IBM Model M Keyboard Review

Tested using Methodology v1.0
Reviewed Mar 26, 2020 at 10:27 am
IBM Model M Picture
5.2
Gaming
2.8
Mobile/Tablet
8.0
Office
6.8
Programming
1.6
Entertainment / HTPC
Connectivity Wired
Size
Full-size (100%)
Mechanical
Yes

The IBM Model M was once an outstanding keyboard, but technology has greatly improved and modern keyboards offer more features, like RGB backlighting or programmable keys. This vintage keyboard still offers an outstanding typing experience with unique buckling spring switches. These are different from typical mechanical switches used on modern keyboards, but they're still considered mechanical because of the mechanism used to actuate the key. If you're feeling nostalgic and just need a basic typing keyboard, it gets the job done.

Our Verdict

5.2 Gaming

The IBM Model M isn't designed to be a gaming keyboard. There are no macro keys, no backlighting, and the keys have a high pre-travel distance.

Pros
  • Outstanding typing experience.
  • Amazing build quality.
Cons
  • No extra features.
  • Loud for office environment.
2.8 Mobile/Tablet

The IBM Model M can't be used wirelessly.

8.0 Office

The IBM Model M is a good office keyboard. The typing quality is outstanding, as the buckling spring switches offer a unique typing experience. Unfortunately, it does get loud, especially for an office environment. However, it has decent ergonomics and it's comfortable to type on.

Pros
  • Outstanding typing experience.
  • Amazing build quality.
Cons
  • No extra features.
  • Loud for office environment.
6.8 Programming

The Model M is unremarkable for programming. It offers an outstanding typing experience and it's comfortable to type on. However, it doesn't have any macro keys or backlighting, and there's no dedicated software.

Pros
  • Outstanding typing experience.
  • Amazing build quality.
Cons
  • No extra features.
  • Loud for office environment.
1.6 Entertainment / HTPC

Pros
  • Outstanding typing experience.
  • Amazing build quality.
Cons
  • No extra features.
  • Loud for office environment.
  • 5.2 Gaming
  • 2.8 Mobile/Tablet
  • 8.0 Office
  • 6.8 Programming
  • 1.6 Entertainment / HTPC
  1. Updated Apr 30, 2021: Converted to Test Bench 1.0.
  2. Updated Mar 26, 2020: Review published.
  3. Updated Mar 23, 2020: Early access published.

Test Results

perceptual testing image
Design
Design
Dimensions
Height
1.9" (4.9 cm)
Width 19.3" (48.9 cm)
Depth
8.2" (20.8 cm)
Depth With Wrist Rest
N/A
Weight
4.48 lbs (2.030 kg)

It's a fairly large keyboard that takes up a good amount of space on a desk, and it's also very heavy.

8.5
Design
Build Quality
Keycap Material PBT

Amazing build quality. It's entirely made out of plastic but it's very solid and doesn't feel like it would break if dropped. The keycaps are two separate keycaps, as seen in the photo above, and you can replace the top one in case the lettering fades off. The keys are very stable, but the space bar has a bit of wobble to it.

7.0
Design
Ergonomics
Board Design
Straight
Minimum Incline
Medium Incline
N/A
Maximum Incline
Wrist Rest No

Decent ergonomics. There's one incline setting and no wrist rest, but the entire shape of the keyboard is slightly sloped inwards, as seen in the photo above, making it comfortable to type on.

0
Design
Backlighting
Backlighting No
Color
No Backlighting
Individually Backlit Keys
No
Color Mixing
No Backlighting
Effects
No
Programmable
No

There's no backlighting on this keyboard.

Design
Cable & Connector
Detachable
Yes (Wired Only Keyboard)
Length 8.7 ft (2.6 m)
Connector (Keyboard side)
SDL

The cable is coiled and when stretched out can reach over 11.8ft (3.6m). It's an SDL to PS/2 cable, so you will need a USB adapter if your computer doesn't have a PS/2 connector.

0
Design
Wireless Versatility
Bluetooth
No
Bluetooth Multi-Device Pairing
No
Proprietary Receiver
No
Battery Type
No Batteries

This keyboard can't be used wirelessly.

