Having a good keyboard for gaming opens up a world of opportunity; no one wants to deal with the complexity and limitations of the default keyboard. You want your game to be more responsive, you want more space between each key, you want increased accuracy and speed, you want perfect intuitiveness – these are all things that are achievable with a gaming keyboard. Naturally then, it has become tricky to find the best switches for gaming keyboards – which is why we’re here!
Before you buy a gaming keyboard, you need to have an idea of what you want your keyboard to do. Furthermore, if you’re buying a mechanical keyboard, what type of switches are these? Knowing these two key things beforehand will help in understanding the Buyer’s Guide quite well. Why? Because knowing about the type of switches will also help in choosing the best switches for gaming keyboards.
Mechanical keyboards are those that use a switch to activate the key. While the standard membrane keyboard uses a thin piece of plastic to activate the key, mechanical switches are far sturdier, durable and highly responsive. This is one of the most important reasons why people go for mechanical keyboards over their membrane counterparts – although there are many other reasons too, like backlighting and a ton of customization options.
When it comes to mechanical keyboards, it’s all about the keyboard switches. There are various types of switches and each one is unique in its own way. These mechanical switches determine how your keystrokes will be registered; whether they’ll be a light tap or a clicky feel to it, how long you need to press the key for it to register, etc.
On top of that, mechanical switches come in a variety of colors too, so you need to choose one that is perfect for your gaming needs.
In this guide, we’ll go over the most popular switches and discuss what you should expect from them.
The Cherry MX family of switches is the one best known in gaming and among hardcore gamers. There are many different variants on this particular type of switch, with each variant catering to a unique experience, but all with a very recognizable look, feel and sound when activating.
To get started, let’s break down what each of these switches has to offer:
Cherry MX Blue switches are linear switches, meaning that the keypress is steady throughout its travel and pressure does not need to be applied at a specific point for activation. These are also tactile switches, which means that when pressing the key, you’ll receive a bump in feedback letting you know that a keypress was activated (it’s why typing on them is so satisfying). They also make an audible click.
Cherry’s MX Red switches are designed for faster actuation. The tactile bump is much firmer, and the firmer force produces a higher threshold before actuation. MX Red switches have a bit more resistance than their MX Blue cousins, and while they may feel slightly spongy at first, they should break in well after about three weeks of use.
The most recent addition to the Cherry family, these switches are nearly identical to Cherry’s popular MX Red switch but with a different typing profile. This means that they have a shorter actuation point and an improved price point. It’s worth noting that, while this switch is compatible with most Cherry MX gaming keyboards, it doesn’t work with keyboards with non-Cherry-style stabilizers. (This includes Razer’s rival mechanical keyboard switches.)
Razer switches are a fairly new development in the mechanical keyboard market – Razer’s famous Razer Blue switches were first introduced about three years ago. Like many other Razer switches, the brand’s proprietary switches are built into the company’s gaming mice. They’re designed to improve upon the traditional feel of mousing by making a much firmer hit than standard Cherry-style switches have traditionally done. The result is that they provide a faster and easier actuation point with less resistance and a different noise profile as well as higher durability.
Razer orange switches are nearly identical to Cherry MX Red switches, but their actuation force is higher. The switches are very light in force, and while this makes them feel snappier than other switches, they don’t have the same tactile feedback as Cherry MX Reds. Razer Orange switches also require less travel distance to actuate when compared with Cherry MX Blues.
Razer’s Green Mechanical switches are a cross between cherry brown and cherry black switches. While they’re not very linear like Cherry Browns, they do have a similar tactile bump as their Kailh counterparts with a short actuation point that makes them excellent for gaming.
Razer’s Mecha-Membrane is modeled on a rubber dome switch design that’s used in Membrane keyboards such as those that ship with most laptops. This type of mechanical switch is popular due to its claimed durability. The main downside is that it’s not as crisp or as tactile as Cherry MX Blues or Reds.
Romer -G switches are Logitech’s take on a linear switch design that’s meant to emulate the designs of Cherry MX Blues and Browns. The Romer G switches have been in Logitech gaming keyboards since 2015. They’re reliable and accurate, but don’t have the tactile feel of other switch options.
Romer-G switches are stabilized mechanical switches with a very distinctive clicky sound and tactile bump that come with them. They’re considered the real deal by many keyboard enthusiasts, although they don’t have the same longevity or travel distance as Cherry MX Black switches. While they’ve been available for years, Romer-G switches are usually pictured in gaming mods for Razer’s BlackWidow and DeathAdder hardware.
