Unicomp Model M Keyboard Review!

Since my IBM Model M keyboard roundup video, I’ve had a lot of requests to do a review of Unicomp’s modern version of the same keyboard. Here it is! Can a Unicomp Model M really hold up to the feel and quality of the legendary IBMs? What about in comparison to a modern mechanical keyboard? Watch and find out!

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Comments

Lucky Charms says:

I’m really glad I found a really gross, old Model M in my dad’s basement. He was about to throw it away too. I cleaned her up, and I’ve been using her since, been about 5-6 years now. Although, the back sticker has been worn out and you can barely tell what it says.

Colin Stuart says:

You should try out a keyboard from https://www.modelfkeyboards.com/ …curious to see how you would like it.

xan1242 says:

0:07 nibba i have this same keyboard mane (Motospeed CK104)

Seriously, this was unexpected, now I can compare it against the mighty M.

The Ostentacious says:

YES

Fantasy Recon Gaming says:

I miss older keyboards like this. Just don’t get the same satisfaction from modern keyboards

Johann Swart says:

My Unicomp Model M is used every day. Its definitely a Model M, but, its not an IBM. Quality issues all over the place. But, what can we do? Its still way better than the rubber dome crap. Come to think of it – Model F would be my absolute favourite still. But, where to find one?

Hugg says:

So basically Unicomp, make Model M great again

Sheriff Blatz says:

*EDIT: The Key Rollover apparently isn’t really much of an issue at all. :)*

The biggest downside of Model M keyboards (IMO) is their 2 key rollover, which can make them unsuited for gaming. If Unicomp could modify the design to allow for either 6 key or even N-Key rollover, they’d be far more appealing to the gaming crowd.

Also, they *really* need to make a dampened soft-touch model as well (which involves greasing the buckling springs). I’m very surprised they haven’t done this yet.

Wayne Duplisea says:

Ive been waiting to pull the trigger on a mechanical keyboard until this review. I remember vaguely typing on a model m as a kid and I would rather type on a typewriter than any keyboard I own. Would you recommend a unicomp model M to someone that wants a great feeling keyboard with USB who has no idea how great the original really was?

Ian says:

The Neil Young philosophy works for several things in life

Cap10323 says:

I have a UNICOMP Model M from about 5 years ago, with the windows keys and grey plastic case. The keys do not have the “loosey goosey” feel you describe in this video. I wonder if the production lines for the original style Model M without the added features, and the redesigned UNICOMP Model M are actually different, and using different tooling. It’s also possible that UNICOMP’s tooling has just degraded massively in the last few years.

izimsi says:

>84 dollars
>too cheap
I’ve never even bought a keyboard for 8.4 dollars

Foxchase92 says:

You’re right, I’d certainly pay more for a new, properly made Model M.

wv9mm says:

Doesn’t Unicomp hold the patent for the buckling spring key? I think that’s why other companies having picked it up. Also, it’s kind of a niche market. It’s too loud for everyday use, or at least in the office space. Some people just might find it annoying even outside the office. I’ve also heard from friends that the action just doesn’t work for gaming (To buy it with the intent to do heavy gaming all around.) So, I think it would be for the hardcore typist. I’d buy one if the quality was better, even if it meant paying more.

AGFuzzyPancake says:

Great review. I really respect you for not bashing Unicomp for the quality issues you dealt with even though you were absolutely entitled to do so. Instead you did the right thing and gave them pointers and advice.

RazorBeamz says:

Hey, I type just like you!

berlinerbol77 says:

Good work m8, thanx!

Cracker Jack says:

A lot of gaming focused motherboards still have a ps2 port. All the ones i used for my pc builds including budget ones and high end ones have at least one ps2 port

pcfreak1992 says:

How do you like Cherry MX brown keys? Would you use them every day?

