I'm well aware that this is an older review, originally posted 2008-06-26, but I'm migrating all of my reviews to Deskthority.
I know, it's a weird comparison, tossing in the regular Model M, but it was the best Model M I had typed on, so I'll use it as the benchmark. After all, this is a keyboard review.
The keyboards involved are:IBM Model M
Part Number: 1391401
ID Number: 0126050
Price paid: $4.99 (+ tax)IBM Model M13
Part Number: Originally 82G3281 (by Lexmark), now 92G7461
ID Number: 0011850
Price paid: $75 (+ shipping)Unicomp EnduraPro USB
Part Number: UB40PGA
Serial Number: 0201774
Price paid: $99 (+ shipping)
All of these keyboards were tested on my Apple iBook G4, using (for the IBM keyboards) a Belkin F5U119vE1 PS/2 to USB adapter. The Model M13 was also tested on a Dell Dimension 2100 via native PS/2, and on a Dell PowerEdge 2950 using a Bytecc BT-2000 PS/2 to USB adapter.
So, let's go on to the tests...Plastic Quality
Model M: Good - barely noticeable injection molding artifacts on the keys, case is perfect. No need for pics here.
Model M13: Poor - case is perfect, keys are poorly injection molded, spacebar was bent, several keys sticking
EnduraPro: Fair - keys have some injection molding artifacts, case is dimpled in places
Winner: Model MTyping Feel and Sound
Typing feel is an extremely subjective category, so realize that this is just my opinion.
My Model M has a very light key action, with a very crisp click. Not at all tiring to type on. Precise feedback. Sound is loud, with a metallic quality to it.
My Model M13 has a somewhat stiffer key action, with some keys sticking. Mildly tiring to type on, but far better than a rubber dome. Feedback is fairly precise. Sound is annoyingly metallic.
My EnduraPro has a stiff-ish key action, although it's not too tiring. Feedback is decent. Sound has a weak metallic quality to it - close to the Model M, but less metallic.
Winner: Model MTrackPoint
Finally, a category that the Model M is disqualified from.
Model M13: The TrackPoint buttons SUCK
. Too easy to press, not enough feedback when you are pressing them. Also, the TrackPoint would not function through my Belkin adapter, but it did function through the Bytecc. Seeing as I bought that one for work, and my employer has a few Byteccs lying around... On the plus side, the TrackPoint behaves pretty much like I expected it to. Just turn the pointer speed all the way up, turn off the "enhance pointer precision," and it acts almost like a modern TrackPoint. Almost. (Negative intertia would be nice.)
EnduraPro: The TrackPoint buttons are good. Not as good as a ThinkPad's, but... they make the M13's buttons look like CRAP.
As for the TrackPoint itself... note that Unicomp is careful to never actually use the word "TrackPoint" in their advertising. This is for a reason. It's no TrackPoint. The TrackPoint uses a strain gauge, whereas this uses a force-sensing resistor.
The upshot of this is, the Unicomp pointing stick has about 1mm of travel in each direction - and it won't detect anything within the travel. I believe Dan's Data describes it as... wobbly. That's a good description. It certainly takes some getting used to.
I'll reluctantly give this one to the M13.Weight
If heavy is what you want, the Model M wins. If light is what you want, the EnduraPro wins. The M13 is right in between.Overall Impressions
I certainly like the compact size of the EnduraPro, and like the fact that it has 104 keys (making using it on a Mac much, much easier,) and that it has USB (making using it on modern computers easier.) It does need a more traditional TrackPoint, though. Something else I'll note: it doesn't have drainage holes.
The M13... whoever refurbished this one needs to do better quality control. (Redacted, because I was wrong about who refurbished it. I still don't know who, but it wasn't Unicomp.)
Otherwise, not a bad keyboard. Do note that the M13 seems to be even pickier than the regular Model M when it comes to USB adapters. (Although, I could type just fine on it. It was just the TrackPoint that wasn't working.)
The Model M... no TrackPoint, which is what prompted me to get the other keyboards. Huge, obvious disadvantage there. It does have a removable cable, and it has drainage holes. It has the best feel out of all of my keyboards, although they haven't necessarily been broken in yet. It's the heaviest, and ties with the M13 for taking the most space.
I'm going to have to say that the EnduraPro wins it. I really like this keyboard. The Model M feels slightly better, but the EnduraPro adds the TrackPoint, has USB, has 104 keys, and is more compact. Oh, and drainage hole-equipped 1391401s aren't the most common things to find used, whereas EnduraPros can be bought new.Updates
So, I decided to come back to this article, and add long-term impressions, after a while.
My M13's right mouse button completely failed!
Also, the buttons were wired backwards... so the right mouse button worked as a left-click, unless I told the OS to reverse them. Annoying. Since then, the keyboard's pretty much just sat unused, except for me bringing it out today for an audio recording.
The EnduraPro's right mouse button started feeling really weird... so it's currently at Unicomp for repairs. It was still working, though, and it actually DID serve as a right button.
But, since I wrote this review, the keyboard's broken in. It's VERY light to type on. I LOVE it. I actually prefer it to my 1391401, now, for typing feel.
The 1391401, of course, was already broken in. :pUpdates, Round 2
So, I got a new set of buttons for the M13, and a new spacebar, and I'm typing this update on it. I actually got the M13 working on my Belkin PS/2->USB adapter by plugging the mouse in first...
First off, the new TrackPoint buttons have much better tactility, and work.
Now, back to typing impressions. Every key seems to move... not smoothly, like it's sticking near the beginning and end of its travel. Which feels bad, and contributes to fatigue. I'm gonna try a full keycap swap with my 1391401 (except for G and H, obviously,) and see how it feels then. (Probably should've just paid the $25 for the whole M13 that these TrackPoint buttons came out of...) Oh, and the TrackPoint II is SLOOOOOOOOOOOWWWWWW - I'm used to my ThinkPad's TrackPoint IV set to maximum sensitivity and maximum pointer speed, whereas it feels like the TP2 is at minimum sensitivity. That's probably a driver thing, but still...
I'm selling that board, still, because of that.
Oh, and I don't like how the EnduraPro types any more... switching over to it for this part of the review... It's much lighter and smoother than the Model M13, and maybe even a bit lighter than my 1391401, but it's also not as crisp, and feels... hollow, somehow. (It also sounds hollow.) And, I seem to bottom out more on it. It's definitely not bad, it's just not quite my cup of tea. I'm keeping this board, as it's got Windows keys and USB. I dislike the pointing stick, but that's probably because I'm used to a TrackPoint IV. On my Mac, which handles pointer tracking in a completely different way, I'm fine with it (and then have to readjust to the TrackPoint!
And, now, to the Model M, 1391401, that I reviewed in this post. (Yes, I'm actually switching out to do each review, although doing any editing to the previous review on whatever keyboard I'm currently using.) Effort is high, but it feels... like a well-oiled machine. It's weird, on most keyboards, I'm fairly quick from the start. On this, I'm slow when just doing occasional typing, but I build up speed as I type on this thing, until I'm flying along the keys like a train down the tracks. It feels great.
But, that slowness when doing light typing thing means that I end up with my hands on the ThinkPad's built-in keyboard some of the time.