Mechanical switches


This is the second version of the article about mechanical switches. The first one was written in 2014. Since then, the world of mechanics has changed, as has our understanding of switches. It has been significantly revised compared to the first version. We have abandoned the strict division into keyboards for typing and gaming, because this division does not justify itself. There are programmers who like Cherry MX Black, and gamers who enjoy Cherry MX Blue. Instead, we have tried to describe the switches from a general user's point of view, as we have a lot of experience with a wide range of mechanical keyboards and switches over the years.

Most switches originate as clones of Cherry MX or ALPS, so we will try to describe them in more detail, while a short guide will suffice for the clone switches.

Cherry MX Switches

First introduced on November 7, 1983 by the German company Cherry. Initially, only linear switches were available. Afterwards, the variety of switches was achieved by combining the actuation force, the presence or absence of tactile bump, and the presence/absence of a click. The switches are visually distinguished by the stem color.

Cherry MX switches

Cherry MX switches are essentially the quality standard in the industry. The gold-plated contacts do not oxidize over time and can be drizzled with coffee, cola or any other drink of your choice, then rinsed under running water, dried well and used again.

During production, special attention is paid to precision and accuracy, which helps to avoid failures, breakdowns, double clicks, rattling, and other unpleasant features common in cheap Chinese clones.

Cherry MX RGB Switches

Cherry MX Red RGB

In 2014, an RGB version with a transparent case was introduced. The switches were developed jointly by Corsair and Cherry as part of a project to create full-color keyboard backligh. After implementation, Corsair had the exclusive right to release a keyboard with these switches for the first six months. The operating principle is quite simple: a diode is soldered onto the PCB, and thanks to the transparent and light-diffusing case. The light passes directly under the key and illuminates the space around it:

Cherry MX RBG

Cherry MX Brown (tactile)

Cherry MX Brown
Cherry MX Brown animation
Cherry MX Brown diagram

These switches are considered to be universal: quite silent compared to Cherry MX Blue and Cherry MX Green, because they don't click, but at the same time, the actuation point is felt quite well: it's easy to determine when it's time to release the key without fully pressing it. This feature will please those who do a lot of work with text. So if you don't exactly know what you want, feel free to choose Cherry MX Brown.

  • As a first mechanical keyboard
  • For casual gaming
  • For home use
  • For office use

Listen to the sound

Cherry MX Blue (tactile, clicky)

Cherry MX Blue
Cherry MX Blue animation
Cherry MX Blue diagram

Cherry MX Blue is the love of many mechanical keyboard users. Their click reminds one of a typewriter, but the click is less loud and screeching. Besides evoking memories, the click lets you feel the actuation point more vividly, making typing on these switches even more comfortable and pleasant than on Cherry MX Brown. Moreover, they are relatively light to press, so your fingers don't tire while typing.

But there are downsides: using such a keyboard in an open space might be inadvisable as the clicking sound could potentially disturb your colleagues. Some believe that due to the large distance between the actuation/deactivation points, fast frequent keystrokes may not always be processed, so Cherry MX Blue is not very suitable for gaming. On the other hand,others have no problems with frequent clicks and consider the issue to be overblown, so, as always, it's all very subjective.

  • For a private office, or for an office with non-irritable colleagues
  • For home use, as long as you won't wake anyone up at night
  • For a seasoned typist
  • For those who love the warm, nostalgic clicks

Listen to the sound

Cherry MX Red (linear)

Cherry MX Red
Cherry MX Red animation
Cherry MX Red diagram

Cherry MX Red switches are loved by gamers. These are the most common switches for gaming. They are linear, which is convenient for fast, multiple presses. They are also quite easy to press, unlike Cherry MX Black (45g vs 60g). This is both a plus and a minus: fingers get less tired, but it's easier to accidentally press an unwanted key. It’s up to you: either increase the accuracy of your presses, or train your fingers.

Overall, Cherry MX Red switches give a feeling of softness and smoothness, and it's not just gamers who often fall in love with them. Working with them is indeed a pleasure: your fingers literally float while typing.

