Please help me choose a keyboard after my unicomp model m

thatdataguy

14 Feb 2019, 13:07

Dear esteemed keyboard nerds,

I'm new to the world of keyboards but I have been devouring Chyrosran22 vids like crazy. However, he doesn't really do 'buying guides'...

Anyway, I bought a unicomp model m ultraclassic and I do really like it for typing. However, after using it for a month or so for coding, I have one problem - the hysteresis on the arrow keys.

Basically I realised that I do almost all my document navigation using the nav cluster, and specifically the arrow keys. I realised that I have a tendency to mash the arrow keys really quickly in order to move around my code documents. I can live with the hysteresis on all the other keys, but with the arrow keys, I just can't press them repeatedly as fast as I want without a lot of finger movement.

So, what I am after is a board, which has (or where I can mod) the arrow keys to be a faster switch with less hysteresis. I still want clicky or tacticle, but ideally the switches for the arrow keys should have a low hysteresis with an actuation point very close to the tactile bump. I would like to be able to rapidly actuate the arrow key switches, with good tactile (and audible feedback if possible), so that I can move the text cursor exactly x lines up / down etc in an extremely short space of time.

So, I was wondering if more knowledgeable people than me could provide me with some ideas of what to go for:

A board:
  • in terms of aesthetic I like the input club k type
    RGB is nice, but not required
    Full size (TKL is something I can live with, but not 65% or less)
    Ansi layout
    A least one windows key, the right context key and function keys are a must
    media keys are a nice bonus
Switches:
  • For the arrow keys, a fast switch with low hysteresis, a tactile bump (and ideally a click) with close actuation point
    For all other keys, a good clicky feel
Key caps:
  • Regular profile
    Either cylindrical or spherical tops
    No gamer fonts
    No garish colours
Programability:
  • Not really a issue for me
Ideally this is something that I can actually, you know, buy...

I looked at the razer opto-mechanical switches but, you know, its razer. Plus, I don't know if I want to use that switch for all the other keys.

If anyone has any ideas on where I could start my research I would be very grateful.

Many thanks in advance!

thatdataguy

14 Feb 2019, 16:16

Oh and a colleague has a cherry mx brown board which I tried quickly - god its awful. My hp rubber dome feels better!

samuelcable

14 Feb 2019, 16:22

I'd recommended Leopold keyboards as always. Well built and great quality keycaps. Dunno about switches. You said you don't like Browns so I can't help you there

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swampangel

14 Feb 2019, 16:53

It's no surprise to anyone here that I love clicky Alps and recommend them at every chance.

They have an actuation relatively close to the top, a nice "collapsing" resistance, and the clicky ones often have a little click on the upstroke too so you can be quite confident when you have passed the reset point. They have very little hysteresis compared to Cherry switches.

However, there are few classic boards that combine the best clicky SKCM switches with a layout including Windows keys.

If you were ready for a bit of work, you could get a cheap Dell AT101W (tactile SKCM Black) and lube and click-mod the switches. The Apple M3501 is another candidate but requires a converter.

For a turnkey option there's the KBParadise V80 MTS with Forward/Fukka clicky alps clones.


Some of the newer Cherry/clone "speed" switches might be suitable too and easier to get in a modern board.


Or, you could tackle this problem from the other end. What language do you write and what editor/ide do you prefer? As I get older and slower I've started to rely on VS Code's shortcuts like "go to matching bracket" and "expand/shrink selection".

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Muirium
µ

14 Feb 2019, 17:16

I’ve grown to using more shortcuts over the years, but it’s not because I’m getting slower, I prefer to think I’m just still learning!

As for a board suggestion: well, Topre is superbly tactile, modern layout, elegant aesthetic, and available. I’ve noticed zero hysteresis speed bumps. And you can dial in your own actuation point on the new models. Downside? Expensive. That’s it. If you’re serious, though, it’s the one.

samuelcable

14 Feb 2019, 17:22

Muirium wrote:
14 Feb 2019, 17:16
I’ve grown to using more shortcuts over the years, but it’s not because I’m getting slower, I prefer to think I’m just still learning!

As for a board suggestion: well, Topre is superbly tactile, modern layout, elegant aesthetic, and available. I’ve noticed zero hysteresis speed bumps. And you can dial in your own actuation point on the new models. Downside? Expensive. That’s it. If you’re serious, though, it’s the one.
When I first came into this hobby I thought torpe was overpriced shit but after using it I can see where the money is going. Topre is well worth it for an investment

Lbibass

14 Feb 2019, 18:03

I am typing on an HHKB, it's one of the best typing experiences that I have ever had. It's a perfect board for me. It's lightweight, good for travel, and I can type on it for longer than any other board that I own.

