The Ultimate Guide to Choosing Mechanical Keyboard Switches

Welcome to the world of custom mechanical keyboards! If you're delving into this hobby, you've probably heard that one of its most critical components is the mechanical switch. These tiny mechanisms beneath the keys are what give mechanical keyboards their distinctive feel and sound. But with so many types available, how do you choose the right one for you? This guide is designed to help new keyboard users navigate the vast sea of mechanical switches to find their perfect match.

Mechanical switch

Understanding Mechanical Switches

First, let's break down what a mechanical switch is. At its core, a switch consists of a housing, a spring, a stem, and electrical contacts. When you press a key, the stem moves down, compressing the spring and closing the electrical circuit to register the keystroke. The type of stem, the strength of the spring, and the design of the housing all influence the switch's feel and sound.

The Big Three: Clicky, Tactile, and Linear

Mechanical switches can be categorized into three main types: clicky, tactile, and linear. Each type offers a different typing experience.

  • Clicky Switches : These provide both a tactile bump and an audible click sound at the point of actuation. They're loved by typists who enjoy feedback but might not be the best choice in a shared workspace due to their noise level.

  • Tactile Switches : Tactile switches offer a noticeable bump at the point of actuation without the loud click sound of clicky switches. They strike a balance between feedback and noise, making them suitable for both typing and gaming.

  • Linear Switches : Linear switches provide a smooth keystroke without any tactile bump or audible click. They're favored by gamers for their quick and seamless actuation, but typists also appreciate their smoothness for long typing sessions.

Factors to Consider

When choosing a switch, consider the following factors:

  • Actuation Force : This is the amount of force needed to press a key down. It's measured in grams (g) or centinewtons (cN). A higher actuation force means you'll need to press harder, which can lead to a more fatigue-inducing experience or, conversely, a more satisfying one if you prefer a firmer press.

  • Actuation Point : The actuation point is the distance the key needs to be pressed before the keystroke registers. A shorter actuation point can lead to faster typing speeds but might also increase the chance of accidental presses.

  • Travel Distance : This is the total distance a key moves from the rest position to being fully pressed. Some users prefer a shorter travel for speed, while others enjoy the full travel for the complete typing experience.

  • Sound : The sound of a switch can range from the loud click of a clicky switch to the quiet press of a linear switch. Your work environment and personal preference will dictate the best choice here.

Mechanical switch

Popular Switch Brands and Models

Several brands are well-regarded in the mechanical keyboard community, each offering a variety of switches to suit different preferences:

  • Cherry MX : The original and most widely known, Cherry MX switches come in various colors denoting their switch type, such as Red (linear), Blue (clicky), and Brown (tactile).

  • Gateron : Known for their smooth keystrokes, Gateron switches are often favored for their linears, like the Gateron Red, but they also offer excellent tactile and clicky options.

  • Kailh : Kailh switches offer innovative designs and variations, including Box switches with a boxed stem for added stability and Speed switches with a shorter actuation point for faster response.

Mechanical switch
Mechanical switch


Choosing the right mechanical switch is a personal journey that significantly affects your typing experience. Consider what you value most: speed, precision, tactile feedback, or the joy of the click. Remember, the best way to find your perfect switch is to try them out. Many stores and manufacturers offer switch testers that allow you to feel the difference before committing to a full keyboard.

Whether you're a gamer, a writer, or someone who just appreciates the craftsmanship of a well-built mechanical keyboard, there's a switch out there for you. Dive into the world of custom keyboards with confidence, knowing you're on your way to finding your ideal typing companion. Happy typing!