A mechanical keyboard is a type of computer keyboard that uses mechanical switches to register keystrokes. These switches are different from the rubber-dome switches found on most standard keyboards. Mechanical ones last longer and provide a different feel and sound when typing.
There are a lot of mechanical keyboards dedicated to gamers on the market. They differ from each other not only in appearance, but also in the type of switches that have been used in their constructions. Each type of switch has its own unique style and sound, and some players may prefer one switch over another. Some people will care about silence and a gentle jump, others prefer a big jump and a loud click. Another important aspect of mechanical keyboards is the material the keycaps are made of. The most common materials are ABS and PBT. ABS is the most common material and is cheaper, but PBT is more durable and wear-resistant, and has a better texture and feel. What are the main types of such switches? What are the pros and cons of each solution?
Cherry MX switches
This is the most common type of mechanical switches. They are known for their durability and longevity, typically rated for 50 million keystrokes. They come in different colors to reflect their characteristics. They are named after the Cherry Corporation that first developed them. Cherry MX switches are available in several different versions, each with its own character. The most popular Cherry MX switches are Cherry MX Brown, Cherry MX Blue and Cherry MX Red.
- Cherry MX Brown: These switches have a tactile travel and light actuation force (55 cN). They are popular with keyboard users due to their quieter operation and more subtle strokes.
- Cherry MX Blue: These switches have a tactile travel and audible click when activated. The activation force is 50 cN. They are popular with people who like the characteristic sound of tapping keys.
- Cherry MX Red: These switches are linear, meaning they have no tactile travel or audible click. They are popular with gamers and heavy typists who appreciate smoothness, quietness and low typing force (45cN).
- Cherry MX Black: These switches are also linear, but with a heavy actuation force of 60 cN. They are similar to Cherry MX Red, but require more force to press the key.
Cherry MX Clear: These switches have a tactile feel and a strong actuation force of 65 cN. They are similar to Cherry MX Brown but have more actuation force.
Cherry MX Silver: These switches are linear with a 35 cN actuation force. They are similar to Cherry MX Red but have less actuation force.
Blue switches are a type of mechanical switch that is commonly found on mechanical keyboards. They are characterized by a noticeable stroke and an audible click when starting. The actuation force of the blue switches is around 50 cN, which is considered a medium force level. This means that pressing the key requires moderate force, which may be comfortable for many users.
Blue switches are known for their durability and longevity, typically rated for 50 million keystrokes. They are also known for their high quality, making them a popular choice for mechanical keyboards.
Brown switches are commonly found on mechanical keyboards. They are characterized by a noticeable stroke and relatively quiet operation. The actuation force of the brown switches is about 55 cN. This means that pressing a key requires little force, which can be convenient for many users.
Compared to blue switches, brown switches are more subtle in terms of travel, they do not have an audible click, making them a good option for users who prefer a quieter operation. They also have a slightly greater actuation force and are less susceptible to so-called “double click”, which may be preferred by some players, and can happen with blue switches.
The red switches are a type of linear mechanical switch that is commonly found on mechanical keyboards. They are characterized by a smooth, linear keystroke and relatively low actuation force. They are popular with gamers and typists who want a low pressing force and a smooth stroke.
Unlike brown and blue switches, red switches have no tactile impact or audible click. The lack of an audible click sound may be a downside for some players who prefer audible confirmation of a key pressed. The activation force of the red switches is approximately 45 cN. This means that pressing the key requires little force, which can be convenient for many users.
Topre switches are a type of electrostatic, capacitive mechanical switch that is commonly found in high-end mechanical keyboards. They feature smooth, consistent keystrokes and relatively high actuation force. It is a kind of hybrid of mechanical and rubber dome switches.
Topre switches use a unique electrostatic capacitive design that provides smooth, consistent keystrokes with a tactile feel. The tactile hit is less pronounced than Cherry MX switches, allowing for a smoother actuation. They also have an actuation force of approximately 55 cN.
Topre switches are known for their durability and longevity, typically rated for 50 million keystrokes. Compared to other mechanical switches such as the Cherry MX, the Topre switches have a different mechanism that provides a smooth, consistent keystroke with a less pronounced keystroke. They also have more pressure, which may be preferred by some users who want a better typing experience. Additionally, their electrostatic capacitive design makes them more durable and consistent over time. However, due to the technology and materials used in their production, Topre switches tend to be more expensive than other types of mechanical switches.
ALPS switches are a type of mechanical switch that was commonly found on mechanical keyboards in the past, but nowadays they are not as common as other types of switches like Cherry MX or Topre. They are characterized by a noticeable impact and an audible click when starting.
ALPS switches are quite durable, however, due to manufacturing and design issues, they have been less consistent in performance and operation compared to other types of switches.
Pros and cons of mechanical keyboards
- Mechanical switches are designed to last for a long time, with an average lifespan of 50 million keystrokes. This is a significant improvement over the standard rubber dome switches found on most traditional keyboards, which typically only last 5 million keystrokes.
- Mechanical switches provide a more precise keystroke, which can be beneficial for gaming and typing. The audible and tactile feel of the mechanical switches makes it easy to know when a key has actually been pressed.
- Mechanical keyboards are highly customizable, with various types of switches and keycaps available. This allows users to choose the switches and keys that best suit their preferences.
- Mechanical keyboards are typically built with higher quality materials and construction, making them more durable and wear-resistant.
And what are the downsides?
- Price, because mechanical keyboards are usually more expensive than their traditional counterparts.
- Mechanical keyboards can be quite loud, which may be a problem for some users. The noise level of a mechanical keyboard may vary depending on the type of switch used.
- Some people may find mechanical switches uncomfortable at first. It may take some time to get used to the mechanical switches.
- Mechanical keyboards are larger than traditional rubber dome keyboards, which can take up more desk space.
- Mechanical keyboards tend to be heavier than traditional rubber dome keyboards, making them less portable.