Unicomp Extremely Traditional Keyboard Assessment

In 1984, IBM introduced the legendary Model M, a beast of a mechanical keyboard that used a unique articulated key switch to love the user's fingers with a lot of noise. The Ultra Classic from Unicomp is the direct descendant of the M model and almost as good as the original.

If you worked in an office environment before the turn of the millennium, chances are you will come across one of the best keyboard creations from IBM. Previously, this was the keyboard you wanted in your cabin. The M model was built robustly. The particularly loud keys required respect, and the tactile feedback (and pushback) made frequent typing less tedious.

One of the earliest model M keyboards

The feel and the sound of the keyboard are mainly thanks to the spring-loaded button switches. Most key switches used today are self-contained units that consist of a closed mechanism and a kind of stem. The kink spring model is a hole in the keyboard with a spring in it. Pressing a key kinks the spring, causing the keyboard to register a key press. The distinctive sound is generated by the spring that hits the inside of your channel.

Gif about Shaddim on Wikipedia

It's a simple and durable design that's built to last and withstand even the most hungry eater above the keyboard.

In 1991, IBM sold a number of its hardware activities, including printers and keyboards, to an investment company that would later form Lexmark. In 1996, the Lexmark contract to create IBM keyboards expired and the manufacturing rights were sold to a group of former Lexmark employees who founded Unicomp. The Lexington, Kentucky-based company has been presenting its version of the M model for over two decades.

Look at this little spring. Hello little spring. So cute.

The Ultra Classic is a slightly stripped down version of the original IBM Model M, in which the plastic is cut from the top of the board to create a leaner and lighter unit. If you want to achieve the full effect, opt for the pure classic. I like the extra space.

What's so great about it?

The sound: I bought the Ultra Classic from Unicomp on the recommendation of a member of the Reddit mechanical keyboard, who responded to my stated request for a keyboard with a nice, loud "thunk". Listen to this beauty. Take care of your hands.

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This is a loud keyboard, but the best kind of loud. I have been using it for a few weeks now and every time I put my finger on it I am 20 years old in the digital equipment corporation's call center support laptop, just without the deep and endless despair.

Keyboard specifications
Starts at $ 84.00

  • Connection: USB
  • Cable length: 2m
  • Number of keys / buttons: 104
  • Switch: buckling springs
  • Length: 455 mm
  • Depth: 180 mm
  • Height: 50 mm
  • Key caps: PBT polymer
  • Legends: dye sublimates
  • Weight: 1.6 kg
  • Compatible: PC
  • Gross weight: 4.4 lbs
  • Handmade
  • Made in Kentucky

That said, the Ultra Classic is not a keyboard for a quiet evening. It won't make your roommate, spouse, or neighbor in the cabin happy. But you always make her happy. What about your needs

The answer: The spring-cage key switch provides excellent tactile feedback. It's almost too fancy to describe what's going on here. As soon as you press the button and get that wonderful click and push, the feather drives your fingers to the next target. It slaps your fingers on the ass (it makes sense in my head) and says, "Go and get it, tiger."

For those familiar with the Cherry MX switch, it's as if the tactile MX brown and the clicking MX blue have married.

The appearance (pre-customization): It's right there in the name, isn't it? Classic lines, chunky keys – it's nice if you like something like that.

The keys not only look good, the legends are also sublimated, so they're basically part of the plastic. You could type them for three decades and they would never fade.

Double layer keycaps: Here's a neat trick

As with the IBM Model M, the key caps of the Unicomp Ultra Classic consist of two parts. This makes it easier to replace the caps without possibly screwing with the spring mechanism.

What's not so great

The strange flaw: While the Ultra Classic is solid and robust enough, occasional defects in the plastic can give the impression that this is not the case. The biggest hurdle I had to overcome before buying this keyboard was images on the Internet that showed marks like the ones on the bottom of my device.

The markings on my Ultra Classic were limited to the bottom, so only small coins and fluff are affected. Just know that the case may not be perfect.

Customization options: All pretty keyboard keys are designed for Cherry MX or Topre switches. There are not many options for the kink spring set. Mind you, "not many" does not mean "none". Unicomp itself offers different colors of keys to order. This is what my Ultra Classic looked like:

Unprinted color keys are $ 1 each from Unicomp, while whole blank standard sets (white, black) are available for $ 20.

If you hunt hard, you can even find some nice custom jobs in places like Etsy.

Final thoughts

The Unicomp Ultra Classic is a monument to the endurance of the sophisticated mechanical keyboard technology. You wouldn't use a 30 year old monitor to play World of Warcraft. You couldn't load Windows 10 onto a hard drive that was created three decades ago. Do you remember mice with little balls on the floor? Computer mice. Stop doing that.

Purchasing links:

In the Unicomp Ultra Classic we have a mechanical keyboard that essentially corresponds to that of 1984 and is just as satisfactory today as it was then.

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