What is Actuation Travel of a Mechanical Switch?

actuation travel

Understanding actuation travel in mechanical switches is crucial for comprehending the mechanics behind mechanical keyboards and how they stand apart from other keyboard types.

Definition of Actuation Travel

  1. Basic Concept:
    • Actuation travel is the necessary distance for a keypress to be recognized or “actuate.” It dictates how far the key must be pressed down to trigger a response from the keyboard’s circuitry.
  2. Measurement:
    • Typically measured in millimeters, actuation travel varies across switches. For example, a Cherry MX Red switch has an actuation travel of approximately 2mm.

Importance of Actuation Travel

  1. Typing Experience:
    • The length of actuation travel profoundly impacts typing dynamics. Shorter actuation travels can facilitate faster typing but might increase accidental keystrokes.
  2. Gaming vs. Typing Preferences:
    • Gamers often favor switches with shorter actuation travel for swift responses, while typists may opt for longer travels for enhanced tactile feedback and precision.
  3. Switch Comparison:
    • Mechanical switches, such as Cherry MX, Topre, or Romer-G, offer distinct actuation travels, influencing their feel and functionality.

Actuation Travel and Other Keyboard Factors

  1. Actuation Force:
    • Actuation travel and force are interconnected, with the force being the required pressure to reach the actuation point. Together, they determine the switch’s feel.
  2. Overall Key Travel:
    • Actuation travel forms part of the overall key travel, extending from the initial press to the key’s bottom-out point.
  3. Customization Options:
    • While some mechanical keyboards offer customization for actuation travel, modifying actuation force is more commonly available.


Actuation travel is a pivotal element of mechanical keyboard switches, influencing responsiveness and tactile sensation. It varies among switch types, making it a critical consideration in selecting a mechanical keyboard. Whether for gaming, typing, or general use, understanding actuation travel allows users to choose a keyboard that aligns with their preferences for speed, accuracy, or feedback.


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