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The Basics On Mechanical Keyboard Switches
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The Basics On Mechanical Keyboard Switches

by Syed Hassan AlgadrieMarch 9, 2021
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A good mechanical keyboard has become an essential part of today’s world of PC gaming and a good mechanical keyboard more or less depends on the types of switches it uses. Here’s a breakdown of the many types of mechanical keyboard switches available today.

Types of mechanical keyboard switches

As you may expect, especially if you’ve ever shopped for a mechanical keyboard that there are many types of mechanical keyboard switches out there. While all of these mechanical keyboard switches are similar in one way or another, there are a lot of factors that differentiate between one switch and the next, particularly in their tactility. There are only three types of mechanical keyboard switches out there:

Linear Switches

Linear Keyboard Switch

Linear switches are the most straightforward out of all switch types. This type of mechanical keyboard switch offers no feedback or clicking sounds as there is nothing in between the moment you press the key and the actuation point. This allows for a smoother and faster actuation per key press. Linear switches are the preferred mechanical keyboard switches for most gamers.

Clicky Switches

Clicky Keyboard Switch

Clicky switches are the total opposite of linear switches. Not only do they provide tactile feedback between the moment of pressing and the actuation point but they also feature a distinct clicking sound after each key press (hence the name) as compared to the silent nature of linear switches. This type of switch is mainly for those who enjoy the clicking sound when they type.

Tactile Switches

Tactile Keyboard Switch

Tactile switches work similarly to clicky switches as they provide the same tactile feedback or a “bump” when pressed minus the clicking sound. Both tactile switches and clicky switches register a key press without needing the user to press each key all the way down (AKA bottoming out) which is great for typing.

Below are some notable mechanical keyboard switch brands currently out in the market right now.

Cherry MX

The Basics On Mechanical Keyboard Switches 19

Cherry MX switches are probably the best mechanical keyboard switches in the business. The company has been around since 1983 and while the competition ha has grown over the years, their switches are still considered the best of the bunch. There are many types of Cherry MX switches, one that fits each type above.

  • Cherry MX Red – The most popular choice amongst gamers, Cherry MX Reds are linear switches that are very light to use as they don’t require much force to press – at only 0.45 N.
  • Cherry MX Speed – This switch is as light as the Red switches however it comes with a shorter actuation distance of 1.2mm.
  • Cherry MX Black – These linear switches require an even heavier actuation force – at 0.60 N.
  • Cherry MX Linear Grey – The linear grey switches features the highest actuation force among all switches offered by Cherry – at 0.80 N. This switch comes in either a tactile or linear variant.
  • Cherry MX Brown – This tactile switch is the quietest tactile switch offered by Cherry. It features a similar actuation force as the Cherry MX Red – at just 0.45 N.
  • Cherry MX Blue – Blue switches often get a bad rep due to their noisy nature, particularly in office or home environments. They work similarly to the brown switches in terms of tactility with an added clicking sound and features a slightly heavier actuation force at 0.60 N.
  • Cherry MX Green – These switches are slightly modified versions of the Cherry MX Blue switches and feature a heavier actuation force at 0.80 N.

Here’s a chart of all the mechanical keyboard switches from Cherry.

Switch Type Actuation Force Actuation Distance Travel Distance Characteristics
Cherry MX Red 0.45 N 2mm 4mm Linear
Cherry MX Speed 0.45 N 1.2mm 3.4mm Linear
Cherry MX Black 0.60 N 2mm 4mm Linear
Cherry MX Linear Grey 0.80 N 2mm 4mm Linear/Tactile
Cherry MX Brown 0.45N 2mm 4mm Tactile
Cherry MX Blue 0.60 N 2.2mm 4mm Tactile
Clicky
Cherry MX Green 0.80N 2.2mm 4mm Tactile
Clicky

Kailh/Kaihua

Kailh mechanical keyboard switches have been known to carry the moniker of being Cherry MX clones when they first started which they have slowly and steadily shaken off over the years. Also goes by the name Kaihua, the company was founded in 1990 in China, Kailh switches offer similar performances to the Cherry MX switches but at a much cheaper price point. They are also the switch manufacturers of other keyboard brands most notably Razer keyboards.

