The Ultimate Guide to Mechanical Keyboard Switches for 2024

When choosing your mechanical switches, you only want the best. Selecting the ideal mechanical switches is crucial, but the vast array of options can make this decision challenging. Fortunately, we’ve conducted extensive research and compiled this guide to simplify the process for you! Follow the best mechanical keyboard switches explained!

Introducing the Comprehensive 2024 Guide to Mechanical Switches!

Embarking on this journey, you’ll gain an in-depth understanding of mechanical switches, enabling you to make an informed decision on the best switches for your needs.

Choosing the perfect mechanical switch is no simple task, as it heavily relies on personal preference.

Consider the following:

  • What type of sound do you enjoy while typing? Is the click-clack of switches a concern in your workspace?
  • Do you favor a tactile bump with each keystroke, or do you prefer a smoother action?
  • Assess your typing habit: Are you gentle on the keys, or do you press down hard?
  • Are your switches intended primarily for gaming or for typing tasks?

If you’re uncertain about any of these aspects, don’t fret! This guide is designed to assist you in navigating through these considerations.


Guide to Mechanical Switches: Table of Contents

  1. Introduction to Mechanical Switches
  2. Varieties of Mechanical Switches: Linear, Tactile, and Clicky
  3. Exploring Switch Characteristics
  4. 4 Essential Considerations for Selecting Mechanical Switches
  5. The Brands
  6. Accessories for Mechanical Switches
  7. Glossary and Further Reading


1. What are Mechanical Switches?

Mechanical switches are the components located beneath each key that activates a keystroke when pressed.

Exploring the Components of a Mechanical Switch

Diving into the anatomy of a mechanical switch reveals the intricacies that make each keystroke precise and satisfying. Here’s a breakdown of the main components and their significance:

Delving into Mechanical Switch Components and Their Roles

While the keycap itself isn’t a component of the mechanical switch, it plays a crucial role in the auditory feedback during a keystroke, particularly when the key is fully pressed down.

The Stem

The stem’s design directly influences the switch’s actuation and travel distance, crafting the unique feel of each keystroke and defining the type of switch—be it linear, tactile, or clicky.

The Upper Housing

Serving as both protection and guidance for the stem, the upper housing is also the component that interacts with the keycap during a press, contributing to the switch’s overall feel and sound.

The Coil Spring

The spring underneath the stem provides the necessary resistance for key actuation. Its tension determines the force required to press the key and assists in returning the key to its initial position after release.

The Base Housing

Acting as the foundation, the base housing secures the upper housing and is the component that mounts directly to the keyboard’s PCB (Printed Circuit Board), ensuring stability and precise alignment.

The Crosspoint Contact

This small, often metal or gold, component is critical for the electrical functionality of the switch. Depressing a key causes the contact mechanism to connect with the PCB, completing the circuit and registering the keystroke.

Understanding these components sheds light on the complexity of mechanical switches and their contribution to the typing experience, from the tactile response to the sound and feel of each keystroke.


2. Types of Mechanical Switches

Mechanical switches come in three primary types: linear, tactile, and clicky, each distinguished by its unique keystroke behavior.

Kailh Turbo Red Switch

Linear switches feature a straightforward mechanism, moving directly up and down without providing tactile feedback or generating a clicking sound. This seamless action enables quicker actuation, favoring them among gamers for their efficiency and speed.

Mechanical Switch

Kailh Turbo Brown Switch

Tactile switches are distinguished by their tactile feedback, offering a discernible bump mid-travel to signal that the keystroke has been registered. This feature makes them especially suitable for typing, as it provides a subtle confirmation of a keypress without the necessity to fully depress the keys.

Kailh Box Crystal Navy Blue Switch

Clicky switches operate similarly to tactile ones, with the added feature of producing a distinctive “click” sound upon activation. They are perfect for users who appreciate a clear auditory indication of a keypress and enjoy the characteristic “clicky” noise.


3. Understanding the Characteristics of a Mechanical Switch

Grasping the characteristics of a mechanical switch extends beyond just the feel of the keystroke. There are five key technical aspects to consider, each impacting your typing experience and the functionality of your keyboard.

Depending on your typing style and the intended use of your keyboard, specific values for these characteristics may be more suitable for you.


