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TrackPoint, pointing stick, and UltraNav keyboards

A common question asked by ThinkPad and keyboard fans alike is "what first-party TrackPoint keyboards are out there?" To tackle this, I've put together a list of all the major IBM and family TrackPoint, non-TrackPoint pointing stick and UltraNav keyboards, noting their features and giving a brief description. A succinct comparison of the possible pointing devices is also given near the start. Only keyboards that have PS/2, USB or Bluetooth connectivity are listed - tablet keyboards with proprietary connections or the infrared-based SK-8807 are presently excluded.

Contents

Symbols key

This topic uses several symbols intended to help provide key information and specifications at a glance. See below to find out what each symbol means.

Symbol
Meaning
Symbol
Meaning
This keyboard can feature a TrackPoint II pointing stick.
This keyboard can feature a TrackPoint IV pointing stick.
This keyboard can feature a Lexmark-Unicomp FSR stick.
This keyboard can feature a Synaptics TouchStyk stick.
This keyboard can feature an Optical TrackPoint pointing stick.
This keyboard uses medium-travel* buckling rubber sleeve quiet and tactile key-switches.
This keyboard uses full-travel* buckling spring clicky key-switches.
This keyboard uses full-travel* rubber dome quiet and tactile key-switches.
This keyboard uses low-travel* scissor-stabilised rubber dome (scissor-switch) quiet and tactile key-switches.
This keyboard is either exclusively available with PS/2 connectivity or has PS/2 as an option.
This keyboard is either exclusively available with USB connectivity or has USB as an option.
This keyboard is either exclusively available with Bluetooth connectivity or has Bluetooth as an option.
This keyboard has 2.4GHz wireless connectivity as an option.
This keyboard has a pass-through port for a PS/2 mouse.
This keyboard has an integrated two-port USB hub.
This keyboard has an Fn key in the bottom-left corner of the keyboard, and it may not be possible to swap Fn and Ctrl around.

*Key-travel ratings are approximate; I'm considering low-travel to be less than 2.5mm of full key-switch travel, medium-travel about 3mm, and full-travel more than 3.5mm.

Pointing stick comparison

These are brief descriptions for each pointing stick technology mentioned in this topic to give you an idea of how they may perform.

Name
Sensing method
Description
TrackPoint II
Strain gauge
The original pointing stick TrackPoint. It operates much like the latest TrackPoints used by Lenovo although it lacks the negative inertia feature and suffers from comparatively sluggish operation. The use of third-party tools like InterAccel can boost the performance of TrackPoint II significantly. TrackPoint II hosting keyboards never came with more than two mouse keys.
TrackPoint IV
Strain gauge
TrackPoint IV is the latest implementation of TrackPoint and is still used by Lenovo. If you've used a modern ThinkPad's TrackPoint, you know what to expect. Inherited from TrackPoint III, the IVs have the negative inertia feature that combats the sluggish feeling (inertia) of TrackPoint II. TrackPoint IV's specification also adds the possibility for a middle mouse button and press-to-select, but this may/may not be implemented outside of ThinkPad laptops.
Lexmark-Unicomp FSR stick
Force-sensing resistor
Unicomp's current pointing stick is an alternative technology to TrackPoint described in the original TrackPoint patent that they currently hold. The main difference between TrackPoint and this one is that the FSR technology requires the pointing stick to move like a joystick, which creates a different user experience compared to the isometric (stationary) TrackPoints. The performance of the FSR is limited by the adjacent keys surrounding the pointing stick, which results in a less than ideal performance from Lexmark/Unicomp pointing sticks. Lexmark-Unicomp FSR hosting keyboards never came with more than two mouse keys.
Synaptics TouchStyk
Force-sensing capacitor
The TouchStyk is a competing isometric technology against TrackPoint IV. Whilst the underpinning technology is different, the TouchStyk's features are roughly equivalent to TrackPoint IV. Keyboards using TouchStyk should have acceptable performance.
Optical TrackPoint
Optical sensor
The Optical TrackPoint was short-lived and only featured on two Lenovo ThinkPad tablet keyboards. The technology is essentially like an optical mouse's sensor pointed upwards, which means you will need to swipe the surface of the stick to move your cursor. The Optical TrackPoint is generally considered the worst pointing stick out of all these.

IBM Space Saver Keyboard (Model M4-1)

Own photo
Own photo

The IBM Space Saver Keyboard with TrackPoint (alternatively known as the IBM Quiet Touch Keyboard) was the first marketed TrackPoint-equipped keyboard from IBM. These were members of the Model M keyboard family bearing the designation Model M4-1 (a standard M4 lacking a TrackPoint also exists). They were produced for IBM by Lexmark, then Key Tronic and finally Unicomp, and is an adaption of the integrated Model M3 keyboard found on IBM Personal System/2 L40SX laptops. Its buckling rubber sleeves switches are similar to what many early ThinkPads use and differ from rubber domes by sitting externally to the keyboards' internal assembly. These entered production in 1992 and can be found with IBM, Lexmark or Unicomp branding, and in either off-white or black case colours. IBM-branded ones stopped appearing around 2002, however, Unicomp versions were sold until 2008. Lexmark's and Unicomp's brand name for these was the Lexmark Quiet Touch Keyboard and Unicomp Mighty Mouse respectively.

