In recent times, there has been a dramatic shift from membrane keyboards to mechanical keyboards, especially when it comes to PC gaming.
Due to the better responsiveness, life rating, and multiple other cool features of switches in mechanical keyboards, they have replaced membrane keyboards as the first preference of enthusiast PC gamers all over the world.
Before you select a gaming keyboard for yourself, you need to decide what kind of switches you want to use. After all, the keys can make all the difference during a clutch moment.
That is just the reason why in our guide below, we will get you up to speed with all there is to know regarding the mechanical keyboard switches, including their types and the top-notch switch manufacturers.
Important Terms to Keep in Mind
- Actuation point – refers to the extent to which your keyboard key needs to be pressed to get registered by your PC. It varies from one keyboard switch to the other.
- Actuation force – refers to the force required to reach the actuation point. Measured generally in grams, the actuation force, similar to the actuation point, varies from switch to switch.
- RGB – abbreviation of Red, Blue, and Green, RGB typically refers to the colored backlighting offered by some keyboards. Some mechanical switches also have clear housings, as an alternative to RGB, for improving light dissipation across keycaps.
Mechanical Keyboard Switches Types
There are three types of mechanical keyboard switches that you can get your hands on:
- Clicky – keyboard switch that makes comparatively louder sounds when being pressed.
- Tactile – switches that come packed with a bump used for confirming that you’ve reached the actuation point. On keyboards without tactile switches, you need to fully press down a specific keyboard key.
- Linear – refers to non-tactile switches in which you need to bottom out the keys to register them on your PC. These switches are particularly useful for gaming.
Best Keyboard Switches Manufacturers
Remember that whichever option you end up going for, remember that maintenance of your keyboard is compulsory if you want consistent performance. Regularly cleaning your mechanical keyboard ensures its longevity (and has aesthetic value). Mechanical keyboards are expensive, and it’s better to protect your investment.
That said, here is how mechanical keyboard switches of various manufacturers compare:
Established in 1953, Cherry MX is probably the most famous keyboard switches manufacturer of modern times since you can find switches of Cherry in almost every other mechanical keyboard in the market.
Cherry MX keyboard switches usually have a shelf life of around 50 years, allowing you to fully benefit from them for a few years before any problem surfaces.
For gamers, Red, Brown, and Speed Switches work best due to their low actuation force. (Being slightly shallower than others, speed switches also result in faster actuation).
If you are a typist, however, Brown and Blue switches due to them being tactile, are your choices.
There are also less common, Cherry MX switches like Cherry MX Green, Grey, and Clear as well as silent and low-profile versions of Red and Blue switches.
The Logitech keyboard switches are almost identical to Cherry MX switches. However, the difference is that there are two Logitech-branded keyboard switches, targeted specifically at gamers; the two Romer-G switches.
The Romer-G switches are designed in partnership with a well-known Japanese switch maker, Omron, and have shallower actuation points as compared to the Cherry MX switches.
Also, the redundant contacts inside these switches cause their life to extend to 70 million keystrokes.
The two Romer-G switches are pretty much the same in all areas; they both are quiet and quick switches, they both have a hollow center for inserting backlighting LEDs and they both have more uniform keycap lighting compared to Cherry MX switches.
If we talk about the GX Blue, Brown, and Red switches, they are largely similar to their Cherry MX counterparts. The only difference is that Red and Blue switches have a bit more actuation force while Blue switch has a bit less.
Like the Romer-G switches, GX Blue, Brown, and Red switches can also survive up to 70 million keystrokes.
Razer began to manufacture switches back in around 2015 and just like in the case of gaming gear, it has emerged as a big player in this area as well.
The Yellow and Opto-mechanical switches have lower actuation force than the Green and Orange switches while apart from the Yellow switch, all have tactile feedback.
As for the sound, only Green and Opto-Mechanical are clicky, producing a unique sound on actuation.
Green, Orange, and yellow switches have a life of 80 million keystrokes while Opto-Mechanical switch is rated for up to 100 million keystrokes.
Another standout feature of the Opto-Mechanical switches is that it possesses an optical sensor
which, according to Razer, makes it the quickest actuation of any switch available in the market.
Steelseries is another popular manufacturer of mechanical keyboard switches. All of its switches largely have the same basic design but there are differences in tactile and clicky functions so you can have your pick based on them.
What stands the SteelSeries switches apart is centrally located LEDs allows great backlighting coverage through the keycap. Another plus point is that all of the SteelSeries switches have a very light actuation force of 45 g.
Amongst QX2 Red, Blue, Brown, and OmniPoint, only QX2 Blue is clicky while only QX2 Brown and Blue are tactile.
Generally, QX2 Red, Blue, and Brown are shallower than switches of brands like Cherry MX and Logitech which explains why they have a rating of only 50 million keypresses.
However, Omnipoint has the keypress rating of twice as much. On top of that, you can adjust the actuation distance of this switch according to your need.
The only drawback of Omnipoint is that due to its linear configuration, it solely benefits the gamers.
Although relatively new in the business, Roccat has already shown its potential in the industry with the release of the distinctive Titan switch design.
The Titan switch has an actuation force of 45 g and according to Roccat, due to the high-quality components used in manufacturing the Titan switches, there is a 20% reduction in key pressing time.
Moreover, the tactile version of the Titan switch has an actuation point of 1.8 mm allowing it to register the keyboard keys much faster than other traditional mechanical switches. The linear Titan switch, on the contrary, has an even better actuation point of 1.4 mm.
Finally, with the centrally placed LED and a clear switch housing, there is an equal distribution of backlighting for each keyboard key.
Kaihua Electronics is a Chinese-based keyboard switches manufacturer and one of the oldest ones in town.
These switches resemble the MX Cherry switches almost in every department; they have clicky, tactile, and linear switches, with average actuation forces and a 2 mm actuation point. All the Kaihua switches have a life of 50 million keystrokes per key.
Another similarity of these switches with Cherry MX switches is their off-center LED backlighting.
The upside, however, Kaihua switches is that they are much more economical than their Cherry MX counterparts.
Gateron is another one of the keyboard switches manufacturers that almost entirely apes the design of Cherry MX switches.
The company started to make switches back in 2000 and today, they have a variety of mechanical keyboard switches similar to those from Cherry X.
Whether it is the 2mm actuation point, the rating of 50 million keystrokes per key, or the RGB backlighting, the resemblance between Gateron switches and Cherry MX switches is quite apparent.
However, in the Western markets, you won’t find Gateron switches in the wild. These switches usually come integrated into mechanical keyboards like the Glorious GMMK in a modular fashion.
Greetech and Kailh
Greetech and Kailh are Chinese switch bands and two more in the list of manufacturers who imitates the style of Cherry MX switches.
Though not premium, the switches from these bands usually have all the features of Cherry MX switches and are relatively inexpensive. So, in case you’re looking for Cherry MX features for low cost, Greetech and Kailh can both be your go-to options.
Simply put, the keyboard switch that you should get depends on you. If you are someone with flexibility in your budget and a knack for gaming, either one of the following keyboard switches will get the job done for you: Cherry MX, Logitech, Razer, Steelseries.
Otherwise, consider going with relatively cheaper and non-premium options.