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Types of mechanical switches

Mechanical keyboards are by far the preferred choice for gamers, professionals, and typists even though membrane keyboards are flooding the market.

The feedback from each key and the clack-clack noise that they make every time you press a key as you are working or playing games is something oddly satisfying.

On top of this satisfaction, some mechanical keyboards come with fancy RGB lighting that allows you to change the backlit color which is what makes them ideal for gaming.

It’s true that not everyone likes the loud noise that mechanical switches make but that’s the beauty of it. Mechanical switches vary a lot from each other depending on how much physical and auditory feedback you want. So, you can always choose something that works for you.

Here’s an entire article about mechanical switches, how they work, their types, and the best ones for your personal use of office set-up.

What is a Mechanical Keyboard Switch?

Mechanical keyboard switches are the mechanism under each keycap of a mechanical keyboard. A mechanical keyboard switch consists mainly of two parts which are a spring and a switch. When the key is pressed down, and it hits the switch beneath the keycaps, it is registered as a keypress.

The key caps are elevated from the board itself, which makes them look like they are floating in the air. This distinctive design provides typing feedback that several people have characterised as having a “springiness” feel to it.

Modern mechanical keyboards may be found in a variety of sizes, designs, and functionalities, with many having flashy RGB lighting for gamers.

What are The Types of Mechanical Keyboard Switches?

1. Linear

The linear switch is the simplest type of mechanical switch. It offers little typing feedback when fully pressed because the stem travels up and down without hitting any obstacles- hence the name linear switches.

It mainly focuses on generating a smooth typing experience without any feedback or clicking noise. You will get a similar level of force from start to finish as you would do with a membrane keyboard.

A key can quickly bottom out since the key travel is a straight downward drop without any tactile bumps or clicks from the time you push the key.

As a result, compared to the other two switch options, the keypresses are much quieter. Many gamers would like this option since it allows for quicker response times despite the lack of force feedback during keypresses.

Several companies sell mechanical keyboards, but Cherry is among the most popular ones. Because the Cherry MX Red is such a popular linear switch, gamers frequently use the term “red switches” as a shorthand for linear switches.

2. Tactile

As the name suggests, tactile switches give ‘tactile’ feedback as you fully press it. Similar to linear switches, tactile switches have a bump that appears in the middle of the key’s downward travel.

While pressing the key down, you feel a tiny bump, which is the actuation point and it means your keypress has been registered.

It provides a more interactive typing feel to the user.

It enables a faster typing experience for the user because the keys don’t have to travel all the way down to actuate.

Hence, tactile switches have become a preferred choice of typists because typists don’t need to bottom out the keys. And because tactile switches have a bump feel that many typists prefer.

Among the range of tactile keyboard switches on the market, Cherry MX Brown switches are among the most widely used.

3. Clicky

Clicky switches make a loud clicking noise every time while pressing the actuation point. As you can imagine, clicky switches are the loudest of all three types of mechanical switches.

The USP of clicky switches: You don’t need to bottom out the keys. The keypress is registered as soon as you hear the click, which means you can free the button before bottoming out.

They are preferred for their good feedback, and they can indicate registering a key press. So you know everything is working just fine.

Almost like an old typewriter, these bumpy clicky key switches can be pretty satisfying for gamers. But not an ideal option for working environments. Cherry MX Blue is the most popular clicky switch among all other switches.

4. Mechanical Switch Brand: The Most Popular

Cherry, a German company, is the most well-known manufacturer of mechanical keyboard switches. In the 1980s, Cherry developed and patented the iconic Cherry MX Switch.

Since then, the Cherry MX switches have become prevalent for mechanical switches all over the world. Almost all mechanical keyboards used to have Cherry MX switches.

Anybody can now use the Cherry MX switch patent as the patent has already expired. As mechanical keyboards have grown in popularity in recent years, many manufacturers have developed their own switch types. Even so, Cherry MX switches continue to be widely used.

5. Cherry MX

For anyone new to mechanical keyboards, these switches are a great place to start. These switches are labeled on their stem color.

Different color Cherry switches have different features. So, if someone’s favorite color Cherry Mx switches is red, blue to black, it’s definitely not just aesthetics.

You must know that Cherry MX RED and Black switches are linear, Brown and Clear switches are tactile, and Blue and Green are clicky.

