Author Topic: Unicomp "Mini M" Review. (Buckling Springs)  (Read 3879 times)

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Offline wyatt8740

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Unicomp "Mini M" Review. (Buckling Springs)
« on: Mon, 11 April 2022, 13:32:34 »
I forgot to post this here months ago when I wrote it, but I did a review of the newish Unicomp Mini M (mine's serial number 1034) on my blog.

The full, extremely thorough (IMO) review:
https://wyatt8740.gitlab.io/site/blog/005_006.html#unicomp-mini-1
(I hope I'm allowed to link to it. Sorry if I'm doing something wrong, this is my first review post here.)
Any 'marbling' on this shell that you see is actually just hand oils and stuff. I guarantee you.


Here's the comparatively quick rundown, if you don't want to read my (very long and in-depth) blog post/review. I'd recommend reading the review on my blog if you have time, though.

The Good:
  • I am pretty happy with it overall, now that Unicomp has worked out the early bugs from last Spring/Summer. I just wish I could get one in beige/pearl or industrial grey.
  • It's certainly better priced than an IBM tenkeyless, which I've basically given up on getting unless one falls out of the sky onto my lap. And it feels nearly as good as my 1987 silver label 1386303 IBM M.
  • It Feels a bit better (smoother) than my Lexmark/very late IBM boards (59G7980, 1391401), in my opinion.
  • The plastics look good.
  • The legends are crisp and in general well-aligned.
  • The fact that the cable can be detached is nice, and something I also like about my IBM boards. I modified the lock mechanism on mine so it's a bit easier to unplug without a tool, though.

The Bad:
  • I had to re-seat two or three springs to get the entire board feeling consistent. Didn't take long, but it's worth mentioning. I wasn't afraid of breaking anything, but if you're unsure you may want to buy a few extra springs from Unicomp for the "chopstick method" (they're very cheap). I used a whittled Q-tip.
  • I wish I could get it in beige, or maybe industrial grey.
  • I don't like Windows keys, and this one uses the big blocky ugly windows 8/10 logo.
  • They turned right alt into a windows key, which was a minor annoyance. It differs from the New Model M's key arrangement, and also means I have to use software to swap the right alt key.
  • The blue LED's are also the primary gripe I have about the board; everything else ranges from acceptable to great.
  • My keyboard has been modded in a handful of ways, which I cover in the review itself.
    • The blue LED's it comes with are mounted on the membrane itself and are not a simple soldering job like the New Model M/other Unicomp products.
    • My amber LED mod was highly non-trivial. It involves taking a pair of scissors or a knife to the membrane, and then soldering wires to the underside of the controller board and running them up to a perfboard sandwiched in the very tight space at the top of the case. It will void your warranty.

The Verdict:
I like it a lot. I recommend it, if you would like the extra space and don't want to give up buckling springs or your mortgage payment.

Despite the high number of 'bad' items in the list, these items are relatively unimportant/trivial ones that I only complain about because I have to complain about something.
Even the blue LED problem isn't the worst, considering how rarely the lock keys will be used. The typing experience is very good, and second only to possibly my 1987 M, which felt a bit more uniform. Worth noting that I had to spend hours bolt modding that '87 M, though, and that the barrel plate on it is splintering, and that in 2022 you won't probably find an early IBM one for $18 like I did.
The biggest thing is that the mini is smaller than my full size M, and that it costs much, much less than an IBM SSK does, or even did five to ten years ago. They typing experience is quite good since Unicomp made new keycap tooling.

The Mini M is definitely worth $120, and I do not regret my purchase. And I say that with $120 being the most I've spent on any individual piece of electronics since 2015 when I bought my graphics card (a 750 Ti). I am quite cheap.
As my first ever Unicomp keyboard, I am pleasantly surprised, given the reputation they had previously acquired. Even if you had a bad experience with one of their products in the past, I would suggest giving them another look.
« Last Edit: Mon, 11 April 2022, 17:56:34 by wyatt8740 »
I don't usually collect things, but when I do, they're from the 70's, 80's, and 90's. My typing speed: 79 WPM
IBM Model M 1386303, 1987 / IBM Model M 1391401, 1993 / IBM Model M 59G7980, 1993 / Unicomp "Mini M" UT40E7A (modded), 2021 / Dell AT101W, 1994 (Black Alps) / Apple Extended Keyboard (Orange Alps), 1987 / Sun Type 5, unknown year (Rubber Dome)

Offline Versaknight

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Re: Unicomp "Mini M" Review. (Buckling Springs)
« Reply #1 on: Wed, 13 April 2022, 10:28:12 »
I wonder if there is any way to get lighter springs on my model m. I love it but i find it a bit tiring at times to type on because of how heavy it is. I asked unicomp but they said its not possible from them so we need a 3rd party manufacturer to make it possible.

Offline wyatt8740

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Re: Unicomp "Mini M" Review. (Buckling Springs)
« Reply #2 on: Sat, 16 April 2022, 00:27:59 »
I wonder if there is any way to get lighter springs on my model m. I love it but i find it a bit tiring at times to type on because of how heavy it is. I asked unicomp but they said its not possible from them so we need a 3rd party manufacturer to make it possible.
That's just an issue with buckling spring boards in general, though, isn't it?

It may technically be possible, but you're going to have a problem where you are trading off the weight with the strength of the buckling (and the dependability of the buckling. I'd imagine to really work you'd have to change the total travel distance as well, and possibly redesign the flippers. It will inherently change the sound and also the feel of the board, and probably make it a lot weaker of a 'snap.'

Not sure if key weight is higher or lower on a Model M2 or Model F, though.

I was writing this review basically with the idea that if you like buckling spring boards already, you'll probably like the mini m.

I honestly don't think the weight is a problem at all; sure, it's a little heavier than my orange/white alps boards, but it's lighter than many rubberdomes and when i'm typing it doesn't feel laborious or anything to use.

I think the higher initial weight and sudden drop-off is what makes the click so much more satisfying than any (affordable/non-boutique) MX board I've ever used.

One last thing: If you like the sound of buckling springs but want a lighter weight, you may want to look for white alps switches.
« Last Edit: Sat, 16 April 2022, 00:53:02 by wyatt8740 »
I don't usually collect things, but when I do, they're from the 70's, 80's, and 90's. My typing speed: 79 WPM
IBM Model M 1386303, 1987 / IBM Model M 1391401, 1993 / IBM Model M 59G7980, 1993 / Unicomp "Mini M" UT40E7A (modded), 2021 / Dell AT101W, 1994 (Black Alps) / Apple Extended Keyboard (Orange Alps), 1987 / Sun Type 5, unknown year (Rubber Dome)

Offline Icemanrec

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  • Location: Hong Kong
Re: Unicomp "Mini M" Review. (Buckling Springs)
« Reply #3 on: Thu, 14 July 2022, 23:22:27 »
But can you make FSSK out of this?  :cool: