The Battle Between Cherry MX Brown Vs Red Switches

August 9, 2023

At the heart of today's mechanical keyboards lie the mechanical switches, responsible for the tactile feedback and precise actuation that enthusiasts and users adore. Among the most popular and widely used switches are Cherry MX Brown and Red switches, both from the esteemed Cherry brand.

In this article,  we delve into the differences between Red and Brown MX switches, distinct characteristics, advantages, and user preferences that define these two models.

Whether you're a seasoned gamer seeking lightning-fast key presses or a prolific typist yearning for a satisfying typing experience, this article will be your guide so you can easily choose the right type of switch for your needs.

What are Mechanical Key Switches?

Mechanical key switches, shortened to mechanical switches, are a type of keyboard switch used in mechanical keyboards. Unlike traditional rubber dome switches found in most standard keyboards (membrane keyboards), mechanical switches use individual mechanical components for each key. These switches are highly regarded for their superior durability, tactile feel, and precise actuation, making them popular among gamers, programmers, writers, and other users who spend significant time typing.

How Do Mechanical Switches Work?

Mechanical switches work through a combination of mechanical components that register keystrokes and send electrical signals to the computer. Unlike traditional rubber dome switches found in most membrane keyboards, mechanical switches use individual mechanisms for each key, making them more durable and responsive.

  1. Keycap and Stem: Each key on a mechanical keyboard has a keycap that you press. When you press a key, it pushes down the stem, which is a vertical component in the switch.
  2. Spring: Beneath the stem, there's a spring that provides resistance. The spring determines the actuation force required to press the key fully.
  3. Actuation Point: The actuation point is a specific position in the key's travel where the switch registers a keystroke. When you press the key down and reach this point, an electrical circuit is completed, and the keyboard sends a signal to the computer that a specific key has been pressed.
  4. Tactile Bump: Some mechanical switches, like Cherry MX Brown and MX Clear, have a tactile bump. This is a small bump in the middle of the key's travel that provides tactile feedback to the user, indicating that the keypress has been registered.
  5. Reset Point: After actuation, the switch needs to return to its original position for the key to be ready for another press. The reset point is the position where the electrical circuit is broken, and the key is ready for another keystroke.
  6. Debounce: In the keyboard's circuitry, there's a mechanism called debounce. It helps prevent unintended duplicate keypresses by ignoring any signal fluctuations that might occur when the key bounces up and down during rapid typing.
  7. Electrical Signal: When the switch registers a keystroke at the actuation point, it sends an electrical signal to the keyboard's controller, which then relays that information to the computer. The computer processes the signal and interprets it as the corresponding keypress.
  8. Repeat Rate and Polling Rate: Modern mechanical keyboards often support features like repeat rate (how quickly a key repeats when held down) and polling rate (how frequently the keyboard sends data to the computer).

The combination of these mechanical components gives mechanical switches their distinct characteristics, such as actuation force, tactile feedback, and sound.

Pros and Cons of Mechanical Switches

Mechanical key switches offer several advantages and disadvantages compared to traditional rubber dome switches.

Pros

  1. Durability: Mechanical switches are more robust and have a longer lifespan than rubber dome switches. They are typically rated for tens of millions of keystrokes, making them ideal for heavy typists and gamers who demand longevity from their keyboards.
  2. Tactile Feedback: Many mechanical switches provide tactile feedback, a slight bump that you can feel when the key actuates. This feedback helps typists know when a keypress is registered without having to bottom out the key fully, resulting in a potentially faster and more accurate typing experience.
  3. Customizability: Mechanical keyboards often come with hot-swappable switches. This enables users to change individual switches without soldering. Additionally, there is a wide variety of switch options from different manufacturers. Users have a wide avenue of choices.
  4. Actuation Force Options: Mechanical keyboard switches come in different actuation forces. Some switches have lighter actuation forces for quicker typing while others have heavier forces for better precision in gaming.
  5. N-Key Rollover: Mechanical keyboards often offer N-key rollover. This means they can register multiple keypresses simultaneously without ghosting or blocking issues. This feature is essential for gamers who need to execute complex key combinations.
  6. Typing and Gaming Performance: The tactile feedback and distinct actuation point in some mechanical switches can lead to improved typing speed and gaming performance for users who appreciate the sensory feedback.
  7. Aesthetics: Mechanical keyboards often feature a more premium and aesthetically pleasing design compared to standard membrane keyboards. They come in various styles and materials, catering to users' preferences.

