Honest opinion on beamspring boards?

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-Space-NATO-

16 Jan 2020, 20:38

Dear lucky users of beamsprings I have a few questions for you.
  • What's your honest opinion on that switch?
  • What do you love? what do you hate?
  • What will you change?
  • Do you think that there's gonna be a modern reissue of beamspring boards? just like the model F ones.
Have a great day! :mrgreen:

User avatar
ZedTheMan

16 Jan 2020, 21:34

I love the switches.
When cleaned and restored man they are an experience. Super smooth, light, and crisp. Feels crisper than buckling springs which can have some more reverb. Feels linear until it doesnt, with a very clear tactility where the flyplate flips up. It drops. The bottom out almost feels cushiony like how I wanted topre to feel, but not like topre or silenced switches. Uh, I can't think of any switch close to how it feels, it's just super unique. My favorite switch.
I don't like the keyboard designs and layouts they came in, though I do appreciate the aesthetic and quality. They are just so damn tall generally. The switches are tall enough as is, don't need to add more height raising it further in that metal case!

They are more complex than model Fs in terms of mechanism. SneakyRobb is attempting to recreate them iirc but it's quite the undertaking.
Last edited by ZedTheMan on 17 Jan 2020, 15:35, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Chyros

17 Jan 2020, 08:20

They are the best switches I've ever tried, beyond a shadow of a doubt.

The only problems with them is the keyboards they come in. They are ludicrously tall, which is the biggest deal breaker for most people, and the layouts are so-so too. My 5251 has something similar to XT layout, and that's doable, but it's about the best you can get, and nothing even remotely resembling a 101-key layout can be found among beamsprings.

None of these aspects prevent me from loving mine whenever I break them out, though. Everything else, even CBS, simply pales by comparison, IMO.

Input Club is working on modern beamspring-driven boards, although these are a quite different design from the original IBM ones.

kmnov2017

17 Jan 2020, 09:16

The switches are great but the greatness ends there.

The keyboard is the least practical keyboard to use. The layout doesn’t bother me but the keyboard is ridiculously tall. Such a high profile makes it impossible to use. You can’t type fast on the keyboard and the switch is super noisy which means you can’t use it for work either.

For me personally, a keyboard must be functional and practical to use. The beamspring fails both these tests.

That being said, it’s absolutely beyond my comprehension how someone can spend over a 1000 euros on something that can’t even be used.

If you can find this board for cheap at a recycling center then by all means go for it, restore it and use it. But if are contemplating getting this off eBay my advice is DON’T.

As for if these would be reproduced, most likely not in its original form.
However user HaaTa from input club is planning on producing what he calls a silo beamspring switch. So far the sound tests look promising. He plans to ship them later this year.

User avatar
purdobol

17 Jan 2020, 11:42

Best switch there is. Someone described it as cracking an egg shell with your fingers. Very crisp, smooth.
Granted I do have very limited experience with one of those.

Their biggest disadvantage (by modern standards) is how tall they are. Which ironically is also the biggest strength.
I doubt it could be replicated in smaller shell without sacrificing the feel.
As for the layouts? Personally I can get used to everything to be honest so it's not an issue.
ZedTheMan wrote:
16 Jan 2020, 21:34
Uh, I can't think of any switch close to how it feels, it's just super unique. My favorite switch.
Well time for shameless plug of Marquardt Butterfly switches ;)
Seriously don't take my word for it.

viewtopic.php?f=73&t=6874
HaaTa wrote:
23 Nov 2013, 00:59
Finally! Found another typewriter model with the Marquardt Butterfly switches, the closest switches I have to beamspring, and waaaaaay simpler.
Spoiler:
Image
Image
It boggles my mind why such a good switch is so overlooked in the community.
So please if any of you find poor lonely olympia typewriter nearby... fucking rescue it.
Don't let them end up in the dumpster.

User avatar
wobbled

17 Jan 2020, 11:50

Too bulky
Uncomfortable keycap height
Too overpriced
Keycaps wobble significantly
Overrated as all fuck because of one guy deciding they're hot shit, then everyone else assuming they are a flawless end game.

In summary: A good clicky switch with absolutely nothing else going for it.

