The Complete Guide to Mechanical Switches on Keyboards


When choosing a mechanical keyboard, it’s often the switches that are the difference. Sure, some offer USB pass-through, some offer RGB, some offer macro keys but this is features that you can say yes or no to. However, when it comes to mechanical switches, you really want to find the perfect switch that is right for just you.

There are a bazillion switches on the market today, with Cherry MX being the biggest manufacturer. However, other companies such as Razer and Logitech have started to make their own switches, and very successfully so. Today, I thought that we will take a look at these three companies and their most popular switches.

Many of them look very alike and that is because they are. We are talking differences in grams and less than a millimeter, yet the feel of the switches can be completely different. But before we talk more about switches, we need to understand what types of mechanical switches that exist.

Types of Mechanical Switches

When talking about mechanical switches, there are mainly three types of switches that are being mentioned, linear, tactile and clicky switches. Each of these types is different from one another and feels different as well.

Linear switches are the most common. They are very simple and suits most people. The thing with linear switches is that they just go down and up again. There is no tactile feedback that gives you a hint on when the key is actually registered. They are also somewhat quiet without that clicky feel that many, especially writers, want.

Tactile switches will give you feedback when pressing the keys. This will let you know when the key is registered, and you can move on to the next key. While it’s only a few millimeters difference, for some, this can be a big timesaver.

Clicky switches are the ones that sound the most. There is a bump in the travel and there is a “click” when hitting that bump. The bump and the click give you that confirmation that the key has been registered.

Keyboard Mechanical Switch

Learning the Words

When talking about mechanical switches, words like actuation force or total travel distance often comes up. It’s important that you know what all of this means before you start looking at which switch is good for you since you will have a better understanding of what it actually is.

Actuation Force – The actuation force is how much pressure is needed for the key to actually be moved. A switch with an actuation force of 45g will require 45g to start traveling down. Some people have trouble with higher actuation force since it’s not as light to type on, you have to hit the keys harder.

Actuation Point – The actuation point is where the key is actually registered, meaning that this is the point when your computer will actually do the action that this key is assigned to do.

Total Travel Distance – This is pretty self-explanatory. This is the total distance a key can travel down. The actuation point is often somewhere in the middle but depending on the pressure you have to apply on the key and your typing style, some people follow the keycap the whole travel distance. It also does give you some form of “soft landing” since you can start to release the key, thus giving less pressure, before you hit the bottom.

So, now that you have the information and knowledge needed to understand mechanical switches, let’s take a look at some Cherry MX switches!

Red Speed Black Brown Blue

Type

Linear

Linear

Linear

Tactile

Clicky

Actuation Force:

45g

45g

60g

45g

60g

Actuation Point

2mm

1.2mm

2mm

2mm

2mm

Total Travel Distance

4mm

4mm

4mm

4mm

4mm

Sound Level

Quiet

Quiet

Quiet

Quiet

Loud

Cherry MX Switches

Since 1967, Cherry has been making keyboards. They are, in fact, the oldest keyboard manufacturer and thus, they have some knowledge on how to make a good keyboard. Today, they are most famous for their Cherry MX switches which they started making in 1985. To separate them, the switches are in different colors and this is also the way they are referenced when talking about Cherry MX switches.

Cherry is making quite a few switches but the most popular are the Cherry MX Red, Brown, Blue, Silver and Black. These are the switches that you will find in most mechanical keyboards today. They offer their own unique feature and I am pretty sure that any of these five will suit you.

Cherry MX Red

Cherry MX Red

The Cherry MX Red is probably the most popular among gamers. That is because it’s a light switch that doesn’t require as much pressure. The travel distance is only 2mm which means that the key will be registered quickly, which is an important part of gaming. They are reasonably quiet and doesn’t give as much tactile feedback as some other switches. It’s not needed for gaming, but if you are a heavy writer, you might miss that feedback.

Finding a keyboard with red switches is easy, just look for basically any gaming keyboard from Corsair. They are heavenly invested in Cherry MX switches and thus, offer a boatload of switches for their mechanical keyboards, red being one of those switches.

Cherry MX Speed

Cherry MX Speed

Red may be the most popular among gamers, but the Cherry MX Speed isn’t far behind. It shares most of the specifications with the red switch by being a linear switch that only requires 45g of actuation force. However, the difference is in the actuation point. The Speed will register the key at just 1.2mm down. For an e-sport gamer, 0.8mm could be the difference between life and death. However, the for the normal gamer, very few are noticing a difference.

The MX Speed isn’t as common as the red switches. But once again, Corsair comes to the rescue. In their higher end models, like the K70 Lux Rapidfire or the K95 Platinum, you can get MX Speed switches. Both keyboards can be found on Amazon.

Cherry MX Black

Cherry MX Black

Once again, linear switches are the most popular. One of the switches that have existed since 1984 and is still going strong, is the MX Black. It does require 60g of actuation force which can be a bit heavy for some people that are looking for light switches. The good thing is that you can really feel the key is being pushed down which some folks like. The actuation point is the same as red with 2mm.

