My quest for the ideal keyboard switch01.06.2021 Permalink
Last year I built my first ergonomic mechanical keyboard with brown (tactile) switches. After an initial phase of training I am very happy with the layout and keymap. Typing has become much more relaxed, there's no need to ever look at the keyboard to find a key, and my hands always remain in the same position.
There is actually a wide variety of keyboard switches out there so as I was striving for the perfect personal keyboard experience I was curious about how other switches felt like.
So, I used the last 12 months to build 4 more boards with the exact same design but different colors of acrylic plates, a pair made of poplar plywood and different switches. Here's how they turned out:
Dark anthracite acrylic plates, Cherry MX Red switches (linear 45g, lubed). Never thought that I appreciate linear switches that much.
Translucent acrylic plates, covered by a stickerbomb, again Cherry MX Red switches (linear 45g, lubed). Initially, I didn't plan to cover the board with stickers. But unfortunately, the glue created an ugly look on the translucent plates so I used the stickers as a rescue.
Poplar plywood clear coated, Cherry MX Black switches (linear 60g, lubed). This very light wood makes the keyboard weigh only 280g. It is very quiet and I use it while sitting on the couch.
Poplar plywood yellow painted, Kailh Speed Copper switches (tactile, 50g, shorter travel distance, lubed, dampening O-rings). Actually much more tactile than any MX Brown or clone. The typing sound is considerable though. This is now my daily driver in the office.
And here's my first build again with white acrylic plates. I replaced the brown switches with Kailh BOX White switches (click-bar, 55g, shorter travel distance, dampening O-rings) to see if I like the sound and feeling. To me, in terms of clickyness it is by far superior to any click-jacket based switch like MX Blue or clones.
While it is fun and relaxing to build these boards it also served a serious purpose: find the ideal switch for me. Impressions from typical switch testers are limited because you can't do actual work with one of the switches.
What did I learn about switches and what type do I like best?
- MX Browns or clones are very popular and I used them myself for many years, but they are not really tactile. It is worthwhile to compare them to linears or more 'modern' switches like Kailh Speed Copper.
- MX Blues, known to be the clicky switches, are actually mushy compared to click-bar based MX style switches of the Kailh BOX series. If you're into clicky switches then I strongly recommend to give them a try.
- My fingers tend to bottom out on linears, so I always get the 'clack' and a physical feedback, plus I like the smoothness. Thus, I prefer a lighter linear switch over a clicky one for fast writing. For a more relaxed and quieter operation in the evening I find MX Blacks with their higher resistance more pleasant.
- I am fastest on Kailh Copper Speed, and their tactility often prevents me from bottoming out, so the actual travel distance is by far shorter compared to all other switches I used so far. However, they're by no means quiet switches.
- I don't play any computer games. Therefore I can't tell which type of switch might be the best for me in such a setup. The general opinion is that light linears are the typical choice for gamers.
My very personal summary for the time being: MX Blacks are my leisure time switches, but for serious writing I use Copper Speed or MX Red. But who knows? There are still many more switches to try, so maybe I'll do some more builds just to find out.