Give Me a T or Really T’ed Off

As I mentioned in my previous post about my new netbook, the Acer Aspire One 722, a big selling point for me was the keyboard. I’ve never seen a keyboard like the Acer “Fine-tip” keyboard; the keys resemble those island-style chiclet keys you find on Macs and just about every laptop these days, but they respond like a more traditional keyboard; they have a fair amount of travel and give me the tactile feedback I need when I’m typing. The spacing between the keys also is more comfortable for me, and they make a satisfying clicking sound that most people probably find annoying. (It might be weird, but I really like the sound of typing. At home, I use an old IBM Model-M keyboard, which is probably as loud as you can type without a typewriter.)

So naturally, the first problem I’ve had with Penny is her keyboard. The letter T had been sort of wobbly since I got it, but I figured it was a feature, not a bug. It was a concern but not a problem until two weeks ago–when the key fell off.

I know I hit the keys pretty hard, but that must have been on the verge of breaking since I bought the netbook. Unfortunately, T is the second-most-common letter in the English language, after E, so that was a bit inconvenient. It would be interesting to try to revise my novel without it, but I temporarily swapped the broken key with the infrequently used | \ key and contacted Acer support via their chat function.

"It is a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing."

Acer: How may I help you?
Me: One of the keys on my netbook has broken off.
Acer: That is unfortunate!
Me: It’s only a month old, and it was loose when I got it, but it wasn’t a problem until it fell off today.
Acer: I see that the  unit is in standard limited warranty. I can understand how disappointing such issues can be! In this case, we need to take the unit for repair. To resolve this issue the system needs to be sent to depot repair center for service. Our experienced technicians will resolve the issue. It will take 7 to 10 business days.
Me: That seems extreme to fix just one key. Last year I had to send a laptop back to Acer for repairs, and it was expensive and inconvenient to send it back for two weeks. I can see the tiny bit of plastic that has broken off. I temporarily swapped keys with an underused key, so I can continue to use the netbook. I really just need a replacement letter.
Acer: I can understand your concern! individual keys are not available as replacement part. Replacing the keypad is the suggested solution.
Me: Great! Can you send me a new keypad, and then I will return the old one to you?
Acer: Unfortunately, that is not an option. Keypad is not an end user replaceable part. You can contact us whenever you feel that replacement is necessary.
Me: That replacement is necessary now. But I do not want to send the entire laptop back and risk more damage just to fix one letter. Is there any other option?
Acer: Unfortunately, that is the only option that we have. You can contact us via telephone; They have the facility to consult our higher level team to explore other options if any. They are working Monday to Friday.
Me: This seems strange to me. Is there a good reason why you can’t send one replacement key? It doesn’t require skill to snap a new one into place. And it will cost me $30 or more to ship this back to you.
Acer: I can understand your concern! The reason is the fact that we are accustomed to scenarios wherein end user tried to open the laptop case and ending up causing serious damage to the motherboard.
Me: I don’t need to open up the laptop to snap a new key on the keyboard. I’ve just done it with another key, and it works fine.
Acer: That is for individual keys; we do not have them as replacement part; the entire keypad needs to be replaced.
Me: Right.
Acer: However, you can contact us via voice on Monday;
Me: You might want to consider getting some replacement keys.
Acer: I can understand your concern!

So, that wasn’t going to happen. My solution was to buy a $4 replacement key from LaptopKey.com. With shipping it came to around $7, but it was far cheaper than shipping my netbook back to Acer (they don’t refund the cost, even under warranty, even when the problem isn’t your fault), and I didn’t have to risk further damage to my netbook or lost productivity. I hope my self-repair hasn’t voided the warranty.

Acer laptops are great. Customer service, not so much. If you have a similar problem with a missing key on your laptop, check out LaptopKey.com–you can search by brand and model number, and they have a lot of pictures to help you identify your specific key, and tutorials to guide you in installing it. You wouldn’t want to damage the motherboard, after all.

What style of keyboard do you prefer?

10 Comments

  1. Janine

    Hi Eugene! I love clacky keyboards myself as well. Don’t know the model types really, but I think you and I have similar tastes. The closer it sounds to a type-writer, the better!

    Reply
    1. ecmyers (Post author)

      Exactly! I once tried using a program that plays typewriter noised on every keystroke, but that didn’t quite work. And the writers around me kind of hated me for a little while. Really, I should just bite the bullet and get myself one of these USB typewriters.

      Reply
  2. L.J. Moore

    Apple Extended Keyboard II with ALPS action keys. I switched, briefly, to a Tactile Pro, but it just wasn’t the same. IBM Model M is a close second for favorite.

    Reply
    1. ecmyers (Post author)

      That is beautiful. I had no idea that there were usable keyboards available for the Mac :) I’ve tried and tried the island keyboards, but I might as well be typing drunk for all the accuracy I can muster. And now that I’ve looked up the Apple Extended II, I know what makes these keyboards so great (ie. “clicky”): the buckling spring mechanism!

      Reply
  3. Albert

    My favorite keyboard of all time is the Apple Extended Keyboard II (which uses an Alps leaf spring keyswitch). The IBM Model-M is an excellent keyboard as well. For ergonomic reasons, I actually use a Kinesis Advantage contoured keyboard (and have for the last 13-14 years), which uses the Cherry MX soft tactile keyswitches. Otherwise, I’d still be using that Apple Extended II keyboard. Most modern keyboards use those horrible membrane keyswitches.

    Reply
  4. Karl S

    I wonder how many other writers like those older springy keyboards. I still have an Apple Extended Keyboard II somewhere in the basement because I couldn’t part ways with it but I’ve been using a Das Keyboard with my Mac for the past year. I’ve got the model without the letters on it, so it’s as black as black plastic can be, is loud as hell and I can type a million words a minute on it. I love it.

    When my 12-year-old started asking for a computer, I got him a Thinkpad t61 so I could borrow it late at night to compare that IBM-designed keyboard to my MacBook Pro’s. It’s no contest. The Lenovo wins hands down and I could see migrating from Mac to a Linux-running Lenovo for the keyboard.

    I agree with @Albert, the keyboards on most current laptops are horrid. I was in Staples recently and went from one laptop to another thinking only a non-writer could handle any of those keyboards. Blech.

    Reply
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