Mechanical keyboard switches are a crucial part of your keyboard setup, because they affect how typing feels and sounds. Even if you have fancy keycaps and a high-quality keyboard, bad switches can spoil the typing experience.
There are many keyboard switches out there such as Akko, Kailh, and Gazzew, but the two most popular are Cherry MX and Gateron. People in the Mechanical Keyboard Community often debate which is better. Some like Cherry for their history and switch quality, while others prefer Gateron for smoother keypresses and affordability.
In this article, we'll go over how keyboard switches work what the difference three types of switches are. We will then compare Cherry MX and Gateron switches to help you understand the differences how they affect your typing and gaming experience.
How Mechanical Switches Work: An Anatomy Lesson
Mechanical switches are very simple in the way that they work. When you take apart a switch, there are 4 main components.
Source: Photo by SteelSeries
- The Stem. The stem's shape impacts both the actuation point and travel distance of the switch. This is what determines if a switch is Tactile, Clicky, or Linear. Also what the keycap attaches to
- The Metal Spring. The spring guides the key back to its original position. the shape and weight of the spring will change the feel of a switch as well.
- The upper housing. Protects and guides the stem. Comes into contact with keycaps when you press the key.
- The Metal leaves & base housing. Where the upper housing clicks into, and also where the metal leaves are located, which is what registers a keypress. When you press down a key, this contact mechanism hits the PCB and closes the switch circuit which results in a key press.
Photo by Dygma
What Makes Switches Different? The 3 Types Of Mechanical Switches
In the world of mechanical switches, there are three primary categories: linear switches, clicky switches, and tactile switches. All 3 offer a different typing experience and it is important to determine which type of switch you want.
Source: Photo by Steelseries
Linear switches are known for their smooth and consistent keystrokes. When you press a key on a linear switch, it moves straight down without any tactile bump or audible click. This makes linear switches ideal for tasks that require rapid keypresses, such as gaming. They provide a consistent actuation force from top to bottom, which can help reduce fatigue during extended typing sessions.
Clicky switches are all about that satisfying "click" sound and tactile feedback. When you press a key on a clicky switch, you'll feel a noticeable bump, and you'll hear a distinct clicking noise. This feedback is beloved by many typists who enjoy the audible confirmation of each keypress.
Cherry MX Blue and Razer Green switches fall into the clicky switch category. They're excellent for typists who want that extra tactile sensation and enjoy the audible click as they type. However, it's worth noting that these switches can be quite loud, which may not be suitable for shared workspaces.
Tactile switches strike a balance between linear and clicky switches. When you press a key on a tactile switch, you'll feel a bump in the middle of the keypress, providing feedback that the key has actuated. However, unlike clicky switches, tactile switches are quieter because they lack the audible click sound.
Cherry MX Brown and Gateron Brown switches are the most common examples of tactile switches, found stock in many gaming keyboards. Brown switches are by many keyboard enthusiasts, considered the worst switches ever, and are not the best example for a tactile switch. Grey or Clear Switches are a better choice if you are able to customize your keyboard and wish to choose a tactile switch.
Comparing Cherry MX and Gateron Switches
Now that we've delved into the basics of mechanical switches, let's turn our attention to the heart of the matter: the distinctions between Cherry MX and Gateron switches. These two brands represent prominent choices in the realm of mechanical keyboard switches, each with its unique characteristics and loyal followings.
Cherry MX: Cherry MX switches originate from Cherry, a German company renowned for pioneering modern mechanical switches. With a legacy dating back decades, Cherry MX is often regarded as a symbol of switch excellence and reliability.
Gateron: Gateron switches, on the other hand, are crafted by Gateron, a Chinese manufacturer that has rapidly gained recognition in recent years. They've earned a reputation for producing high-quality switches at competitive price points, making them an appealing choice for budget-conscious enthusiasts.
Smoothness and Feel
Cherry MX: Cherry MX Switches are overall seen as scratchy switches and are not preferred by mechanical keyboard enthusiasts. There are some exceptions to this, such as the Ultraglide Cherry MX Black switches, which have a smoother feel.
Gateron: Gateron switches have garnered acclaim for their exceptionally smooth keypresses, often described as buttery-smooth. This smoothness contributes to a pleasant typing experience that many users find delightful. Gateron is a better choice if you don't want to lube your switches, and want a better stock switch typing sound.
Variety of Options:
Cherry MX: Cherry MX has a diverse range of switch types, including Red, Blue, Brown, Black, Green, and more. They also offer specialized switches tailored for specific use cases. Ideal for new mechanical keyboard enthusiasts who dont know where to start and want a high quality switch without being bombarded with the 1000s of options available.
Gateron: Gateron provides a wide selection of switches, encompassing the classics such as red, blue, black, etc. Unlike Cherry, Gateron collaborates with keyboard manufacturers to create custom switches, expanding the range of options available exponentially. They are always releasing new switches and are your best option if you are a mechanical keyboard enthusiast and want unlimited customization.
In conclusion, the choice between Cherry MX and Gateron switches ultimately boils down to personal preference. Some lean towards Cherry MX for their historical significance and established quality, while others favor Gateron for their exceptionally smooth keypresses and cost-effectiveness. When selecting between the two, consider your typing and gaming style to ensure the switch aligns with your preferences.
My Opinion As A Mechanical Keyboard Enthusiast Myself
As a mechanical keyboard enthusiast, I want a wide range of switches to pick from, that can sound good when they are stock, and when they are lubed. While Cherry MX hold the trophy for the innovation of the modern day keyboard switch, Gateron wins this overall competition for me. You can't beat a company which switches offer more customization and a smoother feel, at an even lower price.
Thank you for reading this blog and I hope you have learnt something new and are able to make a decision on which keyboard switch you will use for your mechanical keyboard build! Once your board is all complete, consider upgrading your keyboard's aesthetics with custom resin keycaps from Kayden's Keycaps. We offer customizable keycaps so you can match any keycap set you want, along with whatever profile or size you desire!