There are a number of different kinds of mechanical keyboard switches. You may have trouble sorting through all your options to find something that works well for you. On top of the huge assortment of available switches, there are new ones released every couple of weeks. So read on for our Linear vs Tactile vs Clicky Mechanical Keyboard switches guide.
Linear vs Tactile vs Clicky Mechanical Keyboard Switches Guide
These three options make it even more difficult to narrow down your options and find the best keyboard switch. This used to be an obscure product that only the very dedicated even knew about, but now it’s gone mainstream.
The mechanical keyboard can definitely enhance your PC setup, as there are advantages to using this tool for gaming, typing, graphic design, and much more. Whether you use your computer for work or play, you may benefit from a mechanical keyboard.
The traditional membrane keyboards are unable to match everything a mechanical one can do. But how do you filter through all your choices and select the best one? Each of them has its advantages and disadvantages, so we will start with figuring out the kind of switch type that fits specific needs.
We are going to take a detailed look at how the different options compare with each other, and this should help you navigate the market more easily.
Mechanical Keyboard Switches – Which One Is Best?
What makes a typing experience comfortable and pleasurable will be different from person to person. Some people like different things than others do, so trying to sell you on the feel of a mechanical keyboard if you haven’t used one before can be difficult.
On top of that, you have so many different choices available to you, and this makes it tough to find the right mechanical keyboard. If this whole line of products is new to you, you’re probably not going to find the most suitable one for yourself by searching for a few minutes.
You have to take into account not only the switch but the whole keyboard package. Each of the components that make up the keyboard will factor into your enjoyment. We may not be able to narrow down your personal preferences, so we’ll stay focused on the different switches you have to choose from. Let’s look at your choices.
Linear Mechanical Switches – Fast, Responsive, Smooth
If you pick a linear switch mechanical keyboard, you’ll be experiencing the smoothest functionality. They are very quiet when you compare them to other kinds of mechanical keyboards, and they offer a reliable experience.
With these kinds of switches, you don’t experience a tactile bump. You won’t hear an extra click to let you know that your keystroke has even occurred. They require very little force to use as well (for the most part).
These mechanical switches are known for their speed since they actuate very quickly. Linear switches are fast partially because of the short travel distance they offer. Not all linear mechanical switches are the same, though. Some of them are very balanced, but others cater specifically to competitive gaming experiences and may not be suitable for any other activity.
How comfortable they feel for a variety of activities will vary from one person to another, and this is a subjective factor. This type of switch is incredibly quiet, making them less annoying for people with sensitive hearing or for people who get irritated by repetitive noise. That makes them a good choice for typing as well, specifically if you’re using Gateron Yellows or Cherry MX Reds
Something you should know about linear switches is that there are tons of different options available. Some are very easy to type with, while others take more force to use and may not be suitable for lengthy typing sessions. Before you pick one of these up, take time to read the details and figure out exactly what you’re getting.
Tactile Mechanical Switches – Best Option All-Around
No matter what kind of use you have in mind for your keyboard, a tactile mechanical switch is a good option. These all-rounder switches work well for daily use and typing, and they are also decent for gaming too. They may not excel in any of these categories, but you get a lot of the advantages of a mechanical keyboard switch without any serious disadvantages.
It is safe to say that if you don’t know exactly what your preferences will be or how one mechanical keyboard switch outperforms another in certain areas, but you do want the benefits of these switches, then the tactile switch type is your best option.
In what way does the tactile switch excel? They are fairly quick and do require a decent amount of force to use. Their sound profile is even, making for a decently quiet experience (see TomsGuide official website for more details). They work a little slower than linear switches, and they do have a physical tactile bump. Combine all of these characteristics, and you end up with something that is great for beginners.
Clicky Mechanical Switches – Loud and (Potentially) Obnoxious
There are some people who will absolutely love clicky mechanical switches. What a lot of people adore about these is how they sound when they have been actuated. The distinctive clip and the tactile bump are what make them the loudest of the mechanical switches.
You may not want to use them for extensive typing, since the loud click can become repetitive and irritating quickly. You can type easily on them, however, and they make for an enjoyable typing experience. Your enjoyment factor will vary based on how annoyed you get by the sound, though. We would recommend them for people who will be typing in small bursts.
The clicky switches don’t get as much traction as tactical or linear switches, so there will not be as many choices for you to pick from. We would call them a bit more obscure than the comparatively mainstream other options.
If you’re not sure if clicky mechanical keyboard switches are right for you, you can always go to your local tech shop and test out a display version for yourself.
Are Mechanical Keyboard Switches Important?
