Different Types of Mechanical Gaming Keyboard Switches & Tips To Choose the Right One
Mechanical keyboards have different types of switches, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. A mechanical switch consists of a base, a spring, and a stem. The shape of the stem at the base of the switch determines what type of switch it is. In this article, we will help you to select the switch that best suits your needs by discussing the different types of mechanical gaming keyboard switches that are available.
Gaming keyboard switches have three different variations. Linear switches are speedy and silent, making them ideal for gaming. Tactile switches offer a tactile sensation and make some noise when pressed, while clicky switches are the noisiest and make a clicking sound, which some writers may prefer.
The keys of a mechanical keyboard like this, have a physical switch located under them, while membrane keyboards like this register keystrokes through a rubber membrane. According to this article from the Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, mechanical keyboards enable faster typing and require less physical effort to activate the key switch than other types of keyboards. This is because mechanical keyboards provide additional tactile and auditory feedback as a result of their key-switch design.
Mechanical keyboard switches offer a number of benefits over normal keyboard switches. You don’t have to press the keys completely down to get them to register, which makes typing easier. In addition, mechanical keyboard switches produce a unique sound.
What Is a Mechanical Keyboard Switch?
Mechanical keyboards are faster and more accurate than membrane keyboards because each key has a separate switch, whereas membrane keyboards register keystrokes through one membrane.
A mechanical keyboard switch is a mechanism beneath the keycaps that registers and transmits keystrokes. Each of the three types of switches feels different when typing. Linear switches provide no feedback when hitting the actuation point. Tactile switches provide tactile feedback, while clicky switches provide an audible click.
Our article comparing membrane and mechanical keyboards takes an in-depth look at the pros and cons of these types of keyboards so that you can decide which features you want.
Mechanical keyboards like this often feature N-key rollover technology which allows them to register every keystroke even when pressed simultaneously. This means that no command is lost when pressing multiple keys at the same time.
Mechanical keyboard switches can be changed or repaired per key, whereas changing or replacing the switches on a membrane keyboard necessitates replacing the whole membrane. For more information on how to replace keyboard switches, see our article on how to replace keyboard switches.
Key Specs of a Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
A mechanical keyboard is great for gaming. However, when looking for the finest gaming keyboard, it's crucial to consider your preferences for switches, the build quality of the keyboard, and comfort.
When buying a mechanical keyboard, it’s important to consider key specs such as actuation distance and force, speed and responsiveness, anti-ghosting capabilities, RGB lighting, key travel distance, haptic feedback.
Consider these key mechanical keyboard specs before buying one:
The actuation distance is a key metric determining a keyboard's responsiveness. It refers to how deep users need to press a key for it to register and send a signal. Keyboards with a low actuation distance like this allow for quick typing, making them great for gaming. You are, however, more likely to make mistakes while typing if the actuation distance is low. Our article about using a mechanical gaming keyboard for typing discusses the features that make gaming keyboards great for regular office work too.
Another useful spec that you should consider is the actuation force. Although linked to actuation distance, actuation force and distance are two different metrics. The force used to push a key is measured in grams and keys with higher actuation force need a harder push.
Switches typically have an actuation force of 45-60 grams. The lighter the weight, the easier it is to transmit a keystroke as with this keyboard. Using keys that require more force to trigger makes it less likely that you miss press, meaning you are less likely to make mistakes while typing. However, using keys that require a higher actuation force to trigger can lead to fatigue when typing for long periods of time.
Speed and Responsiveness
Speed is a key spec that cannot be sidelined when it comes to mechanical keyboard switches. Mechanical keyboard switches have significantly quicker keystrokes than membrane keyboards meaning they are ideal for gamers as they hit keys fast and frequently. Our article on how to change keyboard speed on Mac & Windows has some great tips if you are not happy with your keyboard speed.
Anti-ghosting is a feature that is very beneficial for gaming. Keyboards like this that have anti-ghosting can register multiple keystrokes pressed at once by using N-key rollover technology. As Microsoft discusses in this article, anti-ghosting is very useful for playing games that involve complex key combinations. You can test out your keyboard interface and limitations using this anti-ghosting demo from Microsoft.