Design
Extra Features
Media Keys
No
Macro Programmable Keys
No
Trackpad / Trackball No
Wheel No
USB Passthrough
No
Numpad Yes
Windows Key Lock
No
Lock Indicator Caps, Scroll & Num lock

There are no extra features on this keyboard. It doesn't have a Windows key, so naturally, it doesn't have a Windows Key Lock.

Design
In The Box

  • IBM Model M keyboard
  • SDL to PS/2 cable

Typing Experience
Typing Experience
Keystrokes
Key Switches
Buckling Spring
Feel
Clicky
Operating Force
78 gf
Actuation Force
55 gf
Pre-Travel
2.6 mm
Total Travel
3.7 mm

The Model M uses buckling spring switches, which have a clicky feel to them. They're slightly different from tactile mechanical switches since they don't have a bump before reaching the actuation point, but they still give tactile feedback.

Although these are technically different from typical mechanical switches used on modern keyboards, they're still considered mechanical. They use mechanical components to complete the circuit for actuation.

9.0
Typing Experience
Typing Quality

Outstanding typing quality. The buckling spring switches offer a unique typing experience with great feedback, and because the keys have good spacing and such high pre-travel distance, it helps reduce typos by quite a bit. It can get a bit tiring typing on it because of the high actuation force, but the profile of the keyboard helps reduce strain.

Typing Experience
Typing Noise
Noise
Loud

Due to the clicky switches, this keyboard is loud to type on and might bother people around you.

6.8
Typing Experience
Latency
Latency Wired
18.6 ms
Latency Receiver
N/A
Latency Bluetooth
N/A
Software and Operating System
0
Software and Operating System
Software & Programming
Software Name No Software
Account Required
No Software
Profiles
No Profile
Onboard Memory
No
Cloud Sync
No
Macro Programming
No
Ease Of Use
No Software
Software Windows Compatible
No
Software macOS Compatible
No

There's no dedicated software for this keyboard.

7.6
Software and Operating System
Keyboard Compatibility
Windows Full
macOS Partial
Linux Full
Android No
iOS No
iPadOS No

Considering this keyboard has basic keys and nothing extra, it has full compatibility on Windows and Linux. On macOS, Scroll Lock and Pause Break keys didn't work.

Differences Between Sizes And Variants

IBM produced many different variants of this keyboard throughout the years, with different keyboard layouts and colors, and each variant had a different Part Number (P/N). Our unit was P/N 1391401, which was manufactured in January 1993, and you can see the label here

Compared To Other Keyboards

The Model M revolutionized keyboards with its layout and it set the tone for how keyboards would be designed throughout the years. However, modern keyboards also have many extra features, like backlighting, wireless connectivity, and media keys, so it's hard to compare this keyboard against those. In terms of typing quality, the Model M is still better than many keyboards today. 

We also reviewed the IBM PS/2 Mouse, which doesn't compare well to modern mice and unlike the IBM keyboard, it can't really be used today. Also see our recommendations for the best keyboards, the best keyboards for writers, and the best ergonomic keyboards.

SteelSeries Apex Pro

The SteelSeries Apex Pro is much better than the IBM Model M. You can change the keys' pre-travel distance, it has customizable RGB lighting, all keys are macro programmable, and it has an included wrist rest. On the other hand, the IBM still has a much better typing experience.

Dygma Raise

The Dygma Raise is a much better keyboard than the IBM Model M. Comparing these two is proof of just how far technology has evolved. The Dygma is a split keyboard and you can customize every key with up to 10 layers of customization. It has individually-lit keys and there are LED lights underneath it that give it an underglow. The typing quality between the two keyboards is the same, but the Model M is full-sized, so it has more keys, such as a number pad.

Vortex Race 3

The Vortex Race 3 is much better than the IBM Model M. It has a better build quality, each key is macro programmable, and you can save up to four layers of customization directly to the keyboard's on-board memory. However, the Model M offers a better typing experience and it's more comfortable to type on.

Corsair K95 RGB PLATINUM XT

The Corsair K95 RGB PLATINUM XT is significantly better than the IBM Model M. Each key is individually lit, all keys are macro programmable, and the comfortable wrist rest gives it better ergonomics. Meanwhile, the IBM has a better typing quality and it's fully compatible with Linux computers, while the Corsair is only partially compatible.

Discussions