My name is Josh, creator of the YourBattlestation blog. I’m very excited to be guest posting today for Ryan, and I appreciate the opportunity! This post will be discussing mechanical keyboard keyswitches, including what they are, and an overview of the more popular ones.
By the end of this post, you should have a basic knowledge of what keyswitches are, and which one might be best for you. It’s important to note that keyswitches can either be replaceable, like your keycaps (check out my article on Why You Should Get Custom Keycaps), or pre-soldered to your keyboard. With that said, be sure to do some research on your current keyboard before going out and buying a new one. You might just be able to replace your keyswitches instead of your entire keyboard.
What are Keyswitches?
A Keyswitch is a mechanism built-in to mechanical keyboards which dictate the touch and feel of pressing down your keys. These can come in various types depending on the keyboard, each with different feels and sounds. In contrast, a non-mechanical keyboard usually has a rubber membrane which makes typing feel a lot quieter, and ‘mushier’. Some people might prefer this, which is fine. But I gain a high level of satisfaction typing on a mechanical keyboard due the audio and tactile feedback. It really makes me feel like I’m typing, and engages me in whatever I am writing.
Types of Keyswitches
The above picture notes the three ‘blanket’ categories of mechanical keyswitches, including Linear, Tactile, and Clicky. Keyboard manufacturer’s will usually build their mechanical keyswitches under any of these types, or a combination thereof. An important concept to understand is the actuation point of keyboards. The actuation point denotes where in a key’s press it will actually register. Depending on the keyswitch, this point is usually somewhere in the middle of the press.
This is one of the more popular varieties of keyswitches. A linear keyswitch will have an actuation point near the bottom of the press, meaning you need to press it pretty far down before it registers. These keyswitches usually have no resistance points to indicate when they’re pressed, other than seeing your input register on the screen. They don’t usually require much force to actuate in the first place relative to other keyswitches, which can be beneficial if you don’t want a finger workout while typing essays.
Personally, tactile keyswitches are my bread and butter. These keyswitches have clearly defined actuation points which will provide you with feedback once you’ve hit it. This feedback is usually in the form of additional resistance to let you know once you hit that point.
Some keyswitches have a ‘clicking’ feature which provides additional audio feedback in the form of a click. This feedback usually occurs when you hit the actuation point, and I’m not a big fan of it. I find that the clicks can be very loud and distracting, above and beyond the loud volume of a mechanical keyboard in the first place.
Next I’ll be discussing some of the more popular brands of keyswitches. Note that this isn’t a comprehensive list, but an overview of the more common ones.
Cherry MX Switches
Probably the most popular brand, Cherry MX has been around for decades and has a strong track record of high quality keyswitches. These keyswitches are often found on Corsair-branded mechanical keyboards, but can be found elsewhere, too. There are several varieties, but I’ll discuss the common ones below:
- Cherry MX Reds – These linear keyswitches are one of the most popular varieties. They’re light, with 45 grams of force needed to actuate. This makes for quicker pressing times which can be useful while gaming, or finishing up a last-minute report.
- Cherry MX Blues – These clicky keyswitches are another popular one. They are pretty loud, and as I alluded to above, I’m not a fan of the clicky variety of switches. These switches need 60 grams of force to actuate.
- Cherry MX Browns – I try to be as unbiased as I can, but these are top-tier keyswitches and you shouldn’t even consider the other ones! Just kidding, but I actually do use a keyboard with these Tactile switches and have adored them for years. The tactile feedback is very satisfying, but not too loud like I find clicky switches to be. These switches need 45 grams of force to actuate.
- Cherry MX Blacks – These are similar to the Cherry MX reds in that they are also a linear keyswitch, but require 60 grams of force instead of 45 grams.
You can find more information about these and other Cherry MX switches here.
Razer is another popular brand that has their own set of mechanical keyboards and proprietary switches.
- Razer Yellows – These are a linear version of Razer’s keyswitches, requiring 45 grams of force to hit the actuation point of only 1.2 mm. This allows you to press these keys in succession very fast, which can be ideal for gaming.
- Razer Greens – These are tactile and clicky keyswitches which have an actuation force required of 50 grams. The actuation point is a little further, at 1.9 mm so it may be more difficult to press keys in rapid succession.
- Razer Oranges – These are tactile and silent keyswitches with an actuation force of 45 grams and actuation point at 1.9 mm. With these being similar to the Cherry MX Brown’s, I’m definitely biased towards them.
You can find more information and even listen to the sound of these switches here.
There are probably dozens of keyswitch manufacturers on the market, so it doesn’t make sense to cover each and every one of them. Instead, here are a couple more brands that I’ll link to so that you can do additional research should you be interested:
Ultimately, keyswitches are up to personal preference, and there’s only so much a description can provide. If any of the above keyswitches appeal to you, I recommend you find a brick and mortar store that contains a keyboard on display that has those switches. That way you can feel them for yourself before deciding on a purchase. If you’re lucky enough to have a Memory Express location near you, they have lots of keyboards on display for you to try out. They also have a ‘mini keyboard’ of sorts with various different keyswitches which helped me to decide on my Cherry MX brown keyswitches (attached to a Corsair K70 RGB Keyboard).
Thank you for reading this post! If you have any questions or comments you can reach me at YourBattlestationBlog@gmail.com, and if you’re interested, you can take a look at my blog: YourBattlestation
I’d like to thank Ryan once more for allowing me to post on his blog. Thanks so much, Ryan!