  1. Operation Force: This measures the amount of pressure required to depress a key, indicating how hard you need to press. Operation force is quantified in centinewtons (cN) or gram-force (gf), with 1 gf being almost identical to 0.98 cN. Therefore, a switch with an operation force of 50 cN essentially requires 50 gf of pressure.
  2. Activation Point: This is the critical juncture at which the keyboard registers a keypress, measured in millimeters. Also referred to as the Actuation Point or Operating Position, it’s vital for understanding how far a key needs to be pressed before it responds.
  3. Total Travel Distance: This represents the full range of movement a keycap can make until it bottoms out against the switch’s upper housing, measured in millimeters. It dictates the maximum depth your keystrokes can reach.
  4. Tactile Position: Exclusive to tactile and clicky switches, this is the point during a key press where you can feel the characteristic bump, indicating a successful actuation. Linear switches, known for their smooth keystroke, lack a tactile position.
  5. Reset Point: After pressing a key, this is the point where the key returns to its unactivated state upon release. Understanding the reset point is crucial for gauging how quickly you can repeat a keystroke.

These technical characteristics are fundamental to choosing a mechanical switch that aligns with your typing habits and preferences, ensuring an optimal typing or gaming experience.


In the graph, the red line illustrates the relationship between force and distance during the downward press of a key, and the black line depicts the force and distance as the key is released.


Mechanical Switch Pressure Indicator

Mechanical Switches Durability: Built to Last

Concerned about the longevity of mechanical switches? Rest easy knowing they are designed for endurance, with manufacturers guaranteeing a remarkable lifecycle of 50 to 80 million keypresses per switch. This impressive durability results from exhaustive testing, where each switch undergoes millions of simulated keystrokes to ensure it meets stringent standards.

Such dedication to quality highlights manufacturers’ commitment to crafting durable products. For instance, Cherry MX switches are celebrated for their robustness, capable of enduring extreme temperatures from -40ºC to 180ºC. This resilience is particularly vital during sea transport, protecting the switches from variable temperatures within cargo containers, especially under direct sunlight.

The Evolution of Hot-swappable VS. Soldered Switches

Historically, mechanical keyboards featured soldered switches, a method that permanently affixes the switch to the keyboard. While durable, this approach limits flexibility if preferences change or a switch fails.

The introduction of hot-swappable switches has revolutionized the mechanical keyboard industry, providing users with unprecedented flexibility and customization options.

Advantages of Hot-swappable Switches:
  • Flexibility in Switch Choice: Adapt your keyboard to match evolving preferences or explore different switch types, all without needing to invest in a new keyboard.
  • Personalized Keyboard Layouts: Hot-swappability enables the mixing and matching of switches to fine-tune your keyboard to your typing style, merging diverse switch types for an optimal setup.
  • Easy Repairs: The modular nature of hot-swappable keyboards simplifies replacing individual switches, ensuring your keyboard’s longevity and performance.

This shift towards hot-swappable keyboards empowers users, offering unmatched adaptability, ease of customization, and the practicality of self-repairs, marking a significant advancement in keyboard technology.

4. Key Factors to Consider When Choosing Your Mechanical Switches

  1. Environment

  2. Tactile preference

  3. Hand size, strength, and typing style

  4. The general purpose of your keyboard


Considering Your Environment Before Choosing a Keyboard

The environment where you plan to use your keyboard is a crucial first step in selecting the right mechanical switches. Why? The sound your keyboard makes can significantly impact those around you, affecting your popularity in shared spaces like offices.

Clicky switches are known for their distinctive, loud “click” sound with each keystroke, which can be both a blessing and a curse. In a bustling office, this auditory feedback might not be well-received, potentially turning you into the subject of less-than-favorable opinions. The noise generated by rapid gaming or typing can be especially grating to others. I’ve experienced this firsthand.

However, there’s a flip side. Some individuals find the clicky sound satisfying, as it provides a clear confirmation of each keypress. Additionally, Clicky switches can evoke a sense of nostalgia, reminiscent of the iconic 80’s IBM computer keyboards, adding an enjoyable retro feel to the typing experience.

When choosing your switch type, it’s essential to take a moment to consider your immediate surroundings and the people within it. Engage them in a conversation to gauge their tolerance for the click-clack sounds of your potential new keyboard. If they’re fine with it, that’s great news. But if the consensus leans towards a quieter workspace, it’s worth exploring Tactile and Linear switches. These alternatives offer a more subdued typing experience that’s likely to keep the peace without sacrificing performance.

