Monday, 28 October 2013

The stupidest trend in laptop design is...

... numpads on laptop keyboards.

Just because a very, very, very restricted segment of the population is into accounting or other jobs needing frequent numeric input, almost all laptop manufacturers feel the stupid urge to place a numpad on laptops with screens over 14''.

Reasons why a numpad on a laptop is a bad idea:
  • can lead to health issues: it forces the user to assume a bad position in front of the screen; this can affect the eyes and the backbone; It's bad enough many people have a bad posture in front of the computer as it is, no need to pump up Scoliosis' position in the laundry list of modern day health risks
The numpad forces eye focus and users' hands to be way off center.
The touchpad looks as if it was thrown to the side by accident
Note how the designer tried to offset the misalignment forced
by the numpad by "positioning" the touchpad closer to center,
but not in line with the space bar (and the keyboard)

  • ugly design: it simply looks ugly; why do people think Apple didn't jump into this stupid bandwagon? Because it's ugly design!
Without numpad the position is almost perfect!
The symmetry of the laptop improves on the design.
Notice how the touchpad is also centered.



  • the numpad is useless for the vast majority of people, and those who need numpads, already use them at desktop (keyboard) or, can buy numpads
  • it's more expensive to manufacture (more moving parts, more complex wiring and more expensive materials - plastic is cheaper than plastic+copper+rubber)
  • less resilient: more ways to fail, higher risk to get liquids inside
  • bad mechanical design: wider keyboard means less distance from the edge to the keyboard, which can mean a more fragile case
  • makes the laptop heavier: the plastic or material that covers the keys would be enough to cover the insides; the extra rubber, wiring, support etc, add extra weight
  • it kills the opportunity to use the real estate for other useful things (or things which improve the overall design): speakers, volume keys, finger print readers, other special function keys, LEDs or other output devices
What's worse is that most resellers do not have filters for this particular mis-feature, so you can't easily exclude laptops corrupted by this horrendous idea.

So, if you're a laptop designer, please stop putting numpads on laptops.

It will make for better looking laptops and you'll have the opportunity to be the one stating the obvious: numpads are generally useless! Even on desktop keyboards!

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

Numpad is usefull when you have a french keyboard where you have to always "maj" the numbers to type them. In fact the french keyboard is A problem.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, no. Numpads are the *second* stupidest trend in laptop design, and in any case one that only applies if you're buying >15" "laptops".

The stupidest trend in laptop design is eliminating mouse buttons in favor of clickpads. Even Lenovo are succumbing to this disease, dropping both the mouse buttons associated with the touchpad itself and the mouse buttons that worked with the ThinkPad trackpoint. Perhaps acceptable if you only wanted one mouse button; utterly unusable if you use three mouse buttons.

The former stupidest trend in laptop design was 1366x768 screens, but with the advent of Windows 8.1 that can handle high DPI screens, those of us running better operating systems that have always supported high DPI can finally get high-resolution screens, with 3200x1800 270+ DPI screens just around the corner.

Anonymous said...

Another issue with the numpad is that some people hold their laptop on their lap. With an off-center keyboard, the laptop is mis-balanced.

Talking about laptop design trends, I think that the 19:6 screen aspect ratio is the most stupid. Google's Chromebook Pixel might be my next laptop, just because of this.

Anonymous said...

I prefer paying my bills on the desktop computer because of the numpad, entering long number series is so much faster. But apart from that you are right, and I would every time choose a laptop without the numpad just because of the ugliness factor.

Jurgen said...

Just as a sidenote, if you're concerned about ergonomics, you'd be looking into a seperate keyboard and mouse in your backpack, and probably also a laptop stand and/or extra display in your office location.

But apart from that thought, your ideas resonate...

risca said...

I'm an accountant and having the numpad on the side was a huge improvement. When going to clients I don't have room to bring extra keyboards, so I have to relay just on the laptop on. Doing accounting with such a keyboard is 10 times faster...

Obviously I agree that the ones that work as accountant and similar are a minority.

Martin said...

Well, I would not buy a laptop larger than (more or less) an ISO A4 sheet anyway. I hope, the size constraint will impede any attempts of numpads.

Back in the good old days when working with a non-laptop, I bought myself a happy hacking keyboard. One of its advertised features was not to have numpad. I'm righthanded and used to use a mouse back than. A numpad makes it harder to change the right hand between keyboard and mouse. Not an issue in the post-mouse era.

Nathaniel Higgins said...

