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How to Choose the Perfect Mechanical Keyboard Switches?

Mechanical keyboard switches are the core components of a mechanical keyboard. These unique little devices are the main contributors to the tactile and clicky experience. But there are numerous types of keyboard switches with different names and features, do you know which type of switches serve you the best?

In this article, we will dive into the differences of mechanical switches to help you find your perfect fit!



A. The Secret of Mechanical Keyboard Switches

1. What Are Keyboard Switches? 2. The Components of Keyboard Switches 3. Types of Keyboard Switches: Linear, Tactile, and Clicky 4. Parameters of the Keyboard Switches 5. Switch Color Options 6 Longevity of Keyboard Switches 7. Switches Comparison Guide 8. Hot Swappable Keyboard and Soldered Switch 9. What Are the Differences Between 3-Pin and 5-Pin Cherry MX?

B. How to Choose the Right Switch? C. Mechanical Keyboard Switches Brand D. Our Verdict E. Terminology


A. The Secret of Mechanical Keyboard Switches

1. What Are Keyboard Switches?

Mechanical Keyboard Switches, known as Keyboard Switches, are the mechanisms under the keycaps on a mechanical keyboard. They register every single press of a key. The variety of auditory feedback, tactile feedback, and force to activate the switch define your typing experience.

2. The Components of Keyboard Switches

Mechanical keyboard switches consist of metal contacts, the structure of different components directly affects the auditory feedback of the mechanical keyboard, let’s take a look at the below illustration.

a. Upper Housing - Keycap stabilizer with buckle, it is designed to protect the movement of the mechanical switch and belongs to the packaging mechanism.

b. Stem - The part underneaths the keycap that moves down when pressed, creating key travel feel and determines the switch type. The clicky switch is a sub-set type of switch that focuses on producing a tactile bump and loud audible click with each keypress.

c. The Crosspoint Metal Contact - The Stem has two metal contacts composed of a dynamic and a static plate. Once you press a key, the contact mechanism hits the PCB and closes the switch circuit, thus rendering a keypress.

d. Spring - The resistance of the coil spring determines the amount of force needed to actuate the key. It also guides the switch to slide back to its original position. Material, number of coils, and coil diameter affect the restoring force; stainless steel wire, carbon steel, piano wire are common materials for mechanical springs.

e. The Base Housing - This bottom housing component is the final part of the key switch anatomy. The base housing is where the actual installation of the switch to the keyboard, is mounted to the PCB.

3. Types Of Keyboard Switches: Linear, Tactile, and Clicky

Before dividing into the types of mechanical switches, let’s take a look at the characteristics of the mechanical switches.

a. Click Sound

The sound and principle are different when pressing the key, and the difference in the installation medium will also generate different sounds. By pressing down a switch, a clicky switch generates vibration and creates a sound by squeezing the upper housing of the mechanical switch, while the base housing hits the positioning board or PCB board.

b. Typing Feel

  • Bump feedback: A pause and snap-in as the key is pressed down.

  • Straight and smooth: A smooth feeling when pressing the switch from top to bottom.

Based on the sound and feedback given by tapping the mechanical switch, they can be divided into three categories, linear, tactile, and clicky.

  • Linear - The keystroke is consistent and smooth.

  • Tactile - A bump in the middle of travel, usually around the actuation point.

  • Clicky - A bump in the middle of travel accompanied by a sharp “click” sound.

Linear Switches: Smooth as Butter

What Are Linear Switches?

The linear switch is the simplest. It is a switch that focuses on generating a smooth, continuous actuation without any feedback or noise. The key travel is a straight downward drop with no tactile bump or clicks leaf from the moment you start pressing the key, thereby, a key is easily bottomed out . The linear switch is very suitable for those who like quiet and smooth typing.

Should You Get Linear Switches?

Linear switches are both smooth and easy to use, they are very popular in the gaming community, especially the linear speed switch. People who are used to using membrane keyboards may bottom out the switches too often which can cause mild finger pain and discomfort. Therefore, those new to the mechanical keyboard are not recommended to choose linear switches. However, once you get used to linear switches, you will find them very pleasant and fall in love with them!

Tactile Switches: Bumpy and Satisfying

What Are Tactile Switches?

Tactile switches have a small tactile bump that provide resistance and produce a relatively quiet audible click. Based on the feedback as you type, you can tell by the sound and feel at the point of key actuation. Not to mention that they are satisfying and fun to type on.