Types of Keyboard Switches


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Mechanical switches have recently been the go-to for both enthusiasts and casual users.¬†However, they aren’t the only switch type that provides a great feel and reliability. Some keyboard switches are even more interesting and potentially even superior to mechanical switches.

Just like keyboards, there are also different types of switches. Each has its own unique characteristics that are completely different from other types. Some of the common switches include mechanical switches, optical switches, hybrid mechanical switches, and Topre switches. 

Regardless of whether or not you plan on exploring other switch types, it is important to learn other available switches in the market. In this article, we will be going through the selling points of the various switches available in the market.

Types of Keyboard Switches

Mechanical Switches

Gateron Milky Yellow Switches

Mechanical switch keyboards are not your typical keyboard. Instead of the rubber membranes seen on traditional keyboards, mechanical switch keyboards feature switches below each key. As a result, mechanical keyboards don’t feel squishy; instead, you can tell that your every keypress is precisely recorded.

Mechanical switches are also significantly more durable than traditional membrane keyboards. Most mechanical switches can last up to 50 million keystrokes. Given their unique feel and durability, mechanical switches have become immensely popular among gamers, programmers, and other professionals. Mechanical switches are divided into three categories: linear, tactile, and clicky.

Linear Switches

A linear switch is a mechanical switch that emits only a low noise while providing a fluid and steady keystroke. This sort of mechanical switch is ideal for individuals who like fluid motions while typing and those who don’t enjoy the small bumps that tactile switches generate or the loud noises that clicky switches make. Gamers also love or prefer this sort of switch because it offers a steady keystroke, which allows for greater accuracy in competitive gaming.

On the other hand, if you are a person that is used to using the regular keyboard, you may have to think twice before quickly jumping to the linear switch. The reason for this is that you may accidentally bottom out the switches at first, causing little pain or discomfort in your fingers.

As previously stated, gamers like this sort of switch, especially at high levels of play. Thus if gaming is your primary motivation for buying or using a mechanical keyboard, we recommend you go for it.

Tactile switches

A tactile switch is a type of mechanical switch that generates a tactile bump and a fairly quiet audible click with each keystroke. This type of switch gives good typing feedback. It feels comfortable to use since its sound provides the idea that everything you type or input on the keyboard is being recorded.

This mechanical switch is ideal for starters or those who are unfamiliar with mechanical keyboards. With each keystroke, mechanical keyboards with tactile switches are easy to pick up and offer a delightful or gratifying feeling of bumps.

Tactile switches also produce or give off a small sound, which is ideal if you don’t want to draw attention to yourself, particularly if you stay in a public place. As previously stated, if you are new to mechanical keyboards and are looking for something that is beginner-friendly and gives you the feeling of pleasant bumps, then mechanical keyboards with tactile switches might be the one for you.

Clicky switches

The clicky switch, like the tactile switch, provides a tactile bump when a keystroke is made. However, unlike the tactile switch, the clicky switch emits a loud audio click when a keystroke is pressed. The clicky switch, out of all the switch types, provides the best feedback.

If you are someone who enjoys hearing clicky sounds and feeling tactile bumps, then the clicky switch might appeal to you. If you have a clicky switch, you should keep in mind that the loud sound it makes can be bothersome or distracting to everyone around you if you’re working in a shared environment. However, if you work alone and have a private quarter that is not shared with anyone, feel free to type away.

Optical Switches

Gateron Milky Yellow (Left) vs. Gateron Optical Yellow (Right)

Optical switches, unlike standard mechanical switches, which have plenty of moving parts and actuate via metallic contact, optical switches provide light-based actuation. Another advantage of an optical switch over their mechanical counterpart is that they are more silent because no sound is produced.

On the other hand, optical switches may feel less satisfying to use if you are used to hearing typing sounds. Optical switches are also less expensive than their equivalents, making them tempting to those looking for a less expensive option.

Hybrid Mechanical Membrane Switches

The hybrid mechanical membrane switch combines the soft texture of a typical keyboard with the quick and clicky response of a mechanical switch, bringing in a delightful and clear-cut experience. So if you are someone that is looking for a tactile click with a supple and softened touch, then the hybrid mechanical membrane switch might be the one for you. We also suggest that you take a look at the Razer Ornata V2 for an excellent example of this type of switch.

Topre Switches (Electrostatic, Capacitive)

Image Credit: Spaghetti488 via Creative Commons

What are Topre switches? Topre switches are electrostatic keyboard switches having the sensation of a rubber dome keyboard, but it has all the advantages of a mechanical switch. It has better tactility, emits less noise, and has non-squishy bottom out. Topre switches are also enjoyable and swift to use.

A fair reminder before purchasing one is that the keyboard can be a bit pricey due to its unique and distinctive design, but if you want to resale it, you can still get a nice price for it. If you’re serious about acquiring one, here are some of the brands or models we recommend checking out.