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Guide to Alternative Mechanical Keyboard Switches

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The world of mechanical keyboard switches isn’t only made of Cherry Blues and Browns! While Cherry’s popular MX lineup of switches hold the lion’s share of the market, there’s (Many, many… many!) different switches you can find in avaialable mechanical keyboards.

In this article, we’ll look at a handful of lesser-known Cherry switches, an array of switches from Cherry’s competitor Kailh, and some proprietary switches you’ll commonly find in Razer and Logitech branded mechanical keyboards.

 


Cherry’s Traditional Switches

Unfamiliar with Cherry’s traditional MX switch lineup? Fear not! We’ve got you covered. Check out the following older Logical Increments article for a rundown of mechanical keyboard basics, including details on Cherry’s massively popular Blue, Red, and Brown switches (alongside a few other oddities):

What is a Mechanical Keyboard? Guide to Buying a Mechanical Keyboard

 


Cherry MX Switches Continued

The Cherry MX lineup of mechanical switches remains the most popular in big-name consumer keyboards. Cherry offers alternative flavors to the big three (Blue, Red, and Brown) that come in a variety of actuation distances (the distance the key must be pressed to register) and/or actuation forces (the force required to register a click).

Cherry MX Speed/Silver – Similar to Cherry MX Red but with a shorter actuation distance of 1.2mm compared to 2mm, making them very responsive. Otherwise, they feature the same 45 gram actuation force as Cherry MX Red.

Cherry MX Black – An alternative to Cherry MX Red with a higher actuation force of 60 grams. These remain a fair choice for gaming if you find Red switches too light for your taste.

Cherry MX Green – Clicky like Cherry MX Blue, but with a 20 gram higher actuation force. These are most often found in the space bar of otherwise Cherry MX blue keyboards. Unsurprisingly, these switches alone in a keyboard are a poor fit for gaming due to the high force needed to activate them.

Cherry MX Clear/Grey – Clear are similar to brown switches but with a much higher actuation force of 65 grams compared to 45 grams. If that wasn’t enough, grey switches have an even higher actuation force of 80 grams.

Switch Name Switch Type Actuation Force Actuation Distance Total Travel Durability (Claimed)
Speed Silver Linear 45 grams 1.2mm 3.4mm >100 million
Black Linear 60 grams 2.0mm 4.0mm >100 million
Green Clicky + Tactile 80 grams 2.2mm 4.0mm >50 million
Clear Tactile 65 grams 2.0mm 4.0mm >50 million
Grey Tactile 80 grams 2.0mm 4.0mm >50 million

 


Kailh Switches

A Chinese competitor to the German Cherry switches, Kailh switches are more prevalent among lower-cost keyboards. Kailh also produces proprietary switches for a few large companies, like Razer and Rosewill. Although they’re usually inexpensive, they have a spotty history of reportedly worse quality control, including “scratchy” linear switches and deformed posts that can potentially damage keycaps. They’re built to withstand ~60-80 million presses and possess a similar feel to Cherry switches, but generally have a higher actuation force for most models.

Their most unique lineup is their “BOX” series, which have a thin wall around the switch post to prevent dust and water reaching the inside of the switch when it’s pressed. Kailh has an enormous lineup of switches for a huge number of preferences and applications; those listed below are just the most common ones, separated out into linear (smooth), Tactile (bumpy), and Clicky (clicky) types!

Linear

Kailh Red – Lowest linear actuation force at 50 grams, 5 grams more than the Cherry MX Red.

  • Also comes in a Red BOX variant with the same actuation force, but a 10% shorter actuation distance, making them marginally more responsive. (And their boxy design makes them much more spill-proof!)

Kailh Black – Compared to Red, these have a 15 gram higher actuation force of 60 grams, but are the same otherwise.

  • These too come in a Black BOX variant with a 10% shorter actuation distance than the non-box variant.

Kailh Yellow – These have the highest linear actuation force at 70 grams.

  • BOX Dark Yellow also feature a 10% shorter actuation distance and the same actuation force.

Kailh Speed Silver – Has the same 50 gram actuation force as the Kailh Red switches, but with a 45% shorter actuation distance of only 1.1mm. Compared to Cherry MX Speed Silvers, these have a slightly shorter actuation distance but a slightly higher actuation force.