These switches have their advantages, but they are part of a larger package. The switch type tells you how it performs and the kind of tactile feeling you get with it.
We’ve talked about how these switches sound, but the sound varies partly based on the casing for the switch, as well as any modifications that have been made, the materials used, and a few other factors.
Mechanical Keyboard Components
Mechanical keyboards are made up of numerous elements, and switching out one of these will create a different experience and make different sounds. There are so many different options you can choose from, which is part of the allure of this product line.
You can find endless ways to change things up and modify your keyboard to suit the experience to your exact preferences. If you do a lot of typing for your work or in your free time, you will notice these changes right away.
The kind of switch you use is something you want to carefully consider, but even within a specific switch type, there are lots of options that can change up the experience. Each of those options are important and should be considered carefully.
Can I Swap Out My Mechanical Keyboard Switches?
Yes, you can change mechanical keyboard switches on a keyboard that has a hot swappable PCB. We actually recommend you go with this type of keyboard to give yourself more options in the future. Each switch can be changed out and then modified to your preference.
At the moment, you may prefer the tactile switch, but then your preferences may change over time, and you might want the option to switch it out for a linear one. Some people get bored with their initial switch and want to try different things, and you leave yourself open to more options with a hot-swappable PCB. It’s all about freedom with this kind of keyboard, and that’s what mechanical keyboards switches really come down to.
Which Mechanical Keyboard Switch Is Right For Me?
We won’t be able to answer this straight and simply for everybody, because we don’t know your personal preferences. The clicky keyboard switches are probably going to give you the most enjoyment off the bat, but they’re not ideal for quick typists.
Linear switches are the go to option for gaming, while tactile switches are better for typing. However, some gamers prefer tactile or clicky ones, and we don’t want to put people in a box when it comes to mechanical keyboard switches because of the huge variety of options.
Our recommendation is that you go to your local tech shop and try out the mechanical keyboards they have on display. You will be able to test every possible option, but you’ll get a good idea of what’s out there and how the different mechanical keyboards differ from one another.
We can talk to you endlessly about how these different products compare to one another, but until you try them for yourself, you won’t really know how they feel. We recommend you check out videos online, looking specifically at sound tests to get an idea how different each mechanical keyboard sounds.
Keep in mind that just because they look and sound fun to use on a video, you won’t necessarily enjoy them just as well in person.
There are some questions we would like to cover that may provide some helpful information to you as you attempt to choose the right mechanical keyboard switch.
Which Mechanical Switches Are Best for Gaming?
If you use your keyboard primarily for gaming, then the best kind of switch is one that gives you a very smooth, quick, and linear experience. The standout option is the Cherry MX Speed Silver switch, but you have a lot of similar options to choose from as well, and you should compare them as much as possible before making your purchase. Consider your budget too and your specific needs when picking a mechanical keyboard for gaming.
Which Mechanical Switches Are Best for Typing?
Any of the three different options we covered here would be good for typing, but the experience you get with each of them is quite different, says PCMag.
Linear switches actuate quickly and are the quietest option. With clicky switches, your experience is loud, but they may be your best choice anyway. Tactile switches run right in the middle, so they are the least likely to frustrate and annoy. Once again, we advise that you try out as many of the different keyboard options as possible before buying.
If you want to have a mechanical keyboard mostly for typing, try to steer clear of the ones that are made mostly for gaming. The switches may actuate too quickly, and the speed can make typing uncomfortable and unnatural. You may find yourself making more typos than normal. Those kinds of keyboards are designed to give you a speed advantage, so they aren’t the best thing for extended typing sessions.
What’s the Best Mechanical Keyboard Switch?
We can’t give you a hard answer on this, because everyone’s preferences are going to be specific to them. The switch type that works really well for one person may be incredibly annoying or not very useful for another one.
The best way to tell which kind of mechanical switch will work well for you is to try them out. The more switches you can test and experience personally, the better you will determine what fits your needs.
It’s important to experiment with the switches, trying as many as possible so that you can make your own, personalized selection, says MakeUseOf. Cherry makes a lot of the best-selling switches and many of the ones that are highly thought of, but you should also take a look at Holy Pandas, Gateron Blacks, and Yellows to get a good idea of your high quality options.
The Cherry MX switches are going to be the easiest to find, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are the best option.
Over to You
Mechanical keyboards are excellent peripherals that will enhance your gaming or typing experience considerably. It’s no wonder that they are so popular now and entering the mainstream in such a big way. Once you figure out what works well for you, you will definitely see them as a great investment. Just make sure that you pick the right kind of switch.
Last Updated: May 24, 2023