More likely than not, when you think of Synaptics you think of its touchpads. Or maybe, if you're a mobile aficionado, you know it for its touchscreens, used in phones like the HTC One X and Sony Xperia P. Now, though, the company is about to start making another kind of tactile product: keyboards. That thing you see up there is ThinTouch, a keyboard Synaptics will supply to PC makers looking for ways to make their Ultrabooks even thinner. Indeed, the keyboard is said to be up to 50 percent thinner than its competitors, and Synaptics' big pitch to OEMs is that a thinner keyboard allows for slimmer PCs, with room for larger batteries (now that we need). The company is also promising stronger backlighting, since the keys sit close to the substrate and there aren't rubber domes blocking the light source. Lastly, there's a capacitive sensor underneath the keyboard, allowing the laptop's touchpad to be disabled automatically while you're typing. (Naturally, this works best if the trackpad is also made by Synaptics.) The company is also developing a feature in which the space bar could be a touch sensor in and of itself, with support for functions like autocomplete.
Perhaps our biggest question is how much travel these keys will have -- after all, the last thing anyone needs is another shallow Ultrabook keyboard. Synaptics reps told us the company isn't yet ready to share such technical details, though we did get to compare Synaptics' keys with its competitors (see the image after the break). At first blush, it seemed just as flat, but not flatter, but we'll reserve full judgement until we can use the keyboard for an extended period of time. Also no word on which PC makers will take a chance on the ThinTouch, but Synaptics says the keyboard will start shipping sometime in 2013.
Synaptics ThinTouch keyboard
Left: A competing keyboard; right: the Synaptics ThinTouch.