Cons

  1. Price: Mechanical keyboards are generally more expensive than standard membrane keyboards due to their higher build quality and individual switches.
  2. Noise: Some mechanical switches, especially those with tactile feedback or clicky switches like Cherry MX Blue, can be noisy during typing. This noise can be bothersome to others, particularly in shared or quiet environments.
  3. Learning Curve: Switching from membrane to mechanical keyboards may require an adjustment period for some users to get used to the tactile feedback and actuation points.
  4. Non-Uniformity: Since there are many types of mechanical switches available, the typing experience can vary significantly from one switch to another. It's essential to test switches or do research to find the one that suits your preferences.

Mechanical switches offer excellent durability, customization, and typing/gaming performance. However, they come with a higher price tag, potential noise, and a learning curve.

What are Cherry MX Key Switches?

Cherry MX switches are mechanical key switches manufactured by ZF Friedrichshafen AG under their Cherry brand. These switches are widely recognized and have become the standard for mechanical keyboards due to their high quality and consistent performance. Cherry MX switches are known for their durability, precise actuation, and customizable options.  making them popular among gamers, typists, and keyboard enthusiasts.

Cherry MX switches are named after the color of their stems, which correspond to different characteristics of the switch.

Cherry MX switches have a standardized stem design, which allows them to be used in a wide range of mechanical keyboards.

Due to the popularity of Cherry MX switches, they have become a standard reference for comparing and understanding the differences between various mechanical switch types.

About Cherry MX Red and Cherry MX Brown Switches

Some of the most common Cherry switch varieties are Cherry MX Red and Brown switches. Which one is for you?

Features and Specifications of Cherry MX Red Switches?

The popular Cherry MX Red switches are among the favorite mechanical switches of gamers. They are prized for their smooth linear keystroke without tactile feedback and a relatively low actuation force.

  1. Switch Type: Cherry MX Red is a linear switch, which means it has a consistent keystroke from top to bottom without any tactile bump or audible click during actuation.
  2. Actuation Force: Cherry MX Red switches have a low actuation force of approximately 45 grams. This means you don't need to apply much pressure to register a keypress, making them ideal for quick and light finger movements, which is preferred by gamers.
  3. Actuation Point: The actuation point is the position in the key's travel where the switch registers a keystroke. In Cherry MX Red switches, the actuation point is at 2mm, which is relatively shallow compared to other switches. This shallow actuation point helps in rapid key presses and quick response times in gaming.
  4. Total Travel Distance: The total travel distance of Cherry MX Red switches is 4mm. This is the distance from the top (resting) position of the key to the bottom when fully pressed.
  5. Key Feel: Since Cherry MX Red switches are linear and lack tactile feedback, the keypress feels smooth from top to bottom without any interruption or bump. This consistent keystroke is preferred by gamers who need to execute rapid and repeated key presses.
  6. Sound Level: Cherry MX Red switches are relatively quiet compared to tactile and clicky switches like Cherry MX Blue. The absence of a tactile bump and audible click contributes to a quieter typing experience.
  7. Best Use Cases: Cherry MX Red switches are highly popular among gamers, especially those who play first-person shooters (FPS) and other games that require fast and precise keypresses. Their low actuation force and linear feel allow for rapid double-tapping and quick movement in games. However, they can also be used for typing tasks if the user prefers a light and smooth keystroke without tactile feedback.
  8. Similar Switches: Cherry MX Black switches are similar to Cherry MX Red switches in terms of actuation force and linearity but require slightly more force to actuate. Cherry MX Silent Red switches are also similar to Cherry MX Red switches but have a dampened keystroke to reduce noise.

Cherry MX Red switches have earned their reputation as one of the go-to switches for gaming due to their responsiveness and ease of use.

