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Mechanical keyboards have been trending for several years, and they show no signs of slowing down. Professional gamers see them as essential equipment, developers and writers appreciate their excellent tactile response and substantially longer lifespan, and even casual computer users are increasingly often wondering what all the fuss is about.

Previously, we published a concise guide to mechanical keyboards, and now it’s time to dig deeper into the fascinating world of mechanical keyboard switches. Trust us: Cherry MX switches are just a sweet cherry on top of a giant, delicious cake. Nonetheless, their popularity and influence make them the ideal way how to start this article.

Cherry MX Switches

Founded in 1953 in Germany, Cherry is currently the leading manufacturer of mechanical switches, offering a popular line of key switches, Cherry MX, which ranges from very light switches with negligible tactile response to heavy switches with a pronounced bump and loud auditory feedback. All switches from Cherry have gold crosspoint contacts and are required to meet Cherry’s strict quality control specifications. What that means for you as a customer is a consistent typing experience and long lifespan of any Cherry MX-equipped mechanical keyboard. For a quick comparison, you can also look at our infographic, which compares main Cherry MX switches in an easy-to-understand way.

cherry-mx-red-key-switches

Cherry MX Red

 Type: Linear

 Actuation force: 45 cN

 Recommended usage: Quiet typing and fast-paced gaming

This light mechanical switch is the most popular switch in the MX family. Its action is linear, and the lack of tactile feedback makes it especially suited for fast-paced gaming, where speed and accuracy are valued above everything else. An RGB version of the Cherry MX Red switch can be found on the Corsair Gaming K70 mechanical gaming keyboard.

Cherry MX Blue

 Type: Clicky

 Actuation force: 50 cN

 Recommended usage: Typing

Despite having only 5 cN higher actuation force than the Cherry MX Red switch, the loud click the Cherry MX Blue switch makes when the inner slider hits the bottom of the housing would make you believe that it requires a much higher force to press. The loud sound coupled with the switch’s tactile bump make typing very enjoyable. So much so that many people find themselves pressing keys on their keyboards just for fun. The Cherry MX Blue switch has become synonymous with Das Keyboards, which are known for their incredible craftsmanship.

Cherry MX Green

 Type: Clicky, Tactile

 Actuation force: 80 cN

 Recommended usage: Stiffer MX Blue

Introduced as a stiffer version of the Cherry MX Blue switch, the Cherry MX Green were popularized by the CM Storm QuickFire Rapid mechanical keyboard. The firm spring inside the switch helps it return to the original position much quicker, making you feel like your keyboard is actively responding to your every command. While that may be ideal for a quick CS:GO match, long typing sessions can lead to discomfort. We would certainly not recommend Green switches to someone who’s switching from a regular membrane keyboard.

Cherry MX Brown

 Type: Tactile

 Actuation force: 45 cN

 Recommended usage: Mix of gaming and typing

When in doubt, go with the Brown. From the Logitech G610 Orion to the Corsair STRAFE, this universal switch is a wonderful middle-ground for people who would like to improve their gaming performance without sacrificing their typing comfort. The tactile bump on this switch isn’t very pronounced, but it still preserves the essence of the MX Blue switch.

Cherry MX Black

 Type: Linear

 Actuation force: 60 cN

 Recommended usage: As a stiffer alternative to the Cherry MX Red

Found, for example, on the Rosewill Mechanical Gaming Keyboard, the Cherry MX Black switch is a stiffer alternative to the Cherry MX Red. Some gamers say that the heavier action makes it more accurate by preventing accidental key presses.

Cherry MX Tactile Grey

 Type: Tactile

 Actuation force: 80 cN

 Recommended usage: Spacebar

The most likely place to find this key switch in the wild is under the spacebar in keyboards with Cherry MX Clear switches, which is how it’s intended to be used.

Cherry MX Linear Grey

 Type: Clicky

 Actuation force: 105 cN

 Recommended usage: Spacebar

This clicky brother of the MX Tactile Grey switch is used as a spacebar switch in keyboards that use Cherry MX White switches.

Cherry MX Clear

 Type: Tactile

 Actuation force: 55 cN

 Recommended usage: A more tactile alternative to the Cherry MX Brown switch

The action of this switch is very similar to the Cherry MX Brown, but with a much higher resistance at the bottom. This increase in resistance serves as a cushion, potentially reducing the risk of developing a repetitive stress injury.

