"Unicomp Customizer" mechanical keyboard review

Unicomp mechanical keyboardAmong all the facts that remind me that I am getting old, one of them is chatting with other fellows about the technology we were using back when we started working at our first jobs. It has been 16 years since then in my case, and I sometimes find myself talking about how it was like working with a 386 and 4mb of ram, typing lots of text in such a fantastic wordprocessor as it was Wordperfect, switching from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95 and MS Word afterwards --which was such a bad experience in many ways--. I also clearly remember working with Mac OS 8 for the first time at a desktop publishing job, or the first time I played with a Silicon Graphics Octane machine and its Irix companion.

I perfecly recall using various IBM computers back in 1994, among Olivetti's, HP and other unnamed PC clones, and this IBM machines where all about sturdiness and quality of materials. That's when I had my first contact with IBM's model M mechanical keyboards, and I have been in love with them ever since. I have always been a very fast typing guy, and I immediately appreciated the accuracy of the model M keys response. I typed much more quicker with them and they also were a joy to use, perfect for continous typist hard work. I still think there are no better keyboards in the world should you click more than 1000 keys per day.

Now, try to explain marvels about this keyboards to someone ten years younger than you, who has never seen a keyboard more sophisticated than a Logitech one. Tell them about IBM's patented buckling spring "clicky" keys, about real concurrent multi keypresses, about superb tactile feedback. Tell them about these keyboard's lack of fancy multimedia buttons or usb ports... Forget it, they probably won't get it, and of course it's not their fault, as they are also not to blame for having never used a Commodore 64 or a real typewriter.

Despite my love for the mechanical keyboards, I recon I have been using membrane Apple keyboards at home during the last few years, and dull Dell keyboards at all my different works. But this has changed now, at least at my work's cubicle, thanks to the Unicom Customizer keyboard I bought a few days ago.

This keyboard is the real thing

It turns out that this little Unicomp company bought IBM's model M keyboard patents from Lexmark, which in turn bought them from IBM a few years ago, so the keyboards built by Unicomp are the real thing. And it is so true, this Customizer black keyboard has been built with the same technology and equipment the original keyboards were built with, and it shows: super sturdy, noise-clicky, mechanical keyboard heaven. At $69 (plus overseas delivery in my case) it is no cheap, but this keyboard cannot be considered expensive neither, given its construction quality and the fact that it will easily serve me for more than 10 years.

A keyboard is the main tool of my livelihood and one of the main tools of most of my hobbies. It makes sense to try to get the best tool for the job. The three most important parts of a computer in my opinion are the keyboard, mouse, and monitor. CPU? RAM? Hard disk space? I'll take whatever you give me. But the things I interact with on a constant basis, I want those things to be comfortable.

Experiencing a superb mechanical keyboard

The Unicomp Customizer black keyboard comes along also with a Wow factor, which may be a plus for some. I can tell you this old fashion keyboard has grabbed the attention of literally everyone that has come by my place, always in a positive way. When my setup of dual screens full of Vim sessions and the customizer get combined, the result is a powerful hackish, super productive image, it always seems I am working hard, which of course may not be the case, but anyway.

The keys have a lot of weight to them compared to the bland feel of modern keyboards (which usually use some rubber or plastic dome under the keys). The Customizer's keys have little springs in them, and you can feel the keys pushing back on your fingers as you type. You will clearly feel the difference with any other keyboard you've used before. The weight might lead to fatigue though; the keys are harder to press than other keyboards and my hands feel like they're getting a workout in comparison. That's not been my experience so far, so the worry may be unfounded.

The version of the keyboard I got has a modern Super ("windows") modifier key, but you can get a version without even that, if you like. I also ordered command and options keys as an option, should I use the keyboard attached to a mac computer in the future. You have to specify you want this extra keys by filling a comment text field during purchase, though, so remember it if you pretend to do so. The extra cost for this five keys is $10.

Very important to me, as a Vimmer, is the position and size of the Escape key. On the Customizer, Escape is positioned off by itself in the corner as it should be, with a ton of space between itself and the number row, and the Escape key itself is freaking enormous. This is a huge plus in my book. You can't miss Escape on this keyboard. Similarly, all the other keys are the right sizes and in the right places.


So how is the Unicomp Customizer? It's solid, standard, unique, and has a nice retro, minimalist style that I personally enjoy. It's also huge, loud, and relatively expensive. Is it worth buying? If you have the money to spend, I think it is. I don't regret the buy at all. When I go to work and start typing on this stunning old school keyboard, I'm always pleasantly surprised.


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