Author Topic: Unicomp Mini Model M SSK prototype first look, overview/review and experience  (Read 4144 times)

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Offline sharktastica

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About a month ago, I was contacted by Unicomp to help critically review a prototype of the now-March coming Mini M. This is my article on my experience with the Mini M over the last three weeks, some details of the Mini M's new features, and how/what I reported to Unicomp as things to fix/improve!

The article: https://sharktastica.co.uk/articles/minim_prototype
Typing demo:

Note: this is a prototype keyboard, thus not fully representative of the final product coming next month.

Some photos for your curiosity:
263032-0
263034-1
263036-2
263038-3


Online yui

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Finall , The True Space Saver that doesn't save any space. 
compared to a modern 103 yeah but compared to a M it does save quite a bit of space :)
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Offline Sup

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All the boomers like to hit the spacebar with there index fingers instead of there stronk thumbs.  Otherwise nice to see this TKL actually exist and is close to production.


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Offline tp4tissue

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Wonder if they plan on a  SpacesaverSpacesaver.   87% without the spacing

Offline King Icewind

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They just had to make it like the original, instead we get two ugly color schemes and weird positioned also ugly LED notification area. Do they have plans to release a black case with black keys at least? Or even the original beige color?

My main keyboard for years now has been a Model M, and always wanted the SSK. So, I was looking forward to a more affordable option and the ability to press more than a few keys at a time...

Offline fohat.digs

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a black case with black keys at least?


Unicomp sells black unprinted caps but stopped making the pad printed black ones years ago because it is impossible to keep the ink from wearing off over time.
What this shows is that the Republican Party knows, deep down somewhere, that even before Trump they had less than a policy agenda. All they’ve had for the past decade or so is strategy and tactics to suppress the vote, either through extreme gerrymandering or State-level laws. More often than not, as we’re seeing, through both. Without a stated party platform they are left with nothing but the insanity of The Power Grab and The Big Lie. The Party as a whole has, for some twisted logical reason, decided that America no longer needs Democracy. That in the bent and tortured reality Republicans have created for themselves America was never a Democracy, the Founders never intended for the country’s politics or social order to change, that the country’s democratic features would always only extend to wealthy White Christian property owners. They’ve also, collectively, decided that threatening major, multi-billion dollar corporations that employ tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people worldwide will somehow, for some reason, cower in the corner when State politicians decide to take a few million in subsidies off the table. When faced with hundreds of millions, or even billions, in lost business because The People are voting with their wallet, I know where I’d position my company, and it’s not at the dinner table with Mitch McConnell and his wife.
– **** Scott 2021-04-08

Online Maledicted

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Ellipse is also making some "XT quality" buckling spring caps in a dark gray with black legends. I imagine they would look great on one of these. If I get one at some point, I'll probably desolder all of the lock light LEDs and change them to red, use one of Ellipse's printed dark gray sets, and use unprinted red Unicomp caps for the modifiers.

Not sure what about this looks terrible. I'm kind of glad they did something a little different with the lock lights. A Pearl/pebble cap option would be nice, of course.

Online yui

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Unicomp does a lot of custom work, i am pretty sure that a pebble capped ssk would be something they'd have no issues selling you. for the lock lights i see a bit were peoples who find it ugly are coming from, it is aligned with nothing and in the bezel, and the new unicomp big blue LEDs that everyone seems to hate on, although having opened a few M i do not know how unicomp would have put them anywhere else.
as for what i hope to see is a WKL with the 7U spacebar, because i like WKL :) and also like the bright white color scheme they sent chyros a bit better.
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Offline King Icewind

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Well, the gray and black is growing on me. Probably buy one anyways. I do think putting the LED notification off to either the far left or right would have looked best limitations aside.

Offline tp4tissue

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They already paid for the mold, so we're prolly stuck with the lock lights.

A possible remedy is a Sticker to cover it up completely,  OR a sticker with occlusion that is less visually obtrusive, for example 3 vertical window stripes no text.

Also, If I were to buy one, I'd go in and swap the LEDs for RED,   This blue stuff needs to DIE..

Offline fohat.digs

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big blue LEDs that everyone seems to hate on,


I have sensitive eyes and hate bright lights anyway, but bright and blue is the worst possible environment for someone at night trying to wind down to go to sleep.

