Are you looking to upgrade your gaming setup with a mechanical keyboard then this guide is for you. Learn all about different switches, keyboard sizes, layouts and more.
Mechanical Keyboard Switches
The first step to finding your perfect mechanical gaming keyboard starts with finding and choosing the ideal switch.
Mechanical switches are the mechanism that activate when a key is pressed down. Similar to how a typewriter would operate, each keycap has it’s own discrete switch.
The two most important and words you will want to know are “tactile” and “linear”. Almost every switch is one or the other, and the difference between these two is very easy to understand:
To activate a tactile switch, you typically push it down half way until you feel a “tactile bump”. You can take your finger of the key then or continue pushing it down all the way.
Linear switches on the other hand must be pushed all the way down to activate. While pressing you do not feel any bump resulting in a linear press.
Most keyboard enthusiasts would recommend linear switches for gaming, and tactile for typing. Although I recommend to try out both first, as I for example prefer tactile for both gaming and typing.
The most commonly used and popular switches are Cherry MX switches. These are the gold standard for mechanical keyboards.
These come in a variety of different colours, each indicating the feel and type of the switch.
Cherry MX Red: Linear switch which require 45g of force to activate. These are very quiet and a great choice for gaming. Also available in a silent variant.
Cherrx MX Black: Linear switch which are very similar to reds, although they require 60g force to activate. They feel a bit more resistant compared to reds, and also have a silent variant.
Cherry MX Brown: the most popular switch in mechanical keyboards. A tactile switch that requires 45g of force to activate. They hardly make a sound and have a satisfying tactile bump.
Cherry MX Blue: these are the loudest switches, being a “clicky” and tactile switch. They make an audible click each time you depress a key. Also require 45g of force to activate.
Cherry MX Speed/Silver: these switches were designed specially for gamers, similar to Reds they are a linear switch but featuring a much shorter travel distance of 1.2mm rather than the standard 2mm. The idea behind the shorter distance is that you can theoretically pound keys faster, which can be helpful in MOBA or MMO games.
Recommendations for a Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
Different keyboard sizes
Mechanical keyboards come in a variety of different sizes, let’s take a look at the differences here.
The most popular and common layouts are the following as shown on the image from top to bottom.
Full Size: 100% Keyboard size, this is the most common and standard size for every keyboard, including a full number pad and being the largest size.
TKL: 75% Keyboard size, includes about 75% of the full size keyboard, although dropping the number pad.
Mini: 60% Keyboard size, one of the smallest layouts, such as the Ducky One 2 Mini removing the physical F1-F12 key row and arrow keys which typically are placed on an FN key layer.