Difference Between Linear, Tactile, and Clicky Switches


 The difference between linear, tactile and click switches are:

  1. Linear switches, for example Cherry MX reds, are quieter and consistent, while feeling smooth upon keypress

  2. Tactile switches, for example Cherry MX browns, are relatively quite and have a slight bump, or tactile feedback

  3. Clicky switches, for example Cherry MX blues, are the loudest, have tactile feed back and require a bit more of an actuation force

Difference Between Linear, Tactile, and Clicky Switches

Before you buy your keyboard, investing what could be a good chunk of cash, you should understand and choose the right switches. It can be a really disappointing feeling when you buy a mechanical keyboard and encounter switches that you don't end up liking. If possible, I suggest trying them out if you can beforehand. This may be tricky if you don't have a place you can go to that has mechanical keyboards out for show or you don't have friends that have that particular switch you are interested in. So, instead, let's talk about them and lay it all out.


Linear, Tactile, and Clicky

Linear

Quiet and smooth

Tactile

Quiet-ish and slight bump

Clicky

Noisy and slight bump



Tactile Switches

If a switch is tactile, before the key bottoms out at the end of it's travel, it has a bump in response to your finger pushing down at the point or near the point of which the key press registers (also called the actuation point). Tactile switches are great switches for those who want a mechanical keyboard, but also wants something that is on the more silent side. (Add some O-rings and you'll really get quiet.)


Some examples of tactile switches are:

Brown Switches

Orange Switches

Copper Switches

* some examples of tactile switch brands are Cherry MX, Gateron, Kailh, Varmilo. Roccat also has their own variety of a brown box switch. HyperX aqua's are also tactile.


Brown switches (especially the MX Cherry brand) are the 2nd in popularity when it comes to preference and buying from the gaming and writing industry. They are an all around good key switch if you are unsure of what you should get. Give these a good hard look!

Orange switches are a Razer design. They're known for being tactile and silent. This is another wonderful choice of a typing/writing keyboard and gaming keyboard if you like the Razer brand. They are quite similar to the Cherry MX Browns, only varying in the minor reduction of actuation point.

Copper switches, specifically the Kailh Coppers, are a variation of the Silver Speeds but in a softer tactile form.


Linear Switches

Linear switches require an entire downward movement to bottom out the key, hence the 'linear' name. Linear switches have no tactile bump in the middle of a press, creating a straightforward and uniform feeling. The actuation force is not pronounced in any way, but it is still about ¾ of the way through the key travel. Linear switches are preferred by most enthusiasts and streamers. They prefer linear keys over tactile due to their lack of audible noise, are more accurate and create less finger exhaustion. MX Reds and MX Speed silvers are being the top sought after.


Some examples of linear switches are:

Red Switches

Silver Switches

Black Switches

* some examples of linear switch brands are Cherry MX, Razer, Gateron, Kailh, HyperX and Varmilo.


Silver switches, also termed Speed Silvers, are very light in actuation, have less key travel and are very quiet. Similar to the red switch type. These are noted as some of the fastest switches, which means they are fantastic for fast paced gamers who need immediate response and agility.

Black switches are harder to press, ranging in about 60 to 65 gram (or you may see cN floating around, which is the same) actuation. These are great for typing as it is harder to make mistakes by accidental keystrokes. Developers may like using black switches, for instance. However, writers who type for long periods of time at once may develop finger fatigue.


Clicky Switches

Clicky switches are tactile switches with a notable bump, but vary because of their loud and unique sound. They also tend to require a little bit more of an actuation force and have a higher reset position. Because of this, performing swiftly and accurately may not be as easy with a blue switch.


Some examples of clicky switches are:

Blue Switches

Green Switches

Bronze Switches

Gold Switches

* some examples of clicky switch brands are HyperX (blue switch), Cherry MX, Kailh, Gateron, Varmilo,


Blue switches are the most popular when it comes to mechanical keyboards. A lot of beginner gamers choose blue switches because of their feel and sound. If you want try some clicky switches that are not the popular and widely found Cherry MX Blues, then check out some of their clone varieties, like the brand Gateron.

Green switches are very similar to the blue switches in sound, actuation and feel. Companies are frequently coming out with their own variety of a green switch, such as Varmilo and Razer.

Bronze and Gold switches are important to mention because they are Kailh varieties of the MX Cherry Blue switches. If you like the Kailh brand and like clicky switches, you should check them out. Or if you are interested in trying something different, Kailh and Gateron are two great choices.


Checking out individual mechanical keyboard company brands

There are always varieties of other switches and their colors based on companies. Razer has their own set of switches that they use, HyperX has created two variations, Roccat with their Titans and Varmilo has their series too. I think that eventually every mechanical keyboard companies will come out with their own switch.


I have mentioned them above, but I will lay it out again for a quick and easy read.


Razer has:

  • Razer Yellow Switches

  • Razer Green Switches

  • Razer Orange Switches


Varmilo has:

  • EC Rosary switches (Rose/dark pink)

  • EC Sakura switches (Light pink)

  • EC Daisy switches (Yellow)

  • EC Ivy switches (Green)

     

Roccat has:

  • Titan Brown switches


HyperX has:

  • HyperX Red switches

  • HyperX Aqua switches


I could be missing some, and if I am, please leave me a comment and I'll include them in the article. It's best to educate our gamer friends as much as we can.


What to look for when you want to buy some switches

Sometimes the colors don't match with what you would expect with one switch in comparison to another. Though that is rare, it's not uncommon. If you take into consideration the Redragon mechanical keyboard. They use switches that are a variation of the Cherry MX Blue but are red.