If only NumLock On was the default so that the lights were all off in the scenario that 99% of people use ....

What this shows is that the Republican Party knows, deep down somewhere, that even before Trump they had less than a policy agenda. All they’ve had for the past decade or so is strategy and tactics to suppress the vote, either through extreme gerrymandering or State-level laws. More often than not, as we’re seeing, through both. Without a stated party platform they are left with nothing but the insanity of The Power Grab and The Big Lie. The Party as a whole has, for some twisted logical reason, decided that America no longer needs Democracy. That in the bent and tortured reality Republicans have created for themselves America was never a Democracy, the Founders never intended for the country’s politics or social order to change, that the country’s democratic features would always only extend to wealthy White Christian property owners. They’ve also, collectively, decided that threatening major, multi-billion dollar corporations that employ tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people worldwide will somehow, for some reason, cower in the corner when State politicians decide to take a few million in subsidies off the table. When faced with hundreds of millions, or even billions, in lost business because The People are voting with their wallet, I know where I’d position my company, and it’s not at the dinner table with Mitch McConnell and his wife.
– **** Scott 2021-04-08

Offline King Icewind

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Maybe an amber or orange.

Offline 1391406

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I've been gone for awhile and this is my first exposure to the Mini M. If there's anything that immediately drew my attention, it was the placement of the LEDs. Why oh why would they place them there rather than where they rightfully belong; above the Print Screen, Num Lock and Pause keys. Something that simple ruins the look for me.
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Offline Snowdog993

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I am just glad I have what I have.
Edit:
If you read my message way back in another thread, when I had correspondence with Unicomp, it was over 7 years back. Now they introduce a "modern" TKL keyboard. I hope they get a good distributorship on it. I can imagine stores like Best Buy or any other big box store carrying them.
That would be a good thing for Unicomp. I really wish them well.
« Last Edit: Mon, 01 March 2021, 22:53:30 by Snowdog993 »

Offline Snowdog993

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They already paid for the mold, so we're prolly stuck with the lock lights.

A possible remedy is a Sticker to cover it up completely,  OR a sticker with occlusion that is less visually obtrusive, for example 3 vertical window stripes no text.

Also, If I were to buy one, I'd go in and swap the LEDs for RED,   This blue stuff needs to DIE..


It IS a prototype. They may make changes to the overall design.

Offline tp4tissue

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They already paid for the mold, so we're prolly stuck with the lock lights.

A possible remedy is a Sticker to cover it up completely,  OR a sticker with occlusion that is less visually obtrusive, for example 3 vertical window stripes no text.

Also, If I were to buy one, I'd go in and swap the LEDs for RED,   This blue stuff needs to DIE..


It IS a prototype. They may make changes to the overall design.

Molds are quite expensive, so it's a prototype, but they've already cut the mold. Soooooo.... that's prolly it.

That light section is recessed, so they COULD have the mold revised and cut that out, BUTTTTTT there are risks to this as that operation could affect the surface finish in that area, and it could look un-even.

Like says'befou,  it prolly gonna be like this.

Offline tp4tissue

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Maybe an amber or orange.


RED, red is the only color that doesn't affect the dynamic iris in your eye, which changes perceptual contrast. For computer use you want stable contrast.

Amber/Orange is a brighter (more green) RED, this is to stand out during daytime, but TBH, why do we need that, how important is the indicator really,   So a Deep RED is more useful.

Online yui

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although i would not recommend anyone to just replace the blue LEDs with red ones, you will have very bright indicators for a (relatively) very short time, if you want to mod it that way add a resistor in series (value to be determined by the brightness you want, i would expect 1k to 10k to be fine, i modded my old M with a 3k for pink LEDs)
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Offline tp4tissue

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although i would not recommend anyone to just replace the blue LEDs with red ones, you will have very bright indicators for a (relatively) very short time, if you want to mod it that way add a resistor in series (value to be determined by the brightness you want, i would expect 1k to 10k to be fine, i modded my old M with a 3k for pink LEDs)


we can buy 100-1000 packs of leds for a few bucks.   don't think this will be a huge concern,

Overall, they're nearly in the same voltage range, you can find red that goes higher or lower to match, or you can buy the resistors.   

