Written By Rudolfs Jorens Baltins-Klava
When choosing the perfect mechanical keyboard switches, there are a few factors to consider. These include the type of switch, the switch actuation force and point, and the switch noise level.
Well, then we should start with what types of keyboards we usually use, and well those are split into 2 categories Membrane and Mechanical.
A membrane keyboard is a type of computer keyboard that uses a flexible membrane to register key presses. Instead of individual mechanical switches underneath each key, a membrane keyboard uses a single, continuous layer of conductive material that registers a key press when pressure is applied.
Membrane keyboards are typically quieter and less expensive to manufacture than traditional mechanical keyboards, but they may not provide the same level of durability or tactile feedback.
Types of Membrane:
Domes are tactile and can have a variety of shafts, best execution is comparable to avg mechanical switch, but bad execution feels like typing on a pillow.
Pads usually use a scissor or butterfly(Apple design choice) trigger mechanism, both types are usually low profile, with good execution comparable to low profile mechanical switch, bad execution, and feel very mushy.
What is a Mechanical Keyboard Switch?
A mechanical keyboard switch is a type of switch that is used in a mechanical keyboard to register key presses. Unlike a membrane keyboard, which uses a single layer of conductive material to register key presses, a mechanical keyboard uses individual mechanical switches for each key.
These switches are typically made of metal and plastic and use a spring to provide tactile feedback and resistance when a key is pressed. Mechanical keyboard switches are known for their durability and distinct feel, which makes them popular among typists and gamers.
Mechanical switches can offer a very satisfactory and consistent typing feeling and well the main drawback is that cheaper or poorly designed keyboards can be louder, although that experience can be altered by knowing your mechanical keyboard.
Understanding the Characteristics of a Mechanical Switch
Mechanical keyboard switches have a number of characteristics that make them different from other types of keyboard switches. Some of the most important characteristics of a mechanical keyboard switch include the following:
Tactile feedback: One of the defining features of a mechanical keyboard switch is the tactile feedback it provides when a key is pressed. This feedback is typically provided by a spring or other mechanism within the switch, and it helps the user to know when a key press has been registered. This can make typing on a mechanical keyboard more accurate and enjoyable.
Actuation force: The actuation force of a mechanical keyboard switch is the amount of force that is required to press a key and register a key press. Different switches may have different actuation forces, and some users prefer lighter or heavier switches depending on their preferences.
Actuation point: The actuation point of a mechanical keyboard switch is the point at which the switch is triggered and registers a key press. This is typically a specific distance that the key must be pressed before it registers a key press.
Travel distance: The travel distance of a mechanical keyboard switch is the total distance that the key must be pressed before it registers a key press. This can be different from the actuation point, as the key may continue to move after it has registered a key press.
Noise: Mechanical keyboard switches are known for the distinctive sound they make when a key is pressed. This sound, known as the "click" of a mechanical keyboard, is often one of the reasons that people prefer mechanical keyboards. However, some switches are designed to be quieter, which can be useful in certain situations.
Durability: Mechanical keyboard switches are typically more durable than other types of keyboard switches, as they are designed to withstand many millions of key presses. This makes them well-suited for heavy use, such as gaming or typing for long periods of time.
Customization: Many mechanical keyboard switches are designed to be easily interchangeable, which allows users to customize their keyboard by swapping out different switches. This can be useful for people who want to adjust the feel of their keyboard or experiment with different switch types.
Types of Mechanical Switches:
Buckle spring is an ancient loud mechanical switch that some keyboard enthusiasts prefer over everything else due to some of the mechanical movement properties that it has, but it comes with a huge drawback the keyboard is almost as loud as a typewriter.
MX/Outemu/Gateron compatible switches are the most widely used mechanical switches and they most commonly can be sorted into 3 different types, such as linear, tactile, and clicky.
Linear switches are a type of mechanical keyboard switch that provides a smooth, consistent feel when a key is pressed. Linear switches do not have the tactile bump or audible click that is found in other types of keyboard switches, such as tactile or clicky switches. This can make linear switches ideal for people who prefer a smooth, quiet typing experience.
Some of the benefits of linear switches include the following:
Smooth, consistent feel: Linear switches provide a smooth, consistent feel when a key is pressed. This can make typing on a linear keyboard more enjoyable and accurate, as there is no tactile bump or audible click to interrupt the typing experience.
Quiet operation: Because linear switches do not have a tactile bump or audible click, they are generally quieter than other types of keyboard switches. This can be useful in situations where you don't want to disturb others, such as in an office or during a meeting.
Predictable actuation: Because linear switches have a consistent feel throughout the entire keypress, it is easy to predict when a key will register a press. This can be useful for gaming, as it allows you to quickly and accurately press multiple keys in succession.
