As an avid gamer, chances are you have come across the Cherry MX key switches. They are one of the most dominant brands in the market thanks to their excellent quality and performance.
Typically, there are six types of key switches under the Cherry MX brand.
Out of the six, this article will focus on the difference and similarities between the two best sellers: Cherry MX red and Cherry MX brown. This way, you can have the necessary knowledge needed to make an informed decision about which one suits you best.
Important Terms used in The Article
If you are in the market for a mechanical keyboard, it’s imperative to understand what each product description term means.
Below are a few of the most common ones you are bound to come across:
Switch Travel Distance
It is the cumulative distance from the top of the key when it’s not pressed to the extreme bottom of the key. Keeping that in mind, it’s imperative to go for a switch with a small travel distance because you wouldn’t have to press the key for long before it bottoms out.
In the correct sense of the word, the switch life span means the number of keystrokes it can endure before it starts performing less than the intended capacity.
However, a short life span shouldn’t deter you because some prefer the feel and sound of a generously used switch. And even if you don’t, chances are you will have replaced the board entirely by the time you reach the lifespan limit, as many years will have passed.
Actuation type refers to how the switch makes the key feel. Generally, there are three types of switches, and they all have a distinct feel.
- Linear, which feels smooth especially, is well-lubed.
- Tactile, has a slightly bumpy feel
- Clicky, which feels similar to flicking a light switch.
It is the distance between the top of the key cap (when it’s not pressed) and the actuation point. An actuation point is located at a specific point on the switch and is triggered by pressing down the keystroke.
When the keystroke reaches the actuation point, it triggers the rest of the parts, instigating your desired function.
That said, a switch with a small actuation point is preferred as they have less latency.
Actuation force is the amount of pressure you need to exert when pressing a keycap for it to translate the keystroke to the rest of the keyboard. With that said, a switch that requires low actuation force is preferred if you use your keyboard for extended periods.
The act of pressing a keystroke down. Most mechanical keyboards don’t require you to press the key all the way down to actuate. However, if your keyboard has a rubber dome, then you need to do so.
The name MX came about as a short form for ‘Mechanical X – point technology,’ a widely popular switch design for mechanical keyboards. Seeing that almost all gamers swear by MX switches means they must be good at something.
A Cherry MX switch consists of four main parts: Upper and lower housing, stem, and spring. Among those, as mentioned earlier, the central part is the stem because it is the bane of the design and gives the key its signature feel.
The primary function of the stem is to actuate a keystroke once you reach the actuation point. So, pressure is exerted on the stem whenever you press a keycap, which then registers the keystroke with the crosspoint contact. Also, it’s color-coded, i.e. red or brown, to indicate the type of switch.
As for the upper housing, its main task is to hold everything together using its four clips. All you need to do to disassemble a switch is to pull at the clips on the edge of the housing. When purchasing any Cherry switches, you can choose between an opaque black or clear housing, as the color will determine whether or not your RGB lighting will peak through.
Next up is the lower housing, which is made of a special kind of glass that offers total pressure stability and increases the switch lifespan.
Lastly, we have the spring. Without it, the keycaps would remain at the bottom after being pressed, but the key springs back up because they are there. Also, the strength of the spring determines the actuation force and resistance that the key exudes.
Cherry MX Red: Breakdown
Cherry MX Red Switch
Ever since the Cherry MX red was released in 2008, it has been a bestseller in the gaming industry thanks to its desirable features. For starters, it is a linear switch meaning it produces minimal noise, making it a perfect addition for those who work/game in a shared space or even people who don’t like the standard keyboard noise.
Another outstanding feature is that it requires an actuation force of 45g. Keeping in mind that actuation force translates to the effort needed to register a keystroke, this switch won’t need you to exert yourself too much, making it an excellent addition for those who use their keyboard for extended periods.
Considering that the MX red is a linear switch, it offers a smooth keystroke, meaning you won’t get any tactile feedback or hear any sound whenever you press a key. Unfortunately, while this seems like a good thing, that isn’t entirely the case.
If you are a gamer or typist and use your keyboard in a fast-paced environment, this keyboard will be tough to manage. In that, you can quickly press the wrong keys because the sensitivity is extremely high.
Also, the fact that you need to press the key all through the travel distance(4mm) to register a keystroke takes some getting used to. For perspective, some switches only need you to press the keys for a fraction of the travel distance or up to the actuation point to register a keystroke.