Kailh Box Switches

Nowadays, Kailh switches offer their own unique stem design called the BOX design which features an enclosure of sorts surrounding the switch’s stem. This allows for better protection against dust and moisture. Furthermore, these BOX switches come with an IP65 resistance rating.

These are the types of Kailh switches available.

  • Kailh Red – Kailh’s linear switch is nearly identical to Cherry’s offering. The main difference is that this switch features a slightly heavier actuation force – at 0.50 N.
  • Kailh Black – These linear switches are heavier than the Kailh Red switches with a 0.60 N actuation force.
  • Kailh Speed Silver – Speed Silver switches are Kailh’s answer to the Cherry MX Speed switches. They feature a similar actuation force at 0.45 N but with a slightly longer actuation distance – at 1.3mm compared to Cherry MX Speed’s 1.2mm.
  • Kailh Brown – Kailh’s tactile offering features a similar actuation force to their red switches – at 0.50 N.
  • Kailh Blue – Kailh’s Blue switches are both tactile and clicky and require an actuation force of 0.60N to register each key’s clicking sound.
  • Kailh Speed Bronze – These are the tactile equivalent to the Kailh Speed Silver. The switches feature the same actuation distance and force but with a more tactile and clicky flavour.
  • Kailh Speed Copper – This switch is the exact same switch as the Kailh Speed Bronze minus the clicky feature.

Here’s a chart of all the mechanical keyboard switches from Kailh.

Switch Type Actuation Force Actuation Distance Travel Distance Characteristics
Kailh Red 0.50 N 2mm 4mm Linear
Kailh Black 0.60 N 2mm 4mm Linear
Kailh Speed Silver 0.45 N 1.3mm 3.5mm Linear
Kailh Brown 0.50 N 2mm 4mm Tactile
Kailh Blue 0.60 N 2mm 4mm Tactile
Clicky
Kailh Speed Bronze 0.60 N 1.3mm 3.5mm Tactile
Clicky
Kailh Speed Copper 0.60 N 1.3mm 3.5mm Tactile

Razer

Razer Huntsman Mini Optical Switch Comparison

Razer Huntsman Mini Optical Switch

As mentioned above, Razer mechanical keyboard switches are manufactured by the folks at Kailh however, they are designed by Razer themselves. These mechanical keyboard switches are generally developed for gaming above else. Here are all the types of Razer switches available.

  • Razer Yellow – Razer’s only linear switch offering features an actuation force of 0.45 N, an actuation distance of 1.2mm and a travel distance of just 3.5mm.
  • Razer Green – Razer’s equivalent of a blue switch in that it is both tactile and clicky, the Razer Green switches an actuation force of 0.55 N.
  • Razer Orange – This switch is Razer’s answer to brown switches and features an actuation force of 0.55 N, the same as the Razer Greens.
  • Razer Opto-MechanicalIntroduced in 2018, these switches are unique as they rely on not only mechanical parts but optical lasers as well. The Razer Opto-Mechanical Switches work by using infrared lasers to register each key press as opposed to the traditional metal contact points used by other mechanical keyboard switches. These switches have an actuation force of 0.45 N and a 1.5mm actuation point. Razer also rates these switches to survive up to 100 million clicks due to less moving parts involved. They are only available on Razer Huntsman keyboards.

Here’s a chart of all the mechanical keyboard switches from Razer.

Switch Type Actuation Force Actuation Distance Travel Distance Characteristics
Razer Yellow 0.45 N 1.2mm 3.5mm Linear
Razer Green 0.55 N 2mm 4mm Tactile
Clicky
Razer Orange 0.55 N 2mm 4mm Tactile
Razer Opto-Mechanical 0.45 N 1.5mm 3.5mm Clicky/Linear

Gateron

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Gateron Red Switches

Gateron is one of the more popular mechanical keyboard switch brands on this list and has been around since the year 2000. Gateron switches feature similar stems as Cherry MX switches. Some users have even gone so far as to claim that Gateron switches have surpassed Cherry MX switches in terms of performance due to the smoothness of the Gateron keystrokes. Here are some of their available switches.