  • For gamers whose fingers get tired, or for those who find other switches a bit heavy
  • For an open workspace to relax without disturbing colleagues too much
  • For lovers of softness and smoothness
  • For home use
  • For the office

Listen to the sound

Cherry MX Silent Red (linear)

Cherry MX Silent Red
Cherry Mx Silent Red animation
Cherry MX Silent Red diagram

Introduced in collaboration with Corsair in 2015, Cherry MX Silent Red switches are designed for those who seek ultimate silence at any cost. Unlike the balanced Cherry MX Red switches, these have an abundance of softness: the switch incorporates a sound dampening foam that muffles the sound of plastic hitting plastic, both when pressing and releasing the key. Because of this effect, some people find the sensation somewhat vague, as if pressing into a pillow. But then again, some people actually enjoy this softness. Try poking a finger at the table, then at your palm — you'll understand what this means. But Cherry MX Silent Red switches have a distinct advantage: they are indeed almost noiseless.

  • For an office where colleagues are especially irritable
  • For home use, where people have a very light sleep
  • For those who want something new and unusual
  • For particularly fierce gamers, whose aggressive key presses are well softened by these switches

Listen to the sound

Cherry MX Black (linear)

Cherry MX Black
Cherry MX Black animation
Cherry MX Black diagram

First introduced in 1984, these are among the oldest mechanical switches. Also one of the stiffest in the line. A popular choice among gamers. On one hand, this might deter some, as more force than usual is needed for actuation. On the other hand, this feature ensures exceptional accuracy when working with the keyboard, as accidental presses are completely ruled out. Also, this stiffness provides a nice clear feeling, which is why many love Cherry MX Black switches. Especially among gamers, these switches have a lot of supporters: games require fast and accurate presses over short periods of time, so fingers do not get tired.

  • For gamers
  • For enthusiasts who love to genuinely tap the keys
  • For home use

Listen to the sound

Cherry MX Clear (tactile)

Cherry MX Clear
Cherry MX Clear animation
Cherry MX Clear diagram

These switches are rather uncommon or rare to come across. Their working principle is similar to Cherry MX Brown but with a more clear tactile bump. They are perfect for those who find the tactile sensation of Cherry MX Brown insufficient but don't prefer clicky switches. These switches are definitely not for beginners.

Cherry MX Clear switches are often chosen for a third or fourth mechanical keyboard when users already know exactly what they want. In addition to the more pronounced tactile feedback, they are also quite firm, with an actuation force of 60-80 grams compared to 40-60 grams for Cherry MX Brown, which helps prevent accidental key presses.

  • For experienced mechanical keyboard enthusiasts seeking to try something new
  • For those who are not fond of clicky switches but enjoy tactile bump
  • For individuals with strong fingers
  • For home use
  • For the office

Cherry MX Green (tactile, clicky)

Cherry MX Green
Cherry MX Green animation
Cherry MX Green diagram

Like Cherry MX Clear, Cherry MX Green switches are also quite rare to come across. They work on the same principle as Cherry MX Blue, but with a stiffer spring. Just like with Cherry MX Clear, purchasing a keyboard with green switches is recommended in two cases: when you are certain that blue switches are not firm enough for you, and for the purpose of expanding your collection to try something new.

The advantage of these switches, similar to other stiff ones, is that accidental key presses are much more difficult to make. We highly recommend considering the purchase of noise-dampening O-rings for such a keyboard to reduce the noise level slightly.

  • For experienced mechanical keyboard enthusiasts
  • For enthusiasts who love to genuinely tap the keys
  • For those who can't live without the satisfying click of keys

Listen to the sound

Cherry MX Speed Silver (linear)

Cherry MX Speed SIlver
Cherry MX Speed SIlver
Cherry MX Speed Silver diagram

Introduced in 2015, Cherry MX Speed Silver switches are essentially the same as Cherry MX Red switches, but with a shortened key travel distance. The metal contact leave is lubricated in the area that comes into contact with the stem, resulting in an exceptionally smooth and linear sensation when pressing the keys. They are positioned as the fastest switches in the Cherry MX lineup. With a 40% reduction in key travel distance to actuation (1.2mm compared to the standard 2mm in regular switches), they are well-suited for gamers who require the utmost responsiveness to their keystrokes and for those who find the longer key travel of standard switches that prevent you from typing even faster. It does feel quite dynamic when you use it.

