Categories
Gaming Keyboards

Which Mechanical Keyboard Switch Is For You – Guide For Beginners

Home » Gaming Keyboards » Which Mechanical Keyboard Switch Is For You – Guide For Beginners

Every gamer needs a keyboard that can give them optimal performance, comfort, and maybe also handle a little bit of roughing when you’re tilting. But each brand and each keyboard are built different. That’s why choosing which mechanical keyboard switch is for you is a factor in choosing which keyboard to buy. There’s a wide array of mechanical keyboard switches from different brands and it can be quite confusing. So here’s a guide that will break down it all down for you so you can be one step closer to making a decision.

Here are the major kinds of mechanical keyboard switches:

  • Linear: consistent feel and they go straight down
  • Tactile: there’s a bump or feedback when clicking that will tell you if your keystroke has been registered at the actuation point
  • Clicky: similar to tactile, you can feel a bump and it’s accompanied by a clicky sound

Despite the variety of the switches available in the market, most of them generally fall into one of those three categories. 

Linear 

Linear switches are quiet and don’t have any bump when clicking them. For a keystroke to register, you have to press it all the way down. The biggest reason why people who love linear switches love it is because it’s buttery smooth. Many FPS players prefer linear switches and also people who love to button mash their keyboards. 

Tactile

Not everyone is a fan of the sound clicky switches make. Tactile switches are similar with clicky switches that has a bump but it doesn’t have the clicky sound. This is a good combination for gamers who want quieter keyboards but also want to feel something to know that their keystroke has registered.

Clicky 

Clicky switches are probably one of the first things that come to mind when those who are not very familiar think about mechanical keyboards. It has a tactile feedback or a bump so you’ll know when your keystroke is registered and there’s that satisfying click as well. 

It’s quite popular with gamers and typists alike because the actuation force and point is lower. Meaning you don’t have to click it all the way down to register. 

Let’s learn some relevant terms that will help us understand the differences between mechanical keyboard switches:

  • Actuation Force: How hard you have to press so your keystroke will be recognized by your keyboard
  • Actuation Point: The key travel distance where the key is recognized by your keyboard. Basically, how far your key has to travel before it is recognized.
  • Total Travel Distance: The total distance your key will travel when you push it all the way down (bottom out) on your keyboard.
  • Rated Lifespan: The estimated number of key strokes your mechanical switch can typically survive

Choosing Which Mechanical Keyboard Switch Is For You

To be honest, the best way in choosing which switch is good for you is to test them. You can read and watch videos as much as you can but nothing beats feeling the switches first hand to see which one fits your bill.

Here’s a set of questions you can ask yourself:

  • Do I like to have an audible clicking sound on my keyboards? If yes, then clicky mechanical switches are for you. If you find the sound as too much, then tactile or linear switches are better choices for you.
  • Do I like to feel something when clicking down my keyboard? Then tactile is the one for you. If not, then go linear. 

Of course, these questions aren’t fool proof especially if you haven’t tried a mechanical keyboard.

If those questions aren’t of much help, a good place to start are tactile keyboards especially the Cherry MX Brown. It’s the most popular mechanical keyboard switch as it gives you the best of both worlds: the silence of linear switches and the feedback when you click. 

Here’s another set of questions for you:

  • What are you going to use this keyboard for? Are you primarily going to use it for work/typing or for playing games? Quite a lot of gamers prefer linear keyboards for gaming as it gives them a smooth feeling. There’s no bump or feedback to overcome before the key registers. 
  •  Where are you going to use this keyboard? This is actually one consideration that you will have to take into account. If you’re going to use it at your workplace, your workmates might not like the sound clicky switches make. You might have to go the linear or tactile route. 
  • Do you prefer light or heavy tapping on your keyboard? Mechanical keyboard switches have different amounts of actuation force needed for your keystroke to register. The lesser the actuation force needed, the lighter the tap needed. Conversely, the greater the actuation force needed, you will have to tap harder.

Now you have more or less an idea of which mechanical keyboard switch you like, the next step is finding out the different brands and their switches.

Which Brand Of Keyboard Switch Should I buy?

A huge majority of keyboards available use switches from other manufacturers. 

Keyboard manufacturers create or assemble the PCB, plates, stabilizers, keycaps, power cables, and use 3rd party mechanical keyboard switches. There are a lot of reasons behind this but one of the major ones is that mechanical keyboard switches like the Cherry MX have been very popular with gamers. 

So it’s quite important not only to check the brand of the keyboard but also to see which brand + type they’re using. Some keyboards can also have multiple kinds of switches you can choose from.

An example of this would be Corsair’s K95 RGB PLATINUM XT which uses Cherry MX Brown switches but is also available in Cherry MX Blue or Cherry MX Speed variants. 

There are also keyboard manufacturers who are developing their very own mechanical keyboard switches. An example of this would be Razer which used Kailh switches but then developed their own Razer mechanical switches which it uses in their own keyboards.

Here’s a list of popular mechanical keyboard switch brands that are used in gaming keyboards and some of their switches:

Cherry MX

Cherry MX is the standard of mechanical keyboard switches. Since 1983, the German brand has created mechanical keyboard switches which became so popular that it has become the go to switch of famous mechanical keyboard brands. Most likely, the mechanical keyboard you’re looking to buy has a Cherry MX switch in it. 