Switch Name Switch Type Actuation Force Actuation Distance Total Travel Durability (Claimed)
Red Linear 50 grams 2.0mm 4.0mm >60 million
Red BOX Linear BOX 50 grams 1.8mm 3.6mm >80 million
Black Linear 60 grams 2.0mm 4.0mm >60 million
Black BOX Linear 60 grams 1.8mm 3.6mm >80 million
Yellow Linear 70 grams 2.0mm 4.0mm >60 million
Dark Yellow BOX Linear BOX 70 grams 1.8mm 3.6mm >80 million
Speed Silver Linear Speed 50 grams 1.2mm 1.1mm >70 million

Tactile

Kailh Brown – Have the lowest tactile actuation force at 50 grams, slightly lower than Cherry MX Browns, but are the same in every other way.

  • BOX Brown feature the usual 10% shorter actuation distance and same force compared to the Kailh brown switch.

BOX Burnt Orange – Compared to the Kailh brown switches, these have a relatively higher actuation force of 60 grams but also a 10% shorter actuation distance.

Kailh Speed Copper – Similar feel to Kailh Brown switches, but with a very short 1.1mm actuation distance and shorter total travel.

Switch Name Switch Type Actuation Force Actuation Distance Total Travel Durability (Claimed)
Brown Tactile 50 grams 2.0mm 4.0mm >60 million
Brown BOX Tactile 50 grams 1.8mm 3.6mm >80 million
Burnt Orange BOX Tactile BOX 60 grams 1.8mm 3.6mm >80 million
Speed Copper Tactile Speed 50 grams 1.1mm 3.5mm >70 million

Clicky

Kailh Blue – These switches produce a satisfying click when operated that is both tactile and audible. Compared to Cherry MX Blues, these switches have lower actuation force and distance.

Speed Bronze – They have the same 50 gram actuation force as all other Kailh speed switches, but possess a clicky mechanism. Otherwise, they are identical to Speed Silver and Copper with a 50 gram actuation force and very short actuation distance.

Speed Gold – These switches also have a 50 gram actuation force but with a longer actuation distance than Bronze; only 30% shorter than Kailh Red switches at 1.4mm. Still responsive, but on less of a hair trigger than the gold switches.

BOX – Kailh has numerous clicky BOX switches, all with the same actuation distance of 1.8mm but with varying actuation forces:

  • BOX White have the lowest force at 50 grams.
  • BOX Pale Blue are next with an actuation force of 60 grams.
  • BOX Jade have a slightly higher actuation force of 65 grams.
  • BOX Navy have the highest actuation force of any clicky BOX switch at 75 grams.
Switch Name Switch Type Actuation Force Actuation Distance Total Travel Durability (Claimed)
Blue Clicky 50 grams 2.0mm 4.0mm >60 million
Speed Bronze Clicky Speed 50 grams 1.1mm 3.5mm >70 million
Speed Gold Clicky Speed 50 grams 1.4mm 3.5mm >70 million
White BOX Clicky BOX 50 grams 1.8mm 3.6mm >80 million
Pale Blue BOX Clicky BOX 60 grams 1.8mm 3.6mm >80 million
Jade BOX Clicky BOX 65 grams 1.8mm 3.6mm >80 million
Navy BOX Clicky BOX 75 grams 1.8mm 3.6mm >80 million

 


Razer Switches

Razer fills their keyboards with their own proprietary switches manufactured specifically for their keyboards by Kailh and Greetech, but they only come in a handful of variants that may not scratch your itch. They’re marketed as having a durability of 80 million keystrokes, which is 33% more than Kailh’s typical switch, but still 20 million clicks fewer than Cherry’s most durable options.

 

Razer Green – Featuring an audible click similar to Cherry MX Blues but with a 10 gram lighter actuation force, as well as a 0.3mm shorter actuation distance of 1.9mm. These switches will feel a bit lighter and more responsive than Cherry’s Blue switch.

Razer Orange – Similar to Cherry MX Brown switches, the Razer Orange switch is tactile but silent, perfect for those who want the feel of Blue switches without annoying the roommates. Similar to Razer’s Green switch, the Orange switches feature a 1.9mm actuation distance and 10 gram lighter actuation force than their Cherry MX sibling.