Pros of Cherry MX Red
- It’s widely available and thus easy to replace when need be
- MX red is designed to produce minimal sound
- It allows you to transition easily from one key to the next
- Offers minimal resistance
- It doesn’t tire the user even after extended periods
Cons of Cherry MX Red
- Its design makes it easy to press the wrong keys
- The rubbery feel takes some time to get used to
Cherry MX Brown: Breakdown
Cherry MX Brown Switch
The Cherry MX brown is a crowd favorite to date despite being introduced in the late 1990s. They are designed to produce a low base sound whenever the keystroke bottoms out, and most people find that appealing as the sound isn’t overpowering, and neither is the keyboard entirely quiet.
Sound and tactile feedback dramatically reduce the chances of pressing the wrong keys, thus making this keyboard an excellent addition for those who plan to use it for fast-paced tasks.
As per the product descriptions, this switch is fitted with a travel distance of 2.0mm, which is standard for most Cherry switches but impressive compared to other brands in the market. Furthermore, the response rate is instantaneous, thanks to the aforementioned travel distance.
The actuation force is 55g but goes up to 60g if you want to bottom out. While it seems higher than the previous counterpart, the difference is negligible, as you can hardly tell unless you are keen on it.
It’s imperative to note that some consumers complain that the tactile feedback is relatively low to the point that it’s easy to miss, which negates the whole purpose of having the feature. Therefore, consider other cherry switches, such as the MX clear if you want pronounced tactile feedback.
Pros of Cherry MX Brown
- Made of high-quality parts that look/feel expensive
- It can be used by anyone regardless of the intended function
- Offers subtle tactile feedback that many find less distracting
- It offers quick responses as it has minimal latency
- Promises a long-life span
Cons of Cherry MX Brown
- Fitted with a short actuation distance that takes some getting used to
- It isn’t ideal for use in a quiet room because some find it noisy
Head to head Comparison for Cherry Mx Red vs Cherry Mx Brown
Now that you have a vague idea of the performance that Cherry Mx red and brown offer, chances are you are still torn between which one will suit you.
This is because determining factors are almost similar.
Therefore, to help you narrow your decision, below is a breakdown of how they compare head to head.
Cherry Mx Red vs Cherry Mx Brown: Actuation force and point
The difference comes in at the actuation force required. As for MX red, you need 45g, while the MX brown needs 55g. The difference may seem huge, but the majority of the people wouldn’t tell the difference, and neither will it affect your performance to an extraordinary level.
Cherry Mx Red vs Cherry Mx Brown: Feel
Keep in mind that Mx red is a tactile switch and Mx brown is a linear switch, they feel different, and the better one depends on your preference. Cherry MX Brown is designed to give tactile feedback. In layman’s terms, whenever you press a key hard enough to reach its actuation point, you will feel a bump letting you know you can release the said key.
Some people, especially professional gamers, prefer tactile feedback because it offers more stability in that you can hardly make errors if you are typing fast or playing a fast-paced game. Others like it simply because it feels satisfying.
On the other hand, Cherry Mx red is a linear key switch meaning it’s designed to offer a clean keystroke with no tactile feedback. For this reason, you won’t know whether or not whatever you pressed has registered unless you are staring directly at the screen.
This keyboard is mainly for people who can type/game without staring down at the keycaps. Therefore making it an excellent option for experienced gamers or typists.
Secondly, the difference in the feel can also be attributed to the weight of the stem. Cherry MX red has a thinner stem that feels lighter, meaning you can type on it for longer without getting tired. As for MX brown, it’s slightly heavier but still ranges around the standard stem weight.
Cherry Mx Red vs Cherry Mx Brown: Sound
When choosing a keyboard, many people are incredibly particular about the noise or lack thereof that the keyboard will produce. Generally, all linear keyboards are extremely quiet, and only a few produce a low-toned sound.
As mentioned above, Cherry Mx brown offers tactile feedback. Therefore, it produces a low thud-like sound when the keystroke reaches the actuation point. However, most people find the sound calming, especially if they work or game in a quiet area.
The MX red will serve you better if you prefer a silent keyboard. Considering it’s designed to deliver an uninterrupted keystroke, it’s guaranteed to produce no sound. Both switches produce minimal noise, especially compared to other cherry switches and brands.
Cherry Mx Red vs Cherry Mx Brown: Which is Durability?
Even though all Cherry switches retail at different prices, they are all made of top-notch parts, making them one of the most durable brands in the market. If the company’s statistics are anything to go by, the Mx Red and Mx Brown can withstand 50 million keystrokes, give or take, before replacing them.
Therefore, if you don’t intend to keep swapping out your switches, then the MX brown and red will be great investments.
Cherry Mx Red vs Cherry Mx Brown: Which is good for Gaming?
Professional gamers can attest that the actions performed in a split second greatly impact your overall performance. When gaming with an MX red, you will appreciate that every keystroke is smooth and that there is no hindrance, such as a tactile bump. Therefore, you can glide effortlessly from one key to another, putting you at a vantage point.