Opt for clicky switches if you work in solitude or in an environment that’s accommodating to a bit of click-clack noise. This way, you can enjoy the tactile feedback without disturbing those around you.


Considering Your Tactile Preferences in Keyboard Selection

The tactile sensation you prefer during typing is the second crucial factor to mull over. Do you enjoy the feeling of a slight bump with each keystroke, or do you lean towards a smoother press?

Tactile and Clicky switches are characterized by a noticeable bump at the midpoint of the keypress, providing tactile feedback. On the other hand, Linear switches, true to their name, offer a smooth and uninterrupted keypress from start to finish.

For typists, the tactile feedback from Tactile and Clicky switches can enhance typing accuracy. The bump signifies that a keypress has been successfully registered, allowing you to move swiftly to the next key without fully depressing each one. This can prevent the additional effort of “bottoming out,” which occurs when the keycap is pressed down to the switch’s upper housing.

In the realm of gaming, where speed is crucial, the consistent actuation of Linear switches makes them a favored option among gamers for their quick and fluid response.

Generally, Tactile switches are recommended for those who prioritize typing comfort and accuracy, while Linear switches are often preferred by gamers for their fast-paced needs.


Tailoring Your Switch Choice to Your Hand Size, Strength, and Typing Style

Believe it or not, factors like hand size significantly influence your ideal mechanical switch selection. Yes, the old adage about big hands means you might need to consider your switch choice more carefully to avoid misclicks.

For Those with Larger Hands:
  • High Activation Points (2mm and above): A higher activation point requires a greater distance to register a keypress, helping to prevent accidental keystrokes.
  • Medium to Heavy Operating Force (55cN and above): A higher operating force necessitates more pressure for actuation, reducing the likelihood of unintended clicks.

If you possess large hands but type with a gentle touch and rarely make misclicks, consider switches that offer:

  • Medium to High Activation Points (1.4mm and higher): This allows for efficient typing without the worry of frequent misclicks.
  • Medium Operating Force (55-75cN): Ideal for light typists who can manage their keystroke pressure well.
  • Tactile and/or Clicky Feedback: These switches provide physical or auditory feedback without needing to bottom out keys, suitable for refined typists.
For Those with Small to Medium Hands Who Type Lightly:
  • Speed Switches: These are excellent for both gaming and typing, offering an advantage in reaction times. Their shorter activation points facilitate faster, more precise keystrokes.
For the Heavy Typists:
  • Heavy to Super Heavy Operating Force (75cN and above) or Speed Switches: Choose switches that can withstand your typing vigor, offering quicker rebound for those who bottom out.
  • O-rings: These accessories reduce noise and provide a cushioned keystroke, adding a bit of gentleness to your typing experience.
Reducing Keyboard Noise:

For those sensitive to sound or sharing spaces with others, consider these elements to mitigate keyboard noise:

  • Keycap Size and Material: Influences the sound level and pitch of keystrokes.
  • Keyboard Mat: Placing a cushion under your keyboard can dampen sound.
  • Keyboard Material: The build material (plastic or metal) can affect sound resonance.
  • O-rings: These not only soften the impact of bottoming out but also reduce noise.

Selecting the right switch involves more than just preference; it’s about matching your physical attributes and typing habits with the right mechanical switch characteristics. This tailored approach ensures a satisfying and efficient typing or gaming experience, minimizing strain and maximizing performance.


Navigating Your Keyboard’s Purpose to Select the Ideal Switches

Determining the primary use of your keyboard is a critical step in choosing the right mechanical switches. Whether it’s for gaming, typing, or a combination of both, the purpose greatly influences the type of switch that will best suit your needs.

Gaming Enthusiasts:
  • Linear Switches, Especially Speed Switches: These are ideal for gaming, offering a smooth and consistent keypress that facilitates quick responses and movements.
Avid Typists:
  • Tactile and Clicky Switches: These switches are preferred for typing due to the tactile feedback and audible click they provide, enhancing typing accuracy and satisfaction. However, if you’re not keen on the tactile bump or the clicky sound, Speed switches can also serve well, providing a rapid yet smooth typing experience.
For Versatile Use:
  • Consider Your Typing Technique and Environment: If your keyboard needs to serve dual purposes, assess your typing style and the noise level acceptable in your environment. Opting for a keyboard with hot-swappable switches could be advantageous, allowing you to experiment with different switches and find the perfect match for both gaming and typing.

