The Unicomp Mini M mechanical keyboard boasts a design aesthetic that beautifully blends nostalgia with modernity. It pays homage to the beloved IBM Model M SSK (Space Saving Keyboard). It exudes a timeless charm that will captivate keyboard enthusiasts familiar with the original. In some ways, this was the original “TKL” keyboard.
If you are unfamiliar with Unicomp (official website), the company was created when IBM discontinued its Model M keyboard manufacturing. The employees of that specific keyboard business and manufacturing plant purchased the license and tools to continue building these wonderful keyboards under the Unicomp brand. (more info)
Crafted with meticulous attention to detail, this keyboard has outstanding build quality. From its robust plastic casing with a sleek matte black finish to its solid frame, every aspect of its construction exudes durability.
You can feel the sturdiness as you type, ensuring a stable and reliable experience even during intense gaming or work sessions. The keycaps are thick and well-made, promising longevity and a satisfying tactile feel if you are into heavily clicky keyboards.
Unicomp has flawlessly merged retro design with slightly updated manufacturing techniques (including native USB-A support), resulting in a keyboard that matches style and durability expectations. Get ready to elevate your typing experience with the Unicomp mini-M!
IBM Buckling Springs
The Unicomp mini-M mechanical keyboard uses buckling spring switches, known for their legendary typing experience. These switches offer a delightful tactile feel and a satisfying audible click, making every keystroke a joy.
Compared to other popular mechanical switches types like Cherry MX or Gateron, buckling spring switches provide a unique and retro typing experience. While they may require a significantly higher actuation force, the specific feedback and the sheer nostalgia they evoke make the Unicomp mini-M a standout choice for those seeking the typing feel of the IBM Model M.
The typing experience reminds me of my previous IBM Model M keyboard. I owned two, and both were manufactured in the early 90s (which are objectively cheaper to make than the 80s models).
New buckling switches do require a lot of force to actuate. Eventually, that decreases a little, but I’m not sure how long it takes for the switches to become a bit less “stiff.” No Cherry MX switch I’ve tested can compare, not even the Kailh Box Navy or Black – not even close.
Whether or not you will like the keyboard’s tactile feedback or sound is a matter of personal preference, so I can’t know. However, I can predict that people who enjoy “silent” keyboards or switches with a “light touch” should probably stay away from these buckling spring switches.
Despite being a fan of the older IBM Model M, I also want to highlight some nuances. I like using this keyboard for coding, which I do a lot. However, there are more agreeable keyboards for heavy text typing, like writing this review.
For example, I own a Keychron V1 with Khail Box White (clicky) switches, and we have a Logitech MX Mechanical mini at the office. Both are significantly lighter to type with, and it’s fair to say that the heavy typing style required by the Model M can be a bit tiring if you’re a journalist (for me, coding tends to be “bursts of typing” rather than “continuous typing”).
Layout and Keycaps
The Unicomp mini-M is an 87-key keyboard, and I have the ANSI US version. Compared to the original IBM, the Windows and Menu buttons have been added, but everything else is pretty much as it was.
From the outside, the keycaps are the same design as IBM used back in the day. The keyboard keys are 1-piece dye sublimated PBT keycaps, but Unicomp sells some 2-piece keycaps as “parts.”
This keycap design is incompatible with Cherry MX and other more broadly adopted standards, so the keycap customization options are almost nil. Also, there’s no backlight, which might seem odd these days, but Unicomp’s goal here was to keep the original design.
Be warned, this keyboard is NOT office-friendly and noisier than any MX-switches keyboard I’ve seen or used in the past couple of decades. The good news is that it does not produce high-pitch noise, so that’s something positive. That said, I’m positive that colleagues within a 15+ feet radius will most likely hate the noise and
Connectivity & Compatibility
Despite being a clone of a 36-years old keyboard, this Unicomp mini-M comes with USB connectivity and works just like any other USB keyboard. It has a USB-A port on the keyboard and expects to be connected to another USB-A on the computer.
The USB-A connector on the keyboard side might seem odd, but it is sturdier than USB-C connectors, and that’s probably why it was selected. The location of the connector mimics the original keyboards, but I would have preferred to have it to the left of the chassis.
From time to time, I experience a small issue where the keyboard is “frozen” (not active), and all three LEDs (Num Lock, Caps Lock, Scroll Lock) are ON. To fix it, I have to disconnect/reconnect the keyboard. It looks like I’m not the only one to experience this. It’s not a big deal, but this should not happen.
Customization and Programmability
As I previously hinted, don’t expect much in terms of customization, as it is nearly impossible to find custom keycaps and other custom hardware. Thanks to Unicomp, you won’t lack spare parts for repairs/replacements if needed. However, I could not find any interesting and affordable fun keycaps.
That said, I did order a Navy Blue ANSI Color Key Set from Unicomp to give this keyboard a look reminiscent of the beautiful original IBM “industrial” SSK keyboard with the blue keys. It looks like the original IBM Blue is not available, perhaps for copyright reasons (?).
I even found a metal IBM logo sticker on Aliexpress, which added a fun bit of nostalgia to the keyboard.
As far as I know, the keyboard has no particular programmability. For gamers, you should note that although key ghosting has been reduced by using a more modern controller, there’s no N key rollover, so although you can game with it – this is not an ideal “gaming keyboard.”
Conclusion, Price, and Value
Just a couple of years ago, Unicomp keyboards were selling for just above $105, but now, this Unicomp Mini M sells for $149 before shipping and taxes. Is it worth the price? Well, “it depends.”
For someone like me who really enjoyed the earlier Model M, it’s impossible to re-create this experience using MX-based custom keyboard hardware, no matter the price, so I think it’s worth it (for me). I’ve even ordered some extra to make the keyboard more fun.
For someone who does not particularly seek the Model M experience, you would need to try one and see how much you like it. You may be tempted!
From a build quality point of view, I consider this keyboard’s quality to be far superior to a $99 keyboard like my Keychron V1, so even from a pure “build quality” point of view, this keyboard’s price seems reasonable, and the support team answers relatively quickly via email or Facebook.
|Number of keys/buttons
|15.5 in. (395.4 mm)
|7.5 in. (190 mm)
|2.34 in. (59.4 mm)
|3 lb. 4 oz. (1.47 Kg)
|4 lb. (1.81 Kg)
- Excellent IBM Model M SSK reproduction
- Very good build quality
- Feels very similar to the 90s Model M
- Bulky, heavy
- Not ideal for gaming
- Very limited customization
Rating + Price
- Rating: 8.5/10
- Price: ~$149
Filed in Keyboards.. Read more about