User avatar
adamcobabe

17 Jan 2020, 12:09

You need to try one to really know. There are obvious reasons the design isn't used anymore as others have mentioned. They're fickle switches. However, they are my favorite boards--fun to restore and use, but expensive! The IBM 3278/9 is probably the best choice for daily use. It's mostly made of metal, is not as tall and awkward as the 5251. The case itself becomes a decent wrist rest. I think it also looks better than the others and has the best keycaps (especially if you can find an APL set). 8-) The 3101 is also all metal, but is less attractive IMO.

Findecanor

17 Jan 2020, 12:12

All I remember is that I had expected to be wow'ed but wasn't.

User avatar
ZedTheMan

17 Jan 2020, 16:18

purdobol wrote:
17 Jan 2020, 11:42


Well time for shameless plug of Marquardt Butterfly switches ;)
Seriously don't take my word for it.

viewtopic.php?f=73&t=6874
HaaTa wrote:
23 Nov 2013, 00:59
Finally! Found another typewriter model with the Marquardt Butterfly switches, the closest switches I have to beamspring, and waaaaaay simpler.
Spoiler:
Image
Image
It boggles my mind why such a good switch is so overlooked in the community.
So please if any of you find poor lonely olympia typewriter nearby... fucking rescue it.
Don't let them end up in the dumpster.
You have no idea, I've been wanting to try these for a while, but I can't find any sources of them!

User avatar
tron

17 Jan 2020, 18:46

I love using mine for creative writing, blogs/cash blogging, chat rooms, emails, etc. Basically anything that isn't work related with a deadline. This one I'm typing on is my favorite out of the four I own. It's in like new condition and has an HHKB like backspace and normal size left shift :D

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8Elz9jMpaE

User avatar
purdobol

17 Jan 2020, 21:31

ZedTheMan wrote:
17 Jan 2020, 16:18
You have no idea, I've been wanting to try these for a while, but I can't find any sources of them!
It does take time and patience not gonna lie.
But simple search "olympia es" on ebay is a good start.
Currently there are two available. One in Washington for 100$ or best offer. Local pick up though.
Another one in UK for 85$.
Image
This sign is dead giveaway for marqs.

User avatar
Bass

19 Jan 2020, 11:35

I too like the feel of beamsprings a tad more than capacitive BS, but they are much more vulnerable to contamination, which is a con that very few people mention. My guess is that YMMV and some models are just more prone than others to negative side-effects when enough dust and debris makes it into the PCB. With my 3278, I find that I have to disassemble it to clean the PCB at least once a month without fail as otherwise some keys start to trigger presses from other keys at random over time. I have seen a few people create make-shift contamination shields with plastic wrap in their restorations but I do feel the contamination shield negatively impacts the feel in the first place.
kmnov2017 wrote:
17 Jan 2020, 09:16
The keyboard is the least practical keyboard to use. The layout doesn’t bother me but the keyboard is ridiculously tall. Such a high profile makes it impossible to use. You can’t type fast on the keyboard and the switch is super noisy which means you can’t use it for work either.

For me personally, a keyboard must be functional and practical to use. The beamspring fails both these tests.

That being said, it’s absolutely beyond my comprehension how someone can spend over a 1000 euros on something that can’t even be used.
Personally I think this particular con is overstated for beamsprings. I have managed to type at 120 WPM on mine before and have occasionally used it for work. It does take a bit of extra effort to make it decently comfortable to use for long periods (for me, a wrist rest is good enough but in some cases your chair could also make a huge difference). Just takes a bit of getting used to.

User avatar
-Space-NATO-

21 Jan 2020, 21:38

Thanks for all the replies! really appreciate it! Hopefully one day I could own one myself, until that day, a man can only dream. Have a great week everyone!

User avatar
kps

21 Jan 2020, 22:21

kmnov2017 wrote:
17 Jan 2020, 09:16
[…] the keyboard is ridiculously tall. Such a high profile makes it impossible to use.
The keyboard is not too tall. Your desk is too tall.

