If you are a gamer, you understand why mechanical keyboards are quite the talk of the town. These keyboards have excellent responsiveness, durability, and versatility that you can hardly find on other keyboards.
If you’re a professional typist, then you already know that mechanical keyboards can give you a smooth, seamless typing experience that would make you the envy of other typists.
You also probably know that you could use mechanical keyboards with three different types of switches: linear, tactile, or clicky mechanical switches. Like everything keyboard related, it comes down to personal preference. If you enjoy smooth switches, linear switches are for you.
However, there is more to it. You shouldn’t just choose any linear switch you find out there. Different switches have their different strong points. In this article, we explore the best linear switches for your mech keyb build.
What are Linear Switches?
Linear switches are noiseless switches that produce a smooth actuation without any tactile feedback. A tactile switch has a bump in response to being tapped. Before the key bottoms out, after finger pressure is placed on it, it bumps out.
Linear switches do not have any tactile feedback. As such, to actuate these sorts of switches, you must push them down.
If you do not appreciate the loud noises from clicky switches or the bumpy rise tactile switches give you, linear switches are a great choice. The advantage of linear switches is that they give you a quiet, smooth, and seamless typing or gaming experience.
Linear switches are some of the most common mechanical switches you can find. If you are someone who gets easily distracted by loud, repetitive noises, linear switches should be your go-to, as you would barely hear any noises from them.
Identifying a Linear Switch
Identifying a linear switch is not hard as it is different from tactile and clicky switches. The two significant differences are in sound and tactility.
Linear switches are smooth and silent. This is what distinguishes them from clicky and tactile switches. Clicky switches are loud and bumpy, while tactile switches are bumpy and relatively quiet. So while there is a bit of a click sound underneath the linear switch, it is almost inaudible compared to other switches.
If your keyboard switch has no tactile bump when you tap on it, it is likely a linear switch. Linear switches bottom out when you tap on them. As such, there is no bump introduced in these switches. The lack of tactile feedback makes the typing experience smoother and faster on mechanical keyboards.
The Best Linear Switches
The following are some of the best linear switches you can find for your mechanical keyboard:
Cherry MX Red
Cherry MX has always made some of the best switches around. The Cherry MX Reds are some of the most popular linear switches you can find. That’s not just because the manufacturers can flood the market with their switches. It is also because these switches give you good value for your money.
They require 45 grams of force to actuate. Each switch has about 100 million actuations in it before it gets done. The Cherry MX Red also has a Silent variant that is even quieter than the regular variant.
The Cherry MX Red has several advantages, including the fact that it goes for a modest price and high-quality clicks.
Outemu created the Outemu Red as a great alternative to the Cherry MX Red. If you’re looking for a responsive keyboard, this is a great option. It is a low-priced quality switch. They have an actuation force of 50g, which is moderate for a linear switch. In addition, it has high-quality, inaudible clicks, which are great for gaming.
Outemu red switches have a travel distance of 4mm. That is the point at which you’d have to press the switch to register the instruction you’re planning to perform.
Its disadvantages are its low trigger level and the fact that it is lower in stability than many other linear switches.
This is a Chinese-made alternative for the Cherry Red MX. There used to be rumors and reviews on the low quality of these switches, but those have reduced and have almost been quelled. This is because they have improved their switches greatly since it was criticized.
Its actuation force is 5ocN, and it records a 2.00mm distance pre-travel, and 4.0m travel afterward.
Some of the negative reviews include that it might sometimes cause fatigue when used for too long. The Kailh black is also a linear switch that is great for typing and gaming. It has an actuation point of 60 cN force. It records a 2.00mm distance pre-travel and 4.0mm travel afterward.
These are also similar to Cherry MX Red switches. The significant differences are the upstroke and downstroke performance. The Gateron Red has minor friction points in downstroke performance, and it also has a pretty different upstroke performance. If you are a typist who is used to the Cherry MX Red, you will find the typing experience on Gateron Red different.
Also, when you tap on the keys, it takes longer to actuate than usual. A plus for the Gateron Red is that the contact noise is almost non-existent. This is one of the most noiseless linear switches you would find.
