Choosing The Best Mechanical Keyboard Switches For Your Keyboard

By: Lorenzo  |  Updated: January 17, 2020

Are you a mechanical keyboard enthusiast looking for the best mechanical keyboard switches?

Whether you’re just starting out planning your first build, or are a long time mechanical keyboard collector, look no further.

What I’m about to show you is everything you need to know about choosing the absolute best mechanical keyboard switches for your keyboard.

Let’s dive right in!

Getting Started: Mechanical Keyboard Switches Explained

First things first… what are switches?

A keyboard switch affects the noise, response and travel time.

Each keyboard has a mechanism underneath each keycap called a “switch”.

The switch is the reason why mechanical keyboards are very popular - they not only feel great to type on but also sound nice to the ears.

You can’t explain it till you have a mechanical keyboard to play with… so if you’re interested, check out our best mechanical keyboards without num pads by clicking here.

Linear vs. Tactile (and Clicky) Switch Types

These are the two main preferences when it comes to picking out a mechanical keyboard switch.

But first… you need to know what it means to “actuate”.

Where mechanical and membrane keyboards differ is in their actuation.

Membrane keys only actuate when the key is pressed down fully (this is also known as bottoming out) which often means you have press down with force.

A mechanical key can actuate with the slightest hint of force - this is due to the way the key is constructed.

Now that you know that...

  • Linear - Must be pushed all the way down to actuate.
  • Tactile - Can be pushed halfway down to actuate.

Because less force is needed for a tactile key to actuate, it means you can continue pressing your next key after that to get a response.

Don’t get into the fluff of which one is better for gaming, typing or whatnot.

You want to test out both and see how they feel.

Clicky Switches

Clicky keys are a little different.

The “click” sound that you hear is also a factor you want to take in when choosing a keyboard.

Think of a typewriter, and how it has that "click" sound each time you press a key.

This is what they mean about a switch being "clicky".

Keyboard switches can be known as clicky or non-clicky.

The general preference is a keyboard that is clicky - as that is a feature that mechanical keyboards have over membrane keyboards.

However, if you work in a shared workspace, non-clicky keyboard switches might be a better option as they're more silent and won't disrupt your co-workers.

Backlighting (In-Switch) vs. Underglow RGB Lighting

There are two types of RGB lighting you can get to match your overall Battlestation theme.

RGB Backlighting (AKA In-Switch RGB Lighting)

This is commonly referred to “per key” lighting or the lighting inside each switch.

The lighting usually “shines through” the keycaps

Example of an RGB backlight (or in-switch RGB lighting)

Underglow RGB Lighting

Underglow is pretty self-explanatory. This is when the lights glow under the board.

This won’t shine through the keycaps but will shine under the board and give a nice “outline” effect.

One of the best mechanical keyboard switches

Why Not Both?

Example of RGB underglow and backlit keycaps

u/potatobot from geekhack.org

I would prefer to have one or the other since it looks cleaner, but again, it's up to your personal preference.

How Many Types of Mechanical Keyboard Switches Are There?

Craploads!

Seriously, there are so many different types, all with varying degrees of difference.

The ones I have found to be most popular are...

MX Switches

You’ve probably heard of “Cherry” MX Switches which are one of the, if not the most popular keyboard switches on the market.

… until recently that is.

The Cherry MX switches had a patent that finally expired, which businesses then used to create their version of MX switches.

Don’t let this stray away from Cherry MX switches, though.

Cherry MX Switches are still widely popular and used on many high-quality and best-selling keyboards on the market today.

However, there are a few different types of MX Switch Manufacturers…

In a poll done by the /r/MechanicalKeyboard community back in 2017, the most popular MX style switch manufacturers were…

  1. Cherry
  2. Gateron
  3. Zealio

Others include:

  • Kalih
  • MOD
  • Panda
  • Outemu
  • Razer

etc.

Honourable Mentions

Straying away from the MX Switches are many other types that are rapidly rising in popularity.

These include switches like…

  • ALPS
  • Tai-Hao
  • Matias
  • Topre
  • Romer G

Each keyboard switch has its unique styles, and at the end of the day, it comes down to your personal preference.

If you just want to be guided down the right path - you can’t go wrong with a Cherry MX switch type on the keyboard.

But if you want to look in further to possibly even customize your keyboard, Cherry MX switches have many budget-friendly alternatives.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, simply going from a normal membrane keyboard to a mechanical keyboard is a massive upgrade.

Finding out what your favourite switch it will take some time, research and trial and error.

There are many different keyboards, switches and keycaps out there, and mechanical keyboards can be customized to your heart's desire.

So if you decide to go down this rabbit hole, do your due diligence first, but pull the trigger!

If you're interested in getting more of a look at some of the best mechanical keyboards which have a compact (less than 10 or more keys) design to them...

Check out The 5 Best Mechanical Keyboards Without Numpads by clicking here!

Since the age of 6, Lorenzo has enjoyed gaming on computers. Having grown up in the digital age, the technology revolves around him. He enjoyed growing up gaming throughout his high school years and is now a young adult who does most of his work on his computer. Lorenzo's mission is to make buying products and building PC's an easy and fun experience for all.
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