Different types of Mechanical Keyboard Switches

What is a Mechanical Keyboard switch?

The keys of keyboards before the 90s made a 'clack' sound when pressed, and due to their robust design and fast response time, they are making a solid comeback. Gamers and typists prefer mechanical keyboards to standard rubber dome or membrane keyboards.

In a mechanical keyboard, there are mechanical keyboard switches underneath every key. Each switch has unique characteristics that gamers and typists can select. Tactile feedback, actuation force, noise level, pre-travel, and total travel are the key features of a mechanical keyboard switch.

 

What are the parts of the Mechanical Keyboard switch?

The parts of a mechanical keyboard switch work together to provide tactile feedback and actuation force, distinguishing it from a traditional rubber dome keyboard. The primary components of an automatic keyboard switch include:

Different types of Mechanical Keyboard Switches 1 

1. Stem

Keycap sits on top of the stem. The stem transmits the movement to the spring and registers a key press whenever someone presses a key. The stem's size, shape, and color can vary depending on mechanical keyboard manufacturers. As a result, it affects the switch's feel, performance, and sound. For example, Cherry MX switches use a cross-shape design for their stem, whereas Alps switches are plus-shaped. There are switches with other unique shapes, but selection depends on how the user feels comfortable.

 

2. Upper Housing

Under intense gaming sessions, rapid and precise taps are critical in determining who wins. The upper housing acts as a guide that keeps the stem moving in a straight motion whenever a user presses the keycap leading to stability and consistency. A high-quality switch reduces accidental keystrokes or missed inputs. The upper housing can also include tactile feedback, audible clicks, or smooth linear movements to enhance the gaming experience.

 

3. Crosspoint Contact / Metal Contact

In a mechanical switch, the metal contact points inside the switch housing make contact with each other when the stem is depressed, registering a keystroke. For frequent users, crosspoint or metal contact is a critical component in mechanical keyboard switches. When pressing a key repeatedly, it provides a consistent and reliable connection between the keycap and the electronic circuit board. As a result, it becomes essential for accuracy and responsiveness inputs in fast-paced gaming scenarios.

Unfortunately, these components can experience wear and tear over time, potentially impacting the switch's responsiveness and actuation force. However, high-quality mechanical switches often incorporate specialized materials and coatings to improve durability and minimize friction, and regular maintenance can help extend the switch's lifespan and maintain its performance.

 

4. Coil Spring

The coil spring in a mechanical keyboard switch provides the force to return the keycap to its original position. It plays a crucial role in determining the overall feel and performance of the keyboard. The spring's weight and tension can impact the switch's tactile feedback and actuation force.

Over time, the spring can wear or corrode, impacting its performance and durability. However, high-quality mechanical switches use specialized materials and coatings to improve the spring's durability and minimize corrosion. In addition, regular maintenance can help extend the spring's lifespan and maintain its performance. Despite potential damage, properly maintained mechanical keyboard switches can maintain their tactile feedback and actuation force for thousands or millions of key presses.

 

5. Bottom Housing

The bottom housing houses the electrical contacts that transmit the key press to the computer via a PCB. It also provides a stable base for the stem and spring. As a result, the design of the bottom housing can significantly impact the switch's durability, stability, and tactile feedback.

 

For example, gaming keyboard mechanical switches with a more robust bottom housing can handle repeated key presses without wobbling or losing their feel. The design of the bottom housing can also impact the switch's sound profile, with some switches designed to minimize noise through dampeners or sound-absorbing materials.

 

Three Types of Mechanical Keyboard Switches

1. Linear

PROS

● Shorter Travel Distance

● Smooth Linear Movement

● Low Actuation Force

CONS

● Lacks Tactile Feel

Linear mechanical switches are ideal for those who prefer a smooth, consistent feel throughout the keypress without the pronounced tactile feedback found in other switch types. The typical color used by mechanical keyboard manufacturers for Linear switches is Red. Several types of linear switches are available from different manufacturers, each with unique characteristics. For example, Cherry MX Red switches in gaming keyboards offer a low actuation force of 45g and a linear feel. Similarly, OUTEMU red switches popular in MEETION gaming keyboards have a 45g actuation force. Kailh Red switches have a lighter actuation force of 40g and a shorter total travel distance, making them ideal for fast-paced gaming. Linear switches typically have a low resistance and a short pre-travel distance, allowing for quick, effortless keypresses. However, some users may find that the lack of tactile feedback makes it difficult to register key presses, particularly for typing-intensive tasks accurately.

 

2. Tactile

PROS

● Tactile Feedback

● Higher Accuracy

CONS

● Higher Actuation Force

● Loud for an Office Environment

Tactile switches strike a balance between linear and clicky switches, offering a tactile bump without the loud click sound. However, they may be slower than linear switches due to the tactile bump increasing resistance. Additionally, the bump may need to be pronounced more for some users who prefer more effective tactile feedback.

The most common color used for Tactile switches is Brown. Brown switches are popular for typing-intensive tasks, providing a tactile bump at the actuation point. Their actuation force lies between 45-55g.

