June 13, 2024

Brighton Journal

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The 8BitDo M Edition mechanical keyboard is a modernized version of the M model from IBM

The 8BitDo M Edition mechanical keyboard is a modernized version of the M model from IBM

8BitDo is release An IBM-inspired look for this $100 wireless mechanical keyboard. Keyboard enthusiasts love regaling themselves with tales of IBM’s twisty spring keyboards and the precedent they set for today’s mechanical keyboards. But 8BitDo’s Retro Mechanical Keyboard M Edition isn’t based too much on popular IBM designs.

8BitDo’s retro mechanical keyboards come in different styles that each pay homage to classic technology. The tribute is accurate enough to avoid copyright issues. Similar to the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) and Commodore 64 designs from 8BitDo in the 1980s, the M version does not contain any official IBM logos. However, the M version’s color scheme, more massive build, and typeface choice, including the Tab key with arrows and elsewhere, are nods to IBM’s Model M, which succeeded the Model F that debuted in 1985.

Of course, the keyboard’s nomenclature, the giant IBM and floppy disks strategically placed in the marketing images, are also notes on this:

Zoom in / The easter eggs for IBM are obvious.

8bitdo

Despite the blue-striped IBM and A buttons, the M version won’t be enough for retro keyboard fans looking for the premium, premium experience of a true M model.

As mentioned earlier, the M version is essentially a new color scheme for displaying 8BitDo’s wireless mechanical keyboard. The peripheral connects to Windows 10, Android 9.0, and later devices via a USB-A cable, USB-A 2.4GHz wireless dongle, or Bluetooth 5.0. 8BitDo claims it can withstand up to 200 hours of use before needing to be recharged. The M version also comes with detachable A and B “super buttons” that connect to the keyboard via a 3.5mm jack and can be programmed without software.

Different from the M model’s coil spring switches, the M version has Kailh Box White V2 mechanical switches, which typically feel clicky and light when pressed. With crisp clicks and noticeable, but not sluggish, feedback, it’s good for a modern mechanical switch for frequent typing.

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But the IBM keyboard of the 1980s did not use modern mechanical switches. It used a coil spring over a membrane layer that makes the keys feel heavier when pressed than the keys on the previous F-style keyboard (which used a coil spring over a capacitive PCB). However, the 8BitDo switches are hot-swappable, making them easily replaceable.

The M Edition’s keycaps have a height similar to the MDA profile, according to the 8BitDo website. All True Model M keycaps have the same profile. The keycaps for the M version are dual keycaps like the real M, but the new keyboard uses cheaper ABS plastic instead of PBT.

Although the 14.8 x 6.7 x 1.8-inch dimensions make the M version somewhat dense for a keyless keyboard, I would have liked to see 8BitDo stick with the old look with thicker borders north of the keys and more height toward the top.

But smaller keyboards that allow owners to reclaim desk space are the most popular versions of pre-configured mechanical keyboards these days, especially for gaming peripheral brands like 8BitDo. The focus on gaming also helps explain why there’s no number pad in the M version. 8BitDo is releasing a detachable number pad to go with the keyboard. It can connect via Bluetooth, dongle, or cable, but it will cost an additional $45.

The numeric pad has a button to switch to the regular calculator.
Zoom in / The numeric pad has a button to switch to the regular calculator.

8bitdo

8BitDo’s new keyboard color may appeal to people who crave a hint of IBM nostalgia that doesn’t make their workspace look like it’s completely stuck in the past. But given the popularity and heritage of the switches and look of older IBM keyboards, the shades of gray and blue won’t seem old enough to many IBM keyboard fans.

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The real deal: IBM Model M.
Zoom in / The real deal: IBM Model M.

If you want a real Model M, there is a market for found or restored models available online and at thrift stores and electronics stores. For up-to-date rotation, such as USB ports and Mac support, Unicomp It is also manufacturing new M-style keyboards that are more true to the original IBM design, particularly in its use of torsion spring switches.

The M version will be released on July 15.

Listing image by 8BitDo