Josh Payne says:

The Unicomp Model M keyboard is a gateway keyboard. It was my first mechanical keyboard. I love it. I first bought the same one as the one you show here, in June 2017. Except it’s the 103 key layout (includes Windows key). I had a loose key or two in shipping, easily popped back on. But mine isn’t nearly as loosey-goosey as yours, it’s fairly tight, and arrived in new cleanness.. But once you get one (after being annoyed by rubber dome keyboards for years) you will become keyboard-curious. Then you’ll get a keyboard with Cherry MX switches. Probably blue to start. Maybe brown. Then you’ll go and try keyboards with Matias switches, maybe Topre.

I now have about 6 mechanical keyboards in my collection, and I like each for different reasons, but an MX Brown is my daily driver (I’m a typist, not a gamer, so lack of back-lighting and n-key rollover doesn’t matter to me, the M is just a little louder than others).

I’m now looking forward to adding a Matias “clicky” switch keyboard in my future (maybe a KB Paradise with Dolch keycaps). I absolutely don’t regret buying my Unicomp Model M, not one bit. It was a bargain to find something ‘new retro’ that feels so good to type on.

But, Modern Classic, I agree, in hindsight, ultimately I would have gladly paid more for it if it had a thicker metal base plate and if the case shell wasn’t as creeky. The missing media keys are just a slight convenience to have.
$129 USD seems to be an average price point for modern mechanical keyboards, maybe Unicomp could up the price by about 50%, increase the materials quality, and still have it be a good buy.

Dallas Dal says:

What About the original IBM Keyboard that came with the original IBM PC 5150 with the 4.77 MHz 8088 CPU that the case was made from metal and you could almost basically run over it with a truck and it would survive and still work and you could use as a weapon to defend you self if needed?

Arturo Romero says:

I personally use a model F XT I since i got it my razer MX Blye keyboard is accumulating dust

ChinnyVision - The Retro Game Review Channel says:

Build quality on mine isn’t much good. After light use some keys stopped working. I traced the fault to the ribbon cable beneath the caps and num lock lights where a small circuit board is pressed onto the cable which is held in place by two screws. Every time I fix it, it lasts for a couple of months before I have to open it up again and reseat the board on the ribbon. It is infuriating!

Dallas Dal says:

My Model M was made in 1984 and I got it at a Flea market Mall for less then 10 bucks and it’s WAY BETTER Then all those way overpriced gaming clickey keyboards that sell for over 100 bucks that the manufacture boasts about being so awesome and high end Professional quality keyboards that are worth paying the way higher price.

infinitecanadian says:

About the typing; my mother was a professional typist when she worked at Nabob on a typewriter. Mechanical typewriters can’t be typed on the way that computer keyboards can be typed on, because you have to push the key real far in order to make the letter arm hit the paper through the ink tape. She still can type blindingly fast, which helps her in her job as a nursing unit clerk.

drout says:

that was the mechanical kind of keyboard i was typing in when programming my pc-xt back in 1988 🙂 LOUD, but i was used to it this way. Besides, everyone else was using similar keyboards.

Josh K says:

16 minute video for a keyboard? Kind of lengthy

Michael's Workshop says:

I think it is more an issue of them having switched plastics or related processes over the years, than the tooling itself changing or degrading. Putting plastics into most metal toolings has a negligible effect on it, so I am more likely to lean towards the tolerances on the parts changing because of ingredients and process changes. There is LEGO tooling seen online that made 120 million LEGO bricks before being retired

That creaky casing on the keyboard is very bad — I have some UniComps and various Model M’s, and none of them are anything like that. If your video is accurate, whatever is happening with their manufacturing is definitely visible in the finished products being sold. This is a shame — I like their products, and frequently recommend them. Have you reached out to the company? Maybe they aren’t aware of the quality control issues — why are products being shipped direct to consumer in a dirty state?

They do offer quieter versions of some of their keyboards, probably with an accompanying difference in feel during typing.