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User avatar
tron

23 Jan 2020, 18:29

Bass wrote:
19 Jan 2020, 11:35
I too like the feel of beamsprings a tad more than capacitive BS, but they are much more vulnerable to contamination, which is a con that very few people mention. My guess is that YMMV and some models are just more prone than others to negative side-effects when enough dust and debris makes it into the PCB. With my 3278, I find that I have to disassemble it to clean the PCB at least once a month without fail as otherwise some keys start to trigger presses from other keys at random over time. I have seen a few people create make-shift contamination shields with plastic wrap in their restorations but I do feel the contamination shield negatively impacts the feel in the first place.
Oddly enough I haven't ran into any issues with dust affecting key presses. I've used several models in my collection for months at a time at still haven't needed to open them up for cleaning. Did you keep yours covered when not in use?
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PlacaFromHell

24 Jan 2020, 20:48

I use a 3101 as my daily driver and Jesus fucking Christ, what a lovely keyboard. The switches themselves are the best thing I ever typed on, the tactility of them is something beyond the top tier of clicks, feels as natural as break a thin piece of well tempered chocolate.
The keyboard is good, being so tall is not a big deal, you get used to it and then you find uncomfortable to type on thin keyboards, I even want my model F 122 to be taller. The spherical keycaps make me have less mistakes. The layout isn't horrible, the only complain I have is the lack of a left alt key in the normal place. I love the specific configuration of a numpad-like enter in the main cluster at the point of being a must have of my dream layout. The back tab over the enter key is really useful. My only big complain is getting electrically discharged by it when I wear no shoes, I should make it a powder coating.
I use the keyboard for social chat at Discord, write code, make very large texts about whatever and playing casual games. Is by far the Best piece of my loadout right now. Try to get one if you can.

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SneakyRobb
THINK

25 Jan 2020, 01:00

they okay

User avatar
SneakyRobb
THINK

26 Jan 2020, 17:56

-Space-NATO- wrote:
16 Jan 2020, 20:38
Dear lucky users of beamsprings I have a few questions for you.
  • What's your honest opinion on that switch?
  • What do you love? what do you hate?
  • What will you change?
  • Do you think that there's gonna be a modern reissue of beamspring boards? just like the model F ones.
Have a great day! :mrgreen:
Hi,
Stream of thoughts and ramblings.

Opinion:
I think the switches are great. They feel very nice and crisp. The sound is okay but not outstanding. I don't get that singing soul feeling I get with the Model F or Blue Alps as much. The cleanest most sharp but nice click I have tried. The best part is how the actuation snaps the moving part up toward your finger. That moment of movement is pretty unusual and is probably the best part of the switch for me. Not many other keyboards fling the working components toward your finger at actuation while not only captive, but on a spring. It is almost like the spring pulls the keycap downward when actuated. Very excellent feel. Once the beamspring snaps you still have the return spring, but a main source of resistance evaporates.


Love/Hate:
imho, the main reason the switches are very smooth is because the stem and barrel don't rub. There is loads of room around the white slider part and barrel. The barrel part acts as a basic guide to center the stem, but its basically centered by the coil and beamsprings. They work to correct the alignment. The beamspring is in constant tension, and it will return itself to straight. The keycaps wobble because there so much room around the stem and the part of the barrel around the stem isn't very tall, like a loose collar.

You cannot eliminate the wobble without sacrificing the smoothness. To reduce wobble means to tighten around the stem, which means friction. Even when the stem rubs there is very little plastic touching. The plastic is also very slippery as well. It is not a design fault, the keycap is not wobbling it is centered by spring action. It is floating.

This also means that you do can extreme off bore key presses without binding. This is how most of the key stabilizers work. They just have really thick keycaps that you can press on the side. The wide keys have plastic tabs that extend down to prevent you from over pressing them after actuation which makes sense.

Something about the keycaps feels physically very cold to me. Maybe its the slick potentially POM plastic being so thick, but my hands feel warmer on my Chicony keyboard. I generally prefer the feel of ABS doubleshots.

I love looking at the keycaps, they are very pretty. Especially the pearl white ones.

I hate the plastic spring loaded front manual-book area. It can be very uncomfortable and the seam with the metal case is odd. It can rattle.

The secondary manual holder on the bottom is in an annoying spot as well. Have to tilt the whole board up on the side, but then the feet dont reach so it could scratch your desk or slide. Not a problem though as most wouldn't use this manual usually.

