Mechanical keyboard switches are a type of switch that is used in high-end typing and gaming keyboards. They are often considered to be better than the traditional rubber dome switch because they have a longer lifespan and offer more tactile feedback with each click. There are several different types of mechanical keyboard switches, but all of them work in basically the same way with a similar kind of mechanical formula.
As you shop for a new mechanical keyboard, you’ll quickly find that there are many different types of mechanical switches available. Each type of switch has its own unique feel and sound. So how do mechanical keyboard switches work? And what’s the difference between them all? To find out, this is our guide.
The Working Mechanism Behind Mechanical Keyboard Switches
Mechanical switches are composed of two main parts that work on user commands: the slider and the spring. When you press a key, the slider moves down into the switch, compressing the spring. The spring then pushes the slider back up, completing the circuit and sending a signal to your computer.
Additionally, mechanical keyboard switches contain a set of contacts that are closed when the key is pressed down. This completes a circuit and sends a signal to the computer telling it that the key has been pressed. The contacts are opened when the key is released, which stops the signal from being sent.
However, there are additional components involved in completing mechanical keyboard functions that assist the computer in receiving a user command, such as the following.
Parts of Mechanical Keyboard
Mechanical keyboard components (keyboard parts) differ depending on the manufacturer or brand of a mechanical keyboard. If it’s a mechanical keyboard, the basic platform remains the same. For your convenience, the following are the basic components found in every mechanical keyboard:
- Chassis: Also known as keyboard case or backplate.
- Circuit Board (PCB): A circuit board varies from basic to advance with RGB, screen, or even trackpad features.
- Keyboard Mechanical Switches: Different types of switches have different features, ranging from three main types.
- Keycaps: There are available in a range of colors, styles, and sizes.
- Stabilizers: It is the part used to main an order for keys.
- Power Cable: Used to carry current and input information from keyboard to PC.
Advantages of Mechanical Switches (Gaming And Writing)
Mechanical switches are one of the oldest types of computer keyboard switches and have been used in keyboards since the early days of the typewriter. They are popular among heavy keyboard users like writers and PC gamers because they offer a very smooth and satisfying feel when clicked. Followed by red, brown, and blue switches, these are the common benefits.
There are several advantages that make a mechanical switch desirable:
- 1) They offer a very smooth and consistent feel when typing, which is why they are popular among heavy keyboard users.
- 2) They have a long life span, which makes them a good choice for people who type a lot.
- 3) They are tactile, meaning you can feel when they activate, which makes it easy to know when you’ve pressed them all the way down.
- 4) They have faster actuation and a smoother keystroke, so they won’t make as many mistakes with keypresses and are the preferred switch for gamers.
What Are The Three Types Of Mechanical Switches?
There’s a strong reason mechanical switches are popular among gamers and writers; they are accurate with pressure click and produce a distinct “clickity-clack” sound. That’s true for the three main types of mechanical key switches, that are different from each other based on keystroke behavior.
The three main types of mechanical switches: linear, tactile, and clicky:
1. Linear (Cherry MX Red Switches)
These switches are smooth with less resistance for a consistent keypress and have no tactile or loud auditory feedback.
2. Tactile (Cherry MX Brown Switches)
The tactile switches provide a small bump when the key is depressed, telling the user that they have activated the switch and feedback with sounds.
3. Clicky (Cherry MX Blue Switches)
The clicky switches make a loud clicking noise when activated. They have a tactile bump with an aggressive audible click sound.
What Are The Differences Between Mechanical Switches?
The majority of mechanical keyboards make use of switches from ZF Electronics’ Cherry MX key switch line, formerly known as Cherry Corporation. The reason for this is their extensive work with key types and switch characteristics that they discovered while experimenting with various switch types and their mix-up. That is why, in addition to the three main types, we now have various sub-categories of mechanical switches that varying degrees of force to activate the key with different levels of audio and tactile feedback.
These switches have also been color-coded to allow keyboard enthusiasts to identify specific types of sub-types based on the color. As an example, “Cherry MX Red” and “Cherry MX Blues” refer to main types while there are sub-types like: “Cherry MX Whites” and “Cherry MX Blacks” which have specific characteristics as a result of mixing and experimenting with different switch categories.
Mechanical keyboards offer a variety of switches that give users different characteristics. Here are the different characteristics offered by different mechanical switches:
The most popular type of switch is the Cherry MX switch. These are available in a variety of colors (Red, Blue, Brown, with sub-categories like Black and White); each with its own characteristics.
Down below are the types that differentiate mechanical switches from characteristics of mechanical keys:
Cherry MX Red Switches
They are linear-type switches, so they don’t provide any tactile feedback or audible click. They’re also the lightest MX switch, making them a popular choice for most silent gaming keyboards.
Cherry MX Blue Switches
They are popular for gaming as they offer both tactile and auditory feedback. This response is the most demanding factor which lets users know when a key has been pressed. This type is preferred for gamers who like clicky sound keyboards.
Cherry MX White Switches
They are a type of mechanical keyboard switch best for all genres. They have a very low actuation point and are less likely to cause fatigue during long gaming sessions. Cherry MX White Switches also have a very short travel distance, making them great for fast typists.
Cherry MX Brown Switches
They are tactile but relatively silent (middle ground mechanical switches). These switches are good for people who want to avoid making a loud clicky noise
Cherry MX Black Switches
They are linear-sub type, made from the infusion of Blue and Red switches. There is no tactile or auditory response- and is good for elderly writers who want a quiet environment.
Alps Mechanical Switches
Alps switch, which was once common in laptops but has been largely replaced by Cherry MX switches. These switches are tactile but not clicky and come in both linear and tactile varieties.
Summary Of Differences Between Mechanical Switches:
From different vareity of mechanical key switches, the most common are Cherry MX switch. While there are several different types of Cherry MX switches, they all work basically the same way. We also have some other popular switch types including buckling springs and Alps switches. Buckling springs are found in older keyboards, while Alps switches are most noble for being a vintage heritage.
Mechanical Keyboard Vs Membrane Keyboard (Difference Between Mechanical Keyboard and Membrane Keyboard)
Mechanical keyboards and membrane keyboards are two different types of keyboards, where mechanical keyboards offer a range of advantages over traditional membrane keyboards also known as (rubber dome keyboards).
The main distinction between mechanical keyboards and standard keyboards with membrane or rubber dome keys is in terms of performance, functionality, and feedback. Other properties are as follows:
Different Properties of Membrane Keyboards Over Mechanical Keyboards:
- A membrane keyboard (rubber dome keyboard) employs a single rubber sheet with domes that depress when a key is pressed.
- They operate by transmitting an electrical signal between two plastic membranes, making them faster than mechanical keyboards.
- They are ineffective for continuous typing and even less for gameplay with no satisfying key feedback.
- The membrane keyboard provides feedback via the bounce-back of the rubber sheet, with quiet feedback.
- They don’t have a discrete switch beneath each keycap, just like a typewriter, which is a drawback.
- Rubber dome keyboards have a shorter lifespan of 5-10 million keystrokes, which is acceptable for low-cost products.
Different Properties of Mechanical Keyboards Over Membrane Keyboards
- The main difference between mechanical keyboards (tactical keyboards) is that they are more responsive and tactile with clicky feedback.
- Mechanical keyboards offer individual key switches under each key, which benefits typists, writers, and gamers.
- There are numerous mechanical switches available, each with its own distinct feel and sound.
- They also provide more tactile feedback, making them feel audible which provides an immediate response.
- A mechanical keyboard also has a longer lifespan than a membrane keyboard, typically lasting around 50 million keystrokes.