Guide to Mechanical Keyboard Switches — Finding the Best for you Needs

CG Director Author Petar Vukobratby Petar Vukobrat   /  Published 

The world of custom mechanical keyboards is endlessly alluring and, frankly, way too comprehensive.

There’s so much for one to comprehend, so many minute differences that can, by all means, end up making a world of difference.

It all starts with the switches, though, which is why picking the “right” one is so darn important.

We can’t tell you which switch exactly to go for — there are so many of them out there, after all — but we can explain the approach you ought to take when browsing the market, while also explaining a long list of “dangers” and pitfalls one might encounter during such an endeavor.

Mechanical Keyboard Switches

Image Credit: Glorious Gaming

Before delving any deeper into this whole topic, you first need to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What will you be using your keyboard for? Typing out documents? Gaming? Content creation? All of the above?
  • How long do you plan on keeping your keyboard?
  • Are you naturally curious and want to test out as many different options as possible?
  • How sensitive are you to noise in general?
  • Are you willing to tinker with your keyboard so as to fine-tune both its looks and its sound profile?

These are all hugely important questions and answering them will inevitably lead you in the right direction — that is finding the right switch for your personal use-case.

So, with that little introduction out of the way, let’s begin!

Keyboard Switches For Every Use-Case

The first thing you need to decide is what kind of switch type best suits your needs. There are three distinct types of switches: linear, tactile, and clicky and they all offer a vastly different experiences.

Linear switches are the fastest of the bunch and offer very little resistance overall. There’s no tactile bump and they also require the least amount of force in order to actuate (this varies from one linear switch to another but the point stands nonetheless).

Linear Switches

Source: Logitech G

They are most often described as smooth and are by far the superior choice for gaming and, depending on your personal preference, typing. Moreover, they’re the most silent switches of the three because they emit no additional sound or click when depressed.

Tactile switches are the most well-rounded; they come with a tactile bump which some people prefer — there’s a tangible point at which the switch actuates which is both truly enjoyable and a bit more precise.

Tactile Switches

Source: Logitech G

Finally, we have clicky switches that are more of a niche option. They feature both an audible click and a tactile bump, making them the loudest of the bunch.

Clicky Switches

Source: Logitech G

They’re phenomenal for typing but, if you happen to type fast — or, heavens forbid, bottom out — they’ll quickly become the bane of your existence. This, in turn, makes them both obscure and somewhat ill-advised.

We’ve already covered this in a different article, so if you need more information, make sure to give it a read!

If you want to hear how all three switch types sound — in their stock, Cherry configurations — watch the video below:

It’s All Relative

It’s impossible to know which switch type you’d prefer before first testing them all out. Some folks love typing on linear switches as they’re the fastest and don’t emit any unwanted noise.

Tactiles are the safest route, with clicky ones being a double-edged sword.

You should, therefore, go to your local IT shop and see what they have on display.

You could also buy a set of different switches (a switches tester) and test them out that way although that might also be a bit deceiving — typing on multiple switches in real time is the most effective and telling test.

Which Keyboard Switch Should I Buy?

With so many keyboard switches on the market, choosing the “right” one might seem like an overly daunting task. And, well, rightfully so.

You only have a certain amount of money to spend and, if you’re reading these lines, you’re probably not too sure where to start.

The answer is rather simple: “Ground zero.”

Start With the Basics

The best way of going about this is by simply starting with the basics: Cherry MX switches are a great, well-rounded option for novice keyboard builders and those looking to start out with this journey.

They’re fairly affordable (but by no means the cheapest) and can be found online with incredible ease.

Certain other switches — especially the hyped-up ones — can cost nearly as much as an entry-level pre-built custom keyboard (a Keychron, for example).

Case in point: a single set (18 switches) of Gateron Ink Black V2s will set you back nearly $14 (without the shipping or any customs fees you might have to pay).

And, well, to complete your “build” you’ll need a lot more than just eighteen switches.

You might be able to find them for less, but the point stands nonetheless.

These expenses start to add up. They might be pre-lubed but maybe they’re not.

Moreover, factory-lubed switches — more often than not — aren’t lubed all that well which means that you really ought to do it yourself once they arrive at your door.

You’ll need some appropriate lube, a brush, maybe a switch opener, and so on and so forth.

Lubing Bundle

Image Credit: Glorious Gaming

That’s why going with a cheap, “safe” option is always the best possible route, especially if you’re just starting out.

That way you can experience this whole thing one step at a time and, perhaps most importantly, it won’t leave that big of a dent in your wallet.

In other words: start with either Cherry MX or Gateron; the latter offers a very similar experience at a lower price point.

If you’re a novice keyboard enthusiast (or you want to become one), you don’t need to spend hundreds upon hundreds of dollars in the beginning — start off slow and then build towards the “end game” keyboard.

Buying a spectacular keyboard from, say, RAMA WORKS, might seem alluring, but it’s like buying a Ferrari without first learning how to drive — there’s a learning curve to this whole thing and, frankly, mastering this oh-so-enticing realm bit by bit will allow you to fully comprehend its nuances.

Otherwise, you’ll not only spend way too much money but, potentially, get devoured by numerous different trends.

Beware of the Hype

It feels like there’s a brand new switch “worth talking about” every few weeks and, frankly, that’s almost a fact.

The thing is manufacturers — be they independent or not — need to come up with new, “shiny” additions in order to thrive and generate revenue in today’s hyper-competitive market.

If you buy just one mechanical keyboard and opt for just a single mechanical switch, then you’re no longer a potential customer and, therefore, your finances are out of reach.

The same thing applies to any company that creates tech, be it mobile phones, laptops, PC components, peripherals, or what have you.

The world today revolves around consumerism, and a consumer that’s happy is no longer a good one — that one is no longer “on the market.”

