Mechanical keyboards have gained a lot of popularity recently due to their longevity. Apart from their durability, these keyboards use mechanical switches that enhance your typing experience.
The three main mechanical switch types are linear, tactile, and clicky. However, identifying these switches can be tricky. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced user, this guide will provide a comprehensive guide on the different types of switches.
We’ll start by looking at the basic characteristics of each type of switch, then move on to discuss its advantages and disadvantages.
So get ready to learn everything you need to know about linear vs. tactile vs. clicky switches!
What is a Mechanical Switch
Mechanical switches comprise a base, stem, and spring, providing tactile and audible feedback when pressing the keys. There are three types of mechanical switches, linear, tactile, and clicky, which provide different levels of resistance and noise.
Linear switches provide a smooth, consistent key press with no audible click. Tactile switches provide a bump in the middle of the key press and a low bumpy sound. Clicky switches provide a more pronounced bump and a louder click.
A Comprehensive Guide To Linear vs. Tactile vs. Clicky Switches
Understanding the difference between linear, tactile, or clicky switches can be challenging.
Below is a detailed and comprehensive guide on linear, tactile, and clicky switches.
A mechanical keyboard linear switch has a single-piece, spring-loaded stem with a smooth and consistent keystroke with little or no tactile feedback or audio click.
This switch type is most commonly used for gaming and typing due to its low actuation force and smooth keystroke. You can identify linear switches by their color.
Features and characteristics of linear switches
Linear mechanical switches are typically available in various colors, such as black, yellow, gray, and even transparent. The color of the switch is typically a personal preference and does not affect the switch’s performance. Some of the brands that manufacture linear switches include Cherry, Logitech, Razer, Steelseries, Gateron, Kaith,
2. Noise Level
Linear mechanical switches are the quietest type of mechanical keyboard switches because they do not have the tactile or audible click that other switches have. The same amount of force actuates linear mechanical switches throughout their travel, so they move smoothly and quietly.
The switch has a smooth, linear travel, meaning it’s not tactile like other switches. This means you do not have to press the key all the way down to register a keystroke, which helps reduce noise.
Additionally, the switch housing is usually made from rubber or plastic, dampening the switch’s sound. These factors contribute to the linear mechanical switch being the quietest type of mechanical keyboard switch.
Some examples of linear mechanical switches include Red, Yellow, and Black.
3. Tactile Feedback
Linear mechanical switches are some of the most popular and widely used mechanical keyboards due to their smooth and quiet operation. Linear switches offer the least tactile feedback compared to other mechanical switches, which can be good or bad, depending on your preference.
These switches don’t have a bump or tactile “click” when you press the keys making it more difficult to tell when you have fully pressed the key and if the system has registered the keystroke. Some gamers and typists prefer more tactile feedback, which can help you know when you have completely pressed the key, which can help you keep your pace when typing or gaming.
Linear switches are better suited for gamers and typists who want a smooth and quiet experience, as the keypress has little or no tactile bump or sound. However, they may not be the best choice if you want a more tactile experience, as they lack that feedback. Additionally, since linear switches lack tactile feedback, it can be difficult to tell whether the keypress has registered. This can lead to missed or double-key presses, which can be problematic for gamers or typists who rely on precision.
Linear mechanical switches offer a smooth and quiet typing experience but lack the tactile feedback many gamers and typists prefer. While these switches can be great for some users, those requiring more tactile feedback may want to look into other mechanical switches, such as clicky or tactile switches.
4. Actuation Force and Travel Distance
Linear mechanical switches are a type of keyboard switch that provides a smooth and consistent keystroke experience with no tactile or audible feedback. Linear switches are great for gamers needing fast response times and typists wanting to maintain a low noise level. They also have a longer lifespan, making them an excellent choice for those who need a dependable and durable keyboard.
The actuation point and travel distance of linear mechanical switches vary from switch to switch. Generally speaking, linear switches have a lower actuation point than tactile and clicky switches, requiring less force to actuate, and the keystroke is registered sooner. The travel distance of linear switches is usually shorter than clicky and tactile switches.
Some linear mechanical switches have a higher actuation point than others, such as the Cherry MX Red. This switch responds fast while it requires moderate force to actuate. However, most linear switches have a lower actuation point than tactile and clicky switches, requiring less force to register a keystroke.
The actuation point and travel distance of linear mechanical switches make them ideal for gaming and fast-paced typing. They offer a smooth, consistent keystroke experience with no or low tactile or audible feedback and are great for those who need a dependable and durable keyboard.
Tactile Keyboard Mechanical Switches provide you with tactile feedback when typing or gaming. This feedback is usually in the form of a bump when you press the keys.
These switches are generally more durable and longer lasting than membrane keyboards and provide a more satisfying typing experience.