MX Black is not very common and if you want a keyboard with black switches, you will have to look away from the bigger brands. The ROCCAT RYOS MK Pro on Amazon, is using MX Black but the overall quantity of MX Black keyboards are small.

What Does Pixel Response Mean?

Response time for monitors is something that you really don’t have to bother with anymore. Response time is measuring how fast a pixel can go from white to a color. In the old days, monitors could have 15ms or more. This was a problem because the image could be perceived as blurry. This was because the pixels didn’t change colors fast enough. Today’s monitors are usually 5ms or less and not something that most people will notice.

For a gaming monitor, I would say that 5ms or under is acceptable. It is simply no longer a problem with newer monitors. Something that some people seem to think is that response time and refresh rate goes hand in hand but that is not true, they are two separated techniques. So, if gaming will be your primary goal, you should focus on refresh rate. If you are not going to game (why are you here?) then you don’t have to worry about any of this.

Lagom.nl has an LCD-test where you can run a fun little test to see if the response time on your monitor is noticeable by you.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

As always, there is a lot of questions when it comes to purchasing a monitor for a lot of money. In this section, I have tried to cover the most frequently asked questions. As always, you are welcome to ask your question in the comments if you can’t find your question here.

Can You Get Motion Sickness from Having a High Refresh Rate?

The simple answer is no. Having a monitor that support a high refresh rate will not give you motion sickness. There may be a case or two but I have never heard of it.

Can I Play Games at 60Hz on a 144Hz Monitor?

Yes, you can. You can also turn down the refresh rate in Windows and in games to 60Hz if you want. However, I don’t see any reason for this as a higher refresh rate is always better. Go for the maximum instead.

Is Games the Only Thing That Benefit from 144Hz?

Most of the times, yes. You can often see a little difference in the smoothness when browsing, moving the mouse cursor and such but games are the general purpose for 144Hz monitors. They will not make it easier to edit videos, for example.

What Happens If the FPS is Below 144?

If you are not using G-Sync or FreeSync, you might see screen tearing and notice stuttering when you go below a certain FPS. How low is very individual. Some people don’t notice it until the FPS is only 30, while other notice it already under 100 FPS. This is because the monitor is still updating in 144Hz and if you can’t push 144 FPS, that is the result.

If you use G-Sync or FreeSync, the graphics card can communicate with the monitor and as the FPS drops, the monitor will also update less, giving you a smoother gaming experience, even if you don’t have 144 FPS in the game.

Is a 144Hz Monitor Worth for *Insert Game Here*?

Every game will handle 144Hz differently. Say a game like Overwatch, CS: GO or Battlefield, where there is fast movements and quick reactions, a 144Hz is like night and day.

If there is a game like Guildwars 2 or World of Warcraft, a 144Hz monitor isn’t really needed. For those type of games I would rather go with a high-resolution monitor. They are open world games and the scenery is much more detailed and beautiful with a high-resolution monitor.

Is It Possible to Get a Higher Refresh Rate by Lowering the Resolution?

No, that is not possible. The max refresh rate of the monitor is the maximum of that monitor. The only thing that you do when lowering the resolution is to make the picture look good, which is a shame since you have spent a lot of money to get a nice monitor.

Wrapping Up

We spend a lot of time on our guides and there are two reasons for this. Firstly, we love to talk about gaming and new tech and people in our lives are getting tired of it so writing is a great way to get it out. On the other hand, it’s a great for to let you know which monitor might suit you and what you should think about when purchasing a new monitor. In that way, I hope that this guide has been of use to you and you now have a better understanding of why 144Hz monitors are great for gaming.

Because, when it comes to gaming, it’s always better to go for a monitor with a high refresh rate than to go with high resolution. Sure, it’s nice to have both and that is why monitors with 2560×1440 and 144Hz have become so popular. We haven’t taken the step to 144Hz and 4K yet, but we will soon be there. However, that will require beefy graphics cards and will have prices up to $2000 or more. If that’s not something you want to pay, buying a monitor with 1440p is still a good investment.

As always, you are welcome to ask your questions in the comment section below. Anyone of us or another visitor will give you the answer you deserve. You should also comment what 144Hz monitor you got and if it’s worth the money, partly for bragging what monitor you have (which we all love to do) and partly because you can help someone else out with their purchasing decision.

All the monitors we mentioned can be purchased on Amazon. If you decide to purchase using one of our links, we will get a small commission from that which will not cost you anything extra. It will help us to keep doing what we love; Talk about gaming and hardware. So, thank you in advance. If you want to learn more about what this means, you can do so here.

Be sure to check out our other gaming-related buyer’s guide that will help you make a better decision when it’s time to swipe that card of yours.

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Christoffer K

Christoffer is the man behind Gaming Simplified. He has been an avid gamer and Tech lover and that has motivated him to share All Things Tech on this blog!

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