Ever since I first heard about OLPC working on a version of the XO that would use a normal keyboard, later dubbed the XO-1.5 HS (HS for high-school), I've been dying to get my hands on one of them. I was hoping to get a chance to use one while I was in Uruguay, but to my disappointment the Plan Ceibal folks only had a very early hand-made (and hand-painted) prototype in their office.
So it shouldn't be hard to imagine my delight (in case of doubt just take a look at the photo on your right) when I stumbled across a real-life XO-1.5 HS in ParaguayEduca's office here in Asución. Needless to say I spent the next 15 minutes playing around with the machine, taking photos from all possible angles (including a close-up of the layout) and shooting the video embedded below.
Of course I was very keen on doing some typing on the new keyboard and I was very pleasently suprised by the experience. The only two minor issues I had was that the key to access the Journal was moved a couple of keys to the right from its XO-1 / XO-1.5 location and that the arrow-keys are aligned in a row as opposed to the traditional layout. With the Journal key it will probably only take a day or two to get used to the change however the new arrow-key layout is definitely more of a hassle, especially when playing games.
The second change of the XO-1.5 HS compared to the other models is that the keyboard is easily replaceable. While it previously took a 7 step guide with 50 photos and nerves of steel to replace a keyboard this can now be done by accessing two screws located in the XO's battery-latches. According to this entry on the OLPC blog this results in keyboard replacements being possible in just 2 minutes.
Overall I have to say that I was really impressed by the quality of the keyboard. In the past three years I've become quite used to the membrane keyboards on my XO-1 and XO-1.5 and can type reasonably fast on them. However the XO-1.5 HS keyboard is a whole other world and while it may not be quite up there with the best netbook keyboards available today it's definitely very useable.