Ultimately, the choice of switches boils down to personal preference and specific requirements. While this guide offers recommendations based on common uses and preferences, you hold the reins to your decision. As the captain of your journey into the realm of mechanical switches, feel empowered to explore and choose the switches that resonate with your individual needs and preferences. Dive in and discover the vast world of mechanical switches awaiting you!


5. The brands

Exploring the most prominent keyboard switch brands reveals a fascinating journey of innovation and dedication to improving the typing experience. Here’s a concise history of some key players in the market:



Cherry Corporation, initially an American enterprise specializing in electronic switches for automotive uses, marked a significant milestone in 1984 with the patent of a novel keyboard switch, heralding the iconic Cherry MX line.

The merger with ZF Electronics, a German company, in 2008 was a pivotal moment for Cherry Corp, redirecting its focus and solidifying its position as a frontrunner in the keyboard switch industry. The Cherry MX switches, distinguished by their unique cross-shaped stem or “Cherry MX mount,” have earned a reputation for being among the finest mechanical switches available, praised for their exceptional quality and durability.

However, the landscape shifted in 2004 when Cherry’s patent expired, ending their monopoly and paving the way for competitors like Kaihua, Gateron, and Outemu to replicate the design and introduce their own switch lines. This development introduced a new era of competition, challenging Cherry with alternatives that ranged in affordability and quality.

In response to feedback regarding the “scratchy” feel of their switches, Cherry undertook a comprehensive retooling process to enhance the smoothness of their switches, demonstrating a strong commitment to addressing customer feedback and improving product quality.

Today, as the mechanical switch market continues to grow and evolve at a rapid pace, Cherry remains a key player, continually striving to innovate and maintain its legacy of excellence. This era of expansion and innovation in mechanical switches is indeed an exciting time, with Cherry MX still leading the charge.




Kaihua Electronics, established in 2009, ventured into the competitive world of mechanical keyboard switches with the introduction of Kailh switches. This positioned them as direct competitors to the renowned Cherry MX switches.

Initially, Kailh was met with skepticism and labeled as mere imitations of Cherry MX, with early perceptions not favoring their quality. However, Kailh’s trajectory shifted significantly when they collaborated with Razer to develop the Razer switches. This partnership, along with continuous efforts in innovation and improvement over the years. It helped Kailh carve out a reputable identity in the mechanical switch market.

Kailh has since expanded its portfolio beyond the Traditional switches to include Kailh Speed switches, noted for their quick activation points and light pressure requirements. Kailh Box switches are recognized for their unique boxed stem that offers dust and water resistance. And Kailh Low Profile switches among others. These innovations have firmly established Kailh’s reputation among keyboard aficionados.

Despite their advancements and growing popularity, Kailh has faced challenges. They included criticism in 2018 from Novelkeys regarding the dimensions of their Box switch stems. This discrepancy led to compatibility issues and damage to some keycaps. It highlights the importance of precise specifications in the mechanical switch industry.

Today, Kailh continues to be a prominent name globally in the mechanical switch arena, consistently pushing the boundaries and surpassing expectations with its technological advancements and contributions to the keyboard enthusiast community.




Gateron switches hold a special place among keyboard enthusiasts, particularly in Europe, thanks to their quality and performance. Originating from Huizhou Gateron Electronic Technology Co., Ltd., founded in 2000. These switches are celebrated for their MX stem compatibility and are often favored for their smoothness compared to the sometimes “scratchy” feel of Cherry MX switches.

The affinity for Gateron in the mechanical keyboard community has even led to the creation of an exclusive line of switches, the Zealio, produced specifically for Zeal PC. This collaboration underscores Gateron’s influence and dedication to catering to the enthusiasts’ market.


6. Mechanical Switches Accessories

A keycap-switch puller is a dual-purpose tool featuring looped tongs on one end for keycap removal and another set of tongs on the opposite end designed for extracting switches.

O-rings are small, circular pieces that fit under your keycaps to reduce the noise produced upon bottoming out, effectively dampening the sound.

