If you’re looking to dive into the world of mechanical keyboards, one important aspect to consider is the type of switch used. Mechanical keyboard switches vary in their characteristics, offering unique typing experiences depending on your preferences. In this article, we’ll explore the different types of mechanical switches to help you determine which one suits your needs best.
There are three main categories of mechanical keyboard switches: linear, tactile, and clicky. Linear switches offer smooth and consistent keystrokes, while tactile switches provide a noticeable bump when a key is pressed. Clicky switches, on the other hand, deliver a satisfying audible click with each keystroke. These distinctions are essential to understand, as they can greatly impact your typing experience and overall satisfaction with your keyboard.
With each type of switch offering its own unique feel and sound, finding the right one for you can be a bit overwhelming. To make an informed decision, it’s helpful to thoroughly understand the characteristics of each switch type and how they affect your typing experience. In the following sections, we’ll delve deeper into each category, so you can narrow down your options and choose the ideal switch for your needs.
Mechanical Keyboard Switches Overview
When diving into the world of mechanical keyboards, you’ll quickly discover that the switches play a significant role in your typing experience. You should know that there are several types of mechanical keyboard switches, each with its unique characteristics.
Generally, mechanical switches fall into three main categories: linear, tactile, and clicky. Linear switches offer a smooth keystroke with consistent resistance, while tactile switches give you a noticeable bump as you press the key. Clicky switches, on the other hand, produce a distinct clicking sound and tactile feedback upon actuation.
The following are some popular mechanical keyboard switches:
- Cherry MX: The most widely known and utilized switches, thanks to their German manufacturer, Cherry AG. They come in various colors, each representing specific attributes like actuation force and feedback type. Examples include Cherry MX Blue (clicky), Cherry MX Brown (tactile), and Cherry MX Red (linear).
- Gateron: These switches are often compared to Cherry MX and provide a similar selection of options. Gateron switches tend to have a smoother feel and are generally more budget-friendly.
- Alps: Known for their unique design and high tactility, Alps switches were once a popular choice in mechanical keyboards. Today, they’re less common but still offer a satisfying typing experience for enthusiasts.
- Matias: These switches are inspired by the Alps design and come in three main variations: Matias Quiet Click (tactile), Matias Click (clicky), and Matias Quiet Linear (linear).
Now that you have a basic understanding of the types of mechanical keyboard switches, use this knowledge as you explore further and find the perfect combination of switches to suit your typing preferences and needs.
Types of Mechanical Keyboard Switches
In this section, we’ll explore the main types of mechanical keyboard switches and their characteristics. These can be grouped into three categories: linear switches, tactile switches, and clicky switches.
Linear switches are a popular choice for those who prefer smooth and consistent keypresses. With this type of switch, you won’t experience any tactile bump or click noise as you press the key down. They are ideal for those who perform rapid keypresses, like gamers or typists who prefer a quiet work environment.
Some well-known linear switches include Cherry MX Red and Cherry MX Black. Here are their main characteristics:
- Cherry MX Red: light resistance (45cN) and quiet operation
- Cherry MX Black: higher resistance (60cN) and low noise levels
If you prefer a bit of feedback when typing, tactile switches might be your best bet. These switches provide a noticeable bump when the key is pressed, allowing you to feel the exact moment of actuation. This helps to avoid bottoming out keys and improves typing efficiency, especially for touch typists.
Some common tactile switches are Cherry MX Brown and Cherry MX Clear. Their characteristics include:
- Cherry MX Brown: moderate resistance (45cN) and a subtle tactile bump
- Cherry MX Clear: higher resistance (65cN) with a more pronounced tactile bump
For those who enjoy an audible click with each keypress, clicky switches offer a satisfying typing experience. In addition to the tactile bump, these switches produce a distinct click sound when the key is actuated. This can be pleasing for some typists but might be considered noisy in a shared work environment.
Popular clicky switches are Cherry MX Blue and Cherry MX Green, with the following characteristics:
- Cherry MX Blue: medium resistance (50cN) and a pronounced click sound
- Cherry MX Green: higher resistance (80cN) with a more robust click noise
Now that you have an understanding of the different types of mechanical keyboard switches, you can make a more informed decision when picking the ideal switch for your specific preferences and typing style.
Actuation Force and Travel Distance
When choosing a mechanical keyboard switch, understanding actuation force and travel distance can greatly enhance your typing experience. Actuation force refers to the amount of pressure required to register a keypress, while travel distance is the distance a key must travel before it actuates.
Different switches have varying actuation forces and travel distances, catering to a diverse range of preferences. Here are a few key aspects to consider when selecting your ideal mechanical keyboard switch:
- Light Actuation Force: Switches with an actuation force of less than 30 grams require minimal force to register a keystroke. Keyboards equipped with this type of switch tend to be highly responsive and fast. However, you might be more prone to accidental key presses due to their sensitivity.
- Average Actuation Force: Keyboards with a force ranging from 45 to 55 grams, typically found in Cherry MX Brown or Gateron Brown switches, strike a balance between speed and accuracy. These switches are suitable for typists and gamers alike.
- Heavy Actuation Force: Switches with an actuation force exceeding 60 grams demand more pressure to activate the keys. They minimize typing errors, but may cause fatigue when used for extended periods.
Travel distance also varies between switches, and this factor can influence typing speed and comfort. Some common travel distances include:
- Short Travel Distance: Switches with a travel distance around 1 to 2 mm, such as Cherry MX Speed or Low Profile Speed, enable rapid key presses due to their swift response times. This feature can be advantageous in competitive gaming scenarios.
