Due out in May, Lenovo's $99 ThinkPad TrackPoint Keyboard II is clearly designed for productivity users who want the famous ThinkPad laptop keyboard in a standalone, wireless form factor. And, as a tabletop keyboard that connects to your PC, be it a desktop or a docked laptop, it seems like a strong option. But the device, which has both 2.4 GHz and dual Bluetooth 5.0 connections, could be even more compelling for makers working with Raspberry Pi or other single-board computers.
The ThinkPad TrackPoint II Keyboard has the same awesome key feel, layout and look that you'll find on Lenovo's ThinkPad laptops. I tried typing on it briefly at Lenovo's CES suite and found it identical to the key feel of a ThinkPad X1 Carbon, which means that it felt great.
Like a typical ThinkPad, the TrackPoint II keyboard has Lenovo's famous red pointing stick, along with left, right and scroll buttons. Because it has a built-in pointing device, the keyboard should be fantastic for use from your lap or in environments where desk space is limited and you don't want to waste real estate by plugging in a separate keyboard and mouse.
When you're building with Raspberry Pi, there's often a jumble of wires, breadboards, lights and sensors on the table, along with, perhaps, your primary PC and all of its peripherals. The TrackPoint II keyboard is guaranteed to keep your desk as neat as possible while providing you with a superior typing and navigation experience. And it will also make you more productive, because you'll be able to move your pointer without taking your hands off of the home row.
Because it supports 2.4 GHz, via an included dongle, and two different Bluetooth 5.0 profiles, the ThinkPad TrackPoint II keyboard can be the only input device on your desk, allowing you to switch among your main PC and two other devices, which can be Raspberry Pis. So, just imagine using your main PC to read up on how to program something in Python and then hitting a keyboard combo and typing the code you learned directly onto the Pi. Yes, you could use a headless Raspberry Pi install to remote control the Pi from your main computer, but sometimes that just isn't practical.
It almost goes without saying that the TrackPoint Keyboard II is not the only wireless keyboard with a built-in pointing device. In fact, Lenovo itself sells an earlier version of this keyboard, without 2.4 GHz wireless connectivity. But the 2.4 GHz dongle is critical, particularly when you're booting up a Raspberry Pi for the first time and haven't yet been able to set up Bluetooth pairing yet.
Unfortunately, most keyboards with built-in touchpads aren't particularly compelling. Our favorite, thus far, has been the Corsair K83 which has a circular touchpad, snappy keys and support for both Blueooth and 2.4 GHz connectivity. However, Lenovo's keyboard appears to have much snappier keys and much better navigation, thanks to the TrackPoint.
According to Lenovo, the TrackPoint Keyboard II should hold a charge for two months. It charges via USB Type-C, which is also good news. The company has tested it to make sure that it works with Android devices in addition to Windows PCs. However, any 2.4 GHz or Bluetooth keyboard will work with Raspbian, the official OS of the Raspberry Pi.
While $99 may seem like a ludicrous amount of money to spend on a keyboard that you would use with a $35 computer, buying a high-quality wireless keyboard can help you get projects done faster and better, while still keeping up with your day job. The ThinkPad TrackPoint Keyboard II looks like it could be the best of the bunch, both for Pi users and for everyone else.