What are keyboard switches?
Underneath the rubbery membrane of each key in the mechanical keyboard lies an actual physical switch, which is the mechanism that controls the activation of the keystroke. These keyboard switches contribute to the unique experience of clickiness and tactility of typing, but there is a vast variety of them, having their own unique features and names. So, we will dive into the different types of mechanical keyboard switches and try to make it as simple for you as we can, so that you can choose the one that best serves you.
Types of Keyboard Switch
There are three distinct groups of keyboard switches that are defined by the behavior of their keystroke. So, diving into them one by one:
The behavior of keystrokes is both consistent and smooth. They do not produce any pushback feedback or clicking sound and have the simplest operation where they just move straight up and down. This is also the fastest keyboard switch, so if your preference is a silent but speedy and smooth key, then this is your go-to option. Its features also make it the best fit for gaming purposes as clicking the switch faster will register keystrokes faster.
A feel of a distinct bump midway of the press (the actuation point) and a clicky sound together results in a tactile switch. The actuation point is when the key pressed is registered on the computer. This is an ideal choice for the typers who would want an indication of their key presses. It is also suitable for those who are new to mechanical keyboards.
These are similar to the tactile switches except that their click sound is much sharper and more distinct. For those who love the sounds of the click and want a clear indication of their keypress, then this option fits right.
More Switch Types
However, the story doesn’t end here. Apart from the main types of keyboard switches i.e., tactile, linear, and clicky, companies produce compatible switches which can be used with the same keycaps and keyboards. So, another way to categorize the keyboard switches would be in the following manner:
- Silent: the name is self-explanatory; this accounts for switches that don’t create sounds. Since linear switches are the most silent ones, hence the mostly linear switches come under this category. But it also extends to some more tactile options.
- Speed: the fast keyboard switches, ones that are specifically designed for the speed. Since they have a fast activation, this category is for the gamers who look for the fastest keyboard switch.
- Optical: these can fall into either of the three categories, i.e., linear, clicky, and tactile. The differentiating factor here is the lighting effects achieved that work with RGB keyboards. So, to let your keys glow, you would need a keyboard that is compatible with it and optical switches.
Note that these all are not distinctly used terms but can be used in conjunction with the main switch types. So, for instance, you can get a switch that is both speed and linear. You can even find switches with the combination of all three characteristics, so for example, a switch that is built for being both fast but also silent and with light.
Different Color Switches
To differentiate between the different types of keyboard switches, the manufacturers use different colors. So, there are three starters and they fall into the distinct categories of switches discussed above. These starters are red, blue, and brown.
- Blue switch is the loud one and makes a lot of clicks, hence it falls in the clicky category.
- Red Switch is smooth and fast, with no bumps and best for gamers, thus a part of the linear group, and finally the brown one, which is the safest option, lets you feel the bump which minimizes the mistakes and is great for general usage, a part of the tactile group of switches.
There are also other colors like yellow, green, silver, brown, and black.
- Yellow switch comes under the same category as red.
- Silver switch is built for fast speed, also called switch of the speed. Its sensitivity is high and it minimizes the delay between a key when pressed and its respective action performed. Again, highly suitable for gamers.
- Green switch is the clicky and stiffer one. It is similar to the blue switch with a stronger spring.
- Black switch is the one that comes across as stiff and is not clicky or tactile. They come under the linear switches and its activation requires a little more than average force. For those who want fast switches, mainly touch typists, this is the least suitable option for them.
- Brown switch is finally the tactile switch having a medium bump. It is the modest one, providing physical feedback but being generally quieter than the clickier ones. Ideal for those users who are new to mechanical keyboards.
Choosing The Right Switch
To choose the right switch for yourself, there would be certain factors you would need to ponder upon.
- Environment: You need to consider the place where you will be using the keyboard the most. So, if it is a public space then you might want to go for the quitter options since it can irritate the people around you even if clicky sound is satisfying for you. But if you are in a private space then the click sound won’t be an issue and you can choose whatever you prefer.
- Tactility: The feel of typing must be considered, whether you like it bumpy or smooth? The tactile switches as discussed gives feedback and offers more accuracy, so more suitable for typing but for higher consistency and greater smoothness, something desired by gamers, the linear switches are ideal.
- Characteristics of your hand: The size of your hand, your style of typing, and your strength is something worth considering when choosing a keyboard switch. So, for example, commonly people with bigger hands are more prone to misclicks so for them the switches with higher activation point and operation force are better. But if they are a light typist then you might want to go for an operation force that is medium but activation point is shorter.
- Purpose: As mentioned at different points, the purpose of using a mechanical keyboard is an important consideration. Are you a typist, gamer, or both? If you are a gamer who is looking for fast keyboard switch then you should be looking for the black switch. Red switch is recommended if you are working in office. And if you want to experience the essence of the mechanical keyboards then get the blue switch.
Coming to the end, we hope this serves you as a simple guide towards the path of choosing the keyboard switch that best serves your purpose and preferences. So, go get yourself the switch that makes your typing experience enjoyable!
If you’re looking for a guide to help you change or replace your mechanical keyboard switches, make sure to check out our article on How To Replace A Mechanical Keyboard Switch.