Guide to Keyboard Key Switch Mechanisms
This page is a guide of computer keyboard key switch mechanisms.
Rubber Dome Switch
Most keyboard's key switch mechanism is rubber dome switch. Basically all laptop keyboards, and Microsoft Keyboards, Logitech Keyboards.
Rubber dome switch is cheap to make, but is not as good as other mechanisms that use spring. Rubber dome's tactile feedback is not precise, is wobbly, and wears out. Usually what made it worse is the cheap key housing that goes with it. (ever had squeaky keys that make ugly noises and sometimes stuck midway due to friction?)
Scissor-switch is rubber dome with a scissor-like mechanism as stabilizer. It is found in laptop computers, starting around ~2002.
Buckling-spring switch is most famous as used by IBM Model M keyboard from 1980s and 1990s, and loved by many programers.
[see IBM Model M keyboard]
You press the key, the spring compresses, then at some point, it can't take it anymore, 🗦 TAK 🗧 , it buckles, giving up all resistance!
Buckling-spring switch is the loudest.
[see Mechanical Keyboard Noise Comparison]
You can buy Buckling-spring keyboard from Unicomp Keyboard
Cherry MX Switches
Cherry Corporation of Germany makes a series of mechanical key switches called Cherry MX.
Cherry MX series of switches are first introduced in 1983. They are the most popular switch. There are several different models, with different feel to them. These models are color coded.
Linear Action: Red, Black
MX Red requires the least pressure to activate the key. It's really nice. Typing on it is effortless.
CHERRY MX Red switches
Cherry MX Black is same as Red, except more force is required. I don't like MX Black at all.
Tactile Action: Brown, Blue
The Brown and Blue types have a tactile bump. When you press down, after certain point, there's a bump feel, then after that the pressure is reduced.
The Brown and Blue types are often preferred by programers and writers.
The difference between Brown and Blue are:
- Blue has a very definite click feel.
- Blue is very noisy. It makes a “click” sound by design.
|Key Feel||Tactile Bump||Tactile Click||Smooth (Linear)||Smooth (Linear)|
Key Switch Tester
There are many other color-coded Cherry MX switches, but less common.
Cherry MX Compatible Switches
Chinese companies make Cherry compatible switches.
Cherry MX compatible switches are not EXACTLY the same as those from Cherry the company. For example, Cherry MX Red has a actuation force of 45g, but Kailh Red is 50g. That 5g difference, as far as key feel goes, is a big difference.
In the market, those by Cherry is usually more expensive. Partly due to brand name, partly due to shortage.
There is no universal agreement on whether the Chinese ones are better or worse. I recommend the Chinese ones, because they are cheaper and is not worse.
Kailh Switch is a Cherry MX compatible switch, made by Kaihua Electronics (凯华).
see Kailh Switch Keyboards
Gateron switch is Cherry MX compatible made by Gateron (惠州佳达隆电子科技有限公司).
- GTR - Blue - 55g Clicky and Tactile
- GTR - Green - 80g Clicky and Tactile
- GTR - Brown - 45g Tactile
- GTR - Clear - 35g Linear
- GTR - Black - 50g Linear
- GTR - Red - 45g Linear
- GTR - Yellow - 50g Linear
Gateron KS-9 Key Switch Buy at amazon
Outemu switch is Cherry MX compatible made by Gaote Corp. 东莞市高特电子有限公司.
Kailh BOX Switch
Kailh BOX Switch, by Kaihua, came out in 2017. Cherry MX stem compatible. It's water proof, dust proof. Improvement of Cherry MX, smoother, less scratchy.
“Zealio Switch” from Gateron. Cherry MX stem compatible. Improvement of Cherry MX, smoother, less scratchy.
Logitech GX Blue Clicky
Logitech GX Blue Clicky came out in 2018. It is made by Kaihua. It is just a variation of the Cherry MX Blue.
The stem is Cherry MX compatible, so you can buy keycaps.
