(Pocket-lint) – Mechanical keyboards are wonderful things, especially if, like us, you spend a lot of your day typing. If you’re coming from a two-dimensional laptop keyboard, prepare to be wowed, nothing beats the tactile feel and sound of a quality keyboard.
The decision to move to a mechanical keyboard is an easy one, whether you’re a gamer or a novelist, it’s always worth having a quality set of keys to hammer away at. However, once you’ve decided to invest, there are still a lot of decisions to be made.
For some people, mechanical keyboards are a huge hobby that comes complete with esoteric lingo, inside jokes and maxed-out credit cards. For the rest of us, it can be intimidating to get started.
Don’t fret, we’re here to help with one of the most important decisions a mechanical keyboard newbie has to make: which switch to choose.
An introduction to key switches
In the most basic of terms, pressing a key on your keyboard activates a switch, which sends a signal to your computer so that it knows what you’ve pressed. Different types of switches have different feels to them, so mechanical keyboards are often available with a variety of options to suit different users’ tastes.
Ideally, you’ll want to try some switches in real life to see how they feel. If you’re lucky enough to live near a store that sells gaming peripherals, then they might have some on display that you can try out. Otherwise, you could invest in a switch tester, which is essentially a dummy keyboard with a variety of switches for you to try out.
There are three main types of switch design that you’ll come across:
Linear: These switches typically require the same pressing force all the way down and are the most common type that you’ll find on gaming keyboards. The switch triggers somewhere along the travel of the key, but you won’t be able to feel where it happens. It gives a smooth, light feeling and is great for fast actuation – the kind you’ll want when playing PC games.
Clicky: A clicky switch, unsurprisingly, makes a clicking sound when pressed. There’s a distinct bump in the key travel, followed by a click that lets you know exactly when the keyboard has registered your keystroke. Clicky switches are very much a love-it-or-hate-it kind of situation. If you work in an office, you’ll likely want to avoid these as they might drive your co-workers mad. However, there is something extremely satisfying and typewriter-like about using them.
Tactile: A tactile switch sits somewhere in the middle of linear and clicky. You get the same bump as a clicky switch, but without the click. They’re often still noisier than a linear switch but less so than a clicky switch. These are our favourite all-rounders, but whether you like the feel or not is all down to the individual.
Common switch colours and what they mean
Key switches are