No, dropping mouse buttons is a good idea. The middle mouse button is ridiculous and should be replaced by gestures (see Macbook)

Anonymous said...

Slide-out numerical keypad. Or overlay a numerical keypad (already common) with a button to enable and disable, and a super bright red LED to indicate it's on.

Anonymous said...

The worst trend in laptop design is 16:9 aspect ratios, with horrid screen resolutions. I don't mind the 10-key on a laptop. I hate not having enough vertical resolution for anything remotely pragmatic.

Anonymous said...

it's not just for accounting silly.
anyone that needs to work with numbers will benefit from the pad.

personally i use it for games.

mgrahamjo said...

I don't have a numpad on my macbook, and have often wished I did. I use it on my PC all the time for entering credit card numbers, color hex codes, really any time I have to type a number longer than 3 digits. I can't stand chicken-pecking at horizontal numbers. And I don't buy the argument about needing to align the keyboard center with the line of site. I rarely look at my keyboard, and in some desk configurations have chosen to place a wireless keyboard way off to the side. An ideal solution for me would be to have ONLY a numpad for numbers, and turn the secondary characters on the horizontal numbers into primary characters (no shift required).

Chris N said...

Chiclet keyboards. Jesus christ, those things do my head in.

Oh, and laptops that fry your balls, laptops with Fn-lock, +1 for unusual resolution, flush trackpads, trackpads with a mind of their own...

I could go on forever. Long live the desktop, eh?

Anonymous said...

I find it horrible that many large laptops have ridiculously small keyboards. The best solution from an ergonomics point of view would be to have a split keyboard, maybe with a numpad in the middle.

Anonymous said...

Capslock and scrolllock are much worse than the numpad. They only exist to get hit by accident and mess up your password entry and general typing.

Anonymous said...

"I don't have a need for a numpad. Therefore it is stupid, except for the needs of those strange accountants". What an ego. I'm not an accountant and I hate laptops without a numpad. Same with half my family. Same with a good portion of my friend's family of seven. In fact, there are no accountants in sight and I could introduce you to a fair number of people who prefer to have a numpad on their laptop. We've been buying from the ThinkPad Edge series for the very reason of getting that numpad. Perhaps we're all negligible compared to your tremendous ego though. Presumably you think the likes of Lenovo are also stupid since they seem to believe there's a market for numpad-equipped laptops, or do you honestly think they only sell those models to accountants?

Anonymous said...

Right about Capslick and Scrollock

Anonymous said...

@NathanielHiggins; you have obviously never tried these three UI settings in combination, or you would not have said something so foolish:

Copy-on-Highlight
Focus-follows-mouse
Middle-Click-to-Paste

these 3 settings save me at least 5 minutes a day, every day.

44magpreacher said...

I like the numpad and agree the most stupid and irritating thing is the wide screen aspect. Would have to go to a 17 in laptop just to keep the same vertical size as my 6+ year old Dell. Going to keep using that antique as long as I can for that reason alone, even though it does not have a numbad.

eddyp said...

@anonymous saying this is about my ego: it seems to me you missed the objective reasons I gave and the balance issue a commenter also pointed out.

But your reply also gave the impression I am saying there should be no more laptops with numpads, which I don't. The problem is that there are almost no laptops with screens larger than 14' w/o numpads. You can have your numpadded keyboard all you like (for whatever unspecified reasons you might have), but can I have back my reasonable set of options of laptops that existed about 6 years ago?

Third, you also seem to think yourself and your circle of friends to be a representative sample of the population at large, which we neither are. Talk about irony and ego.

Don't worry, there's, sadly, almost 0 chance of me getting any reasonably sized set of option of non-scoliosis generating laptops that can be easily balanced on my lap anytime soon. I, for one, salute our new numpad overlords.

You might want to read the article before commenting.

caution: may contain humor or sarcasm

Anonymous said...

If you have a numpad on your desktop keyboard, your keyboard is probably already to the left of your centerline. It's the ergonomics most desktop users are used to. The left-offset touchpad is MUCH more comfortable for those used to mousing with the middle finger and left-clicking with the thumb - again, many PC users are used to this.

I use my numpad, but not frequently. What I absolutely cannot stand about symmetric laptop keyboards, however, is the inaccessibility of delete, home, and end. I use these buttons constantly - so much so that I always pry [insert] off my boards to prevent accidental presses.

eddyp said...

@last anonymous: I don't know about your keyboards, but the ones I use on desktops are not bolted to the desk or the monitor, so I tend to align them so the space between keys G and H is centered relative to the screen. So no, the keyboard on desktop is not way to the left at all.

