Mechanical keyboards are different from regular keyboards for many reasons; one of these is that they’re more responsive to touch. You can press many keys simultaneously, and there would be output on your screen for all the keys that have been pressed.
However, there’s one little challenge. Most of these keyboards are manufactured using different types of switches, which offer varying responses including noise, and travel time. A keyboard switch is a mechanism beneath each of the keys that helps register the keystroke.
There are three types of switches — Linear, Tactile, and Clicky switches. The type of switch you choose determines the smoothness of your work or play, depending on the reason you use the mechanical keyboard. Let’s take a look at them and their features below.
Linear Switches (Smooth)
The main features of linear switches are smoothness, consistency, and quieter noise. They also favor the red switches over other switches’ colors, although linear switches may also come in other colors. What makes a linear switch different in this regard?
What is a Linear Switch?
A linear switch is a mechanical keyboard switch that gives you a smooth and bumpless actuation when you press the keys. They remain quiet and consistent as you type and don’t have any small bump like other switches do.
When you press on the keys, a linear switch will produce a linear feel from top to bottom. Imagine a straight drop from top to bottom without any interference of tactility; that’s how linear keys operate.
Usually, these switches are quite silent. The noise they make is determined by the force and strength it takes for the spring beneath to move and bottom out. The noise doesn’t come from the switch itself but from the hitting of the plastic on plastic when the key touches the bottom.
Interested in making your mechanical keyboard quieter? One way to take out this sort of noise is to slip o-rings onto the switches’ stem to keep the keys from hitting bottom. Foam pads can also work to prevent this noise.
Are Linear Switches for You?
It is great for keyboard users who like smooth movements as they type. This makes it perfect for gamers who engage in very competitive games and need each keystroke to take effect smoothly. This allows you to make double-clicks because there is no feedback bump or click leaf to confuse you whether you have already made a double click.
A linear switch is also a great choice if you absolutely detest the clicky noises that come with other types of switches. If you’re looking for a more silent keyboard operation, then this switch is a favorable choice for you.
It’s also perfect for coders who like easy movement when typing. The less stress the keyboard brings, the more work gets done.
Again, if you’re new to mechanical keyboards from normal keyboards, this may take a while to get used to. This is one major con of the keyboard.
The smoothness of operation may cause you to bottom out the keys regularly. This may lead to finger pain or a little discomfort until you get the hang of it. Once you understand the feel of the keyboard, it’s an easy ride.
To sum it up, linear switches offer more speed to gamers because of their ease of use and seamless movement during gaming. It may not be the ideal choice for typing, however. If you are bothered by the noise of bottoming out, you can make slight modifications to the switch. This may reduce the travel time and alter the feel of the keyboard a bit, however.
Linear Switch Options
There are many fine linear switch keyboard options. See some of our top recommendations below:
Gateron Yellow Switches
Gateron Keyboard actually has a variation of colors, including red and black. The red switches have light resistance and the black, heavy. The Gateron Yellow Switches, however, remain in the middle. It is medium resistance and great for newbies to a mechanical keyboard.
It also offers smoothness like regular keyboards and has a satisfying feel. It is the best budget option for linear switches and quite affordable.
Cherry MX Speed Silver
The perfect option for gamers with its faster response speed and shorter actuation feedback. It gives you a quick advantage over other gamers and improves your gaming experience. This option is, however, not a good choice for typing.
Gateron Ink Black
If you value the smoothness of typing over every other thing, this is a great choice. It is built using a different type of plastic that makes your typing experience smoother.
Tactile Switches (Bumpy)
Many people consider tactile switches the bumpy switches, but this does not take away the satisfying experience completely.
What is a Tactile Switch?
A tactile switch is a mechanical keyboard switch that produces a small bump and resistance whenever you press a key. The bump is noticeable enough to be felt, and this is a turn-off or drawback to some keyboard users.
The noticeable bump or resistance on tactile keys is mainly for one reason—to let you know that the keypress has been properly registered without bottoming out the keys. These bumps vary depending on the kind of switch.
Again, you can hear an audible but almost-quiet click when you press the keys on a tactile switch. This sound is not loud and annoying, unlike some types of switches. This means that it is great for use in public places without leaving others frustrated.
Some people also find the bumps on each stroke oddly satisfying. If you like some sort of feedback but no audible noise when you press the keys on a keyboard, you should go for keyboards with tactile switches.
Generally, tactile switches do not have any outstanding features that distinguish them from other switches. You only recognize them when you press the keys and feel a bump.
Are Tactile Switches for You?
Tactile switches are a good choice for beginners to mechanical keyboards. Although they are quite different from regular membrane keyboards, the little bumps give you the encouragement that everything is fine and you can carry on.