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IBM TrackPoint II Keyboard (Model M13)

Own photo
Own photo

The IBM TrackPoint II Keyboard is likely the most well known TrackPoint-equipped keyboard. These are full-travel buckling spring keyboards based on the IBM Enhanced Keyboard design, and is one of the later variants of Model M introduced during Lexmark's tenure at the helm of the Model M family in 1994. For off-white examples, IBM, Lexmark or Unicomp branded ones exist. The more iconic black variant largely produced by Maxi Switch and to less degree, Lexmark and the industrial grey variant produced by both Maxi Switch and Unicomp exist with IBM branding. The last IBM-branded M13s from Unicomp were produced as late as 2004, however, Unicomp continued marketing their own branded ones (Unicomp On-The-Stick) as late as 2008. Lexmark and Maxi Switch produced IBM-branded M13s feature TrackPoint II pointing sticks are the name implies, however, Lexmark-branded and all Unicomp made M13s regardless of branding use Lexmark-Unicomp FSR sticks instead.

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IBM 5576-C01 TrackPoint II Japanese Keyboard (Model M)

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Own photo

The 5576-C01 is a very rare Model M variant produced solely for the IBM PS/55E all-in-one computer for the Japanese market. Like the M13, the 5576-C01 uses buckling spring key-switches and could be seen as essentially an M13 in a slimmer case and with a Japanese JIS layout. These also feature a unique rotating stand on the back that enables you to park the keyboard upwards on its back wall. Being so rare, these are by far the most expensive TrackPoint keyboards. They entered the market in 1994 but it's unclear when they were discontinued. Unicomp eventually repurposed its tooling to make their EnduraPro keyboards (seen below in this list).

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IBM TrackPoint IV Keyboard (KPD8923)

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Own photo

The KPD8923 is the only full-sized form-factor TrackPoint IV-equipped IBM keyboard presently known despite the fact a lot of marketing material and their boxes simply call them the "IBM TrackPoint Keyboard". These were one of the many rebranded and modified Chicony KB-5923 rubber dome keyboards IBM fielded in the latter half of the '90s (others include the non-TrackPoint KB-3923 and KB-8923). This was one of the last variants of that Chicony design IBM utilised, introduced in 1998. Unusually for a TrackPoint IV device, these for some reason didn't include a middle mouse button.

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IBM Space Saver II (RT3200)

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Own photo

The RT3200 is the successor to the earlier Model M4-1 IBM Space Saver Keyboard (hence the "II" in its name) and was introduced in 1999. These were more or less completely different to its Model M-family predecessor though, instead featuring full-travel rubber dome switches, a more standard tenkeyless layout, Windows keys, and newer TrackPoint technology with a middle mouse button. These were produced by NMB for IBM and their key-feel is relatively good, however, the keys are known to bind easily on off-centre key presses. During their heyday, RT3200s were extensively used in rack-mount server console kits.

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Unicomp EnduraPro (Model M)

Own photo
Own photo

The EnduraPro is Unicomp's successor to the IBM 5576-C01 shown before, produced with the same moulds that Unicomp acquired from IBM/Lexmark during or not long after its formation in 1996. Unicomp introduced the EnduraPro sometime around the turn of the millennium, but they made a few alterations to the design. Including; removing the large rotating stand, installing FSR pointing stick technology, providing many different language options other than Japanese JIS, and modernising the design with USB and Windows keys support. Off-white and black coloured options are available. The EnduraPro is still in production and non-pointing stick counterparts are available (the Unicomp Ultra Classic and SpaceSaver M).

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Unicomp On-The-Ball Plus (Model M)

Source: <a href="https://web.archive.org/web/20010330200919/http://www.pckeyboard.com/ontheballplus.html">Unicomp</a>
Source: Unicomp

The On-The-Ball Plus is a unique hybrid of the Models M5-2 (25mm trackball keyboard) and M13 produced introduced by Unicomp themselves around 2000. Despite the trackball module, characteristics of the keyboard were essentially the same as any other Unicomp-made M13 and was likewise discontinued around 2008.

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IBM TrackPoint USB Space Saver Keyboard (KPH0035)

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Own photo

The KPH0035 can be seen as a NetVista-era take on the earlier RT3200 keyboard. It's largely the same format as the RT3200 but includes some design elements like the top frame shape and the ThinkPad-style page back and forward buttons flanking the arrow keys that were typical of NetVista-era keyboards. KPH0035s have a two-port USB hub on the back facing left and four cable routing channels on the bottom. The KPH0035 was introduced in 2001 and discontinued in 2003. KPH0035s are known for having a particularly tall pointing stick that some users find sticks out a bit too much, as well as having a particularly long cable.