Features and Specifications of Cherry MX Brown Switches

Cherry MX Brown switches are another popular type of mechanical switch. Their tactile feedback is what makes the Cherry MX Brown switches a favorite for many users. It also generates relatively lower noise compared to clicky switches. They strike a balance between gaming and typing, making them a versatile choice for users who engage in both activities.

  1. Switch Type: Cherry MX Brown is a tactile switch, which means it provides a noticeable bump during the keypress to indicate actuation.  It lacks the loud audible click sound in clicky switches such as Cherry MX Blue switches.
  2. Actuation Force: Cherry MX Brown switches have a moderate actuation force of approximately 45 grams, similar to Cherry MX Red switches. This makes them relatively easy to press, which is suitable for both gaming and typing.
  3. Actuation Point: The actuation point of Cherry MX Brown switches is 2mm---the same as Cherry MX Red switches. This shallow actuation point allows for quick key presses and responsiveness in both gaming and typing tasks.
  4. Total Travel Distance: The total travel distance of Cherry MX Brown switches is 4mm, the same as most Cherry MX switches.
  5. Tactile Feedback: Cherry MX Brown switches offer tactile feedback through a slight bump in the keystroke. This feedback can help typists recognize when a key has been actuated without having to bottom out the key fully. This potentially leads to faster typing speeds and reduced finger fatigue.
  6. Key Feel: The keypress on Cherry MX Brown switches feels smooth until the tactile bump is encountered, at which point there's a slight increase in resistance before the key bottoms out. This provides a balanced and comfortable typing experience for many users.
  7. Sound Level: Cherry MX Brown switches are quieter than clicky switches like Cherry MX Blue because they lack the audible click sound. However, they may still produce some noise when the key is bottomed out.
  8. Best Use Cases: Cherry MX Brown switches are well-suited for users who split their time between gaming and typing. The tactile feedback provides a satisfying typing experience, while the low actuation force allows for responsive gaming. If you're in an environment where minimal noise is preferred, Cherry MX Brown switches can be a suitable choice.
  9. Similar Switches: Cherry MX Clear switches are somewhat similar to Cherry MX Brown switches but require more actuation force to overcome the tactile bump. Cherry MX Silent Brown switches are also similar but have dampened keystrokes to reduce noise.

As with any mechanical switch, personal preference plays a significant role in determining the best fit for your needs and typing style.

Cherry MX Red Vs Brown Switches

Here's a short comparison of Cherry MX Brown and Red switches for your guidance:

  1. Switch Type
  • Cherry MX Brown: Tactile switch with a noticeable bump during keypresses, providing tactile feedback to the user.
  • Cherry MX Red: Linear switch with no tactile bump, providing a smooth keystroke without any interruption.
  1. Actuation Force
  • Both switches have the same actuation force of approximately 45 grams. This makes them relatively light and easy to press.
  1. Actuation Point
  • Both switches have the same actuation point at 2mm. This shallow actuation point allows for quick key presses and responsiveness in both gaming and typing.
  1. Tactile Feedback
  • Cherry MX Brown: Provides tactile feedback through a noticeable bump during the keypress. The bump helps typists recognize when a key has been actuated without having to bottom out the key fully.
  • Cherry MX Red: Lacks tactile feedback; the keystroke is smooth from top to bottom without any bump. Users won't feel any tactile indication of the actuation point.
  1. Typing Experience
  • Cherry MX Brown: Preferred by typists who appreciate the tactile feedback, as it gives a sense of key actuation and can potentially lead to improved typing accuracy and speed.
  • Cherry MX Red: Preferred by users who prefer a linear switch without tactile feedback. This allows for smoother and faster key presses, suitable for quick and repetitive gaming actions.
  1. Noise Level
  • Cherry MX Brown: Quieter compared to clicky switches like Cherry MX Blue due to the absence of an audible click. However, they may still produce some noise if the keys are bottomed out with force.
  • Cherry MX Red: Quieter than clicky switches, but they produce a consistent noise level during actuation due to the linear design. There is no tactile bump to generate additional noise.
  1. Best Use Cases
  • Cherry MX Brown: Well-suited for users for gamers and typists alike. The tactile feedback enhances the typing experience while the low actuation force allows for responsive gaming.
  • Cherry MX Red: Ideal for gamers who prioritize quick and effortless key presses without any tactile interruption. Also suitable for users who prefer a linear switch for typing.
  1. Similar Switches
  • Cherry MX Clear: Similar to Cherry MX Brown but requires more actuation force to overcome the tactile bump.
  • Cherry MX Silent Red: Similar to Cherry MX Red but with dampened keystrokes to reduce noise.