Point is, it's not a hard mod, even if we wing it on voltage.

Heck if over-driven and the LED dims, even better.

Online Maledicted

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although i would not recommend anyone to just replace the blue LEDs with red ones, you will have very bright indicators for a (relatively) very short time, if you want to mod it that way add a resistor in series (value to be determined by the brightness you want, i would expect 1k to 10k to be fine, i modded my old M with a 3k for pink LEDs)


we can buy 100-1000 packs of leds for a few bucks.   don't think this will be a huge concern,

Overall, they're nearly in the same voltage range, you can find red that goes higher or lower to match, or you can buy the resistors.   

Point is, it's not a hard mod, even if we wing it on voltage.

Heck if over-driven and the LED dims, even better.


I have never had to add a resistor when swapping lock light LEDs, I suppose I don't use any lock lights very often though either. I know there must be other instances though where I straight swapped green or blue for red with no ill effect. I wonder how many are under driven straight from the factory. In fact, I wonder if that's a common part of the design. Run the LEDs at the lowest voltage they can without severely crippling brightness in any given color so they can just swap colors on a whim without burning any out.

Online yui

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I have never had to add a resistor when swapping lock light LEDs, I suppose I don't use any lock lights very often though either. I know there must be other instances though where I straight swapped green or blue for red with no ill effect. I wonder how many are under driven straight from the factory. In fact, I wonder if that's a common part of the design. Run the LEDs at the lowest voltage they can without severely crippling brightness in any given color so they can just swap colors on a whim without burning any out.
from my experiences so far
old green -> modern green -> real bright (i do not remember what keyboard it was one of the LED had died)
old green -> modern red -> blinding bright (on an old Dell ruberdome)
modern green -> modern pink -> a fair bit too bright (Unicomp PC122)
i guess part of the problem is that i use lighting LEDs not indicator LEDs but so far even if none were over driven none were easy to look at either, until i added the resistors, given how dim are the old unicomp green LED i would expect that the new blue ones are driven harder so putting a lower voltage red in their place could be a problem, or maybe not, they may be current limiting and then any LED should be as bright as the next, i have no clue what is going on in their controller.
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Online Maledicted

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I have never had to add a resistor when swapping lock light LEDs, I suppose I don't use any lock lights very often though either. I know there must be other instances though where I straight swapped green or blue for red with no ill effect. I wonder how many are under driven straight from the factory. In fact, I wonder if that's a common part of the design. Run the LEDs at the lowest voltage they can without severely crippling brightness in any given color so they can just swap colors on a whim without burning any out.
from my experiences so far
old green -> modern green -> real bright (i do not remember what keyboard it was one of the LED had died)
old green -> modern red -> blinding bright (on an old Dell ruberdome)
modern green -> modern pink -> a fair bit too bright (Unicomp PC122)
i guess part of the problem is that i use lighting LEDs not indicator LEDs but so far even if none were over driven none were easy to look at either, until i added the resistors, given how dim are the old unicomp green LED i would expect that the new blue ones are driven harder so putting a lower voltage red in their place could be a problem, or maybe not, they may be current limiting and then any LED should be as bright as the next, i have no clue what is going on in their controller.

Good point. I forgot ye olde LEDs were a little more power hungry as well. Maybe I should add some resistors to the lock lights in the Scorpius board I'm finishing up converting to Bluetooth. The original ones were mounted in some kind of weird plastic spacers in order to have them sit high enough for the slits in the top of the case anyway. I could just delete the spacers and trim the legs down.

Offline Snowdog993

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Molds are quite expensive, so it's a prototype, but they've already cut the mold. Soooooo.... that's prolly it.

That light section is recessed, so they COULD have the mold revised and cut that out, BUTTTTTT there are risks to this as that operation could affect the surface finish in that area, and it could look un-even.

Like says'befou,  it prolly gonna be like this.


Yeah, it might take another 7 years.

Offline sharktastica

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All the boomers like to hit the spacebar with there index fingers instead of there stronk thumbs.  Otherwise nice to see this TKL actually exist and is close to production.
I'm 23 lol.

Unicomp sells black unprinted caps but stopped making the pad printed black ones years ago because it is impossible to keep the ink from wearing off over time.