Razer Yellow – The linear Yellow switch has the same actuation force as Cherry’s most similar competitor (Red) but a much shorter actuation distance of 1.2mm, making them more like a hybrid of Cherry MX Red and Cherry MX Speed Silver switches.

Mecha-Membrane – A “hybrid” of typical membrane keys and clicky mechanical switches, the Razer Mecha-Membrane switch is an ironically poor choice for games. These feature a long actuation distance and high actuation force (two things you probably aren’t looking for!).

Switch Name Switch Type Actuation Force Actuation Distance Total Travel

Durability

(Claimed)

Razer Green Clicky 50 grams 1.9mm 1.9mm >80 million
Razer Orange Tactile 45 grams 1.9mm 1.9mm >80 million
Razer Yellow Linear 45 grams 1.2mm 1.2mm >80 million
Mecha-Membrane Mecha-Membrane 60 grams 2.5mm 2.5mm ~5 million+

 


Logitech Switches

Logitech relies on Omeron to produce the switches used in most of their keyboards, which can be separated into three distinct lineups. Their durability is rated at 70-80 million clicks; not quite as high as some Cherry switches, but still quite a lot!

Low-Profile Series

Many of Logitech’s recent flagship boards sport these sleek, modern keys. They generally feature a lower actuation distance and travel than standard full-sized keys, which is great for gaming but can make typing imprecise due to their sensitivity. All three feature the same total travel and actuation distance, varying only in actuation force and feel.

GL Tactile – Similar in feel to Cherry MX Brown switches, but with a higher actuation force and shorter distance and travel.

GL Linear – These feel like Cherry MX Red switches, with the same higher actuation force and lower distance/travel as in GL Tactile.

GL Clicky – Have a similar sound and feel to Cherry MX Blue switches. They have the same actuation force as Cherry Blue, but a reduced actuation distance and total travel.

Switch Name Switch Type Actuation Force Actuation Distance Total Travel

Durability

(Claimed)

GL Tactile Tactile 60 grams 1.5mm 2.7mm >80 million
GL Linear Linear 50 grams 1.5mm 2.7mm >80 million
GL Clicky Clicky 60 grams 1.5mm 2.7mm >80 million

GX Series

Logitech’s standard lineup. These switches emulate the traditional trio of Cherry’s MX Blue, Red, and Brown switches. They’ve even got the same color-coded naming scheme!

GX Brown – Have a 5 gram higher actuation force and marginally shorter actuation distance compared to Cherry MX Brown switches. Despite this, total travel and switch feel are identical in both.

GX Red – Also have a 5 gram higher actuation force and slightly lower actuation distance compared to Cherry MX Red, but are otherwise the same.

GX Blue – Similar to Cherry MX Blue, but with a 0.2mm shorter actuation distance. Their actuation force, total travel, and switch feel are all the same between both.

Switch Name Switch Type Actuation Force Actuation Distance Total Travel

Durability

(Claimed)

GX Brown Tactile 60 grams 1.9mm 4.0mm >70 million
GX Red Linear 50 grams 1.9mm 4.0mm >70 million
GX Blue Clicky 60 grams 2.0mm 4.0mm >70 million

Romer-G Series

Logitech’s older lineup of switches only come in two types: tactile and linear. Mostly found in older keyboards, Romer-G’s are an original design from Logitech through and through. They both offer low travel and actuation distances that lend themselves well to gaming.

Both Romer-G Tactile and Linear have a similar feel to their closest Cherry MX competitors (Brown and Red, respectively), but both feature a shorter actuation distance and total travel.

Switch Name Switch Type Actuation Force Actuation Distance Total Travel

Durability

(Claimed)

Romer-G Tactile Tactile 55 grams 1.5mm 3.2mm >70 million
Romer-G Linear Linear 45 grams 1.5mm 3.2mm >70 million

 


Conclusion

While any of these switches would be a reliable choice in your new mechanical keyboard, there’s even more to choose from! The switches and companies mentioned here are some of the most popular alternatives to Cherry’s three top performers, and should offer a good starting point to continue your search for the perfect fit. Below are a few brands deserving of an honorable mention, though, in case your search for the perfect switch is not yet over:

  • Gaote/Outemu
  • Gateron
  • Greetech
  • Roccat
  • Topre

If you’re looking for even weirder switches that should maybe not even be categorized as mechanical, check out my previous post.

Have any questions or comments about this list? Let us know below!

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