  • Gateron Clear – The lightest linear switch on this list, the Gateron Clear switches feature an actuation force of just 0.35 N.
  • Gateron Red – Gateron’s offering works similarly to the other red switches on this list with an actuation force of 0.45 N.
  • Gateron Black – A slightly heavier version of the Gateron Red, it is a linear switch with a slightly heavier actuation force at 0.50 N.
  • Gateron Blue – These switches feature the tactile and clicky nature of other blue switches on this list. Gateron Blue features an actuation force of 0.55 N.
  • Gateron Green – A heavier version of the Gateron Blue switch, this switch features a heavier actuation force than the blue switches – coming in at 0.80 N.
  • Gateron Brown – Similar to other brown switches on this list, it is a tactile switch with none of the blue switch’s clicky sound. The switch requires an actuation force of 0.45 N similar to the Gateron Red.

Here’s a chart of all the mechanical keyboard switches from Gateron.

Switch Type Actuation Force Actuation Distance Travel Distance Characteristics
Gateron Clear 0.35 N 2mm 4mm Linear
Gateron Red 0.45 N 2mm 4mm Linear
Gateron Black 0.50 N 2mm 4mm Linear
Gateron Blue 0.55 N 2mm 4mm Tactile
Clicky
Gateron Green 0.80 N 2mm 4mm Tactile
Clicky
Gateron Brown 0.45 N 2mm 4mm Tactile

Logitech

The Basics On Mechanical Keyboard Switches 21

Logitech’s Romer-G switches

Popular gaming brand Logitech has also released its own mechanical keyboard switches called the Romer-G. These Logitech switches were announced shortly after Razer announced their own Razer switches. The Romer-G switches were developed in collaboration with Omron. These are the Romer-G switches available now.

  • Romer-G Linear – As the name suggests, this is Logitech’s linear switch offering and currently the only linear switch on their catalogue. It features a 0.45 N actuation force, a 1.5mm actuation distance and a travel distance of 3.5mm.
  • Romer-G Tactile – The Romer-G Tactile switches are the equivalent of brown switches, tactile but not clicky. These switches feature an actuation force similar to the Romer-G Linear switch – at 0.45 N.
  • GX Blue – These are Logitech’s answer to the blue switches. They are tactile and clicky and features an actuation force of 0.50 N.

Here’s a chart of all the mechanical keyboard switches from Logitech.

Switch Type Actuation Force Actuation Distance Travel Distance Characteristics
Romer-G Linear 0.45 N 1.5mm 3.5mm Linear
Romer-G Tactile 0.45 N 2mm 4mm Tactile
GX Blue 0.50 N 2mm 4mm Tactile
Clicky

Low-profile mechanical keyboard switches

There is also another variant of the standard mechanical keyboard switches out there that is becoming a lot more popular in recent years than ever before. Low-profile mechanical keyboard switches are essentially the same as the normal switches but with a lower height, therefore, making the switches’ travel distance a lot shorter.

Here are some of the low-profile mechanical switches you can find right now.

Cherry MX Low Profile

Ducky Cherry MX Low Profile Switch

Cherry currently offers only two low-profile mechanical keyboard switches in their catalogue and both of them are linear switches. They were first introduced back in 2018, they feature much lower actuation and travel distances than the normal-sized Cherry MX switches.

  • Cherry MX Low Profile Red – A linear switch that requires a 0.45 N actuation force with an actuation distance of just 1.2mm.
  • Cherry MX Low Profile Speed – Also a linear switch that works similar to the low profile red with a shorter actuation distance of 1mm.

Here’s a chart of all the low-profile mechanical keyboard switches from Cherry.

Switch Type Actuation Force Actuation Distance Travel Distance Characteristics
Cherry MX Low Profile Red 0.45 N 1.2mm 3.5mm Linear
Cherry MX Low Profile Speed 0.45 N 1mm 3.5mm Linear

Kailh Low-Profile

The Basics On Mechanical Keyboard Switches 22

Currently, Kailh has the most low-profile mechanical keyboard switches out of all the manufacturers out there. The reason for this is that they also make low-profile switches for laptops as well as normal mechanical keyboards. Kailh produces linear, tactile and clicky options for their low-profile switches that feature their unique stem designs.

