A hitchhikers guide to Mechanical Keyboard Switches

Submitted by Jonah Bellemans on Mon, 03/13/2017 - 23:02

In this article, I will attempt to give a short and clear description of the most frequently encountered keyboard switches. 

More specifically, I will make the distinction between switches from the brand Cherry MX, used in many different keyboards like the K70 RGB by Corsair, the more recent Razer switches, which are specifically manufactured for the Razer gaming keyboard series and the Logitech Romer-G switches.

Cherry MX

Cherry is a German brand that was founded in the 1950s and is very well known for their high quality mechanical switches used in many popular gaming keyboards nowadays. Their many years of manufacturing experience made them one of the best on the market.
Their keyswitches come in different series, each with their own specialised specifications, of which many have both a normal and a silent version. The silent version of every series is optimised to omit the characteristical "click" on every key actuation. The most recent Cherry switches come with RGB lighting support.

Black

The Cherry MX Black series is the "standard" MX Cherry Switch, with an actuation force of 0.60 Newtons, the switches require a considerable amount of force to trigger. The switches are classified as "linear, non-tactile, non-clicky", which means they do not produce a typical "click" sound when pressed, neither do they give haptic feedback when pressed. However, they do produce a sound when reaching the bottom of the switch when pressed, because of the plastics hitting each other. This is why a silent series also exists for the black switches, cushioning every key to prevent any sound after actuation.

Red

Cherry MX Reds are very similar to the black ones, but have a much lower actuation force of 0.45 Newtons, making them much more easy to trigger, and thus more suitable for FPS and/or MOBA gamers who can't afford to have any clicks lost in translation. Like their black counterparts, the Cherry MX Reds are linear, non-tactile, non-clicky switches that also have a silent version to cover up any clicking sound made by the keys being fully pressed and released.

Silver

The Cherry Silver (Speed) series consists of linear, non-tactile, non-clicky switches with an actuation force of 0.45 Newtons, but unlike their red counterparts they have a much lower "bounce time", which means the key returns to its unpressed state in less than 5 milliseconds, making it 40% faster than the Cherry MX Black series.

Brown

Cherry MX Brown series switches are tactile, non-clicky switches with an actuation force of 0.45 Newtons. The switches don't make the characteristical "clicking" sound whenever they are actuated, typical for known gaming keyboards. However, they do produce haptic feedback on actuation, making it easier to "feel" the key jump over it's actuation force. They are non-linear, tactile, non-clicky switches.

Blue

Like the Cherry MX Browns, the Blue series produce a clicking sound when actuated, but on top of that they offer haptic feedback when typing, making it easier to "feel" when a key has been actuated. While typing on Cherry MX Blues, the typist can distinctively feel when a key has been pressed because of the key "jumping" over the actuation force and back. These switches are called "non-linear, clicky, tactile" switches and have a slightly higher actuation force of 0.50 Newtons.

Razer

Razer has been producing gaming peripherals since 1998, and slowly built itself up to be one of the leaders of their market. In a response to the prevalent Cherry MX switches, Razer built their equivalent switches and started manufacturing them independently, allegedly out of fear the Cherry MX switches would get too popular and wouldn't be able to keep up with their stock. Razer switches are produced in factories like Kailh and Greetech. Razer switches are used in all Razer branded keyboards, both with monochrome lighting and RGB lighting.

Green

This is the most commonly used switch in Razer keyboards. Razer Greens are non-linear, tactile, clicky switches with an actuation force around 0.55 Newtons. They are known to be Razer's equivalent of Cherry MX Blues.

Orange

The Orange series was developed to be a more silent alternative to the clicky Razer Greens. Razer Oranges are a non-linear, tactile but non-clicky switches that have been dampened to be more silent when used. Their Cherry MX counterpart is the Cherry MX Brown.

Yellow

The most recent addition to the Razer Switches are the Yellow series. Their linear design makes them very silent in use, and gives them the lowest bounce time of them all, making them ideal for FPS and MOBA gamers. Their Cherry MX counterpart is the Cherry MX Silver.

Logitech

More recently, and maybe surprisingly, the well-known peripheral company Logitech has equipping their mechanical keyboards with self-produced mechanical switches. This decision was made both because Corsair had an exclusive on Cherry RGB backlit switches, and because Logitech felt that Cherry switches were never designed for Gaming, whereas their own line of switches is.

Romer-G

The Romer-G switches are non-linear, tactile, non-clicky switches with a specific RGB backlight LED embedded in the middle of the switch. They have an actuation force of 0.45 Newtons. Because Logitech is trying to go their own way with their switches, it is hard to compare them to the other brands, but the Cherry MX Browns are probably the ones that come closest. The Romer-G switches are used e.g. in Logitech's G810 Orion keyboard.

 

(Header image from geek.com, in-line image from freecision.com)

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