IBM Model M Review

Now I shall write a retro review of the IBM Model M. Today we're celebrating this particular keyboard's 20th birthday!

Let's go over the typing experience first. As many of you know, this keyboard uses a buckling spring switch. There is nothing else like it. The actuation point is very pronounced, and the keystroke is heavier. You can't really bottom out the keys; the spring simply compresses until it can't compress any longer. I've achieved my highest and most accurate typing speed test scores (134+ wpm so far) with this keyboard. Most of all: it's fun!

The most noticeable difference between the IBM Model M and other mechanical keyboards is the sound. Let's just say your colleagues at work are not going to be happy with your new-found love. Shall we give it a listen?

As for build quality and design, it's built like a tank in the U.S.A., and it's appearance is old-school, classic. While it is made of plastic, the plastic is twice as thick as modern keyboards. Even though my keyboard has been on this earth for 20 years, there has been minimal, if any, discoloration during that time. It looks almost brand new. I especially love the raised and angled top row keys and the slight upward curvature to the keys on the other rows.

However, it does take up a lot of space on your desk, which won't give you as much room for your mouse.

The coiled cable is twice as thick as USB cables found with other keyboards. I like that it is removable, but I wish the connectors weren't proprietary.

There are two small rubber feet on the bottom of the keyboard, but they are sufficient. Even if they were not included, the keyboard would not be moving around much because it is so heavy. This is also true when using the plastic angle adjustment feet.

Another part of the great build is the keycaps. It would be just as hard to find a new-in-box IBM Model M as it would be to find a McDonald's burger with less than 10 grams of fat. This being the case, I purchased mine used. I was especially surprised to find no key shine. Part of the reason is because it uses higher quality PBT keycaps. The sides of the keys are glossy, while the tops have a nice simple texture.

They also have dye-sublimated lettering. While a tiny bit fuzzy to the Retina display trained eye, they should never wear. At least, that's what the rumors say.

There are some downsides to using this keyboard, and I'll go over those.

One thing about the keyboard that bothers me is that the top and bottom halves in the front of the case have a visible gap.

The spacebar is louder than the other keys, and has a different/looser tone. This is probably due to movement of the stabilizers.

Personally, I can't use this keyboard to game. The switches are very heavy and provide too much resistance for fast reaction in gaming. They respond well, but my muscles get too tired.

I do miss the Windows key. I use shortcuts all the time to get into Windows Explorer (Win+E), go straight to the desktop (Win+D), and open up the start menu (using StartIsBack) in Windows 8. The good thing is you can use software called KeyTweak to get around this. I've swapped out my caps lock key for the Window key, for instance. If you play games often and constantly have to swap out your board, this isn't ideal as KeyTweak requires a restart for any changes to occur. Another option similar to Keytweak is AutoHotKey.

Considering this product is now 20 years old, it's amazing how it still competes well with other, more modern, mechanical keyboards. I like it a lot, and I can almost guarantee you will too. If you're interested in picking one up for yourself, Clicky Keyboards does a really nice job professionally cleaning, refurbishing, and then selling these keyboards.

I am definitely going to be keeping this for a very long time, at least another 20 years.

Video Review

Nathaniel Hirschler Avatar
By Nathaniel Hirschler

I'm not a fan of writing bios.

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