If you’re new to mechanical keyboards, without a doubt the most difficult part of getting started is figuring out which mechanical switch should you buy. It’s even tougher in that there is no best mechanical switch that will fit everyone’s needs. The fact there are different kinds of mechanical switches is one of the main reasons mechanical keyboards are so popular. In this guide, we’ll go in-depth into what exactly mechanical switches are and why you should buy keyboards with this feature. Switches are an essential feature of all gaming keyboards because they affect that clicky noise of all mechanical keyboards. Some can be quiet, silent, or super loud. If you’re new to mechanical keyboards, check out our beginner’s introduction guide here. Keep reading to get a better idea of which switch will fit your specific needs and desires, and we’ll recommend a few switch types depending on what you’re looking for.
Mechanical Switch Brands
For starters, let’s talk about the different brands of mechanical switches. Cherry MX is the most popular and widely desired mechanical switches on the market. They’re the original mechanical switch that other companies imitate. Cherry switches have always been manufactured in Germany, and most enthusiasts consider these to be the highest quality mechanical switches available.
The drawback of Cherry MX switches is they’re more expensive than the Chinese-made switches, so you likely won’t find Cherry MX in budget mechanical keyboards.
Some of the Chinese switch manufactures include Gaote, Kailh, and Gateron. These companies look to emulate the MX switches and often do a great job. There is sometimes a difference in actuation force between the brands, but not a huge amount. MX switches are viewed as more reliable over the long run.
Mechanical Switch Comparison Chart
The below chart shows the relationship between the different kinds of Cherry MX switches. Most other switch manufactures follow the same naming convention for their switches. The type of mechanical switches affects a majority of a gaming keyboard. The below chart is considered the golden standard if you want to compare the different types of mechanical switches.
The chart is divided into the light switches (less force required to press the key down) on top, stiffer on the bottom. The left column are linear switches (no bump or tactile feedback when pressing the switch down), the middle has a tactile bump with no clicky sound, and the right column has a tactile bump and a clicky sound.
The top row of switches is far more common than the bottom row. Almost every mechanical keyboard comes in a Cherry MX Brown option, and Blue is the next most common followed closely by Red. Black and Green switches are quite rare. WASD is one manufacturer that offers their keyboards in Clear and Green varieties, but they cost a bit more than the more common switches.
Which Mechanical Switch is Right for Me?
The best way to find which switch you like the best is to try them out yourself. However, buying a mechanical keyboard can be quite expensive! That’s why mechanical switch testers exist. You can pick up a tester that has all six switches from the chart above, as well as different sized O-rings for you to experiment with. It’s a small price to pay to try out 6 different switches at once.
If you’re really in a hurry to make a choice, Cherry MX Brown is the most popular mechanical switch based on the survey we did of nearly 1,000 mechanical keyboard users. They offer a pretty good starting ground for most people. Cherry MX Blue is a personal favorite although the noise can be annoying to some people.
Speaking of which, if you’re looking for a quiet mechanical keyboard, it’s best to stick to Red or Brown switches. Stay away from the Clicky column!
In the video below, we go through a mechanical switch tester to explain the different varieties of Cherry MX switches and compare them to each other.
That concludes our guide and comparison of the different types of mechanical switches that are out there!