What is the right mechanical keyboard and key switch for me?

Are you speculating about boosting your technological realm by introducing a mechanical keyboard into it? You have made the right decision! If you are reading this short piece of content, you must have used a mechanical keyboard before, or you have decided to go for it after gathering useful information.

Well, in both cases, you are in the right place. Here, not only you’ll get excellent knowledge about what mechanical keyboards are and what type of switches they use, but you will also get an idea of what best you can choose to take your keyboard-usage experience to another level.

As we all are aware, conventional keyboards that hold the majority of the market use a membrane/rubber based circuit in them that works when you press the key, and the force reaches the rubber dome to activate the PCB (Printed Circuit Board).

However, if you do a lot of typing work, you must have known the pain that these keyboards can cause. Also, after a certain age, membrane-based keyboards begin to miss the key-activation, not registering some keys when you type them, producing a lot of errors. And if we are talking about gaming, timing and precision is key for some genres like FPS (first person shooter) or RTS (real time strategy), for example.

logitech mechanical keyboard

Here is when the mechanical keyboards come to the rescue. These keyboards are pretty smart and cause less fatigue to your fingers while typing. Each key in them acts as an individual mechanical circuit that makes your machine know exactly what your fingers are commanding. That too, without a miss!
Also, you get several keys/switches to choose from and accord with your customized keyboard. Isn’t it great?!

Wondering why ‘Mechanical Keyboards’ are not so popular?

Mechanical keyboards, in comparison to conventional keyboards, are somewhat more expensive. A lot of people choose price over quality when purchasing keyboards. Nevertheless, once you get to the mechanical keyboard, there is no comeback.
Another vital point is the ‘awareness’. Not everyone knows about something like mechanical keyboards even exist. Only the professionals who dive deep are aware of the concept of mechanical-switching-based input devices.

Now that we are informed of the idea of mechanical keyboards, let’s understand the different types of switches/keys they use. And once you decide, check out list of best mechanical keyboards available in the market.

Switch Types

Markedly, when we talk about mechanical keyboards, there are 3 types of switches available in the market: clicky, tactile and linear.

Clicky Switches

As the name itself is an indication, these switches produce a ‘click’ like sound when you press them. Their actuation point gives you the click sound to inform that the key is pressed, and you can release the force. The main advantage of using Clicky Switches is, you don’t have to push them entirely to the bottom. Once you hear the click, you can be assured that the circuit has done its work and registered your input.

Tactile Switches

When you press the Tactile Switches, you feel like something similar to moving your finger slowly over a stiff bubble wrap. As you hit the actuation point, you get to know when to release the force by yourself. Again, there is no need to press the switch all the way down to register the input.

Linear Switches

These are the types of mechanical switches that feel similar to membrane based keyboards. However, as they are ‘mechanical’, you will not need to press them all the way down; their actuation point lies somewhere in the middle.

Cherry MX Switches

When the discussion is going around mechanical switches, the topic seems quite incomplete until we discuss the German brand ‘Cherry’.
In the years 1980, the company created the first Cherry MX Switch and patented it. Though the patent has expired already, seeing the popularity, everyone is allowed to use the idea of the Cherry MX Switches.

When you learn about mechanical keyboards, Cherry MX Switches are the most popular among all other switches. These switches come available in different colors. However, the color categorization is made based on the color or their stem and not the aesthetics, each indicating different characteristics and variations in the actuation force.

Types of Cherry MX Switches:

The 4 most common Cherry MX Switches are named on the colors red, black, blue and brown.

Cherry MX Red

These switches are linear and make a very little sound while you press them. With a slightly small force of 45cN and an actuation distance of 2 mm, Cherry MX Red enables faster actuation and is a great choice to be used in gaming keyboards.

A new version to it, Cherry MX Red Silent had entered the market in August 2015 and is quite popular too. With the same 45cN operative force, it comes with 1.9mm pre-travel and 3.7mm of total travel. Thus, allowing even faster and accurate functioning.

Cherry MX Black

Being the most popular linear switch of all time, Cherry MX black does not produce click sound when hitting the actuation point, but, it clearly generates noise when coming back from the bottom. The actuation force needed for this switch is slightly high and is 60cN.

As you get no feedback while pressing the switch, you end up pressing it up till the bottom. It has an actuation distance of 2mm and the total distance as 4mm.

Though these switches feel a little hard, still you get the advantage of not getting any accidental presses.

You must be wondering who uses these switches? Well, they are most frequently used by gamers.

There is also a silent version of the Black switch. The operating noises are reliably minimized by a patented damping. This switch establishes itself as a strong choice regarding to its increased spring force and soft actuation of 1.9mm and 60cN actuation force.

Cherry MX Blue

For people who do a lot of typing work, Cherry MX Blue comes as a blessing. It not only provides tactical feedback, but also the loudest click sound. These switches make sure that you have not missed hitting the actuation point and thus enhance the feedback on accuracy.

Taking Cherry MX Blue in practice can be a little tough initially, but as soon as you master it, you will forget about using the conventional keyboard. Talking about the details, these switches come with an actuation distance of 2.2mm and the operational force requirement of 60cN.

Cherry MX Brown

If you are looking for something that is not as loud as Cherry MX Blue but can provide a quicker typing/gaming experience, Cherry MX Brown can be a perfect choice. These switches, with an actuation distance of 2mm and an operational force of 55cN, represent the ideal hybrid to serve both your typing and gaming needs.

They provide tactical feedback but do not generate a loud click sound like Cherry MX Blue.

Cherry MX Speed Silver

The Cherry MX Speed Silver is the fastest model of the family in full height. Due to the linear switching characteristics combined with the low spring resistance of 45cN, the silver switch triggers directly with 1.2mm of pre travel and a total travel of 3.4mm. When milliseconds decide whether you win or lose, the Cherry MX Speed Silver is your guarantee for a successful gaming session.

Less common Cherry MX Switches:

Cherry MX Green

These are the switches similar to Cherry MX Blue, but with the operational force requirement of 80cN. They are meant to be used for spacebars.

Cherry MX Clear

Similar to Cherry MX Brown, these switches operate with an actuation force of 65cN but are very rare.

Here is a summary of what we have learned:

cherry mx switches comparison table

Razer Switches

Other than Cherry Switches, Razer Mechanical Switches are also popular in the market. Produced in cooperation with Kailh (a Chinese manufacturer), these switches offer their own outstanding characteristics. Let’s learn about them too.

Razer Green Switch

Similar to Cherry MX Blue, Razer Green Switch does the same work but with a lesser actuation distance of 1.9mm and an operation force of 50cN. It is clicky.

Razer Orange Switch

Often compared with Cherry MX Brown, Razer Orange Switch is a better version that needs a lesser actuation distance of 1.9mm and an operational force of 45cN for its functioning. Talk about the type, it is tactile.

Razer Yellow Switch

A linear switch, Razer Yellow is often compared with Cherry MX Red. However, it needs a lesser actuation force of 45cN and an actuation distance of 1.2mm for its functioning.

Razer Mechanical Switches

Other Switches

While we have mentioned all the popular switches here, there are a lot more like Romer G, Logitech GL, Logitech GX, SteelSeries QS1, and others that you can think of exploring.

logitech different switches

Wrapping up

So, have you made your mind to try on a mechanical keyboard and switches? What’s your choice and why you think it will work as the best suit for you? Discuss with your techie mates and don’t forget to spread the word by sharing this piece of content.