The brand is the pioneer of all mechanical switches. They know what they are doing, and with all the options that they provide, you will surely find something that works for you.

6. Cherry MX Black

Name Cherry MX Black
Switch Type Linear
Operation Force 60 cN
Travel 2mm

The Cherry MX Black is basically a linear switch, meaning when it hits the actuation point, it doesn’t give any feedback, and when it bottoms out, it just makes noise.

The actuation force is extremely high at 60 cN. You might bottom out every time you press a key as you receive no feedback regarding the actuation.

As a result, there may be less chance of unintentional pressing. But pushing a key all the way down to register a keypress can be pretty tiresome.

As a result, players primarily utilise these switches, mainly for RTS and shooting games. Typists typically don’t like Black switches. They opt for a different color switch.

The Cherry MX black silent, a damped version was introduced in August 2015.

7. Cherry MX Red Switches

Name Cherry MX Red
Switch Type Linear
Operation Force 45 cN
Travel 2mm

These are very much similar to Black switches. Both of them are linear switches meaning you don’t feel any bump or click when you press a key.

The only differentiating factor between them is the operating force. Cherry MX red switches have a far less than 45 Cn of operating force.

The Cherry MX Red switches also have a short bounce time which makes them ideal for faster typing.

The Cherry MX Red is a prevalent option in keyboards meant for gaming since it provides faster actuation.

The cherry MX Red silent, a more silent version of the switch, was introduced in August 2015.

8. Cherry MX Blue Switches

Name Cherry MX Blue
Switch Type Clicky
Operation Force 60 cN
Travel 2.2mm

Most typists go for the Cherry MX Blue switches only due to its satisfactory click sound and its robust tactile feedback. The speciality of these switches lies in their ability for rapid typing thanks to that loud distinct sound when nearing the actuation point.

The ability to stop pressing the key when you reach the actuation point may take some practice, but once you get hold of it, you should be enjoying the experience.

The Cherry MX Blue switches are both used by gamers and typists. They are used by some gaming keyboards, but they are more favoured towards typists.

One thing to bear in mind is that because Cherry MX Blue switch keyboards are often extremely loud, the clicking sound may disturb or distract family members or co-workers.

9. Cherry MX Brown Switches

Name Cherry MX Brown
Switch Type Tactile
Operation Force 55 cN
Travel 2 mm

These are one of the most popular Cherry switches right now. It’s because cherry MX brown switches can be great for both typing and gaming experiences.

You get tactile feedback, but it doesn’t produce a loud, clicky noise like Cherry MX Blue switches. As a result of the bumpy feedback, it enables faster keypresses, making them ideal for gamers as well as typewriters.

Moreover, Cherry MX Brown are frequently employed in scenarios where Cherry MX Blue switches would be too noisy, yet fast typing is necessary.

10. Cherry MX Green Switches

Name Cherry MX Green
Switch Type Tactile
Operation Force 80 cN
Travel 2.2 mm

With an operating force of 80 cN, the MX Green switches from CHERRY are the heaviest switches the company offers. The actuation force is the only significant distinction between the MX Greens and MX Blues.

Although an additional 20 cN of operating force might not seem like much, it makes a huge impact on users who prefer keys that are harder to push.

Cherry MX Green switches are mostly used for space bars.

11. Cherry MX Clear/ Cherry MX Grey

The alternative to the popular Cherry Mx brown tactile switches is the cherry MX clear switches. White Cherry MX brown switches have a lighter tactile feel, and Cherry MX clear switches provide a heavier tactile feel.

The only major difference between these two is the operating force. Cherry MX clear switches have 65 CN of operating force, which is 10cN greater than Brown switches.

Another version of the Cherry MX Brown, the Cherry MX Grey, has an even stronger operating force of 80 cN.

It will take more effort to press a key down until it registers as a full keystroke due to the increased operating force.

Those who find heavier keys more satisfying to type on prefer tactile switches with a higher actuation point because it makes it more obvious when a key is pressed.

12. Cherry MX Silver Switches

The MX Speed Silver switches are CHERRY’s current fastest mechanical switch model.

These switches feature an operating force of 45 cN and a total travel distance of 3.4 mm.

