Buckling spring keyboards are considered the grandfathers of modern-day mechanical keyboards. IBM and some other companies were the first to make them in the 1970s and 80s. But can you still get one? And what is the best buckling spring mechanical keyboard?
The best buckling spring mechanical keyboard is the Unicomp Ultra Classic Model M. This is the top keyboard manufactured by Unicomp and provides the same typing experience and feeling as the Model M and Model F by IBM. It is a full keyboard having 104 keys with the PBT keycaps and a vintage design.
Obviously, they have improved the outdated keyboards in many ways. You can't use the old IBM board with most of the latest computers. However, Unicomp works fine with them. It has both USB and PS/2 connections for the convenience of users.
Below, we will look at the three best buckling spring keyboards in more detail. Besides, I'll highlight some aspects of the buckling springs themselves, whether they are good for typing or not. And are they tactile or clicky? So, read till the end!
Best buckling spring keyboards
Below are three of the best buckling spring keyboards that will give you the same exact feel as an IBM Model M.
1. Unicomp Ultra Classic Model M US APL
The Ultra Classic is the best keyboard Unicomp manufactures, as claimed by them. It has the same tactile feel as the IBM Model M, with some improved mechanics.
If you've been using rubber-dome membrane keyboards for a while, then shifting to the Ultra Classic Model M will feel like a significant upgrade.
This board rocks the new clamshell cover set that is said to reduce ½ pounds of plastic and 20% of the footprint.
The keycaps on this board are made from PBT, and the overall design of the keyboard does give it a vintage keyboard feel. It is a full board with 104 keys and has a USB connection. This one, in particular, has the US APL key layout.
2. Unicomp Model M Spacesaver
The Model M Spacesaver is similar to the Ultra Classic in terms of design and build. However, it has one additional key, which takes the total count to 105. This includes the Caps Lock key and FCN LED indicators.
The great thing about it is that the top row of keys is dual-purpose. Along with being the F1-F15 function keys, they can also be used for media functions like changing volume, brightness, pausing or playing a video, and more.
Overall, the keyboard doesn't feel too heavy and can be carried around.
But, since it's a full-size keyboard, you might have some inconvenience taking it from one place to another. Besides, the buckling springs make a lot of noise, so avoid taking the Model M to your workplace.
3. Unicomp Model M PC 122 Black 5250
Akko Custom Series Jelly Black is one of the newer additions to their linear lineup. It features a dustproof stem for longer reliability and smooth actuation. Jelly Black is rated for 60+ million keystrokes, it is definitely made to last a long time.
The Model M PC 122 is one of the biggest mechanical keyboards that you can get currently. As evident from the name, it has 122 keys! That's a lot of click-clack!
This keyboard will make you feel as if you're typing on an IBM Model M keyboard. It has the same layout and mechanism. On top of that, the keycaps on this one are hot-swappable, which means they can easily be replaced.
It is a little heavy, which is obvious because of the additional keys and the larger structure. But performance-wise? The Model M PC 122 is second to none among the buckling spring keyboards.
Are buckling springs good for typing?
Yes, buckling springs are good for typing because of their tactile feedback and accuracy. You will feel each switch getting actuated separately, thanks to the high actuation response the users get upon pressing the keys.
Buckling springs date back to 1977, when IBM patented them. The keyboards back then used to have these switches, and they were the standard at that time.
These switches use a coil spring that is placed between the keycap at the top and a pivoting hammer. The latter collapses when the key is pressed, and hence you get the clicky sound and the tactile feedback. This makes them ideal for typing but not so good for gaming.
Are buckling springs tactile or clicky?
Buckling springs are tactile by nature but make a clicky sound when actuated. These switches are too loud for a normal user. You can hear them from behind the gate or even while working with your headphones on. I am not even exaggerating, to be honest.
But again, these switches are for those who love retro keyboards. It is obvious that someone who is getting a Unicomp board with buckling springs won't use it in an office environment.
I'd say these switches are a bit louder than the Cherry MX Blues and Greens. So, if you don't get annoyed using the clicky Cherry switches, then buckling springs won't bother you much as well.
Who makes buckling spring keyboards?
IBM started making buckling spring keyboards in the 1980s. Afterward, Lexmark made them popular in the 1990s. And for the last 25 years, Unicomp has been taking these keyboards to the next level. They are making sure these boards are able to compete with the typical mechanical keyboards currently available.
Unicomp is a keyboard-developing and manufacturing company located in Kentucky. They are not a very big business, but their goals are definitely bigger.
They aim to make the highest-quality products at an affordable rate, coupled with the best possible customer service. And certainly, all of this shows up on their Model M keyboards! They have great performance and not very high pricing, and the customer service at Unicomp is excellent as usual.
How long do buckling springs last?
Buckling springs usually last for a good 25–50 million keystrokes. Some might even go to 100 million and beyond, depending on how you take care of the keyboard. Regular cleaning and avoiding smashing or dropping your keyboard will make it last longer.
Another factor is the keyboard model that you are getting. If you are purchasing a used IBM Model M, then it is likely that the buckling springs won't last for more than 15–25 million keystrokes. The lifespan can be even shorter.
However, with Unicomp, you're guaranteed to get at least 50 million keystrokes with these switches. Make sure not to drop your keyboards, as their build quality isn't the best in the world.
So, to conclude, the best buckling spring keyboards are currently being manufactured by Unicomp. Their boards live up to expectations and perform really well with any kind of computer.
You can use them for both typing and programming. However, the buckling spring switches have a slower actuation as compared to the modern-day tactile, clicky, or linear switches.
But still, if you're a fan of these keyboards, then there's no problem getting one.
Here, at TheTechSetup, you can learn all about different keyboards and switches. I make guides, reviews, comparisons, and general information blogs.
So, keep yourself updated with my content!
Until then, give this a read: The History of Mechanical Keyboard Switches