When you build a custom keyboard, it is not only possible to determine the size, material, and design of your keyboard, but you can also choose your preferred CHERRY MX switch type or even combine different switches.
The various switches differ in the necessary actuation force, operating characteristics, and audible feedback, depending on the color of the plunger. To make the decision a little easier for you, this third blog post in our DIY series will explain the characteristics of (and differences between) the original CHERRY MX switches.
CHERRY MX switches can be classified into the following categories: tactile, linear, speed, silent, and low profile. Together with their individual actuation force, this creates a unique characteristic that defines each switch type.
Tactile means that the switch has a noticeable actuation point. Some versions also provide audible feedback. Linear switches actuate in a straight line without clicking or haptic feedback. The linear MX SPEED switches are the fastest switches in CHERRY’s portfolio due to a shortened pre-travel and total travel. The SILENT versions, on the other hand, have integrated noise damping.
CHERRY MX RED (linear, 45cN, 100 million actuations)
CHERRY MX RED are particularly popular among gamers, as they are operated in a linear way and have an actuation force of 45 centinewtons. In addition, the switch actuates after a pre-travel of two millimeters. All modern CHERRY-MX RED switches offer a lifespan of more than 100 million actuations without loss of input quality.
CHERRY MX BLACK (linear, 60cN, 100 million actuations)
CHERRY MX BLACK is also a purely linear switch but requires a higher actuation force of 60 centinewtons. The actuation point remains at two millimeters. The latest version of this switch also offers a lifespan of more than 100 million actuations.
CHERRY MX BROWN (tactile, 55cN, 100 million actuations)
CHERRY MX BROWN switches belong to the "tactile" category, but do not have an audible click. This makes them very suitable for office use, or a good compromise for gamers who also want to type a lot. You need 55 centinewton to actuate them and the pre-travel is once again two millimeters. They have a lifespan more than 100 million actuations.
CHERRY MX BLUE (tactile, clicky, 60cN, 50 million actuations)
If you want to hear and feel your actuation point clearly, you should use CHERRY MX BLUE switches. 60 centinewtons of actuation force combined with tactile switching characteristics provide a noticeable resistance, which allows for very precise input. The actuation point of the MX BLUE is reached after 2.2 millimeters of pre-travel. Due to the clicking noise, these switches are not suitable for use in large offices.
CHERRY MX SILENT (linear, 45/60cN, 50 million actuations)
If you’re working in an office environment but you don’t want to miss out on the advantages of a mechanical keyboard, the best choice is a SILENT versions of the MX RED or MX BLACK. These versions have integrated, patented noise damping. Thanks to the built-in 2-component plungers, the "bottom out" and "top out" noise is significantly reduced without affecting the popular MX RED or MX BLACK switching characteristics. The pre-travel for these switches is 1.9 millimeters.
CHERRY MX SPEED SILVER (linear, 45cN, 100 million actuations)
With an actuation force of 45 centinewtons, a pre-travel of only 1.2 millimeters and a linear switching characteristic without audible feedback, the CHERRY MX SPEED SILVER is one of the fastest mechanical switches from CHERRY MX. This makes it up to 40 percent faster than the MX RED, for example, and is therefore ideal for gamers and professional typists who attach particular importance to fast input.
The RGB versions of the MX switches are designed for use in keyboards with RGB lighting. The upper part of the housing is made of a translucent material with an integrated lens that actively refracts the light of the RGB LED on the PCB and diffuses it without loss of lighting intensity.
Hyperglide: More than 100 million operations
CHERRY MX is constantly improving its products. The most recent optimization relates to the guaranteed durability of selected CHERRY MX switches. Enlarging the gliding surface on the front side of the plunger, together with an 8-pillar guidance on the inside of the upper part of the switch housing, results in wobble-free operation and increased durability. This technical solution is called "Hyperglide" and doubles the number of guaranteed operations: CHERRY MX RED, MX BLACK, MX BROWN and MX SPEED SILVER now allow more than 100 million actuations without any loss of quality compared to 50 million actuations of the previous generation. In addition, the bounce time has been massively reduced.
CHERRY MX LOW PROFILE
LOW PROFILE switches are a special version of the CHERRY MX switches and were developed for flat desktop applications and notebooks, or slim gaming keyboards. The overall switch height has been reduced to 11.9 millimeters without compromising on the typing feel. CHERRY MX LOW PROFILE switches are around 35 percent flatter than the standard models.
CHERRY MX LOW PROFILE SPEED SILVER (linear, 45cN, 100 million actuations)
CHERRY MX LOW PROFILE SPEED has been developed as a fast, linear switch for flat gaming keyboards and ensures extremely short response times and high switching frequencies. This makes it the perfect companion for absolute gaming enthusiasts. While the actuation force of 45 centinewtons is identical to the MX SPEED SILVER, the pre-travel has been shortened to one millimeter.
CHERRY MX LOW PROFILE RED (linear, 45cN, 100 million actuations)
With a slightly longer pre-travel of 1.2 millimeters, the MX LOW PROFILE RED is another excellent choice for gamers: it is just as fast as the MX SPEED SILVER, but at the same time, it has the particularly flat LOW PROFILE design.
In the next part of our DIY series we will go into the MX SPECIAL switches.