It’s great for fast typers because, with each feedback, you can tell that the key has been logged, and you can move ahead without any issues.
This way, you do not always have to double-check. Gamers who are not into highly competitive games can also use this keyboard. Its clicking sound is barely noticeable, so it doesn’t sound annoying to other gamers at the other end of the mic if you need to communicate with them frequently.
One drawback for gamers might be that the bump can leave you confused as to whether you have logged every keystroke, especially if you didn’t get another bump feedback. You do not want to stand the chance of losing a game because you are second-guessing your key presses.
Tactile Switch Options
Tactile switches come in different options, and knowing the best one for you may be a bit confusing. To help make things clearer, here is our selection of some of the best.
Glorious Panda Switches
These are some of the snappiest tactile switches you will find. It gives you a unique typing feel that is not as costly.
These switches are quite different from other types of tactile switches. It has a distinct snappiness that causes it to bump up quickly, giving it a unique sound. If you like switches that have a very strong tactile bump, this is a good choice.
Cherry MX Clear or Brown Switches
This is the regular type of tactile switch that produces only a small but distinct bump. One major difference that distinguishes the clear switches from the brown switch is that the brown switch has a heavier spring force than the clear one.
These switches have a slight thudding sound as you press each keystroke. If you like that sort of typing feel, this can be a good choice for you. They are also durable and reliable.
Kailh Speed Copper Switches
This is a lighter and faster actuating tactile switch that would be great for gamers because of its speed. The bump is not as noticeable as the other two above, but you can still feel the tactile feedback, nonetheless.
It has a shorter travel distance than the others, making it a good choice for a highly competitive gaming experience.
Clicky Switches (Bumpy with Sound)
Of all of the switches discussed above, this is the one with the most distinct and audible features. Clicky switches are just like the name implies, clicky.
What is a Clicky Switch?
A clicky switch is a mechanical keyboard switch that gives off a loud, audible sound when pressed and a tactile bump feeling with each keystroke. You can already tell that this is a lovely choice for typing because it produces excellent feedback that tells you all is in order.
Clicky switches are the loudest of all the switches discussed above. If you’re looking for a really loud mechanical keyboard, then check out any with clicky switches.
With a clicky switch, you get the best of both worlds; noisy and bumpy feedback. Usually, typists will consider this fun and satisfying. We can’t say the same for other people within hearing distance.
A clicky switch has a lower travel point per keystroke; this ensures you don’t accidentally press keys. However, this also means that you may have to apply a slight amount of pressure as you type. It can cause discomfort or wear your fingers out after some time.
Are Clicky Switches for You?
When getting a clicky switch keyboard, there are some things to consider, no matter how fun, exciting (and annoying) they sound. If you work in a public workspace, clicky switches may not be for you.
They can be so loud that gamers on the other end of the mic can hear you clicking away at your keyboard. This is not only distracting but also a nuisance when you need max concentration during a gaming session.
If you have a private workspace and do not need to use your keyboard in public, you can get a keyboard with clicky switches.
Clicky Switch Options
Check out our major picks for clicky switches below.
Kailh Box White
This is the overall best switch for all purposes. It has a loud, audible clicking that comes from both directions. It is not an unstable or rattling sound, but a clear clicking sound. It’s an ideal keyboard for typing and general keyboard use.
Cherry MX Blue
These are quality switches that have a click jacket design. This means they only make a click sound when you enter a keystroke when pressing the key downward. They can last up to 100million strokes and are very reliable.
Other Switch Features to Consider
Asides from clickiness, speed, bumpiness, and the other features we have listed above, these are a few more features to consider when going for a switch:
- Durability and Longevity: Before going for a switch, check out its durability. How long are they built to last?
- Travel Distance: Different switches have varying distances traveled when you press them. Speedy switches often have a shorter travel distance. Regular switches are longer, giving a more enjoyable typing experience.
- Strength of Spring force: Switches with lighter spring force are ideal for those who like to type lightly. If you prefer to hit your fingers hard while typing, go for switches with a heavier spring force.
It’s All About Personal Preference
When you’re ready to buy a mechanical keyboard, there’s only one person the choice is up to; YOU. It’s all about what you want, your personal preference.
What do you need a keyboard for? Do you prefer clickiness over a bumpy feel? Or you’d rather a smooth run throughout? When you understand what you need in a mechanical keyboard, you can narrow your choices down and go for your most preferred option.
Remember, bumpy and clicky switches are ideal choices for typing. Gamers often prefer tactile switches for their smooth feel. If you are unbothered by clicks and bumps, the other options are also good choices.