Review of the Unicomp Model M
I’ve been using the Unicomp Model M keyboard for just over a year now and after using it every day as my main keyboard I can safely say it’s the best keyboard I’ve ever had.
For a few years prior to getting it I was using a Corsair mechanical keyboard which quite frankly kinda sucked. The top row of keys weren’t even mechanical and it had a thick cable with two USB connectors that both had to be connected for the keyboard to work. It was designed as a gaming keyboard and since I don’t really do much in the way of gaming anymore, I was thinking about getting a keyboard thats better suited for my primary use (Typing!). Prior to the Corsair keyboard I used one of those old Apple chiclet keyboards, which was more suited to typing, but I think it’s fair to say my tastes have changed over the years, I like my keys chunky these days and but Corsair was the first mechanical (ish) keyboard I’d ever used. Although I’ve perused /r/MechanicalKeyboards and Geekhack on a few occasions, I am by no means a mechanical keyboard enthusiast, I don’t have a vast knowledge of the options out there, all the different switch types and all that, I just like a good keyboard to type on. After a little research and considering the options I was considering either the Happy Hacking Keyboard or the Unicomp Model M. Since I’m using my computer on the same desk all the time and portability isn’t an issue, it made the most sense to go with a full size keyboard, so I went with the Model M. If I had needed something more portable I would definitely have gone with the HHKB, since the Model M is very bulky and heavy, though they do also have a more compact version called Spacesaver.
I hope you like the look and feel of vintage computing hardware (this is a reproduction of an IBM keyboard from the mid-80s after all), because there is nothing modern looking about this keyboard, infact some might consider it ugly, I for one think it’s beautiful. I got the beige version (it’s also available in black with grey keys) with USB and Windows keys (something the original IBM version lacks since it pre-dates Windows). There are versions that have one of those Thinkpad style mouse nubs in the middle or a mini trackball on the top right. The buckling spring keys feel great to type on and sound wonderful. They’re quite loud which may be an issue for some, but I love the sound of clacky keys (You can find many examples on Youtube of what this keyboard sounds like to type on if you want to get an idea). I’ve never used or owned an original IBM version so I can’t speak to how the Unicomp compares in terms of feel, sound and build quality, but from comparisons I’ve seen online, the difference is pretty minimal.
If you’re thinking about getting a Model M keyboard then you likely know exactly what you’re going to get. It’s bulky, it’s loud and it’s from the 80’s, you shouldn’t be expecting something that fit’s in well with a modern Apple desk setup. If you’re looking for a solid, durable, vintage style keyboard that’s great to type on with a clackly sound, but can easily be used with a modern machine over USB and is built to last, a Unicomp Model M (or the more compact Spacesaver or EnduraPro) is the way to go. If like me you live in the UK and want to get a Unicomp Model M keyboard, there is a reseller: The Keyboard Company.
I’ve definitely found my keyboard “forever home” in this Model M, it’s very nice to have a keyboard that I have no major complaints for and to not have to think or care about keyboards anymore (hopefully).