  • Kailh Low Profile “Choc” Red – A linear low-profile switch with an actuation force of 0.45 N.
  • Kailh Low Profile “Choc” Brown – This is Kailh’s tactile low-profile switch that features an actuation force of 0.60 N.
  • Kailh Low Profile “Choc” White – This low-profile switch is both clicky and tactile with an actuation force of 0.60 N.
  • Kailh Low Profile “Choc” Pale Blue – This switch is a slightly heavier version of Kailh’s “Choc” Brown switch with an actuation force of 0.70 N.
  • Kailh Low Profile “Choc” Burnt Orange – Another heavy switch, the Burnt Orange switch is a tactile switch with an actuation force of 0.70 N.
  • Kailh Low Profile “Choc” Dark Yellow – This linear low-profile switch is also a heavy switch that requires an actuation force of 0.70 N.
  • Kailh Low Profile “Choc” Jade – This switch features the same spring as the “Choc” White switch but with a larger clickbar. This creates better tactile feedback that in turn gives a much deeper click sound.
  • Kailh Low Profile “Choc” Navy – The Navy switch features the same spring as the Pale Blue switch but also carries a larger clickbar.

Here’s a chart of all the low-profile mechanical keyboard switches from Kailh.

Switch Type Actuation Force Actuation Distance Travel Distance Characteristics
Kailh Low Profile “Choc” Red 0.45 N 1.5mm 3mm Linear
Kailh Low Profile “Choc” Brown 0.60 N 1.5mm 3mm Tactile
Kailh Low Profile “Choc” White 0.60 N 1.5mm 3mm Tactile
Clicky
Kailh Low Profile “Choc” Pale Blue 0.70 N 1.5mm 3mm Tactile
Kailh Low Profile “Choc” Burnt Orange 0.70 N 1.5mm 3mm Tactile
Clicky
Kailh Low Profile “Choc” Dark Yellow 0.70 N 1.5mm 3mm Linear
Kailh Low Profile “Choc” Jade 0.60 N 1.5mm 3mm Tactile
Clicky
Kailh Low Profile “Choc” Navy 0.70 N 1.5mm 3mm Tactile
Clicky

Logitech GL

The Basics On Mechanical Keyboard Switches 23

Logitech has also developed their own low-profile mechanical switches which are currently exclusive to their line of mechanical keyboards. There are only three types out now which include, linear, tactile and clicky options. These Logitech GL switches have a lower travel distance when compared to Cherry MX Low Profile switches.

  • Logitech GL Linear – As the name suggests, this is a linear offering from Logitech that features an actuation force of 0.50 N.
  • Logitech GL Tactile – This tactile low-profile switch require an actuation force of 0.60 N.
  • Logitech GL Clicky – This low-profile switch provides both tactile and clicky feedback with an actuation force of 0.60 N.

Here’s a chart of all the low-profile mechanical keyboard switches from Logitech.

Switch Type Actuation Force Actuation Distance Travel Distance Characteristics
Logitech GL Linear 0.50 N 1.5mm 2.7mm Linear
Logitech GL Tactile 0.60 N 1.5mm 2.7mm Tactile
Logitech GL Clicky 0.60 N 1.5mm 2.7mm Tactile
Clicky

Which mechanical keyboard switch to look out for?

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This question is a pretty common question especially if you’re new to the whole mechanical keyboard scene. My personal favourite has to be the blue switch. The clicky noise is something I enjoy hearing especially when I type, however, it does drive my colleagues absolutely crazy sometimes.

Ultimately, this decision boils down to your preferences; do you prefer something tactile and clicky or do you prefer something that won’t potentially wake everyone in your house while you furiously type an email?

For more interesting content like this or tech news and tips and tricks, do stay tuned to us at Pokde.net!

About The Author
Syed Hassan Algadrie
Just a guy who loves Star Wars, Transformers, tech, 90s nostalgia and all things geek. Is in a constant battle with procrastination.