It is a linear-style switch with a straight surface and no audible feedback with each keypress.

They are similar to Cherry MX Red but come with an even decreased travel distance of 1.2 mm, making them popular among gamers.

What are The Switches From Other Manufacturers?

  • SteelSeries Omni Point

The SteelSeries Omni Point switches are comparable to the Cherry MX Red ones, meaning it’s linear switches with no tactile feedback.

It’s a really versatile switch that allows you to decide the actuation point. You can set the actuation point for each key anywhere between 0.4mm to 3.6 mm. It has been possible due to the use of magnetic sensors, which constantly measure the pressed distance.

The SteelSeries Apex Pro is the first (and so far only) keyboard featuring OmniPoint switches.

  • Romer– G

The mechanical switch type was first introduced with the Orion Spark G9010 series by Logitech.

The firm manufactures the switches in collaboration with Omron, a Japanese electronics manufacturer.

The Romer-G provides tactile feedback but is quieter than Cherry MX, making them popular among gamers. They have a shorter actuating distance than Cherry MX Brown switches, and the operating force is also far lesser.

Eventually, Logitech gave the switches a new name—Romer-G Tactile—and released a new version of these switches named Romer-G Linear which has no tactile feedback.

  • Logitech – GX

In addition to Romer-G switches, Logitech also manufactures switch types comparable to traditional Cherry MX switches. There are GX Blue, GX Red, and GX Brown switches, each of which mimics the switch properties of the next Cherry MX switch.

  • Razer

The Razer Green and Razer Orange Switches are also quite popular mechanical switch types. They have been created in collaboration with the Chinese firm Kailh (and maybe others), but they have their own distinct specs.

The Razer Green Switch is comparable to the Cherry MX Blue Switch but has a lesser actuation force.  The Razer Orange switch shares similarities with the Cherry MX Brown switch but has a slightly shorter actuation distance. And the Razer yellow switch is comparable to the Cherry MX Red switch but features a much less actuation distance.

BlackWidow Chroma V2 was the first to employ it.

  • SteelSeries QS1 &QS2

 The SteelSeries QS1 is a linear type switch but with a very short actuation distance. It was designed for gamers who value speed and fast reactions.

They are primarily manufactured by the Chinese electronics brand Kailh. The QS1 is most comparable to the Cherry MX red with an even shorter actuation distance.

In collaboration with the Chinese firm Gateron, SteelSeries is producing its second generation of switches. Similar to Cherry, the stem colour describes the features of the switch: A clicky switch is blue, a tactile switch is brown, and a linear switch is red. The Apex 750 introduced linear switches, while the Apex 7 had the initial prototypes of the other two types.

  • Kaihua

In the past several years, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of companies using switches from the Kaihua Electronics Co. (Chinese manufacturer)

The technical specifications for the respective Cherry MX switches and Kailh switches are the same.

Just because the manufacturer essentially copied the Cherry MX switches doesn’t always indicate that the switches are of bad quality. The business has been making electrical switches for more than 25 years.

  • Optical Switches

Optical switches are also known as optomechanical switches. This is a recent invention of mechanical switch type that can have a major impact in creating high-quality keyboards in the future.

Optical switches get activated by a signal of light as opposed to conventional mechanical switches, which activate by creating a metal-to-metal contact. Thus, optical switches are less prone to issues caused by physical degradation due to less physical contact.

Several companies produce optical switches. Razer is a well-known company that launched its optical switches around June 2018. The Razer Huntsman Elite and Razer Huntsman were the first gaming devices to have these switches.

  • Razer Clicky Optical Switch

Going by the name, the Razer Clicky optical switches provide tactile and audible feedback. Razer has chosen the color purple for their Clicky optical switches.

  • Razer Linear Optical Switch

Compared to Cherry MX Red, Razer’s linear optical switches have a relatively small actuation distance and need less force to push a key. If you previously used Cherry MX Red and now want to shift to Razer Linear Optical Switches, it might take you a few days to get used to them because of their very own characteristics.

  • Razer Analog Optical Switch

The Razer Analog optical switch can detect when a key is pressed and how hard it is pressed.

It allows for more precise movement control in video games, much like a joystick.

The Huntsman V2 Analog, introduced in February 2021, was the first complete keyboard to utilise the Razer Analog Optical Switch.