That's definitely one of the reasons, but not the full picture. They're not restocking non-printed too (hence, their black right shift has been out of stock for a while). When my subreddit asked them about it last year, they mentioned that a supplier having a huge minimum order quantity is their main reason for not restocking at this time. Due to the nature of their business, most of their business decisions revolve around their gig as an OEM for companies like General Electric and Affirmative - neither would want blank black keycaps (especially for their specialised or terminal emulation layouts that new users would definitely need legends for) or pad-printed keycaps that wear with use (as per your comment).

But, that said, they do review this policy. I hope as demand from individual consumers keeps growing, they'll eventually pick this up.

Molds are quite expensive, so it's a prototype, but they've already cut the mold. Soooooo.... that's prolly it.

That light section is recessed, so they COULD have the mold revised and cut that out, BUTTTTTT there are risks to this as that operation could affect the surface finish in that area, and it could look un-even.

Like says'befou,  it prolly gonna be like this.

Correct. The overall case design is not going to change, especially since they've started to sell this on their website now and people will expect to get what they've already paid for.
« Last Edit: Tue, 02 March 2021, 13:17:39 by sharktastica »


Offline King Icewind

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Does this have NKRO and works with PS2 adapter ?

With it being USB and a new board from 2021 I would hope it's more than the original 2KRO, however, I think it still may be 2KRO due to the buckling spring. No need for PS2 adapter: it's USB. Unless you mean USB to a PS2 connector then likely?

Wonder if these LED covers would fit still? https://www.pckeyboard.com/page/product/LED
« Last Edit: Tue, 02 March 2021, 15:16:49 by King Icewind »

Online Maledicted

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Does this have NKRO and works with PS2 adapter ?

With it being USB and a new board from 2021 I would hope it's more than the original 2KRO, however, I think it still may be 2KRO due to the buckling spring. No need for PS2 adapter: it's USB. Unless you mean USB to a PS2 connector then likely?

Wonder if these LED covers would fit still? https://www.pckeyboard.com/page/product/LED

I think shark covered this in his article about it. If I remember right, the matrix was optimized, so it has closer to 6KRO now. It is not NKRO though.

I find 6KRO to be perfectly adequate for just about any application, unless maybe you're split-screening on a single keyboard or something crazy like that.

The controllers in these are USB, so are you saying you want to adapt it to PS/2/AT? I'm no Unicomp expert but I think they have had USB controllers for quite a few years now and may not even make PS/2 controllers anymore (besides maybe for specialized industrial applications, etc?).
« Last Edit: Tue, 02 March 2021, 15:27:19 by Maledicted »

Offline sharktastica

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Does this have NKRO and works with PS2 adapter ?
I think shark covered this in his article about it. If I remember right, the matrix was optimized, so it has closer to 6KRO now. It is not NKRO though.

It can support up to 10 simultaneous key presses without blocking, but this prototype and its pre-production code doesn't have phantom key detection fully working yet. Thus, I'm considering this an experience equivalent to and as reliable as 6KRO right now (lacking a more specific description). Of note though, the problematic combinations I found were subsequently tested by Unicomp on their latest firmware and they confirmed that phantom keys were no longer generating for them. So, the final product may in fact be stable at a higher key count.

I don't have a passive PS/2 adapter handy to confirm if it supports PS/2 output, but given they haven't told or advertised that capability, I assume no. But, if you meant whether it supports PS/2 to deliver 6KRO+, then there's no need. TO my understanding, USB not supporting more than 6KRO is a common myth or at least "artificial" limitation, enforced by the fact a lot of firmware writers only implement HID boot protocol that allows for just 6-scancode transmission for 'BIOS compatibility' reasons. NKRO with HID is very much a possibility, as demonstrated by Soarer's Converter and QMK (among others) supporting it or allowing you to force NKRO support. I'm happy to report that the Mini M indeed can send more than 6 scancodes, but the phantom key issue on my sample makes using combinations above 6 frustrating at the moment.

With it being USB and a new board from 2021 I would hope it's more than the original 2KRO, however, I think it still may be 2KRO due to the buckling spring. No need for PS2 adapter: it's USB. Unless you mean USB to a PS2 connector then likely?