Good for double-tapping: Because linear switches do not have a tactile bump, it is easier to double-tap keys quickly and accurately. This can be useful for certain gaming situations, such as when you need to quickly switch weapons or move in a specific direction.
No need to bottom out: Because linear switches do not have a tactile bump, there is no need to bottom out the key in order to register a key press. This can help to reduce fatigue and strain on your fingers, and it can make typing on a linear keyboard more comfortable over long periods of time.
Tactile switches are a type of mechanical keyboard switch that provides a tactile bump when a key is pressed. This bump allows the user to feel when a key press has been registered, which can improve typing accuracy and speed. Tactile switches are often preferred by people who do a lot of typing, as the tactile feedback can make typing more enjoyable and satisfying.
Some of the benefits of tactile switches include the following:
Improved typing accuracy: The tactile bump of a tactile switch allows the user to feel when a key press has been registered. This can improve typing accuracy, as the user knows exactly when a key press has been registered and does not need to bottom out the key in order to register a press.
Increased typing speed: The tactile bump of a tactile switch can also help to increase typing speed, as the user can quickly and accurately press multiple keys in succession without having to bottom out each key. This can be useful for people who do a lot of typing, as it can help to reduce fatigue and strain on the fingers.
Better typing experience: Many people find that the tactile bump of a tactile switch makes typing more enjoyable and satisfying. The tactile feedback can provide a sense of accomplishment and feedback when a key is pressed, which can make typing more satisfying.
Audible feedback: Many tactile switches also have an audible click when the key is pressed, which can provide an additional layer of feedback. This can be useful for people who like to hear the keys of their keyboard when they are typing, as it can provide a sense of rhythm and flow.
Wide range of options: There are many different types of tactile switches available, and each type has its own unique characteristics. This allows users to choose the type of tactile switch that best suits their needs and preferences.
Good for gaming: Tactile switches are often preferred by gamers, as the tactile feedback can improve accuracy and speed. The ability to quickly and accurately press multiple keys in succession can be useful in many gaming situations.
A clicky switch is a type of mechanical keyboard switch that provides tactile and audible feedback when activated. Clicky switches are characterized by their distinct "click" sound and the tactile bump that the user feels when pressing the key.
Some of the benefits of tactile switches include the following:
- Improved responsiveness and accuracy: Clicky switches provide a tactile feedback that allows the user to know exactly when a keystroke has been registered. This can improve typing speed and accuracy, as there is no need to bottom out the keys to ensure they are registered.
- Enhanced durability: Clicky switches are designed to withstand millions of keystrokes, making them a long-lasting option for frequent users. This can save money on replacement costs and reduce the need for frequent repairs.
- Audible feedback: Clicky switches provide a satisfying "click" sound when activated, which can be helpful for users who need to be sure their keystrokes are registered. This can also be helpful for users with visual impairments, as they can hear the click to confirm their keystrokes.
- Improved typing experience: The tactile and audible feedback of clicky switches can make typing a more enjoyable experience for some users. The satisfying "click" sound can provide a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, and the improved responsiveness can make typing more efficient and enjoyable.
MX/Outemu compatible low-profile switches
Similar to low-profile membrane switches can use a scissor switch or can be a smaller size version of a full-size switch, but they can usually be split into the same variants and they will usually have very similar properties.
Overall it all is up to preference, people who like to type a lot will want to have a tactile feedback so they get tactile or clicky switches, people who want a quieter keyboard will get a tactile or linear switch, although just the switch alone doesn't automatically make your keyboard quiet.
Actuation Force and Point
The actuation force is the amount of force required to press the key down, and the actuation point is the point at which the key registers a press. Lower actuation force and shorter actuation points can make the keyboard feel more responsive, but they can also lead to more accidental key presses. Higher actuation force and longer actuation points can help reduce accidental key presses, but they may feel less responsive.
Mechanical keyboard switches can produce different levels of noise when they are pressed. Linear switches are generally the quietest, followed by tactile switches. Clicky switches are the loudest, due to the audible click they produce.
When choosing the perfect switches for your mechanical keyboard, it's important to consider how you will be using the keyboard and what features are most important to you. Some people may prefer the quiet and smooth operation of linear switches, while others may enjoy the tactile feedback and audible click of clicky switches. It's a matter of personal preference.
Biggest Mechanical Switch Manufacturers:
There are many different brands that manufacture mechanical keyboard switches. Some of the most well-known brands include the following:
Cherry is a German company that is known for its mechanical keyboard switches. Cherry MX switches are some of the most popular and widely used switches in the world, and they are known for their durability and reliability. Cherry also offers a variety of different switch types, including linear, tactile, and clicky switches.