  • Low-profile Switches

These switches are particularly flat, hence the name low-profile switches. These are used to build keyboards which are used in thin mechanical keyboards. Due to their small build size, the travel distance of low-profile switches are somewhat smaller than the standard-size mechanical switches.

  • Cherry MX Low-Profile

Cherry first introduced their low-profile switches in the year 2018. The Cherry MX Low-profile red is also a linear switch with an actuation distance of 1.2mm. They are good for both typing and gaming. The Cherry MX Low-profile speed is a linear switch with an even shorter actuation distance of only 1 mm. It is best suited for gaming.

  • Logitech GL

The term “GL switches” refers to Logitech’s low-profile series, which has switches that are only around half as tall as standard switches.

The Logitech G915 and Logitech G815 were the first ones to be introduced in the market.

GL Clicky, GL Tactile, and GL Linear switches are the three types of GL switches that may be recognised based on the feedback they offer. For all three variants, the actuation point is 1.5 mm.

What are The Parts of a Key Switch?

All mechanical keyboards have the same fundamental anatomy as a traditional mechanical switch. The components of a switch include

  1. Keycap: Keycap is the plastic top of the key with a number, letter or symbol printed on it.
  2. Stem: A vertical post or pillar on which the keycap is mounted is called the stem. It might vary slightly in design depending on the switch type.
  3. Switch Housing: This is the exterior casing that connects every component of a single switch.
  4. Metal Contact Leaves: This is where every keystore is registered.
  5. Spring: When you press down on a mechanical key, the coil spring produces resistance and pulls the switch back into its resting position. The resistance can vary in strength. In contrast to early buckling designs, the springs in current mechanical keyboard switches compress straight down.
  6. Slider: The slider is what forces the spring against it and disengages the metal contact leaves.

What are The Features of a Key Switch?

Apart from keystroke feels, there are 5 additional technical features. of a key switch. You would require certain values for each attribute depending on your typing style and the overall function of your keyboard.

  1. Travel Distance: Travel is the maximum distance a switch travels when it’s fully depressed. It is measured in millimeters.
  2. Reset Point: From the top of the keycap, the reset point is the distance a key must return in order for the switch to be available for registering another keypress.
  3. Debounce Time: It is a signal processing technique that makes sure only one key is registered at a single press.
  4. Actuation Point: The distance a key must travel before the keyboard recognises it as a keypress is known as the keyboard’s actuation point or activation point. It is measured in
  5. Hysteresis: Hysteresis is when the actuation point and reset points are not the same.
  6. Operation Force: Operation force is how hard you have to press a key to register a keystroke. It is measured in centinewton (cN).

Which is The Best Mechanical Switch?

The Cherry MX Brown switches are considered the best “middle-ground” switch. It’s a tactile switch with a tactile bump in the middle, but it offers quiet travel and a mild actuation force.

You get tactile feedback, but it doesn’t produce a loud, clicky noise like Cherry MX Blue switches. As a result of the bumpy feedback and the short travel distance, it enables faster keypresses, making them ideal for gamers as well as typewriters.


Selecting the best gaming keyboard might be challenging. Yet, choosing a winner with switches that fit your preferences may significantly enhance your gaming and daily typing experiences. Understanding the fundamentals of key switches can help you select the keyboard that best suits your playing style, whether you choose to go with something high-end or budget-friendly.

Thus, here is a cheat sheet to utilize in comparison to the key-switch style grids presented above.

You Need Fast-Responses: If you are a gamer who seeks fast-reactions then your best bet is Cherry MX Red to comparable switches.

Look for a key switch with “Speed” in the name or one with a short actuation point for the best responsiveness (that is, a small number is better). These could be related.

You are an Avid Typist: You enjoy tactile and audible feedback when typing, but if you don’t want to bother your family or coworkers while you’re doing it, then your best bet would be Cherry MX Blue and comparable clicky switches. They make a lot of noise, which some people find pleasurable but may find uncomfortable depending on where (and with whom) they work or play.

You Don’t Appreciate Switches That Make Lots of Noises: As a nice middle ground between clicky and quieter kinds, the Cherry MX Brown and comparable tactile switches are recommended.

You’ll still be able to tell when a key is activated because of the wonderful feel it gives your fingertips.

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