. This has increased the performance to scintillating levels.

    If there’s anything I would complain about, it’s that Windows is miserable and open source, especially Ubuntu, is the way to go.


  38. Chantal Wills says:

    Our A-135 is great with a wireless-keyboard. Whoever designed the layout has never, ever used a Laptop before; Or they are a Sadist!


  39. Hardedge says:

    I have been using a Toshiba Satellite P200-123 for six months – it was a desktop replacement for an ancient Evesham PC. I have no problems with the keyboard, the layout is clear and the keys themselves positive in their action. Neither is the touch-pad any problem (although I generally use a wireless optical mouse). All in all a fine machine – much better than my previous desk-top PC.


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