Romer-G Key Switch
Logitech invented Romer-G switch in 2015.
As of 2018-09, there are 2 variants.
- Romer-G Tactile. (this is the original Romer-g. Year 2015.)
- Romer-G Linear. New, in 2018.
- Romer-G switch has hollow stem. This allows LED to be placed in center. So that key lights can shine brighter thru the key label, and without light leaking at bottom.
- Romer-g switch is noticeably more quiet than any Cherry MX switches.
- Romer-g switch is supposed to last even longer than Cherry MX switches.
Romer-G key switch is used by Logitech, e.g.
This came out around 2018-10.
the Titan Switch is a tactile switch, and supposedly faster reaction time.
Used in Roccat Vulcan Keyboard
The switch may be made by a Chinese company named TTC. http://www.ttc9.com/
TTC (惠州市正牌科电有限公司 — Huizhou Zhengrui Electronics Co., Ltd., abbreviated 正牌科电) is a manufacturer of switches, digital encoders and connectors. TTC appears to be related to Trantek Electronics Co., Ltd., also founded in 1998, and who appear to offer the origin of the abbreviation “TTC”.
Optical Key Switch
Optical key switch became popular around 2016.
Optical switch is great because it does not need metal contact. Meaning, no wear, last longer, and easier to be water resistant.
Optical switch are actually not more expensive then Cherry MX.
[see Optical Key Switch Keyboard]
Gateron Optical Switches
Gateron also makes optical switches. They are Cherry MX compatible stem.
Gateron optical Switches Buy at amazon
Topre Switch (Electrostatic Capacitive Switch)
Another type of expensive switch is by capacitance. In particular, one made by Topre Corporation, of Japan.
Capacitance switch means there's no contact between conductors.
The Topre switch's feel came from its rubber dome, not the spring.
Topre key switch is most famously used in Happy Hacking Keyboard.
Keyboard with Topre switch usually costs $200 and more. It's loved by many keyboard nerds.
[see List of Keyboards with Topre Switch]
I don't like topre switch. It has a hit-bottom finger-shock problem. Topre switch, got this rubber dome, you have to hit with certain force, and because it is rubber dome, the dome collapses at some point and sucks you down, thus hit bottom and creates a finger impact shock feel. I don't have this problem with any Cherry MX switches, nor with IBM buckling spring switch, nor romer-g.
White Alps Strongman Switch
Don't know how this switch works, but i have used one for a couple of years. It's excellent. See: Keyboard: Matias Mini Tactile Pro. This keyboard has strong presence in Mac community.
The Matias mechanical key switch is used by Keyboardio model 1. See Keyboardio Review
Varmilo EC (Electro Capacitance) Switch
Varmilo EC (Electro Capacitance) Switch
Hall Effect Switch
XMIT Hall Effect Switch Keyboard
Key Noise Comparison
Mechanical Keyboard Noise Comparison
Does Mechanical Keys Matter?
Mechanical Keyboard and Repetitive Strain Injury
What Does “Mechanical” Keyboard Means
computer keyboard key switch expert Thomas Ran (aka Chyrosran22) tells us
Demo of Different Force-Displacement Curves for Key Press
Which Switch is Best?
In general opinion, the ranking is ROUGHLY like this:
- IBM Buckling Spring or Topre. (each has strong fans, but not everyone likes them.)
- Hall Effect or Optical
- Box Switch or Zealio. Considered improvement of Cherry MX design.
- Cherry MX or Clone
Note, it's impossible to rank them, as different people have different preferences.
My own preference is ROUGHLY this:
- Optical or Hall Effect. Best Tech.
- Box Switch or Zealio.
- Cherry MX red or blue or clone. 45g force is perfect. Some red clones need 50g force.
- IBM Buckling Spring. (i cannot tolerate the loudness)
- Topre (hate it)
- Cherry MX black (hate it)
Key Switch Topic
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