It's also important to note that not all of them are created with the same specs. Razer's Green switch in comparison to Varmilos EC Ivy do not have the same actuation force, travel distance or actuation points. This is also the same for the Cherry MX Green switch. All of them are different in that aspect.


Name

Type

Force

Pre Travel

Total Travel

Cherry MX Green

Clicky + Tactile

80cN

2.20mm

4.00mm

Razer Green

Clicky + Tactile

50cN

1.9mm

4.00mm

Varmilo EC Ivy

Clicky + Tactile

50cN

2.30mm

4.00mm

 

And then we take a look at some examples of the blue variety of switches:


Name

Type

Force

Pre Travel

Total Travel

Kailh Blue

Clicky + Tactile

50cN

2.00mm

4.00mm

HyperX Aqua

Clicky + Tactile

50cN

1.8mm

3.8mm

Cherry MX Blue

Clicky + Tactile

60cN

2.20mm

4.00mm


If a switch has a higher cN force, it means there is more effort in pushing that key down to the keyboard. So that is also another thing to consider when you are choosing your switch. You've found what kind you want to get, okay now you should probably look at what is offered.

Cherry MXs are the top runner when it comes to switches, mostly because you can find that choice in just about every mechanical keyboard you buy. Varmilo gives you the option of the Cherry MXs or their choice of 4 switches and so does HyperX with their Aqua and Red switch. Then you have certain brands who will only offer you the switch the company has made, like Roccat and Razer.



What about box switches?

This is a great question! Do these differ from normal switches in their details? As far as looks go, the box switch has it's metal contacts encased in the “box”. Take a look at the top and you can see that it resembles a box, so hence their name. There isn't much of a difference except for the fact that avert dust and dirt from getting in and affecting the switch operation. Or is there?

Let's take a gaze at the red Kailh switches as example:


Kailh Red Switch

Kailh Red Box Switch

Type

Linear

Type

Linear

Force

50cN

Force

50cN

Pre Travel

2.00mm

Pre Travel

~1.8mm

Total Travel

4.00mm

Total Travel

3.6mm


If you are concerned about your keyboard and it's encounters with cats, dogs, hamsters? Or maybe it's little kids (so cute) but also very dirty sometimes, because hey they're having fun. Box switches are a great investment. A friend of mine chose some box switches because of the many pets she has. They're soft and obnoxious cats who like to roam and sit right on her computer desk (most of the time when we are in the middle of a game). Their hair unfortunately will become one with the keyboard. It was one of the reasons why she also bought a Roccat. They have box switches AND the switches are not embedded in the case of the mechanical keyboard, but sit on top. Easy peasy cleaning.

These switches are not the only variety out there on the market, either. You are going to find others like Gateron and Zealios. There are many companies out there that will allow you to create your own keyboard based off your switch likes and much more. Zealios are one of those quite popular choices for enthusiasts and artists.


Are mechanical keyboards and switches necessary? Are they worth it?

When you're new to mechanical keyboards, and not so much the gaming or writing scene, it may be a little hazy on whether or not these extremely expensive keyboards are worth it. Essentially you can do what you do with your membrane keyboard, right?

Yes, technically you can do the same thing as what you do with a membrane keyboard and yet... with a mechanical keyboard you have such satisfaction with the precision of your gaming, the feel of your keys and come on, you get to specialize your keyboard on top of that to fit your preferences. It's almost like there is a switch based off of our needs. ;)

If you're a gamer, say you play some intense games that rely heavily on your movement and shooting, like PUBG for instance. Maybe you play a lot of CS:GO and you need a keyboard that reacts to your movements, for instance, that rapid movement of tapping to get through all of your grenades or switching your weapons. That wee bit of difference (or in some cases, quite large) of your key movement is crucial. I would never get the same results with CS:GO with a membrane keyboard as I would with my mechanical keyboard.

This also goes for writing. Obviously, I write on a regular basis. As well as being a writer here, I am a Business Analyst and part time UI Developer. I type and write on a... every hour basis basically. It's important for me to have a well rounded keyboard that responds to my finger movement. This is extremely important, too, when I'm in a meeting and I'm trying to fervently take notes. I can't afford to have anything slow me down, to be honest, and my mistakes can be remedied after I am finished. When I type on my mechanical keyboard compared to my laptop keyboard, I see a significant difference. However, I have also been using mechanical keyboards for several years and those variations are easy for me to detect.



The rundown

Switches are created based off of companies/brands requirements for what their users are expecting and need. They also create switches to stay in the market, which is understandable. If you have a favorite brand, it's awesome to hear that they have their own thing. I'm a huge Roccat and Varmilo fan, so their companies having their own switches is a great advantage to me. This is also said about HyperX and Razer. I have friends who are die hard Razer fans and they absolutely love their switches. I say do you and have fun!

Linear, tactile, and clicky switches all have aspects that makes them special and it's something to note when you are deciding on a keyboard. If at all possible, it is an advantage to be able to test out the type of switch before you buy, or at least that particular style. If you try one brown, it's probable that you will like other brown switches. But! Yes but! Make sure you do your research anyways! If you find some Cherry MX Browns and you really like them and you want them, go ahead, buy them. If you want to try later the Kailh Browns, then do your research. Reddit answers a lot of questions based off us people who are mechanical keyboard fans. They'll be honest.

And of course, I will do my best to be the same. Stay tuned for more! 




Photo by Jay Zhang on Unsplash


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