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What is a Chiclet Keyboard?

By Marie Cartwright
Updated May 16, 2024
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A traditional computer keyboard has thick plastic keys situated close to one another within sections of a larger frame. The keys themselves are slanted along the sides, creating a wider base that top. A chiclet keyboard — also known as an island-style keyboard — uses thin, clean-cut keys that are slightly spread out from one another. A plastic overlay covers the gaps between the keys, creating a smooth, virtually seamless surface. The overall effect of a chiclet keyboard is flatter and more space-efficient than a traditional keyboard.

Technophiles often debate the merits of a chiclet keyboard, the name of which stems from Cadbury Adams' flat, square Chiclets® chewing gum. The pro-chiclet camp will argue that the spacing between the keys limits the potential for typos, as it is less likely that a user will hit a nearby key by mistake. Chiclet keyboards are also much easier to clean than traditional keyboards because, without the empty spaces between the keys, no dust or crumbs can get stuck underneath. Most chiclet keyboards are also spill-proof. While a displaced cup of coffee can mean the end of a traditional keyboard, a chiclet keyboard is highly resistant to such mishaps.

Fans of traditional keyboards say hygienic considerations and aesthetic value aren't enough to get them to make the switch. Some feel a chiclet keyboard causes fatigue more easily, because the user must reach a bit farther for each key. Others claim their overall typing speed is negatively affected, particularly for those who rely on touch-typing, though this may simply be the result of getting used to a new piece of equipment. Some are also of the opinion that chiclet keyboards are less responsive, because the keys have less of a kick-back than the more robust keys of a traditional keyboard.

Chiclet keyboards are becoming increasingly popular on notebooks, netbooks and laptop computers, as of 2011. It is much more likely that a new laptop will have a chiclet keyboard instead of a traditional keyboard. Laptop manufacturers, understanding some people's resistance to the chiclet keyboard, are working to make their chiclet keyboards stand out from the rest. The height and curve of the keys are often adjusted on a minuscule scale to give the keyboard the best tactile feel possible.

Laptops aren't the only place to find chiclet keyboards in use. The increasing popularity of chiclet keyboards has driven the creation of wireless chiclets, which can be used with desktop computers. These have not yet become as popular with desktop users as traditional keyboards, but the trend is growing toward flat, spacious keyboard design.

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Discussion Comments
By anon997245 — On Dec 03, 2016

I'm going to disagree with the previous posters. I think chiclet keyboards are terrible on laptops and unfortunately, the industry has unilaterally decided that's what all consumers want (or they're pulling one of those "train the customers" moves). The tactile response is bad and it makes me cramp my hands so I feel arthritic. I can only use them to write short emails. To each his own but give us a choice!

By anon975978 — On Oct 29, 2014

Here's the problem that seems to be omitted in this discussion, at least in terms of quality and quantity (i.e. speed). There is a general trend away from "touch typing". I have observed this in many users in internet cafes, coffee shops, libraries, etc.

If one is typing on a chiclet keyboard, chances are excellent they are of the "hunt and peck" type. I have never personally seen someone typing on a chiclet keyboard at anything approaching even 50 wpm; typically, closer to 25 wpm, even if the user is using more than his/her index finger. Facts are: You just can't do it!

So, to all those who say they prefer the new, modern, Apple, "dumbed-down" version, please admit how fast you can really type!

By anon967138 — On Aug 25, 2014

I don't like chiclet keyboards at all. I find they are far more prone to missed keystrokes than mechanical keyboards. It is possibly just my typing style but I find them a real chore to use.

Sadly, these days it is increasingly difficult to find a really good keyboard that doesn't have chiclet style keys. And it's not just a matter of getting used to them, either, as I've been using Apple's chiclet keyboards at work for several years now.

If I had typed this at work, I would have missed half-a-dozen keystrokes by now but, using my keyboard at home, I've not missed any. What really makes it weird, though, is that the keyboard I am using, a Rapoo E9080, uses similar scissor-action keys but, for whatever reason, they are far more forgiving of my fat fingers.

By titans62 — On Jul 05, 2012

@matthewc23 - I actually have seen a couple of chiclet USB keyboards on the market. They are still fairly rare, though. I find that surprising, since it seems like most people prefer the design. The only people I know that really hate it are computer gamers who like the reassuring click when they hit a key. A lot of them actually have the spring-loaded keys rather than the newer style keys that work with a plastic mechanism.

The neatest thing about the new USB keyboards is that they are usually waterproof, and you can roll some of them up to take them with you. They basically have a silicon base that serves as the waterproof membrane between the keys and the protection for the circuit board.

Once you are done with the keyboard, you can just roll it up, put it in your suitcase or somewhere, and take it with you. It seems like a very efficient design for people who travel a lot and might be using their computers in an airport or hotel.

By matthewc23 — On Jul 05, 2012

@jcraig - I checked out some keyboard pictures, and it looks like chiclet keyboards are defined by the space between the keys. I saw some examples with remotes and calculators, but most of them were referring to laptop keyboards. The keys don't necessarily have to be made of rubber, though. The laptop keys are usually made of the same type of plastic as other keyboards.

Personally, I like the chiclet design. I have a chiclet keyboard on my laptop and a normal keyboard for my desktop. I don't notice any sort of difference in my typing speed when using them. Actually, compared to my old laptop, I like the new style better, because I notice that I don't end up accidentally hitting as many wrong keys. As far as looks, I think the chiclet keyboards win, as well. They are much smoother and modern than the old keyboards.

I do wish that some companies would start making a USB keyboard that has the chiclet design. I like them enough that I would consider replacing my desktop keyboard.

By jcraig — On Jul 05, 2012

Maybe I am a little bit confused here. What exactly makes a chiclet keyboard what it is? Is it just the membrane that separates the keys from each other?

I ask because I have also heard the term chiclet keyboard used to describe things like TV remotes and calculators. I didn't think that computer keyboards were usually considered to have the chiclet design. Besides that, I was also always under the impression that the chiclet keyboards were supposed to be made out of the same rubbery material that TV remote control buttons are made from.

I don't know that I have seen a chiclet keyboard for a computer, but I am not sure I would like it. I am pretty happen with the keys on my current keyboard. I think keeping your keyboard keys free of dirt and crumbs is just a part of regular computer upkeep.

By stl156 — On Jul 04, 2012

I absolutely agree that chiclet keyboards are the best type of keyboard. On my old laptop, I had the other style of keys, and I loved getting my new laptop with the updated keyboard.

I had a lot of the same problems that the article mentions. When I first got the laptop, it seems like I immediately had crumbs and other things under the keys. Since I was in college at the time, I did a lot of eating and snacking near my computer.

Eventually, the keys started to get worn out, and I had to press really had to get the "s" and some other keys to work. I have had my new laptop with the chiclet style keyboard for about the same length of time now, and it has worked great. I can't get crumbs falling between the keys, and the keys haven't worn out at all. I am glad they have started making all the new keyboards like this. I am just wondering what took them so long.

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