This guide explains the differences between the four most common types of Cherry MX switches, often the biggest difference between mechanical keyboards. Each switch is named after its colour.
Blue – These switches are the easiest to identify, as typing on them produces a loud clicky sound. They also produce tactile feedback, as you can feel a small bump upon pressing down each key. These switches are often called ‘Click Action’ and require 50g to actuate. These switches are often recommended for typing.
Popular Blue keyboards: Razer BlackWidow, Das Keyboard Ultimate.
Brown – Brown switches are similar to Blue switches, as they incorporate the same tactile feedback. Unlike the Blue switches however, they are much quieter, lacking the characteristic clicky sound. These switches are often called ‘Tactile Action’ and require 45g to actuate.
Popular Brown keyboards: Filco Majestouch-2 Tactile, Leopold FC200RT Brown.
Black – Black switches are very different to Brown and Blue switches, as they incorporate neither tactile feedback (a bump) or aural feedback (a click). Black switches are typically called ‘Linear Action’ and require 60g to actuate. This high actuation force can be helpful for avoiding accidental keypresses.
Popular Black keyboards: SteelSeries 7g, Leopold FC200RT Black.
Red – Like Black switches, Red switches possess linear action, as they actuate without special tactile or aural feedback. These switches are much lighter than Black switches, typically requiring only 45g to actuate (compared to 60g). These switches are (like Black) called ‘Linear Action’.
Popular Red keyboard: Leopold FC500RR.
Or, put simply:
104 / Tenkeyless
Typically mechanical keyboards are available in two formats, 104 and Tenkeyless. 104 keyboards feature a numberpad, while Tenkeyless keyboards do not.
Typically Tenkeyless keyboards are chosen for gaming contexts, as few games require use of the numberpad.The reduction of size can mean that the keyboard is closer to your mouse, resulting in better posture. This can be useful for gaming on small desks. The smaller size also means that the keyboard will be lighter, which can be a bonus as mechanical keyboards tend to be quite weighty.