Mechanical keyboard switches. Which one is right for you?

  • Post category:Tutorial

You have finally decided to step up your game and upgrade to a brand new mechanical keyboard and luckily for you, in this post we will go through all different types of mechanical keyboard switches that there are and help you decide which one fits your needs the best.

At first, there were only Cherry MX switches, but now the market is so saturated with many different manufacturers and each having multiple types of switches so choosing the right one might be an extremely daunting task for you. Right below is a brief explanation of the most popular switches but if you are more interested keep reading further.

Most popular mechanical keyboard switches

Cherry MX blue vs red

If you like to overthink things just go for Cherry MX red or blue, depending on your primary activity and you’ll be good to go.

Cherry MX Red (Gaming) – Fast response and minimal resistance are a thing that make these switches perfect for gaming. However, they don’t have tactile feel so they might not be ideal for most typists.

Cherry MX Blue (Typing) – They have distinct “click” sound which makes them loudest of Cherry MX family. Also, they provide tactile click which gives a great response feel of when you have pressed the key. It’s a bit harder to rapid-fire with blues then reds making them just perfect for typing.

How mechanical switch actually works?

Before we look into different types of mechanical keyboard switches, we should clear out what this “mechanical” actually means. Let’s dig deeper into what these switches really are made of. Here you can see all the parts and they are from top to bottom as follows:

mechanical switch gif
mechanical switch parts
  1. Keycap – The plastic part outside, that you see and press with your finger.
  2. Stem – This is what the keycap is attached to.
  3. Switch housing – Contains all the moving parts including a slider that actuates the metal leaves.
  4. Metal leaves – They are the heart of every switch. On their contact, a signal is sent to a connected device.
  5. Spring – Provides resistance and resets the key.
  6. Housing base – This is the fixed inner part which allows the switch to be mounted on the keyboard.

If you are new to mechanical switches you might need to take a few moments and familiarize yourself with the terms that we are going to use in order to be able to describe different switches:

  • Actuation Point: The distance at which the switch needs to depress to register as an input. Measured from the top of the keycap.
  • Reset Point: The distance at which the key needs to rebound for the switch to reset.
  • Travel: The total distance a switch can depress.
  • Bottom-out: Pressing the key until it hits the bottom.
  • Hysteresis: When the actuation point and the reset point are misaligned. This is problematic because the switch needs to rebound higher than the actuation point for the key to reset.
  • Debounce: In the short period that two metal contacts complete a circuit, multiple signals can be generated. This is called signal bouncing and is an undesired effect in mechanical key switches. Debouncing is a signal processing technique that ensures only one signal is registered.

What are your options?

There are three main categories of mechanical switches:

  1. Linear – smooth key press all the way to the bottom.
  2. Tactile – a bump in the middle of key travel distance, around the actuation point
  3. Clicky – same as tactile with additional “clicky” sound

Linear tends to be better for fast-paced gaming, while the other two types perform better in typing oriented scenarios. However, no matter which switch you pick, a new mechanical keyboard will greatly benefit your gaming and typing experience. The switches will last 5-10 times longer than membrane keys. Don’t forget that this is a completely personal preference, this is just a guideline to help you choose your weapon wisely.

Cherry

The oldest alive player in the keyboard industry founded 1953, plays a major role in mechanical switches world, and is favored by most.

Cherry MX mechanical key switches
NameTypeFeelActuation ForceTotal travel distanceSound
Redlinearlight45 cN4 mmsilent
Red Silentlinearlight45 cN3.7 mmsilent
Browntactilemedium55 cN4 mmsilent
Blueclickyheavy55 cN4 mmloud
Blacklinearheavy60 cN4 mmsilent
Greentactileheavy80 cN4 mmloud
Whitelinearmedium55 cN4 mmsilent
Speedlinearlight45 cN4 mmsilent

Kaihua

Kailh, also known as Kaihua Electronics, is a major China-based switch manufacturer. Since its founding in 1990, the company has expanded its presence all over the globe. Not only do its in-house Kailh switches compete directly against the Cherry MX, but Kaihua also builds custom switches for peripheral partners.

Commonly referred to as “Cherry MX clones”, the Kailh switches are identical to Cherry MX in design. They even have the same characteristics corresponding to the same color schemes. As such, keycaps designed for Cherry MX stems are also compatible with Kailh switches.

NameTypeFeelActuation ForceTotal travel distanceSound
Kailh BOX Whiteclickylight50 cN3.6 mmsilent
Kailh Redlinearlight50 cN4 mmsilent
Kailh Blueclickyheavy60 cN4 mmloud
Kailh Blacklinearlight60 cN4 mmsilent
Kailh Browntactilemedium50 cN4 mmsilent

Razer

We can’t talk about gaming without at least mentioning the famous Razer. They cooperated with Kaihua to create their first-ever mechanical switch but later on, they started teaming up with a lot of different manufacturers like Greetech and possibly more.

NameTypeFeelActuation ForceTotal travel distanceSound
Razer Greenclickyheavy50 cN4 mmloud
Razer Orangetactilemedium45 cN4 mmsilent
Razer Yellowlinearlight45 cN3.5 mmsilent
Razer Opto-Mechanicalclickymedium45 cN3.5 mmloud
razer mechanical key switches
source: Razer

Honorable mentions

We’ve talked about the main players but here we have handpicked a couple of greater mechanical switches.

Romer G – Coming straight from Logitech, well-known tech giant it has to fulfill high expectations which quite surprisingly it does. Coming much after Chery MX switches it brings incredible innovative design having only a 1.5 mm actuation point. It comes in both linear and tactile forms.

Topre – The speedy and tactile switch makes it ideal for general use. Great for both gaming and typing with multiple actuation force options to choose from.

Cooler Master Hybrid Capacitive switch – Same as topre, but has Cherry MX stem mounted on top allowing you to mount custom keycaps. It also has an incredible activation point of just 1 mm.

Bloody LK Libra Orange – Equipped with optical technology these switches detect a keystroke when a laser under every switch is interrupted. Because they don’t rely on metal contacts, there are fewer moving parts and fewer potential points of failure.

But which one is the best for me?

The best, in this case, is very general term as there is no such thing as perfect mechanical keyboard switch for gaming or typing. We went through some technical details about different types of key switches but in the end it’s completely up to your personal preference and there is no wrong option. We have seen some amazing Counter-Strike plays with rubber domes, so you might even go for a membrane keyboard. If you are still not sure whether you really need a mechanical keyboard, although I would recommend it for sure, check out our comparison between mechanical and membrane keyboards here.