The spacebar stabilizer is not the best and the key doesn't feel as good as other keys to me. It has 1 live switch on one extreme side and the other is a dummy switch so as a minor point the sound is not located in the middle spot. It can rattle a lot as well sometimes. I suppose you could put some grease on it. The stabilizer tabs were originally pushed through the contamination shield so remember to put some plastic wrap or something in them. The stabilizer clips themselves are okay tier plastic.

I think the plastic slider-stem with metal insert is a good design in concept as you can put in different angles and shapes of keycap holder pieces into the stem. I hate how many times I have sliced my fingers open taking them apart.

I enjoy the weight. Very often on my daily-driver chicony if I try to slide the keyboard back, the feet will collapse or the keyboard will roll up on a pen that fell behind it. The beamspring is so heavy and pre-angled this isn't an issue.

The metal case itself while durable, is also quite cold to the touch and has a lot of thermal mass. It can take a while to feel nice and warm. They are not ergonomic, often clumsy, usually uncomfortable. tbh I don't like them very much functionally. Aesthetically they are cool.

I don't like that the keycaps are pre-angled on the stems, I know that Heikkonen's stems are not angled. I like to press straight down, and not at an angle.

I love that the case has a built in screw clamp to tension the cord. As long as you put some material around it, you can clamp smaller usb cords.

I love the large travel after actuation.

I love/hate that the actuation is so tied to the click. On my blue alps I can lift up the switch just a bit and it will un-register but not unclick. This makes it good enough for gaming. The beamspring is not the best for gaming, but that's okay.


Over-ratedness, Availability and market prices. This does not matter. The fact something is rare is irrelevant to subjective experience of excellence quality and feels. The fact that something is revered, praised, whatever. Does not matter. Your opinion should not be based on the opinions of others. There is no value in being over hyped for an "excellent" item, only to declare it is just "great" or over-rated. It's like a review of a restaurants food where you talk about waiting for a table for a long time. That sucks you had to wait, but the food is still good.


Change:
The layouts are a bit odd but not the worst. People seem to get used to small form factors, orthos, ergos, etc all the time. Many good switches are in bad layouts. Many bad switches come in good layouts. Layouts can be changed.

Beyond that the main issue I have is that modules are already tall and often mounted ontop of backplates at a pretty strange angle which elevates them further. It isnt that bad, but it could be better.

Any keyboard would be tall if you mounted the plate onto a beamspring bottom plate, but it is particularly bad for the already tall beamspring.

So shorter case and less bezel is what I would change.


Reissue:
Looking at the Model F reissue and my own trying to make stuff, its just expensive to work with. It is obviously possible but just costs time and money.

For re-imagined switches with lower height, If you try to reduce height you could reduce smoothness as well, its hard to make them shorter while retaining the feel. Maybe it could be done with a narrower coil spring and more overlap of the keycap like a cherry switch. All of the small nuances of the switch work together to make them what they are.

I don't mean to say that switches like the Silo Beamspring would feel bad, but it will have it's own unique different feel. I'd rather that switch stand on it's own. There are just a lot of pieces that are seemingly simple in their own way but sort of connect to each other to make beamsprings feel good. The silo switch has the beamspring off to the side for instance which could be cool and unique feeling in it's own right, but it is a major change. It's like if you made a made an alps clone with a pale blue slider and compared them to SKCM Blue. Except here it is even more different.


Final thought:
IBM Beamsprings are sort of like a car you take driving in the countryside on a weekend for the joy of just driving. Maybe its not the best at groceries, and its not the absolute fastest car at the racetrack, but its the best for the joy of driving/typing.

Or like if you have a nice bicycle that you never lock up for fear of it being stolen. That really nice bike you ride just on weekends where your goal is to enjoy yourself while biking, not getting items or going somewhere.