If you are looking for an affordable yet high-quality switch, the Gateron Yellow should be one of your top picks. With an actuation force of 50g, you do not need to add so much pressure before it actuates. Typing with it is a seamless experience as it gives you smooth, noiseless clicks. Its disadvantage is that it has a low actuation point.
If you are new to linear switches, the Gateron yellow should be a top pick for you as it comes in at a medium resistance. It also has a smaller stem size which makes typing pretty smooth. The travel distance is 4mm; this is the standard linear switch travel distance.
Durock Linear Switches
The Durock POM linear switches have a reasonably smooth, almost pre-lubed quality to them. At the same time, it does not come with any pre-lube.
The switches have a very solid and firm feel even under increased typing speeds when bottoming out. When typing at higher speeds, you might notice a slight spring ping and a wobble.
Zeal Tealios V2
These are some of the smoothest linear switches you can find. They have a transparent housing and signature teal system that makes them perfect for keyboard enthusiasts. Tealios V2 switches bottom out at 67g.
Without any lube, the switches sound great. When lubed, they can provide a smooth experience. While they are pricier than regular switches, they are not as pricey as some other linear switches. They are PCB-mounted switches. The makers have modified the Zeal Tealios V2 switches with wobble reduction and improved smoothness.
Gateron Ink Blacks
If you are used to other Gateron switches, the Gateron Ink Black will not disappoint you. It is constructed out of a type of plastic that guarantees you a much smoother typing experience than ever before. This smoothness is what makes it one of the most sought-after linear switches.
If ink black is your aesthetic, you would love these switches as they feature transparent smokey housing.
The Gateron Ink Blacks are durable and strong. As the name implies, it is coated black. The spring inside is also coated black to match the switch housing. This switch is quite smooth and has little spring crunch.
The NovelKeys Cream is a cost-effective linear switch that you can purchase at a mid-range price. These switches are perfect if you want to build a custom mechanical keyboard.
The switches have a great bassy sound when they bottom out. They have a creamy white color that you would love if creamy white is your aesthetic.
It might take a little bit of getting used to as the feel is not as smooth when it is brand new. Because it has a self-lubricating design, the feel gets more buttery smooth with time.
The Alpaca V2 switch is a recolor of Durock’s linear switch. These switches are smooth linear switches with 62g gold plated springs.
These switches have a pink stem based on SA Bliss by Minterly. While Durock makes the top of the switches from polycarbonate, they make the bottom ones with nylon housing. They also make the stem from POM.
They are lightly factory-lubed, providing a buttery smooth typing experience. The manufacturers add a thin oil lubricant to 3 sides of the stem instead of just the legs. If you also lube them after you get them, you are guaranteed an almost scratch-free switch.
The silent version has a dark smokey clear housing, with the same pink stem as the Alpacas. Both versions are LED compatible and bottom out at 62g. Their total travel time is the regular 4mm.
Some people call the C³Equalz X TKC Tangerine Switches the smoothest in the game, and they would not be far from the truth. Manufacturers make the tangerine switches in two colors: dark green and light green.
For the dark green stem, the spring weights are 67g, while the light green has 62g. As such, you should not hear crunches or pings.
They still have stock sounds that sound like a clack. You would also notice a slight vibration on the top-out and bottom-out. They have tiny wobbles when at rest or depressed.
Tangerine switches are pretty aesthetically pleasing; their colors might remind you of a tangerine. They also clip perfectly to switch plates but not too firmly that they cannot be easily removed.
The housing is made from UHMWPE (Ultra-high-molecular-weight polyethylene) which is a highly durable plastic. They have gold springs and a PCB mount. For a smooth typing experience, the switches are lightly pre-lubed in the factory. You can still lube them before installing them for an even smoother typing and gaming experience.
While most other linear switches come in packs of 10, tangerine switches come in packs of 25 switches.
If you enjoy a smooth typing experience, linear switches are a good option. To ensure that you have the best experience, you should choose the best switches for you and your keyboard.
When selecting a linear switch, try testing them out to see what you enjoy. Look out for minimal wobble, which does not have too much noise and manufacturers lube, enough to provide a seamless, smooth experience.