RGB stands for Red, Green, and Blue. This refers to the multi-colored illumination available on mechanical keyboards like this one. Most gaming keyboards have RGB lighting in some form, but models differ in their features. Customizable RGB lighting allows users to group commands by color, helping users differentiate command groups which are useful for programmers and gamers in particular. Our article about how to change gaming keyboard light settings will explain how you can customize your keyboard's backlighting.
Key Travel Distance
Another spec to consider is the travel distance. This is the entire distance a keypress can go before reaching the bottom. With only little variations across manufacturers, this distance is generally between 2 mm and 4 mm. Shorter distance key switches are sometimes referred to as speed switches, like this keyboard has, and can feel particularly sensitive to the touch.
Haptic feedback should be considered when choosing a keyboard. Tactile feedback with haptics and click switches improves typing accuracy. You can feel and hear whether your keystroke is registered without bottoming out the key. This feedback makes you fast and accurate thereby benefiting gamers.
Summary of Mechanical Keyboard Switch Types
|What are you trying to optimize?||Suggested Actuation Distance||Suggested Actuation Force||Suggested Type of Switch||Example Product||Price|
|I want durable mechanical keyboard switches||2 mm||40 g||Linear and tactile||Cherry Mx 3.0 S Wired Mechanical Gaming Keyboard||~$100|
|I want a mechanical keyboard with anti-ghosting||2 mm||40 g||Linear||Fiodio Rainbow Gaming Keyboard||~$60|
|I want a keyboard that provides sound feedback when pressing keys||4 mm||45 g||Clicky||Logitech G613 Lightspeed Wireless Mechanical Gaming Keyboard||~$60|
|I want a mechanical keyboard with switches that require minimal force to actuate||3 mm||30 g||Tactile||Razer BlackWidow V3 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard||~$100|
|I want a keyboard with switches that allow for fast typing||1.5 mm||40 g||Linear||BlackWidow Lite Tkl Tenkeyless Mechanical Keyboard||~$60|
|I want a quiet mechanical keyboard||1.5 mm||40 g||Linear||Redragon K582 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard||~$45|
|I want a mechanical keyboard that is highly accurate and has anti- ghosting||4 mm||50 g||Tactile||RisoPhy Mechanical Gaming Keyboard||~$35|
|I want a gaming keyboard with haptic feedback||4 mm||50 g||Clicky and Tactile||Evga Z20 Rgb Optical Mechanical Gaming Keyboard||~$150|
What Are the Types of Keyboard Switches?
Before getting a keyboard, do consider what type of keys you want to use. The types vary considerably when it comes to the feedback and sound they produce.
The three types of keyboard switches are linear, tactile, and clicky. Linear switches offer quick response with no tactile feedback and little to no noise, while tactile switches provide a noticeable bump when pressed. Clicky switches are known for their distinct clicking sound when pressed.
Our article about how to choose a quiet mechanical keyboard explains what factors to consider when deciding on a keyboard and how to determine the noise each switch type will produce so that you buy the right keyboard for your working or gaming environment.
We explain a bit more about the different types of gaming keyboard switches:
Type 1. Linear Keyboard Switches
Linear switches like these, also known as “red switches”, are fast as they travel without the resistance of the other types that produce bumps and sounds. Therefore linear switches are widely used in gaming keyboards. These switches are great for work environments because they are the type that produces the least amount of sound. If you’re currently searching for a quiet gaming keyboard, see our list of the 10 best quiet gaming keyboards.
Type 2. Tactile Keyboard Switches
Tactile keyboard switches like these, also known as “brown’’ switches, have a tactile bump that provides feedback when pressed. As a result, they require minimal force to actuate. A tactile keyboard switch is somewhere in between linear and clicky when it comes to the force needed to trigger the key. They are noisier than linear switches but not as loud as click switches.
Type 3. Clicky Keyboard Switches
Some consider using a clicky keyboard like this to be the most satisfying experience. This is because of the bump and sound a clicky switch makes when pressed. You don't have to bottom out the keys when typing, you can release the key as soon as you receive feedback.
