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Unicomp - "New Model M" Review

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I originally posted this on Reddit on /r/ModelM but feel like it has a place here too.

Full Album and specific commentary here:

So as part of my huge Unicomp pack, I also ordered a Brand New, New model M (the name of the model is the "New model M" I kind of wished that they named it something a little easier to say, and describe.

The new Model M, is a keyboard that is clearly a half stop between the old Unicomp design and the new SSK they are planning on releasing as of this writing (in the Early part of June 2020). It is literally an SSK mould stretched out to also have a Numpad in it. The design has some advantages.

The first I can think of that I quite like is that the Deck Flex is nearly eliminated, it makes the keyboard feel much better put together in many ways, this really impressed me. The other is that compared to a "classic" in Unicomp terms, or to us, an older IBM Model M. These take up less desk space, and have a more familiar profile than the Ultraclassic that Unicomp has been selling over the years, which was based off a design for the Japanese market. (I plan on putting the guts I own of the broken 5576-C01 IBM Japanese Trackpoint II in an Ultraclassic Endurapro case, we'll see the results soon.)

The keyboard itself also feels weightier, Unicomp claims that it is a little heavier and it feels that. I don't have a precise way of measuring it myself, but I hope to soon.

There is maybe two disadvantages to this new mould though they may be a bit nit-picky:

The case itself no longer has the same texture that old Model M's did, the kind of slightly roughed up dotty texture that has been a maintstay of the keyboards for years. They are nearly smooth plastic, which does attract fingerprints. You'll notice them in my gallery.

The next is that despite this being an all new mould, they still have mould markings on the back, it's minor, and not as bad as some of the worst I've seen from Unicomp, but I'm still surprised they are here at all.


Inside the case we have a buck standard Unicomp keyboard assembly, and unlike the Ultraclassic and Endurapro models, This model M doesn't have double sided tape holding it in the case. Which I prefer, I never understood why they do that with the Ultraclassic and Endurapro line, even when it's taken off in those cases, they sit in the case with no movement.

But I digress, the new M's assembly can be taken out very easily, and you can view the bottom.

The case itself on the inside is nothing particularly special for an M, but you can see that the moulding has two anchor marks for the upcoming detachable USB A locking cords that they plan to put in the SSK. Maybe we'll see that innovation come back to this model someday and it'll get a revision.

Lastly flipping the assembly over, I noticed that the rivets looked a little thicker than previous models M I've owned. I don't know if this was done on purpose or just this one model, but it's interesting to see.


The Keycaps are typical Unicomp dye Sublimed using their new print technology (They seem to have started phasing that in about 5 years ago, and all models I've seen after 2016 seem to have the new print type.), which results in very sharp and slightly thinner prints on their keycaps compared to older IBM Model M's. Older Unicomps were afflicted with a very blurry print (from using the old print machines from Lexmark) and a grey plastic with little shiny bits in it.

These keys are as far from that as possible. They are sharp printed, don't have a shine, and look quite good. The only letdown to this, is the system keys above the nav cluster. They have the new Unicomp problem of being slightly overprinted, so a bit too much ink used, which make them look bolder than they should. The alphanumeric area of the board however looks very good.

They chose Brilliant White keycaps for the lighter shade of keycaps, and grey for the darker, instead of the solid grey they've sworn by for years. This looks good on the keyboard, but of course will need to be cleaned more often.

The switch type is the traditional Buckling Springs that IBM, Lexmark, and Unicomp have put into keyboards for nearly 40 years now. They feel heavenly, and are great typing keyboards. They don't make the best gaming keyboards due to not being able to repeat keys very quickly, the 2-Key Rollover on this board is fine for the vast majority of gaming situations, but if you have to spam a key, you will be hampered by the design.

The LED Lock lights have also been switched in the newest model to a very very bright Blue LED, this will blind you in a dark or even not so dark room. This is something I'm not a big fan of, you really need to aim the lock lights away from you, so if you have a desk where the keyboard is right next to you, you probably won't have a good time with the lights.


The new Model M, is a solid, surprising entry in the Unicomp line, and is showing that the company is learning from its decade long mistakes and giving people what they want in a good Model M. I really like the new build quality, am mixed on the new texture on the keyboard case, it really does hold fingerprints much too well. There looks to be improvements in places that have been criticised for years now. The Legends are clear, it is a little heavier, Deck Flex is minimized to a now very nice degree, and the new shape is pleasant to look at. It's indisputably a Model M, and fits in the line well.

Unicomp itself still has alot of its traditional problems: They don't interact with the keyboard community in nearly any way or advertise, they are fairly sparse on Social Media, and any sort of news of their current project. even though it's clear they've been working on this keyboard and the SSK for years now. Even small details would have kept the loyals happy, which they haven't done. They still produce a niche product for certain people, and even in the Keyboard community they are considered niche.

I'd give it a solid recommend for someone who wants a new Model M.

Here is the link to this particular model M on their site, as it's hard to find, they really do need some help with their website:

I think the coolest part about this keyboard is that it's a new Model M. This is fantastic to me. It's a NEW. MODEL. M. It's not them just continuing to make Models M. It's a ****ing new one. That's so goddamn boss. Has there been a keyboard in production for longer than this bad lad?

I will say, my most recent Unicomp Model M keyboard is a bit disappointing, in a small number of ways.

One, the blue L.E.D. indicator light (NUM, CAPS, SCROLL) are in fact very unpleasant. It isn't just that I am accustomed to the green L.E.D.s, consistently from the very early I.B.M. models; rather, the particular blue lights on this unit are extremely distracting, especially when one is working in an even-slightly dark room.

Second, the keycaps now are single-piece. This is not the end of the of world, but I quite like the two-piece keys, and I wish they remained as such (or, at least, I believe Unicomp should make it clear on their Web site that this change has been made).

Third, the keycaps themselves have more "jiggle" than ever. This isn't to say it's awful; it just is more noticeable relative to earlier incarnations. I have heard this might be because the factory tooling has not been renewed.

Third, the entire keyboard is much lighter in weight than ever before: literally, the item is ~less than half the weight of previous units.

Finally, a few key-switches are simply faulty, and require work.

Despite the above complaints, altogether, this remains a masterly keyboard, that offers an unparalleled typing experience, and aesthetics that are greatly to my liking. I just lament, what I feel to be, a diminution in build-quality and/or quality-control.

if it can help, i have modded an Unicomp M to have pink LED instead of the green, without adding a resistor it was blinding but adding a 1k across the trace common to the LED and power and cutting that trace made them much more manageable, although it also made the lights dim up and down depending on how many are on. could be avoided by doing it with 3 resistors between the controller and LEDs but i was too lazy for that. Of course i do expect that this mod would void any warranty from Unicomp, but for peoples who do not care for the warranty or in the future get those 5th hands, easy mod for that problem.

They have new tooling; mine, purchased last month, has little or no key jiggle.  There are zero faulty switches on it.

I agree the blue LEDs are too bright.


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