Wonder if these LED covers would fit still? https://www.pckeyboard.com/page/product/LED

Indeed, it's much reliably higher than 2KRO.

Those LED covers would not fit. They're different dimensions. Although, I see no reason you couldn't cut the blanking plate down to the right size?
« Last Edit: Tue, 02 March 2021, 16:48:18 by sharktastica »

Offline Snowdog993

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Here are a couple pictures from my SSK-Phosphorglow keyboard.
Edit: had to show distinction between scroll lock and numlock key LEDs.
« Last Edit: Tue, 02 March 2021, 18:05:20 by Snowdog993 »

Offline King Icewind

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SNIP

Thank you for the reply and useful information. Have you taken it apart yet?

I ordered one with gray keys and a geek hack key. I wanted some red WASD and ESC keys but unfortunately red is out of stock. Looking for forward to it.

Also their website wouldn’t let me make an account. It asks me to verify my address endlessly.
« Last Edit: Tue, 02 March 2021, 18:31:58 by King Icewind »

Offline sharktastica

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SNIP
Thank you for the reply and useful information. Have you taken it apart yet?

Yes. I didn't really comment on the inside (except asking Unicomp about the scratches inside) since it's not really interesting. It's your usual Model M affair. The two things that were different, the LEDs being integrated into the membrane and the latest controller style, were at least pictured at the bottom of the article.

Offline King Icewind

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I see those now. My apologies on making you rewrite your article in replies to me. :-X
« Last Edit: Tue, 02 March 2021, 19:36:41 by King Icewind »

Offline sharktastica

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I see those now. My apologies on making rewrite your article in replies to me. :-X

I didn't rewrite anything, don't worry! Although, as a minor update I've now included a photo of the backplate in case anyone was curious.


Offline phinix

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Do you guys think this is better, or new F77?
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Online Maledicted

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Do you guys think this is better, or new F77?

It is not capacitive buckling spring, and it isn't in a solid zinc case that could be used as tank armor.

I may not have a Mini M, or even any Unicomp Ms, but I think either one of those factors above preclude the Mini M from any comparison at all for me.  :p

Offline phinix

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Do you guys think this is better, or new F77?

It is not capacitive buckling spring, and it isn't in a solid zinc case that could be used as tank armor.

I may not have a Mini M, or even any Unicomp Ms, but I think either one of those factors above preclude the Mini M from any comparison at all for me.  :p

This mini M is not buckling spring?
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Online Maledicted

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Do you guys think this is better, or new F77?

It is not capacitive buckling spring, and it isn't in a solid zinc case that could be used as tank armor.

I may not have a Mini M, or even any Unicomp Ms, but I think either one of those factors above preclude the Mini M from any comparison at all for me.  :p

This mini M is not buckling spring?

It is, but it is membrane buckling spring. Not as smooth, heavier weighting, shorter travel before the tactile event and actuation, more difficult to service (if ever necessary). If too many of the plastic rivets holding the membrane buckling spring plate sandwich together ever  break, you start losing consistency of switch feel in that area of the board and will have to drill the rivets out and do a bolt mod to fix it.

Offline phinix

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Do you guys think this is better, or new F77?

It is not capacitive buckling spring, and it isn't in a solid zinc case that could be used as tank armor.

I may not have a Mini M, or even any Unicomp Ms, but I think either one of those factors above preclude the Mini M from any comparison at all for me.  :p

This mini M is not buckling spring?

It is, but it is membrane buckling spring. Not as smooth, heavier weighting, shorter travel before the tactile event and actuation, more difficult to service (if ever necessary). If too many of the plastic rivets holding the membrane buckling spring plate sandwich together ever  break, you start losing consistency of switch feel in that area of the board and will have to drill the rivets out and do a bolt mod to fix it.

Yeah, I know, I was confused there:)
Too much Laphroaig :D
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Offline spremino

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Lovely!

Personally, I like that the color theme differs from the original, but dislike the blue leds. Red leds would match the Esc key, I think.

Anyway, kudos to Unicomp.
A long space bar... what a waste of space!

Offline funkmon

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Do you guys think this is better, or new F77?

It is not capacitive buckling spring, and it isn't in a solid zinc case that could be used as tank armor.