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Hypersphere

14 Feb 2019, 21:17

My preferences for keyboards that can be purchased new:

1. HHKB Pro 2, but silenced and lubed after purchase.

2. Realforce R2 TKL PFU Edition. Has factory-silenced switches. No need for further treatments.

3. Ellipse F62. Through DT and GH group buy.

My preferences for vintage keyboards:

1. Northgate Omnikey 101, SKCM White Alps (pine) switches.

2. Leading Edge DC-3014, SKCM Blue Alps switches.

User avatar
Menuhin

14 Feb 2019, 23:25

Leopold 660c if arrow key cluster is a must

Otherwise if you're a bit more adventurous to try a "new" (to you) but popular layout:
HHKB Pro2

thatdataguy

15 Feb 2019, 14:23

Thank you to all who replied. I appreciate your thoughts.

I had a look at the ideas you collectively gave. Here are my thoughts:

HHKB Pro 2. Perhaps I am missing something here. Is there a keyboard sequence that allows certain keys to be used as arrow keys perhaps? Because I don't think I could live without the arrow keys, the home, end, delete, win and context menu keys. I don't think I would like having those keys only as available via a modifier. I'm not a mac user, so the idea of only having one delete key (backspace) is heresy to me. "Apple - the least a man can get."

As for what kind of code I write. Well, its SQL. A lot of SQL. Too much SQL. The editor I use is SQL Squirrel, as it has some nice features and keyboard shortcuts. However, its not like intelliJ or eclipse where there are useful navigation keyboard shortcuts.

The topre boards - well I found the Topre RGB

https://mechanicalkeyboards.com/shop/in ... ail&p=3913

Based on what people say, this is fairly interesting as the actuation distance can be modified, its full size, and the cost isn't outrageous. Does anyone know if the actuation distance can be modified for individual keys or its it the whole board only?

Is there any major difference between the Topre RGB and the real force R2 TKL other than the varying switch weights across the board on the R2?

It is still a fair price to pay for something that I can't easily test. The shops around where I live (Zurich, CH) only really have gamer stuff, and the lame stuff at that. Perhaps the feel is similar to a cherry switch (only better) that I could try?

The Ellipse F62. I don't think I can justify that cost, given that the unicomp model M I have is already a great keyboard. Of course I could sell it and get the F62 etc as an upgrade, but honestly is it worth another $200 - I'm not sure.

I also found the GMMK
https://www.pcgamingrace.com/products/g ... 2877911098

which would allow me to easily mount different switches in the arrow key slots to the rest of the board. It is a similar story with the Input Club Kira / Re:Type and Hex gears gemini dawn.

The only question is what switches to go for. I read around and the Kailh box white seem good for me? But in general, what I read is that for the most part, the cherry type switches simply are not as good as alps and other vintage switches. If I buy a board that allows customisation, that is great, but I still would like to make a smart investment and go straight for decent switches.

I'll keep an eye out for the dell 101. My father might still have one, and I'll be heading to the local recycling centre soon I will see if there are any in the trash. I can imagine that in fancy expensive Zurich the Swiss would probably be very happy to get rid of the amazing vintage keyboards in favour of their mac magic keyboards - because, you know shiny.

Feel free to comment on my idiotic thoughts! :-)

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Muirium
µ

15 Feb 2019, 14:47

Well, your only “idiotic” thought is regards the Mac and Delete / Backspace keys. MacOS has an additional third kind of delete: Clear, which I believe Windows does not. Hardly any Mac users know of its existence, but I use it for a few things.

Anyway, the HHKB does have a pretty good array of navigation keys on its Fn layer. But chording isn’t for everyone so let’s assume the HHKB is irrelevant for you. I think that’s pretty fair. 60% is love / hate. It chooses you!

Topre Realforce remains my suggestion. They aren’t available to demo in any stores outside Japan, and they are truly nothing at all like any MX switch: just as buckling spring doesn’t resemble any MX family member. You’re going to have to buy to try!

But as the Topre price didn’t seem outrageous to you, I reckon you’re over the biggest hurdle. They really are superb boards, worth their premium over everything from China.

As for the Elipse remakes: you’d need to try a Model F first. They’re a mad pingy racket! Another love / hate keyboard. I love Model F and I already have an original IBM Kishsaver so I’m all set. It’s not nearly as practical as my Topres, however, due to the sheer noise of using the thing, as well as its impressive heft. IBM made them of solid zinc, in some act of battle hardening against apocalypse. Characterful! But not exactly portable.

thatdataguy

15 Feb 2019, 15:15

Ha ha! Ok, let's leave the apple bashing aside... :-)

Yeah I'm not sure chording is going to be my style (yet).