Cherry MX White

 Type: Clicky

 Actuation force: 80 cN

 Recommended usage: Less extensive typing

Multiple versions of the Cherry MX White switch have been produced over the years. The latest version is similar to the MX Blue switch. However, the higher actuation force could make longer typing sessions quite tiring, so keep that in mind.

Kailh (Kaihua) Switches

Kaihua Electronics is a Chinese manufacturer of Kailh switches, the most popular clones of the Cherry MX line. Remember those gold crosspoint contacts on Cherry MX switches? Well, those are not present on Kailh switches, and that’s practically the only significant difference between the two brands. Kaihua currently manufacturers 4 Kailh switches: Black (60 cN), Red (50 cN), Brown (60 cN), and Blue (60 cN). Regarding their fell, they closely match their Cherry MX counterparts.​

SteelSeries Apex M800 Kailh Switches

Kailh Black

 Type: Linear

 Actuation force: 60 cN

 Recommended usage: Less fast-paced gaming

Whereas all other Kailh switches require slightly more actuation force than Cherry switches, the Kailh Black switch is virtually indistinguishable from the Cherry MX original. Some production batches exhibit slightly looser tolerances than other, but the overall value is excellent, and you don’t have to be afraid to give this knock-off a try.

Kailh Red

 Type: Linear

 Actuation force: 50 cN

 Recommended usage: Frantic, fast-paced gaming

Players of twitch shooters usually go with the Cherry MX because of its low actuation force. But not everyone agrees that a lower actuation force necessarily makes a switch more responsive. Some like to feel a slight resistance as they dance with their fingers on the WASD key cluster. For those, Kailh Red switches with their actuation force of 50 cN might be a better alternative.

Kailh Brown

 Type: Tactile

 Actuation force: 60 cN

 Recommended usage: Anything from gaming to typing and general office work

Compared to the light and tactile Cherry MX switch, the version from Kailh requires a lot more force to activate. The extra force makes Kailh Brown switches feel more precise, but it will inevitably make your fingers feel tired sooner than lighter switches would.

Kailh Blue

 Type: Clicky

 Actuation force: 60 cN

 Recommended usage: Extensive typing

With 10 extra cN of actuation force compared to the Cherry original, the Blue switch from Kailh is bestsuited for experienced typists with plenty of stamina and finger strength.

SteelSeries QS1

 Type: Linear

 Actuation force: 45 cN

 Recommended usage: Professional gaming

One switch from Kaihua that’s not a copy of Cherry MX was manufactured specifically for the SteelSeries Apex M800 mechanical gaming keyboard. The SteelSeries QS1 is a low-profile switch that is said to be the fastest mechanical switch on the market, outperforming the Cherry MX Red by 25%. This linear switch requires 45 cN to actuate and is recommended for fast-paced gaming.​

Razer Switches

Razer has created their own clones of Cherry MX switches. More specifically, the Cherry MX Blue and the Cherry MX Brown. To make things more confusing, the Razer switch that corresponds to the MX Blue is green, and the Razer’s variant of the MX Brown is orange. Check out the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate 2014 Elite for the green switch and Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Stealth 2014 Elite for the orange switch.

razer-green-switches

Razer Green

 Type: Clicky

 Actuation force: 50 cN

 Recommended usage: Typing

Cherry MX states that the lifespan of their Blue switches is 50 million strokes, and the same goes for Kailh Blue switches. To up the ante, Razer has improved quality control to increase the lifespan of the Razer Green switch to 60 million strokes. When you take into consideration that the average typist can make over a million keystrokes in just 2 months, those extra 10 million can go a long way.

Razer Orange

 Type: Tactile

 Actuation force: 45 cN

 Recommended usage: General computing

Just like the Cherry MX Brown switch, the Razer Orange has the reset and actuation points very close to each other. Consequently, key presses are registered quicker and double tapping comes naturally.​

Gaote Switches

A Chinese component manufacturer Gaote produces the Gaote PG150 series of Cherry MX clone switches and is suspected of producing other Cherry MX clones for their partners. The PG150 series is often rebranded as OTM or Noppoo or Outemu. They used to manufacture clones of other Cherry switches, but those are now obsolete. In terms of their quality, they are roughly on par with Kaihua switches, with quality control being the biggest problem.

gaote-key-switches

Gaote Black

 Type: Linear

 Actuation force: 60 cN

 Recommended usage: Casual gaming

Despite having the same actuation force as Gaote Blue switches, Gaote Black are the company’s stiffest switch. Perhaps it’s the lack of the pronounce click that makes Blue switches so recognizable, or maybe it’s the linear nature of the switch. In either case, Gaote Black are great for people who prefer hefty switches that don’t produce too much noise when actuated.