And so when a new switch pops up or, say, a pre-made mechanical keyboard, or a new type of space bar, what manufacturers are really trying to do is generate interest and, hopefully, create profit.

Nuphy Ghostbar

Image Credit: Nuphy

They’re not doing this out of any benevolent urge to rethink the wheel or push the entire market forward but instead to remain relevant and come up with something alluring their customers might want to spend their money on.

Do not buy into the hype.

If you like the way your custom mechanical keyboard looks and feels, if you like its sound signature and it’s working without an issue, then do yourself (and your wallet) a favor and stop “snooping” around the market, lest you engage in that oh-so-real FOMO.

A regular Cherry MX switch, cliché and omnipresent though it is, is still a perfectly fine option, one that’s been in vogue for many, many years.

Cherry MX Mechanical Switches Keyboard

Image Credit: Cherry MX

Just because something’s more recent doesn’t necessarily make it better, so just keep that in mind whenever you’re browsing the market.

Keyboard Sound Tests Can Be Deceiving

Watching — and listening to — keyboard sound tests on YouTube might seem like a surefire way of checking out any particular switch or keyboard but it’s actually a lot more deceiving than one could ever expect.

There are so many variables that come into play that it’s hard to really put into words.

Mechanical Keyboard Components

Image Credit: Glorious Gaming

A custom mechanical keyboard is a very intricate piece of gear and, frankly, the way they are used varies from one user to the next.

Even if we ignore the keyboard itself for the moment, there’s still a myriad of different elements of the equation that play a huge factor — is the desk made of wood, glass, or metal?

Is a deskmat being used? What about the microphone — how close to the keyboard is it?

Heck, what kind of microphone is being used? What about the ambiance of the room, the way that the user happens to be typing?

The following video sums it up perfectly:

So while you should listen to keyboard sound tests online you should not take them at face value or as gospel — they offer just a singular context and are not necessarily indicative of what your experience is going to be like.

Test Keyboards Out in Real Life

Before making any kind of investment, you first need to go to as many local IT shops as you possibly can — the MediaMarkts of the world. There you’ll have a dozen mechanical keyboards to test out.

You’ll be able to experience their strengths and weaknesses in person and while it won’t be a picture-perfect testing ground, it will nonetheless give you a much more effective experience than an online typing test ever could.

Granted, how effective an experience it’ll be depending heavily on the keyboards that are on display, but the point stands nonetheless.

Additionally, check whether there are any local keyboard meet-ups in your area. That’s an incredible way of testing out different builds and seeing whether anything, in particular, will pique your interest.

There Is No Perfect Mechanical Keyboard Switch

It’s all subjective, and heavily so. What one might consider the very pinnacle may well be deemed mediocre by another.

That’s another huge pitfall you need to beware of. Think about your use-case, try out as many switches in person as you can, and then make a sensible purchasing decision.

It’s better to start off slow and then build up from there than to spend an obscene amount of money on a keyboard or switch you might not even like.

Moreover, there’s a ton of hype surrounding certain switches which makes them seem like they’re the next best thing since sliced bread. They’re not. They might be good (or great, even), but they’re not a worthwhile investment for someone who’s just starting out.

You will, in time, search for other options, but doing so only makes sense once you’ve first built up a certain “taste” for these things — that way you’ll be able to better and more accurately judge any other switch that’s currently on the market, be it expensive or not.


There’s no “perfect” switch, which means that you’ll have to do a bit of digging and test out as many options as you possibly can.

If you’re just starting out, going with Cherry MX switches or equivalent ones from Gateron is undoubtedly the way to go. They’re tried and true and have stood the test of time for a very good reason.

Cherry MX vs Gateron Switches

Image Credit: Cherry MX & Gateron

And then, over time, once you’ve accumulated enough experience and have devised a palette of sorts — a more refined taste if you will — you’ll be able to better and more accurately judge what’s good for your needs and preferences and, by proxy, worth your hard-earned money.


Let’s go over a few potential questions you might have regarding this particular topic:

What’s the Best Mechanical Keyboard Switch?

There is no such thing, for better or worse; it all boils down to personal preference.

Some people still love typing on membrane keyboards which, to mechanical enthusiasts, is darn near heresy. And yet it’s nonetheless a viable choice.

Different strokes for different folks.

That’s why it’s so important to test out as many switches as you possibly can before making any kind of purchasing decision.

If you’re mostly into gaming, then a linear switch will probably be right up your alley.

If you have a mixed workflow, a tactile one should be the way to go.

What’s the Best Switch For Gaming?

Linear switches are always preferable if gaming is your primary focus.

They’re the fastest to actuate, come in many different flavors and, when lubed, offer an absolutely incredible gaming experience — no resistance, no unwanted noise. As smooth as butter.

If this sounds alluring, check out the following switches: Cherry MX Speed Silver, Gateron Red, Gateron Black, Gateron Yellow, Kailh Speed Silver.

What’s the Best Keyboard Switch for Typing?

There’s no definitive answer, sadly.

What is true is that tactile switches offer the best of both worlds — they’re smooth enough while also providing a satisfying typing experience due to having a tactile bump.

Some do prefer linears, though, so it really boils down to what one enjoys most.

Clicky switches are always a great option but they’re also way too loud and are generally frowned upon because of their sound signature.

Over to You

What’s your favorite mechanical keyboard switch and why? How long did it take before you finally decided which one was right for you?

Let us know in the comment section down below and, in case you need any help, head over to our forum and ask away!

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Petar Vukobrat

I first sat down in front of a Pentium II in 1999 and it feels like I’ve been sitting in front of a computer ever since.

And, well, until mankind comes up with something better and more entertaining, that’ll keep being the case.

If you have any questions — or just want to talk about all things PC and Apple — leave a comment down below!


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