Razer’s latest iteration of Romer-G switches is a linear variant that comes with a design similar to Cherry MX Blue switches. These switches are said to feel snappier than Romer-G tactile switches, and they have a relatively short actuation distance, which makes them very user-friendly.
Kailh switches are a high-end mechanical switch design from Kailh, a company that designs mechanical switches for several other manufacturers. Their designs are often used by the likes of Corsair, and they’ve made their way into Razer Chroma keyboards, Logitech’s G910 Orion Spectrum mouse and G Pro Gaming mouse as well as Corsair’s K95 RGB Platinum keyboard.
These switches are some of the most popular Cherry replacement options on the market. They’re similar to Cherry’s MX Blue switches, but they’re often said to have a tad more resistance in order for the keystroke to feel snappier.
Kailh’s Red switches are very similar to Cherry MX Reds in terms of how they feel. They’re also the heaviest switches out of all the variants mentioned in this guide, which makes them great for gaming, but bad for fast typing.
Kailh’s Browns are very similar to Cherry MX Brown switches. The main difference here is that Kailh switches have a lower actuation point, which means that they can be pressed more quickly.
Kailh Black switches are similar to Cherry MX Black switches, but they’re also the thinnest of all the Cherry variants. This makes them great for gaming, but not so great for typing.
Kailh Box Whites are box switches that are very similar to Cherry MX Whites. They’re also much lighter than Kailh Reds, Blacks and Blues, so they’re perfect for gaming and typing.
If you’re thinking about buying a gaming keyboard, your decision will be based on how fast you want it to feel and what kind of sound you’re looking for. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
The fastest mechanical switches available are Cherry MX Speed switches – which have an actuation point of 1.2mm – and Razer Orange switches, which have an actuation point of 1.1mm. Both types of switches produce a very loud noise when they’re actuated, and they have a high-pitched sound that’s reminiscent of a doorbell ringing.
Cherry MX Reds have an actuation point of 2mm, while Blues are generally considered to be the middle ground – they have an actuation point of 2.2mm and a quiet sound. Browns are also often used in gaming keyboards because their low actuation point (2mm) makes them great for typing as well.
If loud and fast switches are what you’re looking for, Razer Orange and Cherry MX Blues are the way to go. They’re fast, clicky and can be heard from across the room.
If you’re more interested in precision than speed, then you should check out Cherry MX Reds or Kailh Reds. They don’t have as much resistance as their tactile counterparts, so they feel significantly faster to press.
If you’re looking to buy a mechanical keyboard and don’t know where to start, it’s important that you pick the right switch for the right reasons.
Orange : The primary reason people buy these switches is for their unique clicky sound – which might come across as noisy or annoying depending on how loud your environment is. Orange switches are loud, but they’re also very fast. This makes them great for gaming, but not so great for typing.
Blue : The second most popular Cherry replacement option is Blue switches. While they don’t have the unique sound of Orange switches, they’re still relatively loud and clicky.
Red : Cherry MX Reds are extremely popular among gamers due to their loud sound and low actuation point (2mm). They’re also a good choice if you need your keystrokes to be very precise.
Brown : If you don’t need the speed of Reds or the click of Blues, then you should consider Browns. These switches provide 1.5mm of travel distance, which makes them ideal for typing-based games like League of Legends.
Black: Many gamers and PC enthusiasts are using Cherry MX Blacks in their mechanical keyboards these days because they’re linear, precise and quiet – making them great for fast-paced action games. That said, they aren’t as tactile as Cherry MX Reds and Blues.
So which colors should you choose? After considering all the variables, the best options for a gaming keyboard are Cherry MX Speed switches and Kailh Red switches. They have an actuation point of 1.2mm and a very noisy sound, but they’re also extremely fast and precise. If you don’t care about the noise factor, then you can get yourself Razer Orange or Cherry MX Browns instead. These switches have an actuation point of 2.0mm, and they’re still relatively fast while producing a sound that’s a bit softer than the other options.
The downside to getting the Cherry MX brown switches is that they are not as tactile when compared here. The others offer a nice bump for feedback and the keypresses are pronounced. These switches have no tactile feedback aside from a slight “clickiness”. That said, the low actuation point means that you will be able to type faster than you would on other keyboards. (This is also why it’s the fastest switch as well.)
In conclusion, if you’re planning on using your keyboard for gaming – look at the Cherry MX Brown, Black or Speed key types. If you’re looking for a tactile “bump” then MX Red is your best choice. For the most silent experience, go ahead and get either MX Blue or MX Black switches.