Gaote Red

 Type: Linear

 Actuation force: 45 cN

 Recommended usage: Gaming

Even though Gaote is trying to improve their production quality, their version of Cherry MX Red switches feels noticeably less precise. Keyboards with these switches are known for their inconsistency so professional gamers should avoid them and, instead, pay more for real Cherry MX Red switches.

Gaote Blue

 Type: Clicky

 Actuation force: 60 cN

 Recommended usage: Typing

Gaote Blue switches are surprisingly similar to Cherry MX Blue switches with just one important difference: they are even louder than Blues from Cherry. If your coworkers or roommates can barely stand Reds, don’t even think about purchasing a mechanical keyboard with Gaote Blue switches.

Gaote Tea (Brown)

 Type: Tactile

 Actuation force: 55 cN

 Recommended usage: General computing

With roughly the same actuation force as the famous Microsoft Ergonomic Keyboard 4000, Geote Tea switches could be the perfect stepping stone for typists who would like to improve their headshot count by using a mechanical gaming keyboard specifically for gaming.​

Greetech Switches

Another Chinese company, Greetech, manufactures a series of Cherry MX clone switches known as GT02. The series can be recognized because of the company’s branding on the top part of the key switch housing.

greetech-switches

Greetech Brown

 Type: Tactile

 Actuation force: 60 cN

 Recommended usage: General computing

Just like the version from Cherry, the Browns are geared toward general computer usage, including writing, gaming, and web browsing. Many users of keyboards that feature these switches report that they don’t feel as smooth as the original version. On the other hand, mechanical keyboards with Greetech switches tend to be considerably more affordable so it may be a fair tradeoff.

Greetech Blue

 Type: Clicky

 Actuation force: 60 cN

 Recommended usage: Typing

While not as loud as Blue switches from Gaote, Greetech Blues are still louder and more tactile than Cherry MX Blue switches. Everyone has to decide for themselves whether that’s a good or bad thing.

Greetech Red

 Type: Linear

 Actuation force: 60 cN

 Recommended usage: Gaming

Compared to Cherry MX Red switches, Greetech Red are heavier and smoother. In fact, they are much closer to Cherry MX Black than Red switches.

Greetech Black

 Type: Linear

 Actuation force: 80 cN

 Recommended usage: Shorter typing or gaming sessions

The action of these switches resembles Black switches from Cherry, but their actuation force is equal to Cherry MX Green switches, the stiffest switch in Cherry’s lineup.​

​Gateron Switches

Headquartered in Guangdong Huizhou City, China, Gateron manufacturers high-end clones of Cherry MX switches, some of which are distributed solely by Zeal PC, a Canadian-based shop specialized in mechanical keyboard related accessories. Regular variants of Gateron switches include the Gateron Red (45 cN), Gateron Black (50 cN), Gateron Blue (55 cN), and Gateron Tea (45 cN). The Gateron Tea switch is an equivalent of the Cherry MX Brown. Out of all Chinese clones of Cherry MX switches, Gateron is consistently rated as the most reliable and accurate. Except for the leaf springs that perform the electronic switching, Gateron switches are virtually identical to Cherry MX.

gateron-switches

Gateron Red

 Type: Linear

 Actuation force: 45 cN

 Recommended usage: Gaming

Gateron Red switches are extremely hard to distinguish from Cherry MX Red switches. The actuation force is the same, the action is consistent, and we have yet to see users complain about the reliability of these switches.

Gateron Black

 Type: Linear

 Actuation force: 50 cN

 Recommended usage: Gaming

With just 5 cN higher actuation forced compared to Gateron Red switches, Gateron’s Black switches are a comfortable middle-ground for people who find Cherry Red switches too light and the Black switches too stiff.

Gateron Blue

 Type: Clicky

 Actuation force: 55 cN

 Recommended usage: Typing

If you really focus, you can hear a negligible difference in the sound of Gateron Blue switches and Cherry MX Blue switches. Personally, we like Blues from Cherry slightly better, but your mileage may vary.

