Mechanical Keyboard Switches: What's The Deal With All Those Colors? A Beginners Guide to Mechanical Keyboard Switches

Mechanical Keyboard Switches: What's The Deal With All Those Colors? A Beginners Guide to Mechanical Keyboard Switches

So you're looking to buy your first Mechanical Keyboard? You've looked at all the options and sorted through the prices but there is one thing you just cant wrap your head around. What's with all these colors? Black switches, Brown switches, Blue, Green, White, switches what's the difference? Well Don't Worry The team from Kord Is here to help!

But What Do Those Colors Mean?

Well the color of the stem for different Mechanical Keyboard Switches is going to differ from manufacturer to manufacturer, but usually they hover around the same thing.

For example for the Cherry MX Switches and the Gateron Line of Switches, the blue stem usually signifies a clicky switch, and the brown stems are usually tactile from both manufacturers.

So Why Do Manufacturers Use These Colored Stems At All?

Well different switches will have different properties to them. Using colored stems is a way to differentiate between switches with a different combinations of these properties.

Some properties of Mechanical Keyboard Switches may include, the sound the switch makes, this usually is either Linear, which means not much sound, Clicky, resulting in an audible click when the switch is activated, and Tactile, a switch somewhere in between tactile and clicky.

Generally speaking Linear switches are seen as Quiet, Clicky Switches as Loud, and Tactile switches as Intermediate. Other properties of Mechanical Keyboard Switches Include the activation distance, which basically means how far down you need to press the switch before it is activated.

Another final and somewhat important property which will help dictate your typing experience, is the Operating Force. What the Operating Force means is the strength your fingers must apply to move the switch and compress the spring. This Operating Force will generally vary between 35-80 centiNewtons (cN).

Well Which One Should I Choose? 

Generally speaking finding the right combination of these properties for your typing or gaming style is some what of a challenge, but fear not were here to help.

Clicky Switches

If you like audible click when you press a key, Clicky switches may be the way to go. Clicky switches from the Gateron Line of Mechanical Keyboard Switches include, The Gateron Blues, and the Gateron Greens.

Well you might be asking yourself, "I've narrowed down to two options, which ones should I choose?" Don't worry, our knowledge of the properties of Mechanical Keyboard Switches will come in handy again.

Gateron Blue Switches generally have an activation distance of 2.3 millimeters and an Operating Force of around 60cN (remember operating force is the force your ginger must apply onto the Mechanical Keyboard Switch to move the switch from a rest position into an activated position).

With Gateron Blues having an activation distance of 2.3 millimeters (remember activation distance is the distance the stem of the switch must move before  it is activated) and an operating force of 60cN, how do the Gateron Green Switches compare?

For the Gateron Green Switches you can expect a longer activation distance of 2.4 millimeters and a stronger activation force of 80cN. So as for which one of these you should choose it comes down to personal preference, if you enjoy quicker activation times with less effort the Gateron Blue Switches are the way to go (especially for gaming where every movement counts).

If you're a fan of a more heavy keystroke and a longer activation distance the Gateron Green Switches are the way to go, especially if you enjoy the audible clicking sound and don't need to worry about lightning fast actuation times and worry about a switch being "too light" to activate.

Linear Switches

Don't like the audible "click" sound when you press down a key? Well don't worry Linear Switches might be right for you. Lucky for us Gateron has four Linear mechanical switches, all with different properties so lets take a look at them one by one so you can decide which one is best for you.

Before we move on remember that the smaller the actuation distance the less you'll have to move the stem of your mechanical switch to have your keystrokes register. This can be a double edged sword. If the actuation distance is too large you'll be taking longer to have each of your keystrokes register, and if you're used to a certain actuation distance, say from your current keyboard, it may be difficult to adjust to a new actuation distance, and you may see yourself accidently having your switches misfire or, never register at all.

Aside from actuation distance the other important property to keep in mind is the Operating Force. Remember the Operating Force is the minimum amount of force which must be applied onto Mechanical Switches to have the stem move.

If you're used to a certain Operating Force it may be awkward to switch to a heavier one, and you may see  yourself not applying enough force to move the switch (although highly unlikely since there is not much difference between Operating Forces).

So now that we have a thorough grasp of those two properties of Mechanical Keyboard Switches let's move on and take a look at the four different types of Linear Mechanical Switches by Gateron.

Gateron Blacks

A fan favorite by many, the Gateron Blacks are many keyboard enthusiast and hobbyists go to switches for their mechanical keyboard. With an actuation distance of just 2 millimeters and an operating force of 60cN, typing with the Gateron Blacks is a wonderful experience, and the linear sound and acoustics don't hurt their favorability too much either.