Other Cherry MX Keyboard Switches

If you still aren't sure which switch is right for you, then check out this list. In addition to Cherry MX Brown and Red switches, there are other types of Cherry MX switches.

  1. Cherry MX Blue: Tactile and clicky switch with a noticeable tactile bump and an audible click sound. Preferred by typists who enjoy the audible feedback and want to know when a keypress is registered.
  2. Cherry MX Black: Linear switch with a higher actuation force compared to Cherry MX Red. Preferred by gamers who want a smooth keystroke but with a heavier feel to avoid accidental key presses.
  3. Cherry MX Green: Tactile and clicky switch similar to Cherry MX Blue but with a higher actuation force. Provides a more substantial and robust typing experience.
  4. Cherry MX Clear: Tactile switch with a higher actuation force than Cherry MX Brown. Offers a more pronounced tactile bump for users who prefer a tactile switch with some resistance.
  5. Cherry MX Silent Red and Silent Black: Similar to Cherry MX Red and Black, respectively, but with dampened keystrokes for reduced noise. Suitable for users who want the benefits of linear switches without any loud noise.
  6. Cherry MX White: Tactile and clicky switch with a similar feel to Cherry MX Blue but with a lighter actuation force. Provides a lighter and more responsive typing experience.
  7. Cherry MX Gray: Tactile and clicky switch with a higher actuation force compared to Cherry MX Green. Offers a heavy typing experience with pronounced tactile feedback and a loud click.
  8. Cherry MX RGB: A variant of the Cherry MX switches that incorporate RGB lighting, allowing individual key illumination with customizable colors and effects.

When choosing a mechanical keyboard, it's essential to consider the specific characteristics of the switches and match them with your typing and gaming needs. Trying out different switches or researching user reviews can help you find the perfect match for your preferred typing and gaming experience.

Competitors of the Cherry MX Red and Brown Switches

Several other manufacturers produce mechanical switches that compete with Cherry MX Red and Brown switches. These switches often offer similar characteristics but may have slight variations in actuation force, tactile feedback, or sound profile.

Competitors to Cherry MX Red

  1. Gateron Red: Similar to Cherry MX Red, Gateron Red switches are linear with a low actuation force. Some users find Gateron Red switches to be smoother than Cherry MX Red.
  2. Kailh Red: Another linear switch with a low actuation force, similar to Cherry MX Red. Kailh switches are known for their affordability and smooth keystrokes.
  3. Outemu Red: A budget-friendly alternative to Cherry MX Red, Outemu Red switches are linear and widely used in budget mechanical keyboards.

Competitors to Cherry MX Brown

  1. Gateron Brown: Similar to Cherry MX Brown, Gateron Brown switches are tactile with a subtle bump. Some users find Gateron Brown switches to be smoother than Cherry MX Brown.
  2. Kailh Brown: Another tactile switch with a slight bump, similar to Cherry MX Brown. Kailh switches are known for their affordability and tactile feel.
  3. Outemu Brown: A budget-friendly alternative to Cherry MX Brown, Outemu Brown switches offer a tactile experience at a lower price point.
  4. Zealios: Produced by ZealPC, Zealios switches are highly regarded for their tactile feel. They offer various options with different levels of tactile feedback, including Zealios V2 and Zealios V2 R2.
  5. Holy Panda: A popular custom switch created by combining the stem of Halo True/Clear switches with the housing of Invyr Panda switches. Holy Pandas offer a pronounced tactile bump and have gained a significant following in the mechanical keyboard community.

These are just a few examples of competitors to Cherry MX Red and Brown switches. There are many other switch options available from various manufacturers, each with its unique characteristics.