Gateron Tea

 Type: Tactile

 Actuation force: 45 cN

 Recommended usage: General computing

Again confirming its position as the leading manufacturer of Cherry MX knockoffs, Gateron has nailed their Tea switches, which are a carbon copy of Cherry MX Brown switches.

Omron Switches

This Japanese company has made a name for itself in the world of mechanical keyboards with their Das Keyboard Gamma Zulu and Logitech Romer-G mechanical switches.

Das Keyboard Gamma Zulu

 Type: Tactile

 Actuation force: 45 cN

 Recommended usage: Any situation where durability is critically important

Das Keyboard Gamma Zulu is a tactile switch manufactured for the Das Keyboard 5Q, which was announced on Kickstarter in July 2016. The switch is characterized by its extremely long lifetime of 100 million key presses, actuation force of 45 cN, and a noticeable tactile response.

Logitech Romer-G

 Type: Tactile

 Actuation force: 45 cN

 Recommended usage: Gaming

The Logitech Romer-G switch is very like the Gamma Zulu, but its total travel distance is just 3.0mm, instead of 3.5mm. The switch was revealed with the announcement of the Logitech G910 Orion Spark keyboard in 2014. The switch has a high actuation point of 1.5 mm, compared to the usual actuation point of around 2 mm in the case of Cherry MX switches. The Logitech Romer-G switch most resemblesthe Cherry MX Brown, but it’s geared toward gaming, as opposed to general usage.​

Matias Switches

Let’s now jump to another continent and look at Matias Corporation, a computer accessories manufacturer based in Toronto. Compared to many companies on this list, Matias still vividly remembers its teenage years, during which it produced its famous Tactile Pro mechanical keyboard. The fact that you can buy the keyboard to this day should tell you a thing or two about its quality.

matias-switches

Since then, the company has released several other mechanical keyboards, including the ergonomic Matias Ergo Pro. Matias was initially using the Alps SKBL/SKBM series line of switches, but they decided to start producing their own when the word got out that the production of Alps switches is about to be terminated.

Matias has taken the design of Alps switches and used it to create their own. Their current line of switches includes the Click switch, Quiet Click switch, and Quiet Linear switch.

Matias Click

 Type: Clicky

 Actuation force: 70 cN

 Recommended usage: Work

As a clone of the Alps SKBM White switch, the Matias Click switch produces an easily recognizable noise when it bottoms out. Fast typists with strong fingers can make a keyboard with these switches produce something commonly called “the chorus of springs.” Just like all Matias switches, the Click will mostly appeal to those who are fond of old IBM mechanical keyboards and use their computer mostly for work.

Matias Quiet Click

 Type: Tactile

 Actuation force: 70 cN

 Recommended usage: Work

A hybrid the Alps SKBM Black switch and the Alps SKCM Cream Damped switch, the Matias Quiet Click is designed to produce as little noise as possible. Even though the switch is called Quiet Click, it actually doesn’t click at all. A set of two rubber bumpers—one at the bottom and one at the top—cushions the impact of the dampened tactile slider as it travels up and down when pressed. If you want to be as considered toward your coworkers as possible, go with a keyboard with this switch.

Matias Quiet Linear

 Type: Linear

 Actuation force: 35 cN

 Recommended usage: Work

Matias Quiet Linear switches compliment the other two switches from the company, giving customers an option to go with a much lighter switch that’s just as quiet as the Matias Quiet Click. What you sacrifice is the signature springy action.​

Summary

As you can see, options are plentiful, which is why most people who get into mechanical keyboards end up trying several types of mechanical switches, often using one type for gaming and another for typing or general computer use. One convenient way how you can try out different switches without creating a stockpile of mechanical keyboards in your closet is a mechanical switch sampler kit. For around $20, you can get your hands on the entire Cherry MX range, which is all you need to figure out your basic typing preferences.

Once you know whether you like a featherlight switch or clicky switch or something else, you can return to this guide to see what clones of your preferred switch have to offer. Not only is imitation the highest form of flattery, but it’s often an effective way how to deliver a superior product for a fraction of the original price. And with a superior mechanical keyboard under your fingertips, you ge a superior typing experience, which is what matters the most.​

About The Author

Matt
Owner/Founder

E-sports fanatic and hardware nerd. Owner of Peekand.co

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