Features and characteristics of linear switches
The color of tactile mechanical switches is typically brown, clear, or gray. Tactile mechanical switches are typically preferred due to their tactile feedback, which helps you know when the keystroke is registered.
2. Noise Level
Tactile switches are keyboard switch types that provide tactile feedback when you press the keys, allowing you to know the system has registered the keypress. They are not as quiet as linear switches, which make no sound when you press them, but they are not as loud as clicky switches, which produce an audible click sound when you press the key.
The noise level of tactile switches is subjective and depends on the type and quality of the switch. Some tactile switches are quieter, while others make a bumpy noise. Generally, tactile switches are not as loud as clicky switches but are not as quiet as linear ones.
The noise level of tactile switches also depends on the type of material used for the switch. Some tactile switches use rubber domes that make a quiet thud when pressed, while others use metal springs that make a louder noise. The noise level of a tactile switch also depends on how firmly you press the key. A lighter press will produce a quieter sound than a harder press.
The noise level of tactile switches is between linear and clicky switches. They are not as quiet as linear switches but not as loud as clicky switches. However, the noise level of tactile switches can vary greatly depending on the construction material.
3. Tactile Feedback
Tactile keyboard mechanical switches are best known for their tactile feedback. These switches offer tactile feedback, which is between the level of tactile feedback linear and clicky switches offer. With linear switches, the actuation point is smooth, and there is little or no noticeable bump or feedback when you press the keys. This makes them great for gaming if you do not like the tactile feedback since you can accurately press the keys without additional distraction or feedback.
However, tactile keyboard mechanical switches are different since they offer noticeable tactile feedback when you press the keys. This feedback is not as pronounced as the clicky switches, which offer an audible click and more pronounced tactile feedback. Instead, the tactile feedback s is more subtle, akin to a light “bump” you can feel when you press the key.
This feedback is beneficial since it offers some less overwhelming feedback. Additionally, it allows you, as the user, to know when the keystroke registers, thereby improving typing accuracy and speed.
4. Actuation Force and Travel Distance
The actuation force is the force you require to press a key for the keystroke to register, while the travel distance is the total distance the key travels from the resting position to the actuation point.
Linear switches provide a smooth and consistent keystroke which requires a low actuation force, usually between 45 and 65g. This type of switch also has a shorter travel distance, generally around 2-3.5mm.
Clicky switches require a higher actuation force, usually between 60 and 80g, to register a keystroke. This type of switch also has a longer travel distance, generally around 3-4.5mm.
Tactile switches are a combination of both linear and clicky switches and require a moderate actuation force depending on the brand and construction material. This type of switch also has a medium travel distance, usually around 2.5-3.5mm.
The actuation force and travel distance of tactile keyboard mechanical switches will depend on the tactile switch type. Linear switches require a low actuation force with a short travel distance, clicky switches require a higher actuation force with a longer travel distance, and tactile switches require a medium actuation force and usually have a medium travel distance.
Clicky switches are the loudest of the three types of switches. They are actuated with an audible “click” sound produced when the stem of the switch pushes against the bottom of the switch housing. Clicky switches typically require more force to actuate than linear and tactile switches, and they are often used in gaming keyboards due to their loud sound and tactile feedback.
Features and characteristics of Clicky switches
The color of a clicky mechanical keyboard switch typically refers to the stem of the switch, which is part of the switch that moves to register a keystroke. The stem color is generally used to indicate the type of switch, with different colors indicating different actuation forces and tactile feedback. Common switch colors include green, blue, green, and white. Red switches typically have the lowest actuation force, while blue switches have higher ones and provide more tactile feedback.
2. Noise Level
The Clicky mechanical switch is the loudest of the three types of mechanical switch options available. The clicky switch uses a spring-loaded mechanism that creates an audible click when you press the key. It is the most popular type of mechanical switch for users who want a satisfying audible feedback when gaming or typing.
Similar to other switches, the clicky switch consists of two parts, a stem, and a housing. The stem is the part you press down on to make a keystroke. It is typically made of plastic and mounted on a metal spring. When the user presses down on the stem, the spring compresses and creates an audible click.
The clicky switch provides a much louder sound than the linear and tactile switches. This loud clicking sound makes it the most popular type of mechanical switch if you prefer audible feedback. The downside of the clicky switch is that it can be pretty loud. This can be a distraction for those around you, which makes it inappropriate for office use.
The clicky switch is the loudest and most tactile of the three mechanical switch options. It is also the most popular for users who prefer audible feedback and provides a reliable and responsive keystroke. However, it can be loud, making it less suitable for some environments.
3. Tactile Feedback
Clicky switches derive their name from the “clicky” sound when you press the keys. The switch offers considerable tactile feedback, producing a distinct clicking sound and tactile sensation. The click sound is produced by a spring located inside the switch. Pressing the switch, the spring is compressed and released, causing the click sound and tactile feedback.