Gamers that enjoy feedback would find clicky keyboard switches ideal as it provides the best feedback of all switch types. However, you should consider the sound before buying a keyboard with clicky switches as it may annoy other people in your vicinity.
Summary of Keyboard Switch Types
|What are you trying to optimize?||What kind of switch would be best for you and why?||Example Product||Price|
|I want a nice clicky noise when I press a key||Clicky switch||Logitech G915 Wireless Mechanical Gaming Keyboard||~$165|
|My fingers get tired while gaming so I want keys to register without needing much force.||Linear switch||Razer Huntsman Elite Gaming Keyboard||~$100|
|I want to feel a bump but hear no click sound when pressing a key.||Tactile switch||Redragon K582 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard||~$45|
|I want ultra-precision and stable switches||Linear and tactile||Cherry Mx 3.0 S Wired Mechanical Gaming Keyboard||~$100|
|I want a switch with continuous actuation without any feedback or noise||Linear switch||ROCCAT Vulcan Tkl Linear Pc Gaming Keyboard||~$90|
|I would like to replace damaged caps and install custom ones easily||Linear, tactile and clicky switch||Razer BlackWidow V3 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard||~$100|
|I don't want to push the key all the way down before receiving feedback||Clicky||CHERRY Mx 10.0n Rgb Mechanical Keyboard||~$125|
The Primary Keyboard Switch Brands
There are a few reputable keyboard switch brands that we recommend for their quality. As a rule, switches from these manufacturers function well and are durable. Consider choosing these brands over more obscure ones.
When looking for keyboard switches, some of the top brands to consider are Topre, Cherry MX, Razer, and Logitech. Topre switches are popular for their electrostatic capacitive design. Cherry switches are widely recognized for their high quality and affordability. Razer switches are known for their stability and performance, while Logitech switches are renowned for their comfort and accuracy.
Choose from the following primary brands of gaming keyboard switches:
Topre Keyboard Switches
Topre keyboards like this are a special type of keyboard with an electro-capacitive switch that actuates differently than a normal mechanical switch. Topre switches feature circular tops that are linked to an electrical circuit beneath. This circuit is installed on a printed circuit board (PCB). It detects switches' sensor keystrokes and initiates actuation. Capacitive switch technology enables key actuation without bottoming out, making typing faster and more comfortable.
Cherry MX Mechanical Switches
Cherry MX is known for making quality switches. Perhaps their most famous model is the MX Switch like this, which comes in different colors. Red MX switches, for example, are linear, while white ones are tactile. This article from CherryMX.com explains their low spring resistance triggers and why many professional gamers prefer keyboards with Cherry MX switches. Check out this video tutorial by BeatTheBush on the different Cherry MX switches.
Razer Mechanical Switches
Razer is a well-known brand in the gaming industry, known for their high-quality gaming peripherals, including mechanical keyboards. The Razer Orange Mechanical Switch is a switch that provides a similar feel to Cherry MX Browns. It is designed for gamers who prefer a tactile feel, but with a slightly shorter actuation distance and slightly less force required compared to the Cherry MX Browns. The Razer Yellow Mechanical Switch, on the other hand, is a linear switch, similar to the Cherry MX Reds. It is designed for gamers who prefer a faster and more responsive gaming experience, with a shorter actuation distance requiring less force to actuate. Lastly, the Razer Purple Mechanical Switch is a unique option that is both tactile and linear, designed to be silent, making it a good choice for gaming in shared living spaces where noise level is a concern. These switches provide gamers with different switch options to cater to their specific gaming needs and preferences. As is evident from this post by Razer, they are constantly improving their products and are known for their cutting-edge technology.
Logitech Romer-G Switches
Logitech is a brand that is known to make great mechanical gaming keyboards. It produces two types of switches specifically made for gaming.
The Logitech Romer-G switches on this keyboard, in particular, are top-notch. They have lower actuation points than even the Cherry MX switches and were created in collaboration with renowned Japanese switch manufacturer Omron. Additionally, the switches have a series of backup contacts that increase their lifespan to 70 million keystrokes, making them very durable.