The topre RGB can be had for ~250 USD when the shipping is factored in (and the import tax, and the fee for charging the tax -b'stards). It's still not cheap. :-/

I don't mind the ping of the model M so much, but my colleagues might not.

Portability doesn't matter as I'll leave it permanently at work or at home.

User avatar
Muirium
µ

15 Feb 2019, 15:32

The Kishsaver is the kind of board you’ll second think about moving around your desk, let alone to another location!

You mentioned Chyros’s’ vids. Go check out his Model F reviews. Hopefully he has a side by side compare with Model M. Similar names, similar origin, but whole ‘nother level of buckling spring! Honestly, you can tell them apart by ear as easily as a tabby cat and a tiger.

samuelcable

15 Feb 2019, 15:35

Muirium wrote:
15 Feb 2019, 15:32
The Kishsaver is the kind of board you’ll second think about moving around your desk, let alone to another location!

You mentioned Chyros’s’ vids. Go check out his Model F reviews. Hopefully he has a side by side compare with Model M. Similar names, similar origin, but whole ‘nother level of buckling spring! Honestly, you can tell them apart by ear as easily as a tabby cat and a tiger.
Sounds like the opposite of what he's looking for :lol:

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Muirium
µ

15 Feb 2019, 15:47

Yup.

Seeing as I haven’t opined about Alps yet: they’re fascinating, yet vexing. There’s enormous variety and, until recently, you could come by them quite cheaply. But here’s the thing with Alps. They’re like the lost continent of Keyboard Atlantis. Once thriving, rich with innovation and potential, they made a great many keyboards in their day. But then the disaster came, washing them away, and the surviving boards are all more than just a little like mysteries of the deep, recovered from the seabed. See, Alps age notoriously badly. Even new in box! You can lose your mind excavating their long lost riches. We even have a wiki for that very purpose…

If that hasn’t warned you off, then here’s a lead I meant to follow myself. But I heard the siren for what she was, and turned away!

viewtopic.php?f=55&t=18227&p=399603

Lbibass

15 Feb 2019, 16:25

Muirium wrote:
15 Feb 2019, 15:47
Yup.

Seeing as I haven’t opined about Alps yet: they’re fascinating, yet vexing. There’s enormous variety and, until recently, you could come by them quite cheaply. But here’s the thing with Alps. They’re like the lost continent of Keyboard Atlantis. Once thriving, rich with innovation and potential, they made a great many keyboards in their day. But then the disaster came, washing them away, and the surviving boards are all more than just a little like mysteries of the deep, recovered from the seabed. See, Alps age notoriously badly. Even new in box! You can lose your mind excavating their long lost riches. We even have a wiki for that very purpose…

If that hasn’t warned you off, then here’s a lead I meant to follow myself. But I heard the siren for what she was, and turned away!

viewtopic.php?f=55&t=18227&p=399603
Well, I can't write it any better than this. Alps is a money pit. You try some Alps. You realize, huh I like these.

Then you realize they are dirty, and you wanna try ones in better condition, then you want to try orange Alps, then browns.

And then you want to try Alps clickies. You may get lucky with some blue Alps Shitcony boards, but you want MORE. Then you start hoarding, more and more switches and keyboards, until you have almost 1000 Alps switches.

Then you're in trouble.

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swampangel

15 Feb 2019, 16:38

Lbibass wrote:
15 Feb 2019, 16:25
Then you start hoarding, more and more switches and keyboards, until you have almost 1000 Alps switches.

Then you're in trouble.
I don't know, that only just puts you in the middle of the pack.

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ZedTheMan

15 Feb 2019, 17:43

Lbibass wrote:
15 Feb 2019, 16:25
Muirium wrote:
15 Feb 2019, 15:47
Yup.

Seeing as I haven’t opined about Alps yet: they’re fascinating, yet vexing. There’s enormous variety and, until recently, you could come by them quite cheaply. But here’s the thing with Alps. They’re like the lost continent of Keyboard Atlantis. Once thriving, rich with innovation and potential, they made a great many keyboards in their day. But then the disaster came, washing them away, and the surviving boards are all more than just a little like mysteries of the deep, recovered from the seabed. See, Alps age notoriously badly. Even new in box! You can lose your mind excavating their long lost riches. We even have a wiki for that very purpose…

If that hasn’t warned you off, then here’s a lead I meant to follow myself. But I heard the siren for what she was, and turned away!

viewtopic.php?f=55&t=18227&p=399603
Well, I can't write it any better than this. Alps is a money pit. You try some Alps. You realize, huh I like these.