The Clicky mechanical switch also offers a unique level of tactile feedback, allowing you to feel your typing and gaming inputs. This tactile feedback and the click sound can help you identify when the system registers your inputs. With this level of feedback, you will be sure that your input is registered correctly and accurately.
Clicky mechanical switches are reliable and accurate and offer considerable tactile feedback. Its unique click sound and tactile feedback make it popular among gamers and other users who prefer audible feedback.
4. Actuation Force
The Clicky mechanical switch provides a distinct “click” sound when you press the key. It is popular among gamers, typists, and other users who appreciate the audible feedback they get when pressing the keys. It is also popular because it is often very responsive.
The actuation force of the clicky switch can vary depending on the brand and model. Some clicky switches require a higher actuation force than linear or tactile mechanical ones. This makes them more difficult to press but also provides more tactile feedback. Other clicky switches may require a lower actuation force, making pressing easier.
The clicky mechanical switch is excellent for those who prefer a keyboard with distinctly audible feedback when typing or gaming. Depending on the brand, the actuation force of the switch can vary, with some requiring a higher actuation force and some requiring a lower one compared to linear or tactile mechanical switches.
Best Switches for Gaming
As a gamer, you prefer a certain level of feedback while gaming. You may prefer the smooth feedback provided by the linear switch or the audible feedback provided by the clicky switches.
Below are the best switches for gaming among the three switch types.
- Linear switches are the most popular choice for gamers due to their low actuation force and smooth, consistent keystrokes. They require less effort to press than tactile switches and are best for gamers who prefer a smooth operation with little noise.
- Tactile switches are a middle ground between linear and clicky switches. They have a noticeable bump halfway through the keystroke, providing tactile feedback. They are a good option for gamers who want more feedback than linear switches but don’t need the extra noise from clicky switches.
- Clicky switches have a distinct click sound when you press the key, providing the most tactile feedback. They are the best choice for gamers who want the most feedback and audible confirmation that the key has been pressed. However, they are the loudest of the three types and require the most effort to press.
Best Type of Switches for Typing
Switches are an important part of any mechanical keyboard, as they determine how you experience typing experience.
The best type of switch for typing depends on the user, as everyone has their preferences.
- Linear switches are great for typing because they provide a smooth, consistent feel without tactile feedback or audible click. They are quieter than other switches, making them ideal for office or library environments. They are also generally the most responsive type of switch, providing a fast, accurate typing experience.
- Tactile switches are an excellent option for typing because they provide a slight bump when you press the key. Tactile switches are preferable if you require some kind of feedback that is not too loud.
- Clicky switches are the loudest and best for typing if you prefer feedback and want to hear each keypress. They provide tactile feedback and audible click when pressed, which can help you type confidently and quickly.
Linear vs. Tactile vs. Clicky Switches: Conclusion
Linear, tactile, and clicky switches have unique advantages and disadvantages. Any of the three can suit your keyboard, depending on your needs and preferences. Ultimately, the best switch for you will depend on your individual needs and preferences. If you’re looking for a switch that offers a smooth, consistent feel, then linear switches are the best choice. If you want a switch that provides a tactile bump, then tactile switches are the right choice. Finally, clicky switches are the right choice if you’re looking for a switch that offers an audible click. No matter which switches you end up choosing. You can be sure you will get a quality keyboard with a great feel.
FAQs on Linear vs. Tactile vs. Clicky Switches
What is the difference between linear, tactile, and clicky switches?
Linear switches are smooth and offer no or little tactile feedback when pressed. Tactile switches are slightly stiffer and offer a bump at the point of actuation. Clicky switches make an audible click when you press the key.
What type of switch is best for gaming?
The best gaming switch depends on your preference. You can choose linear switches if you do not want little or no tactile feedback. However, if you love audible feedback, then clicky switches are your best choice since they offer the most audible feedback.
What type of switch is best for typing?
The best typing switch depends on your preference. You can choose linear switches if you do not want tactile feedback. However, if you love audible feedback, then clicky switches are your best choice since they offer the most audible feedback.
Do linear, tactile, and clicky switches all use the same amount of force to actuate?
No, each type of switch uses a different amount of force to actuate. The actuation force depends on the switch type and the construction material.
Can I use a linear switch for gaming?
Yes, linear switches can be used for gaming, but they may not offer the same level of tactile or auditory feedback as tactile or clicky switches.
Are linear, tactile, and clicky switches compatible with the same keyboards?
Yes, most mechanical keyboards are compatible with all types of switches.
Can I replace the switches on my keyboard?
Yes, most mechanical keyboards allow you to replace and customize the switches.
Are linear, tactile, and clicky switches all loud?
No, linear switches are usually the quietest, while clicky switches are the loudest.
Do mechanical switches have RGB lighting?
Some mechanical switches do have RGB lighting, but not all of them. Some of the most popular mechanical switches that have RGB lighting are Cherry MX RGB switches.