Switch Types

After finally deciding to go for a mechanical keyboard, another question usually comes up very soon: Which switch type do you want to use? The switches are probably one of the most important parts of the keyboard. Two keyboards from the same model, but with different switch types, can feel quite differently.

So, which switches are the best?
Sadly, there is no easy answer in general, it really depends on your preferences. But don’t worry, we will guide you through this. This article will tell you everything you need to know and will help you to make the right decision.

Mechanical Keyboard Switch Types

Based on their characteristics, there are basically three types of switches: Linear switches, tactile switches and clicky switches.

Linear switches are the simplest ones. They feel the same from the moment you start pressing the key until bottoming out. There is no tactile feedback or noise when hitting the actuation point (the point where the keypress gets registered – usually somewhere in the middle). So, most of the time, you will probably bottom out on each key press.

Tactile switches provide tactile feedback, when hitting the actuation point. As you press the key down, you will notice a small bump, which lets you know, that your key press got successfully registered.

Clicky switches provide an additional click sound, when hitting the actuation point. The main advantage of tactile and clicky switches is that you don’t have to push the key all the way down. You can release the key immediately after you receive the feedback.

The most popular mechanical keyboard switch manufacturer is the German company Cherry. Cherry created the famous Cherry MX Switch in the 1980s and patented it. The switch became pretty much the standard for mechanical keyboards. Almost every mechanical keyboard used Cherry MX switches. Today, the patent is already expired and everyone is allowed to use the concept of the Cherry MX switches. With the gain of popularity of mechanical keyboards in the last few years, several manufacturers introduced their own switch types. The Cherry MX switches are still very popular though.

Cherry MX Switches

The Cherry MX switches are named after their stem color. Different colors also mean different characteristics. So, when someone is talking about which color of MX Switches he prefers, he is not talking about aesthetics. Some manufacturers although, chose to link the switch color with the background color in some of their keyboards. But in general, that’s not the case.
The four most common Cherry MX switches are the following:


Cherry MX Black

The Cherry MX Black is the most popular linear switch. The switch does not provide any feedback when hitting the actuation point and it just generates noise when bottoming out. With 60 cN, the actuation force is quite high. As you get no feedback about the actuation, you probably bottom out every key press. Therefore, the likelihood of accidental presses might get reduced. On the other hand, it can be quite tiresome to traverse the entire switch every key press.

As a result, the Cherry MX Black switches are mostly used by gamers, especially for RTS and shooter games. Typists usually choose other switch types.

Since August 2015, there is also a noise-damped version of the switch, the Cherry MX Black Silent.

Name Cherry MX Black
Manufacturer Cherry
Switch Linear
Actuation Distance 2 mm
Actuation Force 60 cN

Cherry MX Black


Cherry MX Red

The Cherry MX Red switches are similar to the Cherry MX Black. They are linear switches without any feedback. The difference to the Cherry MX Black is the far less actuation force of 45 cN. As this enables a faster actuation, the Cherry MX Red are also mostly used in gaming keyboards.

Since August 2015, there is also a noise-damped version of the switch, the Cherry MX Red Silent.

Name Cherry MX Red
Manufacturer Cherry
Switch Linear
Actuation Distance 2 mm
Actuation Force 45 cN

Cherry MX Red


Cherry MX Blue

The Cherry MX Blue is the favored switch type of most typing enthusiasts. The Cherry MX Blue provides tactile feedback and a loud and clear click sound. These switches make sure, you recognize hitting the actuation point and therefore allow really fast typing.  It might take a bit of practice, to stop pressing the key when hitting the actuation point, but once mastered, you surely will be writing texts like a professional secretary. In addition, hearing the click sound is really satisfying. Writing on a normal keyboard feels kinda boring, once used to a keyboard with Cherry MX Blue switches.

Even though the Cherry MX Blue switches are really good for typists, that doesn’t mean, they are bad for gamers. There are actually a lot of gaming keyboards using them, but they have to compete with a lot of other hybrid switches for their place.