- Average Travel Distance: Many switches, like the standard Cherry MX and Gateron switches, have a travel distance between 2 and 4 mm. This range provides an optimal balance of typing speed and tactile feedback for most users.
- Long Travel Distance: Switches with a travel distance beyond 4 mm, like some Topre or Matias switches, deliver more pronounced tactile feedback at the expense of reduced typing speed. These are generally less common but may appeal to those who prefer a distinct tactile sensation.
Remember to weigh the actuation force and travel distance of different switches. This will help you find the perfect mechanical keyboard switch that aligns with your typing speed, accuracy, and comfort requirements.
Top Mechanical Switch Brands
In this section, we’ll explore some of the top mechanical switch brands to help you choose the perfect switch for your needs.
Cherry MX switches, first released in 1983, are the most popular and widely used mechanical keyboard switches. With a range of color-coded options, each type of Cherry MX switch offers a unique feel and actuation force. You can’t go wrong with Cherry MX switches due to their reliability and performance.
Gateron switches are another excellent choice for your mechanical keyboard. Known for their smooth typing experience, Gateron switches come pre-lubed, which provides a smoother feel compared to some other switches. They’re available in a variety of colors, each with its own unique characteristics, similar to Cherry MX switches.
Razer is well-known for their gaming peripherals, and their mechanical switches are no exception. Designed specifically for gaming, Razer switches offer fast actuation and durability. With Razer’s own color-coded options, you can find the perfect switch for your gaming needs.
Kailh switches, manufactured by Kaihua Electronics, are another popular alternative to Cherry MX switches. Kailh offers a wide variety of switch options, including linear, tactile, and clicky switches. As a versatile option, Kailh switches provide a great balance between typing and gaming performance.
ROMER-G switches, developed by Logitech, are designed for both typing and gaming. With a shorter actuation distance and a unique tactile feel, ROMER-G switches offer a smooth and responsive typing experience. Although not as widely available as Cherry MX or Gateron switches, ROMER-G might be an excellent choice if you’re a fan of Logitech products.
Now that you’re familiar with some of the top mechanical switch brands, you can make a more informed decision when selecting the ideal mechanical keyboard switch for your needs.
Choosing the Right Switch for Your Needs
When it comes to mechanical keyboard switches, there are three general categories. To find the best switch for your needs, let’s dive into each type and explore what they offer for different tasks such as gaming, typing, and professional work.
For gamers, linear switches are popular as they provide smooth keystrokes without pushback or tactile feedback. This allows for quicker key presses and maximizes reaction time during intense gameplay. Linear switches, such as Cherry MX Red or Kailh Red switches, are often quieter compared to tactile and clicky switches, making them suitable for shared spaces.
If you spend a lot of time typing, tactile switches offer a comfortable balance between smooth action and feedback. Tactile switches, like Cherry MX Brown or Kailh Brown switches, have a bump that you’ll feel as you press the key, signaling that you’ve reached the actuation point. This feedback helps avoid bottoming out, thus reducing typing fatigue during long sessions.
In professional settings, sound levels and typing feel should both be considered. Linear and tactile switches can be suitable options, such as Cherry MX Silent Red or Kailh Brown switches. Clicky switches, like Cherry MX Blue or Kailh Blue, are generally not recommended for shared offices or workplaces, as the clicking sound can be disruptive. It is crucial to choose a switch that offers comfort without sacrificing performance or generating excessive noise.
Remember, the best switch for you will depend on your personal preferences and needs. Don’t be afraid to try out different switch types to find the perfect fit!
Customizing Mechanical Keyboards
When it comes to customizing mechanical keyboards, you have several options to make your typing or gaming experience more enjoyable and personalized. In this section, we’ll discuss keycap material, switch modding, and lubrication.
Keycaps come in various materials, and your choice can significantly impact your typing feel and overall experience. The most common keycap materials are ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) and PBT (Polybutylene Terephthalate).
- ABS Keycaps: These are typically lighter and cheaper than PBT keycaps, but they have a smoother surface and may develop shine over time from finger oils.
- PBT Keycaps: These keycaps are more durable and resistant to shine or wear. PBT keycaps have a slightly textured surface, which can provide more grip and a better feel while typing.
When customizing your keyboard, consider your preferences for texture, durability, and cost to determine which keycap material suits your needs.
Modifying your keyboard switches can enhance the overall feel and improve the performance of your mechanical keyboard. Three popular switch mods are:
- Spring Swapping: Changing the springs in your switches can alter the keypress force, making them lighter or heavier according to your preferences.
- Stem Swapping: Swapping stems affects the tactility and sound of your switches, allowing you to create a unique switch combination.
- Switch Films: Adding films between the switch top and bottom housings can reduce wobble and improve the overall typing experience.
When considering switch mods, be aware that some modifications may require soldering or desoldering, while others can be done using a hot-swappable keyboard.
Applying lubricant to your mechanical keyboard switches and stabilizers can significantly improve the smoothness and reduce any scratchiness or unwanted noise. Take note of the following tips:
- Choose the right lubricant: Dielectric grease is a popular option for stabilizers, while Krytox GPL 205 Grade 0 or Tribosys 3204 is suitable for switches.
- Apply the lubricant sparingly: Using too much lubricant can cause your switches to feel sluggish or gummy.
- Be patient and precise: Lubricating your switches takes time and precision to ensure even application and avoid over-lubricating.
By customizing your mechanical keyboard through keycap material choices, switch modding, and lubrication, you can enhance your typing and gaming experience to suit your preferences.