The Ultimate guide to Cherry MX switches
The difference between a normal membrane keyboard and a mechanical one are the switches placed under every key. Theses switches add a more tactile feel to typing and gaming and can even give you a boost in performance for such tasks. There are many types of switches that give you a different feeling and responsiveness as you interact with your keyboard. In this guide we will be looking at the ones made by Cherry as they are by far the most popular right now.
A brief history of Cherry
Cherry, now know as ZF switches and sensors, is a german sensor making company with roots in the United states. It was founded in illinois in 1953 then later moved to Germany where they started producing keyboards around 1967. They are one of the oldest keyboard companies still in business. Cherry has factories all around the world but all of the products are designed and tested in Germany. This increases the consistency and quality of the products. In 2008 they were bought by ZF but still operate under the Cherry brand to make switches.
Their most famous product are their Cherry MX switches which come in a variety of settings for a variety of uses. They introduced these in 1987 and have been popular ever since. Even though some competition has popped up over the years Cherry still stands at the top with the quality and consistency they bring us with their switches.
Design of the switch
Most people are probably used to a membrane keyboard where each key is just on a mesh of rubber contacts that touch a circuit board below it in order to determine a key. This leads to ghosting, slow response times, no tactical feel and easy degradation to the keys. Mechanical keyboards have switches individually wired to prevent all of the downfalls of a membrane keyboard. All switches made by Cherry use gold crosspoint (https://deskthority.net/wiki/Gold_crosspoint) contacts on all of their switches. This means that the contacts are laid out in a way that guarantee quick contact with little to no bounce times and low resistance. This equates to higher accuracy than membrane keyboards. Cherry makes small differences between each one of their switches to give the user a different feel when they are either typing or gaming and indicates them with the color of the connector.
The top Three
These are the switches that are considered the most popular, they have all been tried and tested by professionals and typists and are the mostly used among that group.
On the other side of the spectrum we have the Cherry MX blues. These are very clicky and tactile while also being quite light with an actuation force of 50cN. These switches are slightly more different then the reset because the plunger inside moves. This is what creates the loud click noise associated with the blues as it is the plunger bottoming out. These keys are what most typist recommend as they provide plenty of feedback both with feeling and sound which allows you to potentially type faster. One thing you may want to consider before buying a keyboard with mx Blues is how loud it can be. Due to the volume these may not be the best switches for a work or school environment.
Cherry Mx Reds are considered the best switch for gaming. It provides a linear motion with no click or tactile feel just like the blacks but are much lighter with an actuation force of only 45cN. Due to the very low actuation force it makes this switch very fast and preferable for gamers. These switches were made quite recently in 2008 mostly for gaming needs.
Last but not least..in the top four at least… we have the Cherry Mx Browns. These switches are not clicky but are tactile feeling at the same time. With an actuation force of just 45cN it has a very light feel with a very light tactile feedback. Some claim that if pressed hard while typing it feels like a normal black switch with no tactile feedback at all. These switches are good for typing especially in an environment where you must be quieter.
New to the scene
Recently, in 2016 Cherry released a brand new switch type, the Cherry MX Speed or gray. These switches are built similar to black or red switches as it functions in a linear fashion with little click or feedback. What makes these switches special is their shortened actuation point. These switches have an actuation point only 1.2mm down instead of the standard 2mm. That may not sound like that much it but greatly increases the speed in which these switches can activate. The catch is that these are only available in corsair products such as the K70, K70 RGB and K65 RGB.
Now of course those are just the big four that are the most common right now, with black more or less on its way out. I’m going to go over some other switches that I think are important to keep in mind when looking for a new keyboard.
One of the oldest switches out there is the Cherry MX Black. It was introduced in 1984 and was one of the first mechanical switches available to the public. Over the years it has gone through some very slight changes with some experts claiming that the older ones felt smoother making them somewhat sought after. These switches are not clicky or tactical feeling but activate in a linear way thus the smoothness. The actuation force is about 60cN which is a medium stiffness compared to other available switches. Blacks are good for gaming if you don’t mind the high actuation force.
Cherry mx clear switches are very similar to brown and try to accomplish the same thing, try and be quiet but also tactile. These do a good job at that by having a more pronounced bump then the browns. With a actuation point of 55-65 cN it is significantly harder to press then the browns which can be a turnoff for some. These have been described as the silent blues, so if you are in an sound sensitive environment and like mx blues these might be the next choice for you.
Cherry mx Green switches are very similar to blues as they are designed to have a tactile feel and audible click but perform at a much higher actuation point of about 80cN. Thats almost as high as buckling spring switches.
Cherry mx White switches offer what green does in terms of actuation force, about 80cN but are not as loud as the greens, making them more suitable for the office.
If this is your first time buying or even if you are experienced it can be challenging determining what key switch would suite you best. feel free to shoot me an email or leave me a comment and I will try and get back to you. If you want to try the keys out yourself before buying I would recommend this key tester from amazon. Its the absolute best way to determine what type of switch you should buy in your next keyboard.