Also most desktops don't have a touchpad, so I don't know how mousing with the middle finger and clicking with the thumb applies to desktop usage so people could be used to that. Maybe I didn't understood what you meant or you didn't made yourself clear enough.

Anonymous said...

By far and away the STUPIDEST design which seems to be afflicting ALL LAPTOPS that I can see, it the fact that the mouse is BELOW the keyboard, so you have absolutely no choice but to rest your palms on or near it. There is no such thing as "palm detection" it simply does not work. so many times I have seen entire paragraphs gone because of this feature. As an experienced user I use the keyboard far more than the mouse and frankly can do without the mouse most of the time. Surely a far more sensible position would be above the keyboard, so its not in the way of getting your real work done, but there if you need it, and cannot be accidentally activated. Other stupid things on mouse pads include "tapping" whereby a tap on the mouse pad is the same as a click - so when you are lifting your fingers on and off as you move around it starts clicking wildly. This and that other "hardware virus" which seems to be affecting an increasing number of laptops (sroll regions and "special" edge-of-pad areas) can only be designed to slow you down, so you spend more time correcting stupid-hardware-induced-mistakes as opposed to waiting for the machine and realising how goddamn slow it is.

Anonymous said...

This is a very stupid idea. Another one is the change from 16:10 to 16:9. The screens are wider and not as high. That means much more scrolling on web pages and text documents. It is because of 16:9 change laptops is wider and less deep that has given the laptop designers the extra room for this horrible numpad on laptops.

Anonymous said...

My words exactly. I don't understand why practically every manufactures follows this insane trend to put number pad on every 15 inch laptop!

The number pad not only makes the keyboard is off the center, but makes it cramped, forces unnatural position when typing, and doubles the distance from keyboard to external mouse.

Another thing: who the hell decided to halve the cursor keys in modern keyboards?

One of the most crucial features of a good laptop is a good keyboard. I'm quite unwilling to update my Dell Studio 15 bought '09, because every modern laptop has inferior keyboard.

Anonymous said...

Omg this is so fucking true... In order to differ from apple those idiots are ready to do the stupidest things - those numpuds and touchscreens in laptops is such an ugliness. Shame on Lenovo to follow this trend :(

Kasra Daneshvar said...

this number pad thing really does seem like an epidemic disease. Right now, my only acceptable option is a Dell XPS and it's twin M3800, or a Macbook Pro; which if I'm not looking for a Mac, leaves only two models. I guess there is about some millions of models out there, all for people who need a number pad. Who are these people?

Anonymous said...

I just got a lenovo y510p. I am a long time lenovo fan but it is absolute garbage for all the reasons the author mentioned, those swine removed the trackpoint and now all thats left is this worthless buttonless trackpad. I do a lot number work in excel and spss even so, I hate this god damn 10 key. Using the standard laptop number bar is just about as fast when you get acclimated to it. maybe its ok for a mac to not have mouse buttons, they didnt even more than one button until 2007, but with a windows machine it is absolutely unnaceptable. Im trying to do buisness on this machine and its an exercise in frustration.

Sparky Vastu said...

Great article. I had been searching the net high and low as well for a 15.6 without num pad. It sucks that laptop manufactures make all the assumptions they do. For those of you who stated that you would have to carry around a full sized keyboard with you, do you know that one can easily purchase a USB Num pad to attach to your laptop? I totally get why Accountant's and game players need to use the num pad. There just needs to be options with and without, something the laptop manufacture's won't do because they are more concerned about their bottom line than they are about we the consumers. :)

Anonymous said...

I agree it's stupid! I am constantly mistyping on the darn thing because I'm used to my keyboard and spacebar being centered with the screen.

Anonymous said...

Completely agree with your article. This is by far the most annoying trend. I agree with other commenters on certain other trends, but none have such an impact on usability as this.

It should be a matter of choice. The only segment unaffected by this trend is the high-end one. For example, my last two laptop purchases, 3 years ago and, respectively, 3 weeks ago were both xps 15 Dells. One of the main reasons for my choice, beyond the specs and build, was that these were the only 15" non-Apple non-numpad laptops I could find.

I thought I was the only one annoyed by this. Hopefully they will come to their senses and give consumers at least a few laptop models with uncluttered keyboards. Given the health issues you pointed out, theoretically, every model of notebook should come in two variants (with and without numpad), so that one may choose ones closest fit for keyboard and touchpad. This should be a regulated matter.

M.