 

3. Clicky

PROS

● Responsive

● Audible

CONS

● Distracting for Gaming Streams

Clicky mechanical switches are for users preferring to have a confirmation of key registration. As the name suggests, it provides a significant and audible “click” sound. Therefore, it proves handy in office environments where typing accuracy is critical or in control rooms of industries where keyboard operation is necessary. It usually is available in Blue and White colors depending on the mechanical keyboard suppliers' choice.  Clicky switches may not be ideal for gaming, as the audible click can distract other players from communicating through chat. Additionally, some users may find the tactile bump of clicky switches too pronounced, leading to finger fatigue during extended use. Ultimately, the choice of switch type is subjective and depends on user preference and intended use.

Different types of Mechanical Keyboard Switches 2

Types of Mechanical Switches by Brand

 

● Cherry MX: Cherry MX switches are known for their durability and reliability, making them popular among enthusiasts. It is the leading manufacturer of switches used in highly critical situations such as control rooms of powerplants and refineries. These switches come in different colors, each with unique tactile feedback and actuation force.

● Outemu: Outemu mechanical switches are popular for budget-oriented gamers and enthusiasts. They are similar to Cherry MX switches but with a lower price point. The Outemu Red switches, for example, have a 45g actuation force and a linear feel, making them popular for gaming. In addition, it is popular in MEETION gaming keyboards due to its durability with a decent price tag.

● Gateron: Gateron Switches are among the best mechanical switches renowned for their smooth, low actuation force and tactile typing experience. They come in various colors: Red, Yellow, Brown, Black, Blue, Green, Clear, and Silent Black. Each has its characteristics suitable for specific applications.

● Omron: Omron switches have a unique "snap" design that minimizes friction and delivers a consistent typing experience. Mechanical keyboard suppliers such as Logitech keyboards frequently feature these switches due to their durability and longevity.

● Kaihua: Kaihua mechanical switches, also known as Kailh switches. Many popular gaming keyboard brands use Kailh switches, including Razer, Cooler Master, and Ducky. In addition, Kaihua switches have gained popularity as an alternative to the Cherry MX brand.

● Varmilo: Varmilo mechanical switches are premium switches. They feature a unique silent linear design that minimizes noise and a gold-plated contact design that ensures a reliable and responsive keystroke. They are designed to reduce noise and offer a satisfying typing experience.

● Alps: In vintage keyboards, Alps mechanical switches were known for their tactile and clicky feel. These switches have a unique design that provides a smooth typing experience. Modern gaming keyboards don't use Alps switches. However, some enthusiasts still use them for their satisfying typing experience.

 

How to choose the perfect mechanical keyboard switches?

The perfect mechanical keyboard switch for a particular application is subjective. However, we aim to provide enough information to our readers so that they make an educated decision. Here are a few tips to consider before buying your dream keyboard:

● Professional gamers generally opt for blue or red gaming keyboard mechanical switches. E-sports enthusiasts are usually correct. Consider giving them preference.

● Buy a switch tester kit to get the feel of all types.

● Determine the ideal switch type.

● Consider the noise level and environment.

● Evaluate switch durability and lifespan.

● Research and compare different switch brands and models.

 

Are mechanical keyboards better for gaming?

Modern mechanical keyboards have features such as hot-swappable keys similar to those offered by MEETION MK007 PRO. In addition, they have a fast-responding chipset that takes the least time to register a keypress. Their features, such as N-key rollover, customization, programmable keys, backlighting, double-shot PBT keycaps, and wireless functionalities, make them the ultimate choice for gaming. They provide accuracy, consistency, longevity, aesthetics, and durability for gamers.

 

Are mechanical keyboards more expensive than regular keyboards?

Yes, mechanical keyboards are more expensive than regular keyboards as they have high-quality internal components and features that add to the cost. In addition, skilled labor is required to make delicate components such as mechanical switches.

Popular brands like MEETION now produce high-quality keyboards, such as the 60% keyboard MK005. It is inexpensive and budget-friendly for gamers looking for accuracy and precision. In addition, the budget requirement gap between the membrane and mechanical keyboard is shrinking as technology advances.

 

Conclusion

Mechanical keyboard switches offer various options for users to customize their keyboard according to their preferences. By understanding the characteristics of each switch, users can choose the right switch for their needs, whether for gaming, typing, or general use. It is an ideal investment for a gaming setup. We recommend going for the MEETION MK005BT if budget-friendly is the target. However, high-end keyboards such as the Asus ROG Azoth are also on the table if there is no cap on expense.

According to a report by Redragon in 2021, 81% of gamers prefer mechanical keyboards, considering tactile feedback and faster response times as crucial factors. The statistics suggest decent industry growth, estimated to grow at a CAGR of 6.79% between 2022 and 2027, Technavio. The size of the market is forecast to increase by USD 155.64 million. The rising use of mechanical keyboards will increase the demand for high-end mechanical switches and keyboards.

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