O-rings won’t completely silence your keyboard, but they will significantly lessen the sound. They’re installed around the switch’s stem to achieve this effect.

When selecting O-rings, consider these three critical factors:

  1. Diameter: The size of the O-ring needs to match the stem’s size for a proper fit.
  2. Thickness (or Depth): This determines how much the key travel is reduced and affects the cushioning effect.
  3. Hardness of the Material: The material’s hardness impacts the feel of the keypress and the level of sound dampening.

When selecting O-rings for your mechanical keyboard, understanding the nuances of diameter, thickness, and hardness is crucial for enhancing your typing experience without compromising key functionality.


Cherry MX-compatible O-rings, typically 5 mm in diameter, are in wide usage. If uncertain about the size needed for your switches, research your specific switch brand or consult community recommendations to ensure compatibility.


O-ring thickness influences keycap travel distance. While a common thickness of 0.4 mm provides a noticeable reduction in travel, thinner O-rings at 0.2 mm offer a minimal change. Your preference for key travel will guide your choice in thickness.


O-ring hardness is indicated by values like “50A” and “80A,” referring to the Shore A hardness scale. This scale measures rubber flexibility, with 0 being very soft and 100 being extremely hard. For those desiring a softer feel, O-rings between 30-40A are in the best condition, whereas 70-80A O-rings cater to preferences for a firmer touch.

Little Tip: A hardness level of 40-50A is often ideal, balancing sound dampening with an effective cushioning feel. Beyond this range, O-rings may become too firm, diminishing their noise-reducing capabilities.

Installing Your O-rings

Installation is straightforward and requires only a keycap puller and some patience:

  1. Remove the keycaps using the keycap puller.
  2. Flip the keycaps over and carefully place the O-rings onto the stems of the keycaps.
  3. Ensure the O-rings are pressed down evenly against the stem’s end, avoiding any twisting or distortion. An uneven installation can affect the keycap travel and result in an inconsistent keypress feel.

Aim for the O-rings to be positioned as shown in the ideal example, flush against the stem’s end for optimal performance. Proper installation ensures enhanced typing comfort and sound reduction, elevating your mechanical keyboard experience.


7. Terminology

Understanding Mechanical Keyboard Terminology

Navigating the world of mechanical keyboards involves a plethora of terms. Here’s a breakdown to enhance your understanding:

Activation Point

The Activation Point, or Operating Position, is the specific point during a keypress at which the keyboard registers the action. It is essentially the travel distance needed for a keystroke to be acknowledged.

Bottoming Out

Bottoming out occurs when a key is pressed all the way down, causing the keycap to make contact with the upper housing of the switch. This action is beyond the point necessary for the keypress to be registered.

Clicky Switches

Clicky switches are known for producing an audible ‘click’ sound at the point of activation. They provide clear feedback that a key has been pressed. This feature is particularly appreciated by typists who value auditory confirmation of keystrokes.

Key Lifecycle

The key lifecycle refers to the durability of a key switch. It is measured in the number of activations it can withstand before failure. Mechanical keyboards typically boast a key lifecycle ranging from 20 to 70 million keystrokes.

Linear Switches

Characterized by their smooth and uninterrupted keystroke, linear switches offer a consistent press from top to bottom without tactile feedback or noise.

Operating Force

Operating Force, or Actuation Force, is the amount of pressure required to activate a key. It’s measured in centinewtons (cN) or gram-force (gf), indicating the force needed for a keypress to be recognized by the keyboard.

Plate Mounted vs. PCB Mounted
  • Plate Mounted: The switch is affixed to a metal plate located above the PCB, offering additional stability.
  • PCB Mounted: The switch is directly mounted onto the PCB, allowing for a slightly different typing feel and potentially easier switch replacement.
Tactile Switches

Tactile switches feature a noticeable bump mid-press, marking the actuation point. This tactile feedback helps typists know when a keypress has been registered without needing to bottom out.

Total Travel Distance

This term describes the full range a key can be pressed down. Understanding total travel distance is important for gauging the potential comfort and speed of typing on a mechanical keyboard.

Each of these elements plays a crucial role in the performance and feel of a mechanical keyboard. They guide enthusiasts in their quest for the perfect typing or gaming experience.



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