Where to Buy Cherry MX Red and Brown Switches

Cherry MX Red and Brown switches are in mechanical keyboards, making them readily available for purchase from various online and offline sources. Here are some places where you can buy Cherry MX Red and Brown switches:

  1. Online Retailers
  • Amazon: Amazon offers a wide selection of Cherry MX Red and Brown switches from various brands and sellers.
  • Mechanical Keyboard Specialty Stores: Online stores specializing in mechanical keyboards, such as MechanicalKeyboards.com, NovelKeys, and Drop (formerly Massdrop) often have a variety of switch options including Cherry MX Red and Brown.
  1. Keyboard Manufacturers' Websites
  • Many mechanical keyboard manufacturers have websites where you can purchase their keyboards equipped with Cherry MX Red or Brown switches directly from the source.
  1. Local Electronics Stores
  • Many brick-and-mortar electronics retailers or computer stores may carry mechanical keyboards with Cherry MX switches including Red and Brown. Check with your local stores for availability.
  1. Mechanical Keyboard Enthusiast Forums and Communities:
  • Online communities and forums dedicated to mechanical keyboards, such as Reddit's r/MechanicalKeyboards, often have group buys, sales threads, and recommendations for purchasing Cherry MX switches from various sources.
  1. Specialty Switch Retailers:
  • Some retailers such as NovelKeys and ZealPC specialize in selling mechanical keyboard switches and accessories including Cherry MX switches.
  1. Keycap and Switch Vendors:
  • Some vendors focus specifically on selling individual switches and keycaps, making it easy to buy Cherry MX Red and Brown switches in bulk.

When purchasing Cherry MX switches, it's important to ensure that you are buying from reputable sources to ensure the authenticity and quality of the products.

Users' Feedback on the MX Browns and Reds

Users' opinions about Cherry MX Red and Brown switches can vary widely because individual preferences play a significant role in determining preference. Here are some common feedback and user opinions about Cherry MX Red and Brown switches:

Cherry MX Red

  1. Gaming Performance: Many gamers appreciate Cherry MX Red switches for their smooth and linear keystrokes. The lack of tactile feedback allows for quick and effortless key presses, making them ideal for fast-paced gaming.
  2. Typing Experience: Some users find Cherry MX Red switches less satisfying for typing compared to tactile switches due to the absence of a tactile bump.
  3. Quieter Typing: Cherry MX Red switches are generally quieter than clicky switches, making them more suitable for offices, libraries, and other quiet environments.
  4. Preference for Linearity: Users who prefer a consistent keystroke without any tactile interruptions often gravitate towards Cherry MX Red switches.

Cherry MX Brown

  1. Versatility: Cherry MX Brown switches are popular among a wide variety of users, from gamers to typists. The tactile bump provides feedback for typing without being too distracting during gaming.
  2. Tactile Feedback: Users who enjoy tactile switches appreciate Cherry MX Brown for the subtle bump, which provides a sense of actuation without being too pronounced.
  3. Balanced Feel: Many users find Cherry MX Brown switches strike a good balance between gaming and typing, providing a pleasant and versatile typing experience.
  4. Preference for Tactility: Those who prefer a tactile feel during typing, but don't want the audible click of clicky switches, often find Cherry MX Brown to be a great fit.

Conclusion

Both Cherry MX key switches have their unique strengths and drawbacks.

Cherry MX Red switches, with their smooth and linear keystrokes and low actuation force, excel in gaming environments. Gamers seeking rapid and effortless key presses find Cherry MX Red switches to be a perfect fit for their fast-paced gameplay. The absence of tactile feedback allows for quick double-tapping and consistent movements, making them a top choice for competitive gamers.

Cherry MX Brown switches offer a more versatile experience, appealing to users who engage in both typing and gaming activities. The subtle tactile bump provides feedback during typing, leading to improved accuracy and comfort for long typing sessions.

The "winner" between Cherry MX Brown and Red switches depends solely on the individual's priorities and how they intend to use their mechanical keyboard.

Chris Greiner, a Mechanical Keyboard specialist, boasts a solid educational background with dual bachelor's degrees in Computer Science and Business Management from Lewis University. His additional certification in Mechanical Keyboard Design showcases his dedication to staying on the forefront of keyboard technology. Chris primarily writes for keyboard enthusiasts and has been featured on platforms like Jestik, solidifying his reputation as a thought leader in the mechanical keyboard community.
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