Then you realize they are dirty, and you wanna try ones in better condition, then you want to try orange Alps, then browns.

And then you want to try Alps clickies. You may get lucky with some blue Alps Shitcony boards, but you want MORE. Then you start hoarding, more and more switches and keyboards, until you have almost 1000 Alps switches.

Then you're in trouble.
Dude, you just described my Alps rabbit hole. I still haven't gotten Browns or Ambers though, and I probably won't without a lot of luck, since I'm not about to pay the general market price for those things.

Paspie

15 Feb 2019, 22:55

Muirium wrote:
15 Feb 2019, 14:47
Topre Realforce remains my suggestion. They aren’t available to demo in any stores outside Japan,..
The Keyboard Company in the UK lets visitors try them.

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Muirium
µ

16 Feb 2019, 00:43

Visitors to their HQ? Their website doesn’t mention a storefront but does give their address as:
Unit 8 Canal Ironworks, Hope Mills, London Road
Stroud, Gloucestershire, GL5 2SH
England
Looking that up shows a little industrial estate. Exactly what you’d think from a specialist mail order business, but not exactly a showroom!

If you mean they let you buy and return for a full refund, well, they can be a bit tricky with returns. Maybe best to buy from them over Amazon?

Paspie

16 Feb 2019, 15:30

Muirium wrote:
16 Feb 2019, 00:43
Visitors to their HQ? Their website doesn’t mention a storefront but does give their address as:
Unit 8 Canal Ironworks, Hope Mills, London Road
Stroud, Gloucestershire, GL5 2SH
England
Looking that up shows a little industrial estate. Exactly what you’d think from a specialist mail order business, but not exactly a showroom!

If you mean they let you buy and return for a full refund, well, they can be a bit tricky with returns. Maybe best to buy from them over Amazon?
What I mean is one can try any of their models in their industrial outlet before buying them. When I was quite young I showed up to an office for a small online used laptops business in Wales (now defunct) and I still have a webcam I bought from them there, so it's totally doable.

Lbibass

16 Feb 2019, 16:29

ZedTheMan wrote:
15 Feb 2019, 17:43
Lbibass wrote:
15 Feb 2019, 16:25
Muirium wrote:
15 Feb 2019, 15:47
Yup.

Seeing as I haven’t opined about Alps yet: they’re fascinating, yet vexing. There’s enormous variety and, until recently, you could come by them quite cheaply. But here’s the thing with Alps. They’re like the lost continent of Keyboard Atlantis. Once thriving, rich with innovation and potential, they made a great many keyboards in their day. But then the disaster came, washing them away, and the surviving boards are all more than just a little like mysteries of the deep, recovered from the seabed. See, Alps age notoriously badly. Even new in box! You can lose your mind excavating their long lost riches. We even have a wiki for that very purpose…

If that hasn’t warned you off, then here’s a lead I meant to follow myself. But I heard the siren for what she was, and turned away!

viewtopic.php?f=55&t=18227&p=399603
Well, I can't write it any better than this. Alps is a money pit. You try some Alps. You realize, huh I like these.

Then you realize they are dirty, and you wanna try ones in better condition, then you want to try orange Alps, then browns.

And then you want to try Alps clickies. You may get lucky with some blue Alps Shitcony boards, but you want MORE. Then you start hoarding, more and more switches and keyboards, until you have almost 1000 Alps switches.

Then you're in trouble.
Dude, you just described my Alps rabbit hole. I still haven't gotten Browns or Ambers though, and I probably won't without a lot of luck, since I'm not about to pay the general market price for those things.

Yeah, it's pretty hard. I managed to get a maxed out IBM 5140 for only 200 dollars shipped. Came with all the extensions except for the CRT monitor slice. It was pretty dirty. Found in a house that was being torn down. Came with the original briefcase-style carrying case too. Unfortunately, it doesn't work, so if anyone has any cheap 5140's with a backlight they harvested the switches from, let me know! I was gonna harvest the switches, but the machine was too cool.

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mattlach

16 Feb 2019, 19:47

I recently went through this very transition, and I'm telling you, if you like the Buckling Spring feel, you are probably going to be disappointed by just about everything else out there. Nothing quite compares. The hysteresis never bothered me though, despite the fact that I navigate around my documents much the same way you describe.

I'm currently trying to get used to a Ducky One (first gen) with Cherry MX Greens on my home desktop. It's not the same by any stretch of the imagination, but it is not terrible either. I chose the greens because I like a heavy switch with a click.

For work, I'm using another first gen Ducky One, but this one with MX Clears (for silence, but with a tactile bump) and an installed set of o-rings to reduce the bottoming out noise.