I may not have a Mini M, or even any Unicomp Ms, but I think either one of those factors above preclude the Mini M from any comparison at all for me.  :p

Used both. Have an F77 (two), and have typed on the Mini M. The Mini M feels like a Model M. The F77 feels like a Model F. The price difference should do the talking for you. The only reason you might want the Mini M over the F77 is if you don't like the high pitched noise of the Model F.

Online Maledicted

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Lovely!

Personally, I like that the color theme differs from the original, but dislike the blue leds. Red leds would match the Esc key, I think.

Anyway, kudos to Unicomp.

Swapping lock light LEDs to whatever color you like is really, really easy. LEDs are also really cheap.

Do you guys think this is better, or new F77?

It is not capacitive buckling spring, and it isn't in a solid zinc case that could be used as tank armor.

I may not have a Mini M, or even any Unicomp Ms, but I think either one of those factors above preclude the Mini M from any comparison at all for me.  :p

Used both. Have an F77 (two), and have typed on the Mini M. The Mini M feels like a Model M. The F77 feels like a Model F. The price difference should do the talking for you. The only reason you might want the Mini M over the F77 is if you don't like the high pitched noise of the Model F.

So it is true, you've come to the capacitive side of buckling spring.  ;D
« Last Edit: Sun, 07 March 2021, 02:59:17 by Maledicted »

Offline phinix

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Do you guys think this is better, or new F77?

It is not capacitive buckling spring, and it isn't in a solid zinc case that could be used as tank armor.

I may not have a Mini M, or even any Unicomp Ms, but I think either one of those factors above preclude the Mini M from any comparison at all for me.  :p

Used both. Have an F77 (two), and have typed on the Mini M. The Mini M feels like a Model M. The F77 feels like a Model F. The price difference should do the talking for you. The only reason you might want the Mini M over the F77 is if you don't like the high pitched noise of the Model F.

Nevr heard F, U have M and know the sound.
Pitched sound - could this be fixed with dental floss mod?
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What's the Guts like, does it still have those plastic rivets ?

There's pictures in the review he posted.



Looks like the usual to me.

Offline tp4tissue

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What's the Guts like, does it still have those plastic rivets ?

There's pictures in the review he posted.

Show Image


Looks like the usual to me.

Oh good, m0ar bolt mod fun in 30 years.

Online Maledicted

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What's the Guts like, does it still have those plastic rivets ?

There's pictures in the review he posted.

Show Image


Looks like the usual to me.

Oh good, m0ar bolt mod fun in 30 years.


I imagine most of those boards that need bolt mods were abused. I have a metal badge M that literally looked like it spent a good period of time at the bottom of a dumpster before I cleaned it up, and as far as I can tell, it doesn't quite need a bolt mod yet. It isn't missing all that many rivets. Those plastic rivets were a really stupid idea though regardless, in my opinion.

Offline tp4tissue

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I imagine most of those boards that need bolt mods were abused. I have a metal badge M that literally looked like it spent a good period of time at the bottom of a dumpster before I cleaned it up, and as far as I can tell, it doesn't quite need a bolt mod yet. It isn't missing all that many rivets. Those plastic rivets were a really stupid idea though regardless, in my opinion.

The rivets were a cost / speed work around.

plastic embrittlement is normal, heat will speed it up, so storage prolly made the biggest difference.

But overall, if there's even slight tension from the metal plate + 30 years, it's near snapping.

Online Maledicted

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I imagine most of those boards that need bolt mods were abused. I have a metal badge M that literally looked like it spent a good period of time at the bottom of a dumpster before I cleaned it up, and as far as I can tell, it doesn't quite need a bolt mod yet. It isn't missing all that many rivets. Those plastic rivets were a really stupid idea though regardless, in my opinion.

The rivets were a cost / speed work around.

plastic embrittlement is normal, heat will speed it up, so storage prolly made the biggest difference.

But overall, if there's even slight tension from the metal plate + 30 years, it's near snapping.


Yup, I have actually had at least one argument with Chyros about that in the comment section of one of his Youtube videos. I think the plastic rivets disqualify the Model M from being as rugged as people try to say. Even so, I imagine if you don't toss it in some lopsided pile of other heavy objects, or chuck it against a wall, it should be ok.

I think the plastic rivets were a step too far for the sake of cost savings.