So to summarize that, it is the ultimate joy-typing keyboard.

codemonkeymike

05 Feb 2020, 21:17

Came here to rep Marquardt Butterfly with purdobol. Was able to find them in the US and they are individual switches, so custom keyboard layouts are possible, oh and the keycaps are all the same profile! Working on pulling my typewriter apart and making an ortholinear keyboard with the switches (with colemak layout, yay)

User avatar
Weezer

22 Feb 2020, 19:42

SneakyRobb makes some great points. You definitely couldn't have the same combination of smoothness and light tactility in a shorter, tighter tolerance switch. I think an equal part in the feel is the fact that beam-springs have two different springs providing upforce, which naturally stabilizes the switch as SneakRobb mentioned. This is why I'm dubious that the silo switch will be able to faithfully reproduce the feeling of a beam-spring switch. They will probably be good switches in their own right, but you can't make an apple out of an orange.

As for my opinion:
I think beam-springs are by far and away the best feeling clicky switch by quite a large margin, but they achieve this at the detriment of many quality of life features that most people have come to expect, such as ergonomics, quietness, and ease of maintenance (they are a royal pain in the ass to clean). Having a beam-spring keyboard is kind of like owning a classic car to me, in that they are not superb Monday to Friday daily drivers, they are expensive, they're time consuming to restore and get running, and they're bulkier and slower than anything modern. But they have a certain solidness and feel to them that you're not going to experience with anything you can buy today. You'll be brought back to a time when engineering finesse and user maintainability came first, and cost cutting and profit maximization came second.

The things I'd change are:
-Layouts to be more modern

-Fix the lack of a wrist wrest on all models except 6580 (gray optional add on) 3270 and 5280 series keyboards

-Implement a different method of switch stabilization to use modern full sized keys. Tangentially, but amazingly, for any keys that needed to be stabilized that weren't on the edge of the keyboard IBM used a dummy module that had no spring it in it. This module wouldn't be attached to the key cap and would act as an empty stabilizer post does on a model F or M, but the mount for beam-springs is steel instead of plastic. This is completely bonkers to me as the steel wears like a knife on the plastic and causes the stabilizer to catch on the upstroke and sometimes bind. Space bars (except on the 6580 series) have two modules with coil springs in them, making them slightly harder to press like on the AT and XT Model Fs.

Will there be a reproduction run?
I would say actually yes...but not anywhere in the near future. It certainly seems like it could be economically viable considering the keyboards go for ~$1000 or more. The main roadblock would be creating molds and acquiring the machinery to use them. IBM was huge on standardization, so I would severely doubt that the manufacturing process would require radically different tooling than what it would take for a model F. Each switch weighs roughly a gram in plastic and 2 grams in steel. ABS plastic goes for about $1.50 a pound, and steel goes for roughly .50¢ with rubber o-rings 3¢ per ring wholesale. This means that each switch will cost roughly 33¢ in plastic and roughly 11¢ in steel to produce for a total of 33+11+3=47¢ per switch in materials. Things like electricity tooling and labor would drive that up, but even if each switch cost an astronomical $5 per switch after labor and overhead, that still only comes out to $410 dollars. Add a generous $100 for the PCB controller and case cost and that's still only $510. If the switches cost about $1 to produce and assemble and the rest costs $60 to produce and assemble that's only $142 per 82 key keyboard. If you invested $40,000, and you sold them for $300 your break even point would be after only 254 keyboards. Selling each for $500 and the break even point is only 112. I'd guess that there are more than 250 people in the world who would buy a beam-spring that had a modern layout, a wrist wrest and potentially had a lower profile, depending on how the case was designed. It would be interesting to know the margins and investment that Ellipse has on his kishsaver reproduction run to get a more accurate understanding of the potential costs, but I think that it could be doable based on 10 minutes of googling :) Also Ellipse has the amount of orders per keyboard model listed on his website totaling 2079 for all models and he's selling each model starting at $346. 2079x346=719,334. $719,334.00 is certainly making a profit on whatever Ellipse has invested.

Should you buy a beam-spring keyboard today?
If you have the money and the interest and understand that they're not going to file your taxes and make you breakfast in bed, yes. There's a lot of salt and vitriol about the exorbitant price they go for, but the price is stable and rising and has been since converters became widely available. Keyboards aren't an investment, but if you pay $1000 for a keyboard now it's not going to be worth 10 bucks next month. However, it's just a switch, and I don't think anyone could honestly say the keyboard is $700+ better than a model F. It's up to you and what you value. :)

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