If you’ve ever used a mechanical keyboard before, then you know that there is nothing else like it. The satisfying and consistent feel along with the reliable performance of the switches makes them ideal for gaming, and typing. If you haven’t used one before, then you are missing out on what typing and gaming could and should feel like.
Whether you’re shopping for your first mech keyboard, or are looking to add to a collection (buy all 6 keyboards, even if you already have them!), below you’ll find our reviews of the six best mechanical keyboard along with a short guide about mechanical keyboard switches.
The most important thing to consider when shopping for a keyboard is whether you want mechanical switches or a membrane, but since you’ve already decided you want a mechanical keyboard we should focus on the switches. If you want to see a more detailed list of other things to consider, then check out our best keyboard buyer’s guide.
There are tons of switches on the market, but the most used type of switches are manufactured by the German company Cherry. Cherry produces the MX line of switches that are used in most high end mech keyboards and are held as the gold standard of quality. While other companies do make their own switches, they are usually designed to closely emulate one of the color coded Cherry switches.
Terms to Know
Before we talk about the individual switches, there are a few terms you might want to be familiar with. None of it is too complex, but it will help you start thinking about what you want from a keyboard.
Actuation Point: The actuation point of a mechanical switch is how far it must be pressed in order for a keystroke to actually be registered. Short actuation points mean the key has a shorter distance to travel, which can mean slightly faster reaction times in games, however, it can also mean more misclicks while typing.
Actuation Force: This is the exact amount of force required on the key in order to make it register a keypress.
Tactile bump: A tactile bump is a small point of greater resistance immediately before the actuation point. It offers physical feedback to let you know the keystroke has been registered.
Bottoming Out: Keyboard switched will have some travel distance left from the actuation point to the point at which they contact the deck of the keyboard itself. Pressing the key all the way past the actuation point to the point at which it hits the keyboard is referred to as bottoming out and can result in slower typing speeds.
There are also 3 main types of switches as defined by the above qualities we talked about:
- Linear: Linear switches offer the same feel from the top all the way to the bottom of the keystroke. These are usually ideal for gaming, where you’ll have the WASD keys bottomed out most of the time anyways.
- Tactile: Tactile switches have a tactile bump to offer physical feedback as to when a keystroke has been registered, but lack any auditory feedback.
Clicky: Clicky switches offer both the physical feedback of a tactile bump as well as an auditory click that some people find very satisfying.
Cherry MX Blue
The first switch we’ll look at are the Cherry MX Blue switches. These switches feature a tactile bump when the key hits the actuation point, along with a sharp and distinct clicking noise. This clicking noise is what many people will know mechanical keyboards for and a lot of people find it very satisfying. The physical, tactile feedback along with the auditory feedback of the click make it very clear when you have hit the actuation point.
This feedback, along with the relatively light 50 gram actuation force of the switch, makes Cherry MX Blues highly desirable for people who do a lot of typing. The ability to easily tell you’ve activated the switch from the feel and click without having to bottom out makes them much less tiring to type on.
In short, if you want a clicky keyboard, then these are the switches you’ll want. If you want a quiet mechanical keyboard, though, then the three below switches are all quieter than these.
Similar Switches: Razer Green
Cherry MX Brown
While some people find the clicking sound of mechanical switches pleasing and helpful, others find it grating. This is where the Cherry MX Brown switches come in. These switches still have a tactile actuation point that lets you feel when the switch has been activated, but does not make an audible click while doing so. These switches are also very light, requiring a mere 45 grams of force to be activated.
Similar Switches: Razer Orange
Cherry MX Red
Cherry MX Red switches have the same light 45 gram actuation force that the Brown switches have, but do not have a tactile bump or an audible click. The switches have the same feeling all the way down and have a smooth keystroke from top to bottom. This lack of a tactile bump at actuation makes them less than ideal for typing and productivity, but they are preferred by many gamers for their smooth feel.
Similar Switches: none
Cherry MX Speed or Silver
Finally, we have the Cherry MX Speed switch, which is also sometimes called the MX Silver. These switches are relative newcomers to the Cherry switch lineup and are almost identical to the Cherry MX Red switch with one key difference: they have a substantially shorter travel distance.
Cherry MX Speed switches are 45 gram linear switches, meaning they have no tactile feel or sound, just like the Red switches. However, red switches have a 2mm actuation distance, while the Silver switches have a 1.2mm actuation distance. This makes them, as the name implies, much quicker to use and ideal for gaming.
Similar Switches: Razer Yellow, Logitech’s Romer G