Unicomp "Spacesaver M" Keyboard Review

May 23rd, 2016

The Unicomp “Spacesaver M” I ordered last week came in today. It’s the Mac version of Unicomp’s buckling-spring keyboard, based on the old IBM Model M and apparently manufactured using some of the original equipment (Unicomp bought the rights from Lexmark, which used to be part of IBM). The Model M is known for its loud “clicky” keys and strong tactile feedback.

Unicomp

This Mac version is actually based on Unicomp’s “Ultra” product line which has a smaller housing than the original Model M. They sell a full-sized PC version as well, but the Mac line is only available in the smaller housing. The actual keys have the same full-size keyboard regardless of the housing.

The original Model M is a big, heavy monster of a keyboard. This Unicomp model is noticeably lighter in comparison, but it still has much more heft than any everyday keyboard manufactured today.

Because of the era in which they were manufactured, most Model M keyboards have a PS/2 connector. The Unicomp uses USB. Unlike the original Model M, the Unicomp’s cord is permanently attached to the keyboard. I consider that a minor downgrade from the Model M’s removable cord. Especially given how standardized USB is, it would be nice if the cord were removable, so that it could easily be replaced if it became frayed or damaged.

Unicomp

The keyboard seemed reasonably well-packed for shipping, but five or six of the keys had popped off by the time I opened the box. They snapped back on easily, so it was not a big deal.

The original Model M had 101 keys, with no “Windows” or “menu” key, and a small gap between the “Ctrl” and “Alt” keys. Unicomp’s PC model has 104 keys, adding a “menu” key and two “Windows” keys, and reducing the size of the space bar to accommodate. The Mac version is based on this 104-key version, but with the slightly different modifier key layout used by Apple.

It has all the same secondary options—brightness, volume, etc.—on the Function keys. However, the actual icons it uses for them are pretty ugly. The delete key—the one that corresponds to a PC keyboard’s delete, not backspace—is especially bad.

Like the Model M, the keycaps on the Unicomp’s keys are removable and replaceable. Unicomp sells a full set of blank keycaps, which I’d like to eventually purchase, as my previous work keyboard was the Das Keyboard with blank keys, and I loved using it, partly for the novelty.

Unicomp

I’m typing this review on the original Model M that I have hooked up to my home desktop PC. It was manufactured in 1991, and is still in perfect working order—that’s how robust these keyboards are. I’m really excited to put the Unicomp through its paces at work tomorrow, and just hope the noise won’t be too bothersome for my coworkers.

(This article was originally published on Facebook.)

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