Kailh is a Chinese company that produces a wide range of mechanical keyboard switches. Kailh switches are known for their high quality and affordable prices, and they are often used as an alternative to Cherry MX switches. Kailh offers a variety of different switch types, including linear, tactile, and clicky switches.
Gateron is a Chinese company that produces a variety of mechanical keyboard switches. Gateron switches are known for their smooth, consistent feel and their affordable prices. Gateron offers a variety of different switch types, including linear, tactile, and clicky switches.
Razer is a company that produces a wide range of gaming-related products, including mechanical keyboard switches. Razer's switches are known for their durability and smooth, consistent feel, and they are often used in gaming keyboards. Razer offers a variety of different switch types, including linear, tactile, and clicky switches.
Outemu is a brand of mechanical keyboard switches that is produced by a Chinese company called Outemu Technology Co. Ltd. Outemu switches are known for their affordability and wide range of available options, and they are often used as an alternative to more expensive switch brands like Cherry MX. Outemu offers a variety of different switch types, including linear, tactile, and clicky switches. Outemu switches are compatible with most mechanical keyboard models, and they are known for their durability and reliability.
Logitech is a Swiss company that produces a variety of computer peripherals, including mechanical keyboard switches. Logitech's switches are known for their durability and reliability, and they are often used in high-end gaming keyboards. Logitech offers a variety of different switch types, including linear, tactile, and clicky switches.
There are many different types of plastic that are used in the manufacturing of keycaps for mechanical keyboards. Some of the most common types of plastic used for keycaps include the following:
ABS (acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene): ABS is a type of plastic that is known for its durability and resistance to heat and chemicals. It is a common material for keycaps, as it is relatively inexpensive and easy to mold into different shapes. However, ABS keycaps can become shiny and discolored over time, and they may not be as long-lasting as other materials.
PBT (polybutylene terephthalate): PBT is a type of plastic that is known for its resistance to wear and fading. It is a more expensive material than ABS, but it is also more durable and long-lasting. PBT keycaps are often preferred by people who are looking for high-quality keycaps that will not fade or become shiny over time.
POM (polyoxymethylene): POM is a type of plastic that is known for its low coefficient of friction and high resistance to wear and chemicals. It is a more expensive material than ABS or PBT, but it is also more durable and has a slightly different feel. POM keycaps are not as common as keycaps made from other materials, but they are sometimes used in high-end keyboard products.
Keycaps come in different shapes, the most popular options are Sculpted and Uniform. The uniform is flat, and Sculpted and has its shape and height adjusted for each key or row of keys. You can also have a full profile and low profile caps usually though full-size keycaps offer a better experience.
The O ring is a small rubber ring that is placed around the stem of a mechanical keyboard switch. The O-ring is designed to absorb the impact of the switch when it bottoms out, which can reduce the noise of the keyboard and make typing feel more comfortable.
Keyboard O-rings are often used by people who type or game on mechanical keyboards, as they can help to improve the overall feel of the keyboard. Some keyboard O-rings are made of different materials or have different sizes and hardness ratings, which can affect the way they perform.
Lubrification oils are sometimes used on the stems of mechanical keyboard switches to improve their performance and extend their lifespan. This is known as "switch lubing" or "switch lubrication."
Lubrication oils can help to reduce friction and wear within the switch, which can make the keyboard feel smoother and more responsive. It can also help to reduce the noise of the keyboard by reducing the impact of the switch when it bottoms out.
There are many different types of lubrication oils that can be used on keyboard switches, and each type has its own characteristics and benefits. Some people prefer to use thick, viscous lubrication oils that provide a lot of lubrication, while others prefer lighter oils that allow the switch to feel more responsive.
Foam is a piece of soft, spongy material that is placed underneath the keycaps on a mechanical keyboard. The foam is designed to provide cushioning for the keycaps, which can make typing on the keyboard more comfortable and reduce the noise of the keyboard.
Keyboard foam is often used in conjunction with keyboard O-rings, which are placed around the stem of the mechanical switch to absorb the impact of the switch when it bottoms out. Keyboard foam can be purchased from many retailers that sell mechanical keyboard accessories.
Desk Mat is a large, flat mat that is placed on top of a desk to provide a protective surface and improve the overall appearance of the desk. Desk mats are often made of materials like leather, vinyl, or fabric, and they come in a variety of colors and styles.
Some desk mats are designed to be used with a specific type of keyboard or mouse, such as a mechanical keyboard or a gaming mouse, and they may have features like a built-in wrist rest or a non-slip surface. Desk mats can protect a desk from scratches, spills, and other damage, and they can also provide a comfortable and stylish workspace.