Aer Fixus says:

Have you ever considered trying an IBM Model F? (or purchasing one of Ellipse’s Model F reproductions?) I use one daily and I can see no upgrade except potentially a layout closer the the 101 key Model M. And while I type on a 4704 Model F with a solid cast zinc case, the other Model F keyboards are very well built as well, albeit with worse layouts or other tradeoffs. A Model F is heads over tails better than any Model M I’ve ever typed on. It’s lighter, smoother, and more crisp and refined. Just overall a better typing experience (plus, better for gaming given the N-key rollover).

It’s sort of a religious experience. Or maybe it’s not. I could just be a Model F fanboy 😛

Michael Burgwin says:

Haven’t watched it yet but I have two Ultra Classics from Unicomp and I think they are awful. The biggest issue is quality. My first one outright failed, randomly disappearing from the system and requiring the cord to be at specific angles. They were nice enough to send me a replacement cable (but not to actually send me a replacement keyboard…) which is how I discovered the system has no strain relief. It also didn’t fix the problem and now most of the keys don’t work at all. For some reason I decided to buy another one and give them a second chance. That one still works if I hold my tongue at the right angle (moving the keyboard or the cable can result in arbitrary USB connection/disconnection) so I’ve relegated it to my secondary desktop system.

mithikx says:

There’s also a company doing a limited batch of Model F keyboards like others have said, I wonder how their quality is like especially since they’re charging over 300 bucks for them.
(modelfkeyboards.com is the website if anyone was curious)

Irving Loveras says:

0 views :v

Zobeid Zuma says:

I hate to dampen anyone’s enthusiasm, but this gushing over the Model M’s key action just doesn’t correspond with my experience. I mean for example, this quote:

“It has the same great mechanism that modern key switches can’t really hope to recreate. If you’ve never typed on a buckling spring keyboard before, it’s almost impossible to describe how good it feels. They keys just have a smoothness that no modern key switch does, and they also have a heft to them without necessarily feeling heavy. It’s just a feeling of quality that you don’t get from any other mechanical keyboard.”

Well, I’ve had a Unicomp Spacesaver M here for a couple of years, and I’ve always found it stiff and clunky, sort of like typing in mud. Maybe you just don’t realize how good some of today’s key switches have become? I recently got a new Matias keyboard with their clicky ALPS style switches, and I can type faster and more comfortably on it than I can on the Unicomp, and it just feels better to me. Even my cheap CyberpowerPC keyboard with Outemu blue switches is nicer than the Unicomp.

I also have a vintage Model F. The Model F feels much better than the Unicomp. Comparing the Model F and the Matias, the IBM feels exquisite when merely testing or playing around with it, but when it comes to typing “at speed” the Matias still wins. Oh, and the Matias is also a better built keyboard than the Unicomp, without the ragged or scuffed plastic bits or the creakiness.

The Model M is a legend, if only because (as you noted) it was so hugely influential, but it’s also a dinosaur. Its technology is outdated, and its layout is outdated — designed for the DOS era when nobody had a mouse and computers were entirely controlled through the keyboard. It’s time to give the Model M a well-earned retirement and a place of honor in the computer museum.

Thiago de Andrade Neves says:

You should try a Topre Realforce.

Switch & Lever says:

While I agree that buckling springs have a smoother feel, what are your views on other mechanical switches? For instance, I dumpster dove a Dell AT01 keyboard a while back, which uses ALPS SKCM salmon switches, and I was amazed how good they felt to type on. While it doesn’t hold up to a model M, in my opinion they’re not far off in terms of typing comfort.

nerdyneedsalife says:

I had my Unicomp for about a month now and I love it. The only gripe that might be a deal breaker for some is the cheap plastic that was mentioned. I never owned a Lexmark or IBM so I do like the feel of the buckling springs. One day I might buy one but for now I like this keyboard. Also I have the Unicomp logo but I have the black version so I think the dark purple logo goes well with the black casing.

David Robot says:

Is it possible that this keyboard or some of it’s parts aren’t new, but just refurbished?

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