Also, a lot of other brands use Cherry MX’s color classification of switches as their own as well. For example, Kaihl’s Red, Blue, and Brown switches are also linear, clicky, and tactile just like their Cherry MX counterparts.

Cherry MX Red

Type: Linear
Actuation Force: 45g
Actuation Point: 2mm
Total Travel Distance: 4mm
Sound: Quiet
Rated Lifespan: 100 Million

One of the most popular switch used by gamers because it’s light, smooth and relatively quiet. It’s good for games like FPS, MOBA, or other genres where there can be quite a lot of double-tapping action because it just goes straight down.

Cherry MX Black

Type: Linear
Actuation Force: 60g
Actuation Point: 2mm
Total Travel Distance: 4mm
Sound: Quiet
Rated Lifespan: 100Million

Think of this as a heavier version of the Red switch.

Cherry MX Speed Silver

Type: Linea
Actuation Force: 45g
Actuation Point: 1.2mm
Total Travel Distance: 4mm
Sound: Quiet
Rated Lifespan: 100 Million

Cherry MX Silent Red

Type: Linear
Actuation Force: 45g
Actuation Point: 1.9mm
Total Travel Distance: 4mm
Sound: Quiet
Rated Lifespan: 100 Million

The quietest Cherry MX Switch. It’s the same as the Red but makes considerably less noise. Perfect if you want a totally silent keyboard.

Cherry MX Blue

Type: Clicky
Actuation Force: 60g
Actuation Point: 2mm
Total Travel Distance: 4mm
Sound: Clicky
Rated Lifespan: 100Million

This is the classic clicky switch that’s present in most clicky keyboards. It’s the go to switch for people or typists who want to feel a bump and find the clicking sound satisfying to their ears.

Cherry MX Green

Type: Clicky
Actuation Force: 80g
Actuation Point: 2mm
Total Travel Distance: 4mm
Sound: Clicky
Rated Lifespan: 100Million

Cherry MX Grey

Type: Tactile
Actuation Force: 80g
Actuation point: 2mm
Total Travel Distance: 4mm
Sound: Quiet
Rated Lifespan: 50million

Cherry MX Clear

Type: Tactile
Actuation Force: 65g
Actuation point: 2mm
Total Travel Distance: 4mm
Sound: Quiet
Rated Lifespan: 50million

Cherry MX Brown

Type: Tactile
Actuation Force: 55g
Actuation point: 2mm
Total Travel Distance: 4mm
Sound: Quiet
Rated Lifespan: 50million

Most commonly used gaming switch. On top of having tactile feedback and quiet sound, its actuation force is actually in the middle range. Which makes it a perfect starting point for people who want to try a mechanical keyboard for gaming. If you’re really unsure about which switch you want to buy, a keyboard with a Cherry MX Brown switch is a safe option. 

Kaihl 

Kaihl has been around for quite some time in the mechanical keyboard switch industry and they’re seen as one of the biggest alternatives to Cherry MX switches. They’re legal clones of Cherry MX and while they can be quite similar, they’re not exactly the same. 

Kaihl Red

Type: Linear
Actuation Force: 50g
Actuation point: 2mm
Total Travel Distance: 4mm
Sound: Quiet
Rated Lifespan: 50million

Kaihl Blue

Type: Clicky
Actuation Force: 60g
Actuation point: 2mm
Total Travel Distance: 4mm
Sound: Loud
Rated Lifespan: 50million

Kaihl Brown

Type: Tactile
Actuation Force: 50g
Actuation point: 2mm
Total Travel Distance: 4mm
Sound: Quiet
Rated Lifespan: 50million

Razer 

Razer is one of the most popular PC gaming peripheral brands in the world. In fact, it’s quite difficult to think of PC gaming and not associate Razer with it. They’re known for their gaming keyboards, headsets, and gaming mice. They used to have Kaihl switches in their keyboards but then transitioned to using their own designed switches. If you’re buying really old Razer keyboards, chances are they’re still using the old switches. Although, the chances of you buying those old ones are quite slim.

Razer Green

Type: Clicky
Actuation Force: 55g
Actuation point: 1.9mm
Total Travel Distance: 4mm
Sound: Loud
Rated Lifespan: 80million

This is the classic switch you will find in clicky Razer keyboards. Features a tactile bump and a clicking sound when pressed.

Razer Orange

Type: Tactile
Actuation Force: 45g
Actuation point: 1.9mm
Total Travel Distance: 4mm
Sound: Quiet
Rated Lifespan: 50million
Razer’s Tactile switch. More quiet but has a tactile bump.

Razer Yellow

Type: Linear
Actuation Force: 45g
Actuation point: 1.2mm
Total Travel Distance: 3.5mm
Sound: Quiet
Rated Lifespan: 50million

This is Razer’s fastest and quietest switch. 

Final thoughts on which mechanical keyboard switch you should buy

Ultimately, choosing a mechanical keyboard switch for your gaming keyboard boils down to personal preference. Some typists love using linear switches while some gamers enjoy clicky ones.

In case you just want to dip your toes on your first mechanical keyboard, I suggest you go for Brown switches. Its versatility in terms of having a tactile feedback while remaining quite allows you to use it for both gaming or office work.

Better yet, you can buy one of those switch samples in Amazon where they give you a bunch of individual Cherry MX keys and you can test them out to see which one’s the best for you. Again, nothing beats first-hand experience in selecting your mechanical keyboard and switch.

“PC Gaming Keyboard Backlit” by karlhols is licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Leave a Reply