Gateron Blacks are definitely a go to switch if they're in your budget, specially crafted for the best typing experience. If you frequently find yourself needing something in between a heavy and a light switch with a low travel distance, the Gateron Blacks may be your go to switch.

Gateron Whites

Another fan favorite by many, the Gateron Whites are close to the polar opposites of the Gateron Blacks. With a quieter sound and smaller operating the Gateron Whites may be the switch for you if you frequently find yourself not having your keystrokes register with a heavier Operating Force switch, say the Gateron Greens.

The Gateron White's have a 35cN Operating Force, much lower than their Gateron Black counterparts, and an actuation distance of 2 millimeters, similar to their Gateron Black counterparts making them one of the best switches for typing and the mechanical keyboard experience.

If this sounds right for you, someone who frequently doesn't have their keystrokes register, a lower operating force may be your solution, if so the Gateron Whites may be your go to switch.

Gateron Reds

Although not as popular as the Gateron White and Gateron Black variety of Mechanical Keyboard Switches, the Gateron Reds have their own advantages and disadvantages.

If you see yourself not having your keystrokes register on a higher Operating Force switch, say the Gateron Black Switches, and if you frequently see yourself having your keystrokes move the stem of your mechanical switch too far, the Gateron Reds may be the best alternative for you.

The Gateron Reds offer an Operating Force in between the Gateron Whites and the Gateron Blacks. This Operating Force is an Operating Force of 45cN and similar to the Gateron Whites and Gateron Blacks, the Gateron Reds have an actuation distance of around 2 millimeters.

If you frequently find yourself stuck in between needing a light and a heavy switch, the Gateron Reds are definitely your go to switch for your mechanical keyboard.

Gateron Yellows

Gateron Yellows sit somewhere in between the two camps, not as popular but still a very great switch. Gateron Linear Yellow Switches more closely resemble their black counterparts, with an operating force of 50cN, and an actuation distance of 2 millimeters Gateron Linear Yellow Switches might be what you're looking for.

If your typing experience sees you not enjoying the Gateron Reds or the Gateron Blacks the Gateron Yellows might be the way to go for you. In between both camps but closer to the heavier side of the Operating Force spectrum Gateron Linear Switches will certainly up your typing experience especially if you feel yourself clicking your Mechanical Keyboard Switches too hard up to the point where they break.

The Gateron Linear Yellow Switches have an Operating Force between the Gateron Reds and Gateron Blacks so if the Gateron Blacks are too heavy for you, and the Gateron Reds too light. the Gateron Yellows might be the way to go.

Tactile Switches

Unfortunately if you're looking for a variety of Tactile Switches you're out of luck. Although many of the previously mentioned switches have aspects of the tactile nature there are no pure tactile switches aside from the Gateron Tactile Brown Switches.

A switch in between linear and clicky, the tactile switches are your go to if you don't want to lose that clicky sound, but don't want to miss out on the linear nature of many other switches designed for typing.

Although this may seem like a great bargain, the Gateron Brown Switches are stuck between a rock and a hard place, somewhat like the jack of all trades but master of none.

The Gateron Tactile Brown Switches feature a 2 millimeter actuation distance, similar to their linear switch counterparts, and a 55cN operating force, somewhat in-between the Gateron Linear Yellows and Blacks.

If the Gateron Blacks are too heavy for you and the Gateron Yellows are too light, you may have to settle for the Gateron Browns, the best of both worlds, with an operating force of 55cN in between the Gateron Blacks and Gateron Yellows.

If you can settle for the sound of the Gateron Brown's, a mix of the silent and clicky nature of the linear and clicky switches respectively, then the Gateron Brown Switches may definitely be what you've been searching for.

If you're looking for more accessible switches which have many properties at once and not just a few, again the Gateron Browns may be your go to switch.

 So Which Should I Choose?

If you're looking for the TL:DR version of this article without wanting to spend too much time thoroughly decided the switches for your mechanical keyboard and typing style, here you go.

If your looking for a quiet switch choose from the Linear Variant. If you're looking for a louder switch with an audible click, look for the Clicky Switches (seems reasonable enough). If you're looking for a switch somewhere in between Linear and Clicky, go for the Tactile Switches.

Now with the sound property out of the way Lets move on to actuation distance and Operating Force. Once you've chosen your sound property try and find the actuation distance that best fits your typing style. Longer actuation distances mean longer activation times and longer distance needed to be travelled.\

For the Operating Force, the greater the Operating Force the more difficult to push the switch down, and the lower the Operating Force the less difficult to move the switch down.

Hopefully you found this beginners guide to Mechanical Keyboard Switches helpful, and we hope you enjoy finding the perfect Mechanical Keyboard Switches, or Mechanical Keyboard Switch combinations for your mechanical keyboard. Happy Kording!



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