Mechanical keyboards have been the most popular keyboard type in the past couple of years. However, some people prefer other key switches, such as the ones found on laptops. What many are not aware of is that these laptop-style switches can also be found on various keyboards. These low-profile switches are known as Scissor switches.
Scissor Switches are a type of keyboard switch with a criss-cross rubber that looks like the letter “X.” This mechanism serves as a layer that dampens typing sounds and allows faster actuation thanks to the low profile design of these switches.
In this article, we will be discussing what scissor switches are. We will be talking about various topics, such as how they work and where they are used. And by the end of this article, consumers and enthusiasts should have a clear idea if these keyboards are right for them.
What Are Scissor Switches and How Do They Work?
Scissor switches are mostly seen in laptops. They have a low profile design and are made to be bottomed out to actuate. They are a variation of the Membrane Switch Technology that was introduced in the mid to late 90s.
As its name suggests, there is a scissoring mechanism found inside a switch. Once it closes, the switch actuates. This is considerably different from mechanical key switches since those require two metal points to meet before the switch actuates.
In addition, mechanical keyboards have different actuation points depending on the type and model of switch used. Some switches need to be bottomed out, while others have a higher actuation point. Scissor switches, in contrast, will generally feel the same regardless of the model of the keyboard.
The mechanism of scissor switches may initially seem bad since they needed to be bottomed out. However, when you consider that the travel distance of these switches is low, you will realize that they are actually very efficient.
The lower profile keys that most scissor switches have been preferred by some users and allow them to type or input commands faster. In addition, they significantly make less noise than membrane, rubber dome, or mechanical keyboards.
And lastly, scissor switches have no issues in terms of stability. They have no key wobble, and there is no risk of the keys getting detached while in use.
What Kinds of Keyboards Use Scissor Switches?
Scissor switches are commonly seen on laptop keyboards. Their low-profile design allows them to work well with the clamshell design of most laptops.
However, they have also been recently seen on desktop/external keyboards. Some examples include the Cougar Vantar. These keyboards serve a certain niche that prefers having lower profile keys than what most mechanical keyboards offer.
How Long Do Scissor Switches Last?
Unlike mechanical key switches, scissor switches do not have a promised lifespan. Some can easily break while others can last a few years. However, one thing is certain.
Given the fact that scissors switches are based on membrane keyboard technology, they can last a few years with proper use. However, they won’t last as long as other keyboard switch types, and they can easily break when misused.
In addition, scissors switches can easily malfunction when they get dirty. This is why it is highly advised for users to clear their keyboards from dust and debris on a regular basis.
Scissor Switches vs. Low Profile Mechanical Keyboards
The main appeal of scissor switches is their low-profile design. However, various mechanical key switch and mechanical keyboard companies have been experimenting with low-profile mechanical switches. Some of these companies include Cherry and Logitech G.
The aim of these mechanical switches is to improve the existing scissor-switch technology. They mimic the low-profile design of scissor switches but vastly improve the feel and durability since the internals mimic the ones found on traditional switches. These switches also allow users who prefer low-profile switches to experience their linear, tactile, and clicky offerings.
In addition, more gaming companies are experimenting with implementing mechanical switches on their laptop keyboards. Again, this alleviates issues such as key malfunctions due to dust or other forms of dirt and significantly improves the lifespan of the switches. It also introduces other features such as N-Key Rollover and Anti-Ghosting.
Of course, companies have played around with the idea of implementing gaming features to scissor switches in the past. However, they are limited by the fact that scissor switches are still membrane keyboards.
Are Scissor Switches Good For Gaming and Typing?
Scissor switches are generally not preferred for gaming. This is because most models lack the precision and feedback that other switch types provide. And overall, they mostly share the same problems as membrane keyboards.
Also, in terms of durability, scissor switches generally cannot withstand repeated actions. A lot of laptop keyboards that utilize scissors switches eventually break when subjected to heavy gaming sessions.
Of course, there are some scissor-switch-equipped gaming keyboards that have been introduced in the past. They add a layer of durability and functionality to the scissor-switch formula. However, there are very few gaming keyboards that have adopted this design due to the many challenges of the scissor-switch design.
Again, this is all very subjective and depends on the user’s personal preference. Some people like to play with scissor switches, while others prefer mechanical switches and other forms of switches.
In terms of typing-related tasks, scissor switches fare a lot better. The majority of typists perform well and enjoy using keyboards and laptops equipped with scissor switches.
Most find the snappy feel and quick response of these switches to be satisfying to type on. Also, since scissor switches are not loud, users can comfortably type on them in public areas such as restaurants, cafes, libraries, etc.
Are Scissor Switches Better Than Membrane Keyboards?
Scissors switches are technically considered to be membrane keyboards since they utilize the same key switch technology. However, they generally feel better and are more tactile than generic scissor-style switch keyboards. Also, their low-profile keycap design is something that a lot of users prefer over the usual high-profile membrane key switch design.
In addition, most scissor-switch keyboards generally feel more tactile than most low-cost membrane keyboards. Cheap membrane keyboards usually feel mushy and have no definition in their keystrokes. Unless we are talking about rubber dome keyboards, scissor-switch keyboards generally have a higher performance ceiling than membrane keyboards.
The KBE team is dedicated to sharing our knowledge and creating useful resources about computer keyboards. This article was written as a team collaboration, combining our knowledge and years of experience using, building and modding keyboards. Meet the team here.