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IBM USB Keyboard with UltraNav (SK-8835)

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Own photo

The SK-8835 is the largest, most sought after and expensive member of the LITE-ON made SK-8835/SK-884x family. Visually based on the keyboards for T30-era ThinkPads, these feature unique scissor-switches that were never used on actual ThinkPad laptop keyboard assemblies. The typing feel is generally considered not as good but close enough to T30-era ThinkPads. These connect via USB and have an integrated two-port USB hub. SK-8835s uniquely feature a dedicated numeric keypad, making the keyboard effectively a full-size in the footprint of a tenkeyless. These were introduced in 2003, and after 2005, could be branded as the Lenovo USB Keyboard with UltraNav, Lenovo ThinkPad Full-Size UltraNav USB Keyboard and Lenovo UltraNav Fullsize USB Keyboard, with production mostly ended by 2010.

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IBM PS/2 Travel Keyboard with UltraNav (SK-8840)

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Own photo

The SK-8840 is the only PS/2 member of the LITE-ON made SK-8835/SK-884x family. Visually based on the keyboards for T30-era ThinkPads, these feature unique scissor-switches that were never used on actual ThinkPad laptop keyboard assemblies. The typing feel is generally considered not as good but close enough to T30-era ThinkPads. These were introduced in 2004 for the IBM 17" 1U Flat Panel Monitor Console, however, Lenovo never put their name to these after 2005.

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IBM UltraNav Travel Keyboard (SK-8845/SK-8845RC)

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Own photo

The SK-8845 and SK-8845RCs are the most common members of the LITE-ON made SK-8835/SK-884x family. Visually based on the keyboards for T30-era ThinkPads, these feature unique scissor-switches that were never used on actual ThinkPad laptop keyboard assemblies. The typing feel is generally considered not as good but close enough to T30-era ThinkPads. These connect via USB and have an integrated two-port USB hub. The distinction between the non-RC and the RC models are that SK-8845RCs seem to have much longer USB cables. SK-8845 was introduced in 2004 and the SK-8845RC was introduced in 2010. Unlike the others, it seems these were usually used for IBM x86 servers and were underutilised by Lenovo. SK-8845 was also sometimes referred to as the IBM USB Keyboard with Integrated Pointing Device in some IBM literature.

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IBM Keyboard with Integrated Pointing Device USB (SK-8845CR)

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Own photo

The SK-8845CR was the final member of the LITE-ON made SK-8835/SK-884x family. Visually based on the keyboards for T30-era ThinkPads, these feature unique scissor-switches that were never used on actual ThinkPad laptop keyboard assemblies. The typing feel is generally considered not as good but close enough to T30-era ThinkPads. These connect via USB and have an integrated two-port USB hub. These were the only LITE-ON/ThinkPad keyboards to lack a touchpad. These were introduced in 2013 and could be IBM or Lenovo branded. For some strange reason, the Lenovo variant could be branded as the Lenovo UltraNav Keyboard USB despite not having the pointing stick and touchpad combo needed to form an UltraNav setup.

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Lenovo ThinkPad USB Keyboard with TrackPoint (SK-8855)

Source: <a href="https://deskthority.net/viewtopic.php?t=9556">davkol (CC BY-SA 4.0)</a>
Source: davkol (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The SK-8855 was the last unique release of a classic ThinkPad layout based discrete keyboard. Like the SK-8835/SK-884x predecessors, these were made by LITE-ON. Visually based on the keyboards for T400s to T420 era ThinkPads, these feature the signature enlarged escape and delete keys typical for this era. These were introduced in 2009. These tend to be the most expensive ThinkPad-branded keyboards.

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Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2 Bluetooth Keyboard with Stand (EBK-209A)

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The EBK-209A was the companion keyboard for the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2. It's also the earliest discrete AccuType-style keyboard but suffers from several key-size compromised necessitated by the small size. These were introduced in 2012 and are compatible with other Windows and Android devices. New in box examples can still be found as of 2021.

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Lenovo ThinkPad Compact Keyboard with TrackPoint (KU-1255/KT-1255)

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Own photo

The Lenovo ThinkPad Compact Keyboard with TrackPoint is as of 2021 Q4 the most common modern discrete TrackPoint keyboard available. Visually based on the keyboards for T430-era ThinkPads, these feel closer to actual (era-appropriate) ThinkPad keyboards than SK-8835/SK-884x family keyboards. Two versions of this keyboard are known; KU-1255 (the original USB version released in 2013) and KT-1255 (the Bluetooth version released much later). A known weakness with these is the fragility of the micro-B USB port on KU-1255. New in box examples can still be found as of 2021 Q4.

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Lenovo ThinkPad TrackPoint Keyboard II (KC-1957)

Source: <a href="https://news.lenovo.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/ThinkPad-TrackPoint-Keyboard-II_Commercial_Draft_CES.pdf">Lenovo</a>
Source: Lenovo

The KC-1957 is the current discrete TrackPoint keyboard being offered by Lenovo. These are visually based on the keyboards for T14-era ThinkPads. The KC-1957 is known for offering two wireless connectivity options as standard; Bluetooth (with Windows and Android officially supported) and 2.4GHz wireless connectivity via a USB dongle.

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