Summary of Primary Switch Types on Mechanical Keyboards
|Keyboard Switch Brand||Pros||Cons|
|Topre||Unique technology makes the switches fast and comfortablePrecise tactile feedbackLong lifespanQuietPBT keycaps||Pricey and limited customization options|
|Cherry MX||High actuation forceVersatile switchSilent travelTactile bump50 million keystrokes per key||Stiff keys can make it difficult to execute rapid keystrokes|
|Razer||Lifespan of up to 80 million keystrokes Ultra low profileGood customization optionsLight and responsive switches||Software can be difficult to manage|
|Logitech||Discernable BumpAudible ClickTactile feedbackComfortable and responsive typing experienceCompatible with standard Cherry MX keycapsLifespan of 50 million keystrokes||Unswappable keycaps and the keys can be expensive|
Tips To Choose the Best Keyboard Switches for You
Choosing a gaming keyboard is a personal task that involves trying out and researching various keyboards until you find the one that suits your typing and gaming style.
When choosing a mechanical keyboard switch, it's important to consider actuation force, actuation distance, tactile feedback, noise level, durability, and the intended use of the keyboard. If you're looking for ultra-precise and stable keyboard switches, linear switches may be the best choice for you. If you prefer snappy feedback, tactile switches may be a better option for you. Clicky switches are another option that provide a fast response with minimal key press. If you're looking for the quietest mechanical keyboard, linear switches will be a great option to go for. For a different type of switch, you may want to try Topre switches or Razer switches. Lastly, if you're looking for a switch with a high actuation force, Cherry MX switches are worth considering.
All these options have their own pros and cons, it's best to try them out to find which one feels most comfortable and responsive to your needs. Our article about what a gaming keyboard is and how to choose one is a good starting point when deciding on a keyboard type and style.
In this section, we’ll share our tips on selecting the right keyboard switch based on your potential preferences and needs:
Tip 1. Choose Linear Switches If You're Looking for Ultra Precise and Stable Keyboard Switches.
Linear switches of a keyboard like this have a smooth key press, providing minimal key travel and a consistent actuation force. These switches work without any resistance or tactile feedback and when they bottom out, they can produce a mild clicking sound.
Tip 2. Pick Tactile Switches If You Want Snappy Feedback
Tactile switches provide a distinct "bump" sensation when the key is pressed, giving you a clear indication that your key press has been registered. These switches provide the most accurate feedback of any mechanical switch. During gameplay, the sound and feel make it easier to move precisely without misclicking or the need to fully bottom out your keys. The tactile feedback of these keys also makes them very satisfying to use.
Tip 3. Try Clicky Switches if You're Looking for a Fast Response With Minimal Keypress
If you enjoy audible feedback when typing, clicky switches like these are for you. These switches have a distinctive "click" sound when they are pressed, providing audible feedback.The sound produced lets you know that your action was registered even before you shift your fingers to press the next key. Clicky switches are ideal for typing. These are similar to tactile switches, except they make a lot more noise when they actuate.
Tip 4. Try Linear Switches If You’re Looking for the Quietest Mechanical Keyboard
Gamers who want to reduce noise to a minimum may want to use linear switches. Keyboards like this that have linear switches are a good option for live streamers, as your audience won’t be distracted by your typing.
Tip 5. Opt for Topre Switches if You Want Electro Capacitive Switches
Topre switches are electro-capacitive switches that provide a smooth and consistent feel. The technology used in Topre switches makes them very responsive and capable of registering key presses quickly. They are ideal for gamers. However, do consider that Topre switches are relatively expensive.
Tip 6. Choose Razer Switches if You Want an 80 million Keystroke Lifespan
Razer Switches are the most durable. They can have a lifespan of up to 80 million keystrokes, whereas most standard keys will only withstand 50 million presses. If you want your keyboard to last a long time, get one that has Razer switches like this one.