  • For fast-paced gamers
  • For fast typists
  • For your collection
  • For office use

Listen to the sound

Cherry MX Nature White (linear)

Cherry MX Natural White
Cherry MX Natural White animation
Cherry MX Nature White diagram

First announced in October 2015 in the Ducky Shine 5 keyboards, the primary audience for these switches is gamers who find Cherry MX Red too light to press and Cherry MX Black too tiring on their fingers. Cherry MX Nature White switches strike a balance: 52 grams of actuation force, compared to Red (45 grams) and Black (60 grams). Some believe that they may eventually become the standard in the world of gaming switches.

  • For gamers who have difficulty choosing between Cherry MX Red and Black switches
  • r long-time enthusiasts of linear switches
  • For those who are particular about the actuation force
  • For your collection
  • For office use


Topre switch
Topre switch scheme

Topre switches are electrostatic capacitive switches designed by the Japanese company Topre Corporation. The first Topre keyboard was introduced in 1983. The Topre switch has the following construction: a key is located above a convex rubber dome, and beneath it is a conical coiled spring; the spring itself is placed directly above the PCB. Although these switches are separate components of the keyboard, they are all mounted together on a single plate. The rubber dome is the source of the majority of resistance and tactility.

There's no need to worry that the rubber dome will break down or lose its properties, as can happen with cheap membrane keyboards. Keyboards with Topre switches serve their happy owners for decades.

Which category do Topre switches belong to? The structure of the switches can be characterized as "hybrid": since their construction includes a rubber membrane, it would seem incorrect to categorically label them as "mechanical" – perhaps even the term "semi-mechanical" isn't quite right. But you can't call them "membrane" either – after all, they have springs!

Topre 30g, 45g

Topre diagram

At first, Topre switches feel like improved membrane switches with a rubber dome; then it seems as if you're working with mechanical switches like Cherry MX Red or Alps SKCM Cream Damped. The keystrokes are very smooth, and the tactile point is almost at the very beginning of the stroke. After passing it, the resistance almost disappears, which typically results in pressing the keys all the way. The actuation point is in the middle of the stroke, but you are unlikely to feel it. When pressed to the end, the switch makes a characteristic and loud "click!", and when returning to its initial position, the sound is approximately the same. Overall, users agree that Topre switches are quieter than most mechanical switches and have a pleasant sound.

In combination with a lack of tactile bump, this can lead to users unfamiliar with these switches accidentally pressing some keys. This problem is especially relevant for keyboards like RealForce, which have switches with different weight coefficients for different fingers.

  • For sophisticated users who know what they want
  • For those who work at their keyboards a lot
  • For your collection
  • For any office, even with irritable colleagues
  • For home use


ALPS switches

ALPS switches for mechanical keyboards were manufactured by the same-name Japanese company until 1996. All switches that call themselves ALPS or Alps are currently varying degrees of accurate copies of those very old ALPS. The original switches are often referred to in foreign sources as "Alps Complicated" due to their construction consisting of 10 parts for each switch. There were linear, tactile, clicking, and other versions of Alps switches.

The most popular clones at the moment are switches from Matias, whose design is greatly simplified relative to the original. If you're not an enthusiast, it's not worth paying attention to other clones.

ALPS (and similar) can be a great alternative to Cherry MX switches: if you like tactility and want something more than Cherry MX Brown and Cherry MX Clear, then ALPS is what you need.

Despite the fact that ALPS switches for mechanical keyboards are no longer produced, if desired and with enough persistence, you can find keyboards in good condition on the Internet, for example on eBay.

  • For experimenters
  • For those who feel that Cherry MX is “not quite right”
  • For broadening of outlook
  • For your collection


Matias swiches

One of the most famous clones of ALPS are mounted in Matias keyboards. They are assembled in China by Gaote company (Dongguan Gaote Electronics Co., Ltd.). The design of Matias switches is significantly simplified compared to the original ALPS.


Disassembled ALPS switch


Disassembled Matias switch

They have a fully transparent case, which allows installing LEDs directly on the board under the switch, as is the case with Cherry MX RGB.

