Guide to Computer Keyboard Key Switch Mechanisms
This page is a guide of computer keyboard key switch mechanisms.
Rubber Dome Switch
Most keyboard key mechanism today use rubber dome. For example, basically all laptop keyboard and Microsoft Keyboards. Rubber dome type is cheap to make, but is not as good as other mechanisms that use spring. Rubber dome's tactile feedback is not precise, kinda 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 found in laptop computers, starting around ≈2002. It is still rubber dome, but is enhanced by a scissor-like mechanism above the rubber membrance.
This is most famous as used by IBM Model M keyboard, and loved by many programing geeks.
You press the key, the spring compresses, then at some point, it can't take it anymore, CLICK, it buckles, crumpling and gave up all resistance!
This tech is old. If you want the tactile feel of the click, you can get from keyboards that use “Cherry MX Blue” switch. 〔➤see List of Keyboards with Mechanical Switches〕 But if you really want buckling-spring, you can buy it from Unicomp. See: IBM Model M keyboard, Unicomp.
Cherry MX Switches
Cherry Corporation of Germany makes mechanical switches called Cherry MX. It is the most popular mechanical switch. There are several different models of Cherry MX, with different properties of feel. These models are color coded. They are:
MX Red requires the least pressure to activate the key. It's really nice. Typing on it is effortless.
Cherry MX Black is same as Red, except more force is required. I don't like MX Black at all. For example of Cherry MX Black, see “SteelSeries 6Gv2 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard” amazon.
The Brown ＆ Blue types are good for writers or programers. When you press down, after certain point, there's a bump feel, then after that the pressure is reduced. This lets you know whether a key has been registered.
The primary difference between Brown ＆ Blue is that Blue has a more precise click point, and makes a audible “click” sound, and Blue is lighter. For many people, the major complaint about Blue is that it's noisy.
There are few others, but less common.
|Key Feel||Tactile Bump||Tactile Click||Tactile Click||Smooth (Linear)||Smooth (Linear)|
“WASD 6-Key Cherry MX Switch Tester” amazon
Cherry MX Key Switch Sound Comparison
Here's a video that compare the noises they make.
- “CM Storm QuickFire Rapid — CHERRY MX Blue Switches” amazon
- “CM Storm QuickFire Rapid — CHERRY MX Brown Switches” amazon
- “CM Storm QuickFire Rapid — CHERRY MX Red Switches” amazon
Note: the only one that intentionally makes a sound, is the MX Blue, which makes a click sound.
All the others, do not make any noise if you press the key slowly. The sound came from the key hitting bottom. Also, they don't sound as loud as in the video. In the video, the wooden desk and recording makes it louder.
Also, some keyboard makers claim to have some sort of silencer, but i haven't tried them.
Another way to reduce noise is to buy those rubber ring switch dampeners. You put them in each key yourself.
Cherry Compatible Switches
Several companies make Cherry compatible switches.
Kailh Switch is a Cherry MX compatible switch, made by Kaihua Electronics Co., Ltd.”. (凯华).
Outemu switch is Cherry MX compatible made by Gaote Corp. 东莞市高特电子有限公司. Home page http://www.cngaote.com/index_en.html
Gateron switch is Cherry MX compatible made by Gateron (惠州佳达隆电子科技有限公司). company site: http://www.gateron.com/
Capacitive Switch: Topre Switch
Another type of expensive switch is by capacitance. In particular, one made by Topre Corporation, of Japan.
The Topre switch's feel primarily came from its high-quality rubber dome, not the spring.
Topre key switch is most famously used in Happy Hacking Keyboard.
See also: List of Keyboards with Topre Switch.
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 Keyboard.io Keyboard Model 01 ⌨
Does Mechanical Keys Matter?
List of Keyboards with Mechanical Switches
Key Ghosting, n-key Rollover
Another issue commonly discussed with key mechanism is key ghosting and n-key rollover. Basically, it means how many keys can be pressed simultaneously. See: What's NKRO, N-key Rollover? .