Tip 7. Try Cherry MX Switches for High Actuation Force
Cherry MX switches like these require a relatively high actuation force to register, making them great for games where a missed press could cost you dearly. Abilities in MOBA games, for example, can only be used every few seconds, meaning that the high actuation force of Cherry MX keys can prevent you from making critical mistakes. Our gaming keyboard recommendations explain the most important features to look out for that can make your gaming experience much more enjoyable.
Mechanical Keyboard Switches Chart
|Brand||Switch||Type of Switch||Actuation Force||Actuation Distance||Average Price & Product Link||Price|
|Cherry MX||Reds||Linear||45g||4.0mm||Corsair K60 Rgb Pro Low Profile Mechanical Gaming Keyboard||~$50|
|Cherry MX||Blacks||Linear||60 g||4.0 mm||Filco Majestouch Ninja Tkl (Cherry Mx Black) Keyboard||~$140|
|Cherry MX||Browns||Tactile||45 g||4.0 mm||Corsair K95 Rgb Platinum xt Mechanical Gaming Keyboard||~$180|
|Cherry MX||Blues||Clicky||50 g||4.0 mm||Cherry Mx Board 3.0 S Wired Gamer Mechanical Keyboard||~$100|
|Cherry MX||Speed Or Silvers||Linear||45 g||3.4 mm||HyperX Alloy Elite 2 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard||~$70|
|Razer||Green||Clicky||50 g||4.0 mm||Redragon K580 Vata Rgb Led Backlit Mechanical Gaming Keyboard||~$75|
|Razer||Orange||Tactile||40 g||4.0 mm||Razer Huntsman Tournament Edition TKL Tenkeyless Gaming Keyboard||~$70|
|Razer||Yellow||Linear||45 g||4.0 mm||SteelSeries Apex 7 Tkl Compact Mechanical Gaming Keyboard||~$95|
|Logitech||GL Tactile||Tactile||50 g||1.5 mm||Logitech G815 Lightsync Rgb Mechanical Gaming Keyboard||~$220|
|Logitech||GL Linear||Linear||50 g||1.5 mm||Logitech Pro Mechanical Gaming Keyboard||~$180|
|Logitech||GL Clicky||Clicky||50 g||1.5 mm||Logitech Craft Advanced Wireless Keyboard||~$170|
|Logitech||GX + Romer-G Blue||Tactile||50 g||2.0 mm||Logitech G512 Carbon Lightsync Rgb Mechanical Gaming Keyboard||~$105|
|Logitech||GX + Romer-G Red||Linear||50 g||1.9 mm||Logitech G Pro Mechanical Gaming Keyboard||~$90|
|Logitech||GX + Romer-G Brown||Tactile||50 g||1.9 mm||Logitech K845 Mechanical Illuminated Keyboard||~$50|
|Logitech||Romer-G Tactile||Tactile||45 g||1.5 mm||Logitech G512 Carbon Rgb Mechanical Gaming Keyboard||~$80|
|Logitech||Romer-G Linear||Linear||45 g||1.5 mm||Logitech G413 Backlit Mechanical Gaming Keyboard||~$60|
|Topre||30||Tactile||30 g||4.0 mm||EpomakerNiz 2021 T Series||~$180|
|Topre||45||Tactile||25 g||4.0 mm||Rk Royal Kludge Rk918 Wired Mechanical Keyboard||~$50|
|Topre||55||Tactile||65 g||4.0 mm||Realforce R2 Keyboard||~$260|
Do Mechanical Keyboard Switches Sound Good?
Most gamers prefer mechanical switches to regular switches due to the feedback sound of the components.
When it comes to choosing keyboard switches based on sound, it's important to consider your personal preferences. Clicky switches like Cherry MX Blues produce a loud and pronounced "click" sound, Linear switches like Cherry MX Reds produce less sound and are good for those who want to minimize the noise and Tactile switches like Cherry MX Browns produce a more audible and consistent sound that is balanced for gaming and typing.
It's worth noting that some switches, like Kailh Purple or Logitech Romer-G, are designed to be quieter, so if you're looking for a switch that provides good tactile feedback and minimizes the sound, you can take those into consideration as well. Ultimately, the choice of switches will depend on personal preference, and it's recommended to try out different switches before making a decision.