Mechanical Matias switches exist in three variations: clicky, tactile (quiet click), and linear. As with Cherry MX, visually, the types of switches are distinguished by the colors of the stem.

In terms of feel, they are tighter and more distinct than Cherry MX: pressing requires more effort, but the tactile bump and click are significantly more bright and intensely felt (as if comparing Cherry MX Brown and Cherry MX Clear). Some say that after Matias all Cherry MX feel almost linear :)

Another important difference is that the resistance of the switch drops after the key triggers, which contributes to the full pressing of the key. For those used to not bottoming out, this feature may seem annoying.

Matias Click (tactile, clicky)

Matias Clicky Switch
Matias Click diagram

Switches with a strong, distinct click. Definitely not the quietest, so they won't suit people with sensitive hearing. Choosing such switches for office work should be done cautiously. They are heavier than Cherry MX, and their click is stronger. The actuation point is slightly higher than that of Cherry MX Blue. Some consider it an advantage.

  • For enthusiasts who love to genuinely tap the keys
  • For those nostalgic for the clicks of a typewriter
  • For fans of something new
  • For your collection

Matias Quiet Click (tactile)

Matias Quiet Click Switch
Matias Quiet Click diagram

When developing these switches, Matias tried to make them as quiet as possible, and they succeeded: the sound they make is almost as quiet as a membrane keyboard, thanks to the damped sliders inside the switch. In fact, the word 'Click' in the switch's name doesn't reflect the reality: the switch is not clicky (what would be the point of making it quiet), but tactile. They feel like Cherry MX Brown, but like with other Matias switches, they are heavier, and the tactile bump is more strong.

  • For enthusiasts who love to genuinely tap the keys
  • For those who find the tactility of Cherry MX Brown insufficient
  • For those looking for something new
  • For your collection

Matias Quiet Linear (linear)

Matias Quiet LInear Switch
Matias Quiet Linear diagram

Matias linear switches have a smoother and heavier press than Cherry MX Silent Red; otherwise, they are very similar. Matias Quiet Linear are very quiet compared to regular switches without damped sliders, so they fit perfectly both in the office and at home for gaming. Some claim that these switches are somewhat similar to Topre, just a bit heavier.

  • For enthusiasts who love to genuinely tap the keys
  • For those looking for something new
  • For office use
  • For your collection


These are inexpensive Chinese clones of Cherry MX switches. They have been produced relatively recently, so, unlike Cherry's 30-year history, they have not been studied and tested by the community well enough to definitively state their reliability or lack thereof.

Kailh switches

When it comes to how they feel, they have a less smooth and even action. There is a roughness felt when pressing (it's common to find reviews mentioning a "sandy" feel upon pressing). Keyboards with Kailh switches often encounter a problem with "rattling" or "double-clicking", where pressing a key results in two letters being typed instead of just one. However, it's important to consider that the price of mechanical keyboards with Kailh switches is significantly lower.

Overall, comparing Cherry and Kailh isn't entirely accurate, as these are switches from different price categories. If you're buying a cheap mechanical keyboard for $30-40, then Kailh switches are quite good, as no one would hope for a miracle from a mechanical keyboard at that price. It's different when they're mounted in premium keyboard models priced at $100-150. In our opinion, such keyboards should be looked at with caution, as there are many quality and interesting options available for this money.

To substantiate our point, let's show you an example of poor manufacturing quality (likely, such issues are not present in 100% of Kailh switches):

Cherry and Kailh contacts

It's worth noting that the quality of Kailh switches has been improving year by year. The first versions were VERY poor, but over time, the number of negative reviews has decreased.

Kailh Brown (tactile)

Kailh Brown

Clones of Cherry MX Brown, they are similar in feel and actuation force to the original (see Cherry MX Brown).

Kailh Blue (tactile, clicky)

Kailh Blue

Clones of Cherry MX Blue, they are similar in feel and actuation force to the original (see Cherry MX Blue).

Kailh Red (linear)

Kailh Red

Clones of Cherry MX Red, they are similar in feel and actuation force to the original (see Cherry MX Red).

