So you’ve decided to start building a custom mechanical keyboard, great! But then comes the next question: which switch should you get? With so many options in the market now, it can be tough to find the right switch for you.
In a bid to make it easier for you to make a decision, we will walk you through several types of switches that you can buy right now in this article. These include linear, tactile, clicky, and even silent switches. Let’s get to it, shall we?
This is arguably the most popular switch option in the custom mechanical keyboard scene. As its name suggests, a linear switch provides no feedback at all throughout the downstroke until you bottom out, lending to a “linear” feeling.
And that is the very reason why a linear switch is my personal favourite. The best linear switch offers very, very smooth downstroke, which offers a pleasant typing experience free of scratch, tactile bump, or audible click. It also lets me type quite a bit faster than other types of switches – more on that later.
If a linear switch sounds like the one for you, you’ll be happy to know that there are a ton of options. Some of the best linear switches I have personally tried include the Gateron Ink Black, NovelKeys Cream – though you do have it break it in and lube it to bring out the switch’s best potential – and the Cobalt POM.
Just like linear switches, you are spoiled for choice when it comes to tactile switches. If you’re a more “intentional” typist who values accuracy, you may be interested in this switch. Tactile switches have a noticeable tactile bump to let you know that you have actuated them, which can help you to…well, type more accurately.
However, for what it’s worth, I prefer linear switches over tactile. I like to type fast, but because I need to exert more force to “overcome” the tactile bump of a tactile switch, I find myself typing quite a bit slower.
Don’t get me wrong, I do type more accurately with tactile switches. But I find myself missing the smooth typing experience of a linear switch after some time, so make of that what you will!
Anyway, if you want to get a tactile switch, the Gazzew Boba U4T Thocky is an excellent choice; it’s easily one of our favourite tactile switches in the market now that’s also (somewhat) readily available. Alternatively, you can also consider the Glorious Panda – it emulates the very popular Holy Panda tactile switch quite well.
If you want something with an even more pronounced feedback than a tactile switch, consider clicky switches. Not only does a clicky switch have a tactile bump, it also offers an audible click when it is actuated. Of course, this also means it is the noisiest switch type of the lot.
Unfortunately – or fortunately, depending on who you’re asking – there aren’t as many selections of clicky switches in the custom mechanical keyboard scene. Truth be told, I was a fan of clicky switches in the past, but once I’ve built a number of custom keyboards, I prefer using non-clicky switches to not mask the unique sound profile of each keyboard.
In my opinion, this could be the reason why clicky switches are not quite as popular as its linear or tactile counterpart in the scene.
That being said, there are still a number of clicky switches that are quite good. I highly recommend the Kailh Box White: it’s not an overly loud clicky switch, and it has a reasonably strong tactile bump as well. If, for some reason, you want a clicky switch with an even louder click, there’s the Kailh Box Jade.
Last but definitely not least are silent switches, which are offered in linear or tactile form. For the most part, silent linear and tactile switches are not too different from their non-silent counterparts, but the stems of silent switches usually have dampeners to absorb the impact of the downstroke and upstroke.
This, in turn, makes for a muted typing experience; ideal for those who want to build an absolutely silent keyboard. But silent switches, given the extra dampeners on their stems, usually have shorter key travels as well. As a result, they offer a more shallow typing experience than non-silent switches, which could be a dealbreaker to some folks.
But if you’re okay with the shorter key travel, and you want a silent keyboard, then consider silent switches. My personal favourite silent linear switch is the Gazzew Bobagum, but if you’ve got a deep pocket, Zeal PC’s Zilent V2/Aqua Zilent silent tactile and Healio V2 silent linear switches are good options too.
And there you have it! These are the four main categories of switches you can find in the custom mechanical keyboard scene. While it may seem intimidating, building a keyboard is a very rewarding hobby, and we hope this article – and our other keyboard-related writeups – will help you in your journey to build your very own custom keyboard!
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