Types of Mechanical Keyboard Switches
Mechanical Keyboard switches come in multiple types, and each has their own pros, cons, style, and feel. Unlike rubber dome and scissor keys, mechanical keyboards can create a unique typing experience based on what you want, which is one of the reasons they’re so great. This all starts with the different types of mechanical keyboard switches.
Cherry MX Black – Cherry MX is the most common producer of mechanical keyboard switches, and they label their different types according to color. Cherry MX Black use 40-80 gram actuation force, with a 2mm range, or 4mm press to the bottom of the switch, allowing you to press the key for a very short distance to type, which saves fatigue during long use. The moderately heavy actuation means that it’s harder to accidentally press the key or double type. Black, Super Black, and Grey are all very similar, and are best for gamers, or people who need keys that are easy to double tap, but are usually too heavy for typing for long periods.
Cherry MX Blue – With a 55-65 gram of force actuation, a very clicky feel and sound, and 2mm actuation travel, chery MX blue switches are ideal for typists, writers, programmers, and anyone who prefers audio over tactile feedback. The switches create a click sound when they actuate, but are not suitable for double tapping, thanks to a release point above the actuation point, so are not a good fit for most gamers. MX Green, White, and Grey are similar to Blue, but with small differences, and softer clicks. MX Blue is the most popular type of mechanical keyboard switch.
Cherry MX Red – With a 45 gram of force actuation, cherry MX red keys are extremely light, and therefore susceptible to accidental key presses and double taps. However, they are extremely beneficial to users who double tap, type for long periods of time, or who don’t like tactile keyboards, as they are quiet, with no bump. They also have an extremely long lifespan of over 30 million clicks.
Cherry MX Clear – Cherry MX Clear have a very large tactile bump, alerting users to the fact that the switch has been actuated. The 2mm actuation, just over 56 grams of force, and high quality for double tapping makes the Clear an excellent version for gamers, data analysts, and anyone who doesn’t have to type all day, but are slightly too heavy for most typists. Clear switches have a lifespan of 20 million clicks.
Cherry MX Brown – Cherry MX brown switches are the second most popular Cherry MX switch, and therefore the most popular mechanical keyboard switch. With a 2mm actuation, a small tactile bump to let you know when the switch has been actuated, and a light actuation force (45-55 grams), the switches are easy to use, good for typing and long periods of use, and perfect for professionals who type all day. However, they only have a lifespan of around 20 million clicks, which is less than some other types of cherry MX and other mechanical switches.
Buckling Spring – Buckling spring switches are the most common choice for typists, or about 2.9% of people who choose to use mechanical switches. These keys are different from standard mechanical keyboard switches because they use a spring, which buckles under the key press, to allow the key to press through a membrane to create an electrical connection. These switches are very tactile, offer a lot of feedback, and feedback is felt at the exact moment of actuation. They are heavy with an average of 50-70 grams of force required to actuate, and have a 2.3mm actuation distance. Some typists find them too heavy for long periods of typing, but they are extremely popular for professional use, and for gaming.
Topre – Topre mechanical keyboard switches are extremely similar to rubber dome keyboards, except considerably more complicated, have a longer life, and are more reliable. The keys press down a rubber insert which flattens a spring, which touches a contact, changing the capacitance in the capacitor pads, activating the switch. The result is a very smooth key with a tactile bump, over 30 million click lifespan, and high reliability. However, they are expensive.
There are multiple other mechanical keyboard switches not listed here, but most are rare, uncommon, or out of manufacture. For example, White and Black Alps mechanical switches are very nice to use, but the company is out of business, so you can usually only find them secondhand.