Kailh Black (linear)

Kailh Black

Clones of Cherry MX Black, they are similar in feel and actuation force to the original (see Cherry MX Black).


Razer switches

Razer switches are clones of Cherry MX switches. In 2014-2015, the mechanical keyboard market faced a shortage of Cherry MX switches. The manufacturing capacity of Cherry Company was not enough to satisfy the growing demand for switches. Therefore, manufacturers had to look for other options. Primarily, this, rather than a desire to cheapen production, was the main reason many companies, including Razer, switched to Chinese Cherry MX alternatives.

As of writing this article, there are at least two manufacturers of Razer switches: Kaihua (they produce Kailh switches) and Greetech. Rumor has it that all keyboards from the end of 2015 are manufactured with switches made by Greetech. Again, according to rumors, Razer moved away from Kailh switches due to their inconsistent quality.

The main criticism of Razer switches relates to inconsistency. The feeling of actuation can vary from switch to switch: some click more loudly, while others barely make a sound. The action in some is smoother, while in others it is less so.

Razer Green (tactile, clicky)

Razer Green
Razer Green diagram

The tactile bump is slightly less pronounced than on Cherry MX Blue. Otherwise, it's pretty much the same click.

Razer Orange (tactile)

Razer Orange
Razer Orange diagram

Similar to Razer Green, compared to Cherry MX Brown, the tactile bump is less pronounced and the key press is a bit lighter.

Razer Yellow (linear)

Razer Yellow
Razer Yellow diagram

They are very similar to Cherry MX Speed Silver: the same shortened total travel and the same force required to press the key. They are not as smooth as Cherry MX, you may encounter a "scratchy" feeling, but it's not always the case.


Perhaps the most famous, popular, high-quality, and community-loved Cherry MX clones. They are mostly loved for their predictable quality (the switches are identical to each other in quality and feel when pressed) and for a smoother key travel, even compared to Cherry MX. As for the downsides – the stem on Gateron wobbles noticeably more than that of Cherry, which can make typing on tactile and clicking switches annoying, despite the soft travel.

Gateron switch

The colors of the stems do not correspond to the parameters of the Cherry switches. For example, Gateron Clear are linear, while Cherry MX Clear are tactile. Below is a comparison table between Gateron and Cherry MX.

Switch Type Actuation Force Cherry MX Clones
Gateron Clear Linear 35g --
Gateron Red Linear 45g MX Red
Gateron Yellow Linear 50g --
Gateron Black Linear 65g MX Black
Gateron Blue Clicky 55g MX Blue
Gateron Green Clicky 75g MX Green
Gateron Brown Tactile 50g MX Brown


Zealio Switches

The Zealio switches came about largely thanks to the community: many people love the pronounced tactile bump of Cherry MX Clear switches, but for many people, the actuation force is too high. As a result, Zeal PC decided to make their ideal switches. They are manufactured in the same place as Gateron and, essentially, are Gateron. The only differences from standard Gateron (apart from the actuation force) are the gold-plated springs that are resistant to corrosion and a more pronounced tactile bump, achieved by using a more angular stem shape:

Zealio vs Cherry MX Brown

The switches turned out to be excellent: very smooth travel, great tactile feedback, and balanced actuation force. The community loved them so much that they're almost never in stock, and sometimes you can only "get" Zealios by pre-order. Moreover, they are quite expensive.


Outemu Brown
Outemu Blue
Outemu Red
Outemu Black

These are yet another Chinese clones of Cherry MX switches. They are some of the cheapest mechanical switches known outside of China. They became popular due to their use in super-cheap Chinese Motospeed keyboards (which you can find for $30). It's not worth expecting good quality for such money. The main issue is discrepancy. Switches of the same color on the same keyboard can vary in actuation force, sound, and overall feel (although this is a common problem with many Chinese switches). High quality of plastic and contact melting is also not something to talk about.

The color distinctions are the same as Cherry MX: there are brown, blue, red, and black switches. Tactile, clicky, and linear respectively. Unlike Cherry, Outemu are tighter.

In our very subjective opinion, it's better to add a couple of tens of dollars and buy a keyboard at least on Kailh switches.