One thing to keep in mind: Keyboards with Cherry MX Blue switches are usually quite loud, therefore the clicking sound can be annoying or distracting for co-workers or family members.

Name Cherry MX Blue
Manufacturer Cherry
Switch Clicky
Actuation Distance 2.2 mm
Actuation Force 60 cN

Cherry MX Blue


Cherry MX Brown

The Cherry MX Brown is one of the most popular switch types right now. Probably because the switch represents quite a nice hybrid between gaming and typing. The switch provides a tactile feedback, but does not generate a sound like the Cherry MX Blue. The switch allows fast key presses in games, making them ideal for MOBAs, MMOs, RTS and similar genres.

Additional, they are often used in environments, where the Cherry MX Blue switches are too loud, but fast typing is desired.

Name Cherry MX Brown
Manufacturer Cherry
Switch Tactile
Actuation Distance 2 mm
Actuation Force 55 cN

Cherry MX Brown


Switches from other manufacturers

Kailh Black / Red / Blue / Brown

The amount of companies, using switches from the Chinese manufacturer Kailh (Kaihua Electronics Co.) has significantly grown in the last few years. The technical specifications of the Kailh switches are the same as the ones of the respective Cherry MX switches. And although the company basically just copied the Cherry MX switches, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are of a lower quality. The company has more than 25 years of experience in producing electronic switches.


Razer Green Switch / Razer Orange Switch

The Razer Green and the Razer Orange Switch are two more switches for mechanical keyboards. They are both produced in cooperation with the Chinese manufacturer Kailh (and possibly others), but have their very own unique specifications. The Razer Green Switch is similar to the Cherry MX Blue, but has less actuation distance and force. The Razer Orange Switch can be compared to the Cherry MX Brown, but has slightly less actuation distance. The Razer Yellow Switch has similar characteristics as the Cherry MX Red, but much less actuation distance. It was used for the first time in the BlackWidow Chroma V2.

Name Razer Green Switch
Manufacturer Razer / Kailh / others
Switch Clicky
Actuation Distance 1.9 mm
Actuation Force 50 g
Name Razer Orange Switch
Manufacturer Razer / Kailh / others
Switch Tactile
Actuation Distance 1.9 mm
Actuation Force 45 g
Name Razer Yellow Switch
Manufacturer Razer / Kailh / others
SwitchLinear
Actuation Distance 1.2 mm
Actuation Force 45 g

Romer-G

Romer-G is a quite young switch type introduced by Logitech with the Orion Spark G910. The switches are produced by the company itself in partnership with the Japanese electronics company Omron. The Romer-G switches already actuate at a distance of 1.5 mm and require only 45 g force.

They provide tactile feedback and are more quiet than most Cherry MX Switches. The Romer-G switches target gamers, the most similar Cherry MX switches are probably the Cherry MX Brown.

Name Romer-G
Manufacturer Logitech
Switch Tactile
Actuation Distance 1.5 mm
Actuation Force 45 g

SteelSeries QS1

The QS1 switch from SteelSeries is a linear switch with very short actuation distance. It is built for speed and targets gamers, who value fast reactions. They are manufactured by the Chinese electronics company Kailh. The most similar Cherry MX switch is the Cherry MX Red.

Name QS1
Manufacturer Kailh
Switch Linear
Actuation Distance 1.5 mm
Actuation Force 45 g

Less common switch types

Cherry MX Green
The Cherry MX Green are similar to the Cherry MX Blue, but with an actuation force of 80 cN. They are primarily used for space bars.

Cherry MX Clear
The Cherry MX Clear are similar to the Cherry MX Brown, but with an actuation force of 65 cN. They got used in a few keyboards, but overall, they are very rare.

One thought on “Switch Types

  • September 1, 2017 at 2:52 am

    Kaihua has the kailh box switch and low profile switch Choc PG1350

    kailh more always insist on creative mechanical keyboard switch product.

    Reply

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