I hate having to deal with compromises, but that is what I am stuck with right now. In order to get the more modern features and designs I wanted, I had to compromise on switch feel. I hate this, and wish I could have the best of both worlds, but that just doesn't seem to be available.
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Muirium
µ

16 Feb 2019, 20:05

The work board I understand but the MX greens at home? No, no. What you need is sound proofing, especially around the door!

To be honest, I really do dislike clears. The work board is the one to replace with Topre. And then the other one!

Not everyone likes the Topre feel. And they’re entitled to their poor taste. But MX clears? Blech. The only “good” thing about them is they’re the perfect gateway to the MX world’s very own bottomless vortex: switch modding. Whereby you try to lipstick a pig. Over and over. Until she’s real pretty. *oink*

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Menuhin

16 Feb 2019, 23:48

mattlach wrote:
16 Feb 2019, 19:47
I recently went through this very transition,
...
if you like the Buckling Spring feel
...
with Cherry MX Greens on my home desktop
...
his one with MX Clears (for silence, but with a tactile bump) and an installed set of o-rings to reduce the bottoming out noise.
...
I hate I hate Buckling Springs feel - I wanted to be happy about my black M13 with Trackpoint, and I wanted to have the motivation to just immediately to go to pick up a Model F when I have an offer to have it in just 30€ - but I just really don't care

I am a Topre & MX-linear guy; and for clicky I like the easy feels of early pine white Alps and pine blue Alps, much better compared to MX blues and ... greens?? I think a board full of MX greens can be bearable for those who like heavier switches. But stock MX clears are really quite unbearable to me, tiring and the tactility compared to Topre is almost non-existent - I am typing on some MX clears though, lubed and filmed and with a bit lighter springs.

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Hypersphere

17 Feb 2019, 02:14

Formerly, I liked my Model M, and I was intially "over the moon" when I finally got an SSK.

But after trying Model F switches, I found Model M switches to be scratchy.

Now, because it ticks all the boxes, I mostly prefer my HHKB or my RF R2 TKL PFU edition. I like silenced and lubed Topre 45g switches.

The closest I've experienced to silenced and lubed Topre is Zilent switches. They have excellent tactility, but they are not as heavy post-actuation as mx clears. And they are truly quiet on both downstroke and return stroke. Zilents are the only mx switches that I actually like. Next best are Gateron Yellows -- smooth and an ideal weight between reds and blacks. But I'm generally not a fan of linear switches.

Otherwise, I still like Model F along with various Alps, especially SKCM pine blue or white Alps.

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mattlach

18 Feb 2019, 08:26

Menuhin wrote:
16 Feb 2019, 23:48
I hate I hate Buckling Springs feel - I wanted to be happy about my black M13 with Trackpoint, and I wanted to have the motivation to just immediately to go to pick up a Model F when I have an offer to have it in just 30€ - but I just really don't care

I am a Topre & MX-linear guy; and for clicky I like the easy feels of early pine white Alps and pine blue Alps, much better compared to MX blues and ... greens?? I think a board full of MX greens can be bearable for those who like heavier switches. But stock MX clears are really quite unbearable to me, tiring and the tactility compared to Topre is almost non-existent - I am typing on some MX clears though, lubed and filmed and with a bit lighter springs.
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We know that everyone has different preferences.

I have typed on many different keyboards over the years, and my Model M's (and Unicomps) have by far been my favorites.

The crisp, clear tactile click that hits right at actuation can't be beat for typing IMHO. It may or many not be a good gaming board, but I couldn't care less about that.

Now, I know this will be misinterpreted, so listen clearly to what I am saying. The Model M is not my favorite switch. I've typed on Model F and (briefly) on vintage Beam springs and they both felt better to me from a pure switch perspective. Their layouts - however - ruined the experience completely for me. I'm a full size IBM Enhanced layout guy, and will accept nothing else. Full nav cluster and num keypad and everything.

That said, I still like the Model M switch feel. I'd place it above everything else non-IBM I've ever tried. I'm trying to like Cherry MX switches right now, but just can't get into them. I've tried several different colors/varieties and I just don't like any of them. I've never met an Alps switch I liked. They are probably the least bad of the non-IBM bunch, but just lack that clear crisp and perfectly in time "thwack!" that I crave. Scissor switches are jut plain awful. I've never typed on a Topre board, but based on descriptions I think I'd probably hate it.

I'd argue that the Model M is the best keyboard, period. No exceptions. Sure, there are better switches (but only two, the Model F and beam Spring) but they both fail due to only being available in awful layouts. I've tried to find anything else that can compete with the Model M, but just totally failed.

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