On the flip side, MX red is very sensitive, meaning it enhances the chances of you pressing the wrong key or pressing a key twice.
If you opt for the MX Brown, you will love the tactile feedback as then you know exactly when to release the key and have more control over which key you are pressing, even when the game is fast-paced. On the other hand, this switch is a bit slower, thus not the best option for professional gaming.
Cherry Mx Red vs Cherry Mx Brown: Typing
As mentioned earlier, you can use the MX red and brown to perform whatever task. However, the MX brown is better suited to typing. This is because the tactile feedback assures the typist that their keystroke has been actuated, reducing the chances of making typing errors.
While MX red can be used to type, it isn’t ideal because it requires you to bottom out each keystroke for it to actuate. And even then, you won’t get any sort of tactile feedback. Considering that when you type quickly, you don’t have time to check if each keystroke was registered, and the keyboard isn’t letting you know, it’s easy to make mistakes.
All in all, it depends on your preference. Some people swear by MX red as it is incredibly convenient once you master it.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Key Switch
Choosing the right key switch can make or break your keyboard performance. For this reason, knowing how to choose one that suits your needs and preference is imperative. With that said, here are a few things you hold look out for in a key switch:
1. The intended purpose
Each Cherry MX switch is designed with a specific demographic in mind. Some are good for gaming, others for typing and a select few can perform any function. Therefore, say you buy a switch intended for typing, yet you are a gamer, chances are, you will notice discrepancies in the performance, putting you at a loss.
2. Sound produced
While the switch’s sound may seem like a minor issue, it’s really not. Some switches are designed to produce a loud noise, others a low-toned noise and the rest produce none.
Considering you will have to use this keyboard a lot, try to get one with a tolerable noise level.
Part of the reason Cherry MX switches are quite popular is that they are of high quality. For this reason, they tend to be pricier than other competitive brands such as Gatreon. So everything considered, go for the switch that promises the most keystrokes before it gives in.
Most MX switches are meant to withstand 50 million keystrokes, while others can last up to 100 million. So choose wisely, especially if you use your keyboard a lot.
How the keystroke feels on your keyboard plays a significant part in the user experience. Some people prefer to have some sort of tactile feedback; others prefer a smooth keystroke. Either way, establish where you lie, then choose the appropriate switch.
Other Types of Cherry MX Key Switches
Cherry MX catalog contains other colored variants aside from red and brown. Here are a few of them:
This one is similar to the MX red in all ways except the actuation force. While the red requires an actuation force of 45g, this one requires a force of 60g, meaning it has heavier keys which some people prefer.
This switch is designed similarly to the MX brown. This difference is that this one offers more pronounced tactile feedback and also produces a louder sound. In hindsight, MX Blue solves all the problems people complained about the MX brown, making it a worthy alternative.
Cherry MX designers made more than five options to cater to people of all tastes and preferences. However, in close inspection of some of them, such as the MX red and MX brown, you will notice that they have more similarities than differences. Therefore, choosing one for yourself depends on your preference.
All in all, the Cherry MX Red is perfect for typists but can be used by anyone. And the MX Brown is ideal for gaming but can also be used by everyone.
What is the lifespan for Cherry MX switches?
According to the MX designers, each switch can last for more than 50 million keystrokes regardless of whether or not you are heavy-handed. For perspective, 50 million keystrokes are equivalent to 10-plus years for a heavy user.
Also, there is a money-back guarantee if you can prove that the key switch stopped working before the warranty lapses.
Which one is better for gaming: Cherry MX red or Mx brown?
While it all boils down to personal preference, many gamers prefer MX brown as it offers more stability and the tactile feedback helps eliminate errors. However, they can both be great switches for gaming because of the following reasons:
- They have fast actuation response rates
- They are durable
- Designed to make minimal or no noise
What is the difference between Cherry MX Red and MX brown?
Though both switches have various differences, the main one has to be that MX red is a linear switch while MX brown is a tactile switch. Therefore, MX red offers a smooth keystroke and produces no noise, while MX brown provides tactile feedback when a keystroke is registered and makes a low thud-like sound.
Is there a difference between Cherry MX Red and MX silent red?
Though the two share similar features and designs, the Cherry MX silent red is fitted with noise dampeners to reduce the amount of noise it produces. This way, people who love the features but hate the sound can be able to use the product.
Is the silent MX Brown worth the hype?
Not necessarily. According to cherry designers, the MX Silent brown is 30% quieter than its predecessor. However, the claim can’t be true as the difference is so small that it borders on negligible. According to an unconfirmed source, the noise difference is 16% or 17%.