Most netbooks come with a 10 inch screen, which also means that the keyboard panel, which has to fit the display perfectly, will have to be cramped in a rather tiny space. Don’t let spec sheets or marketing stunts fool you, as most keyboards are not “comfy” and the 93% or 95% of Full-Size ratio doesn’t necessarily mean that the keys will be larger than half a coin.
If the hardware on most netbooks is identical no matter the manufacturer, the keyboard is one of the elements that can greatly separate a 10 incher from being mediocre to being great…or the other way around. So what makes a netbook keyboard great? Well, whatever makes a normal keyboard great as well.
First of, you need a design that takes advantage of the entire space made available. A netbook keyboard can never be big enough, so it’s important for the keys to be large enough to be pressed by anyone without a problem, even by users with larger fingers. This has a direct connection that fact that there should be enough space between keys if they are smaller. If you miss a key because it’s too small, you should have enough space outside it and not hit its neighbor by mistake.
Good keyboards also have silent keys with just enough travel, and don’t flex in excess. Noisy keyboards are annoying both for you and the ones around you and if they flex, there’s the chance they’ll break at a certain point. A keyboard, just like the lid or the bottom of a netbook, has to feel solid and classy, and just a couple of netbooks get it right. Most keyboards are pretty mediocre, made out of plastic, and fail to implement the chiclet standard.
Design is also quite important- many keyboards don’t fit the overall design of the netbook and it’s clear that the keyboard used on other generations was simply recycled and put on top of a new design. We had to deal with many (dare I say all) netbooks over the last couple of years and we’ll try to recommend you those that have outstanding keyboards in our opinion.
The Sony Vaio M has a non chiclet keyboard, which is kind of a rarity on this series. Keys are rather big and quiet and there’s enough space between to avoid typos. Essential keys like Shift and Ctrl and big, which is a rarity on a netbook.
The HP Mini 5103 is a business 10 inch netbook and this also reflects in the keyboard. The keys are flat and very quiet, something in the vein of the one found on Apple’s laptops. The keys have a rubbery finish which makes typing a breeze, although the Space bar is a little loud in comparison with the rest of the keys.
The Samsung NF210 keeps the good tradition of the company’s keyboard quality standards. You get an island like type of keyboard with great keys that have almost no flex and are very quiet. Also, the keys are quite large (or feel like it) even if the space allotted to the keyboard is quite small.
Samsung also hits the mark with the NC110, which has a very good keyboard as well. Keys are positioned far from each other, so typos are kind of out the question, while the actual buttons have a comfy feel, are very responsive and are quiet. Again, it feels like a keyboard built on the blueprints of a MacBook, and in a very accomplished way.
The 1018P comes with a very generous keyboard in terms of size. The 92% keyboard has big keys and enough space between keys, so typos shouldn’t be too much of a problem. The actual keys are flat and square like, similar to the ones on Samsung 9 Series laptops, and have almost no flex to them.
Another Asus entry with a good keyboard is the 1015PX. It has a similar keyboard to the one on the 1018P, with flat keys decently separated, so typos shouldn’t be a problem. At a first glance, the keys seem pretty small, but they’re actually very comfy to use and the rubbery buttons and your fingers are definitely in for a romance.
The HP Mini 210 comes with a business style keyboard we’ve seen on previous HP netbooks, namely the Mini 5103. You get a keyboard spanning the entire width of the base, with keys covered in a rubber coating which have great travel. Keys are properly spaced and the setup doesn’t feel cramped like the one on so many netbooks.
Of course, you’ll have to live with HP’s uncanny Function key setup, meaning the F keys offer direct access to supplementary functions like wireless, volume control and more.
Now, all these recommendations are based on our personal touch. You should follow the links towards the reviews on most of the products listed above to find more about the keyboards, and about those devices in general.
Bottom point though, If you’re like us an do a lot of typing on your 10 inch laptop, a good keyboard is a must have. And the ones listed above are simply the best you can find in stores.