Your Typing Experience: Clicky Mechanical Keyboard Switches

March 5, 2024

Click, clack, click, clack! If you're like me, there's nothing more satisfying than hearing the clickety sound of keyboard switches as I type my documents. Each gratifying click under my fingers provides me confirmation that my presses are registering. 

If you have a preference for accuracy, a penchant for touch, and a good ear for sound, clicky switches might be perfect for you as well!

Understanding Mechanical Keyboard Switches

Welcome to the fascinating world of mechanical switches. Mechanical keyboard switches are the individual units beneath the keycaps that register key presses. These are the "workers" of your keyboard, making each keypress a sensory or auditory (or both) experience that can make your typing or gaming sessions more enjoyable. Here's a brief overview of how they work:

  1. Actuation Mechanism: Mechanical switches use a physical switch mechanism to register key presses. When you press a key, it actuates the switch, completing an electrical circuit and sending the signal to the computer.
  2. Metal Contacts: Inside the switch are two metal contacts separated by a small gap. When the key is not pressed, these contacts are apart, and the circuit is open.
  3. Actuation Force: Mechanical switches have an actuation point---the distance the key needs to travel before the switch registers a keypress. The force required to reach this actuation point is called actuation force. Different switches can have varying actuation points and actuation forces.
  4. Reset Point: After actuation, a small spring returns the key stem to its original position for the switch to reset. The distance at which the switch resets is called the reset point.

There are several types of mechanical key switches. Linear switches provide a seamless, continuous descent to the actuation point, making them ideal for quick, repeated keypresses. Conversely, tactile switches give a noticeable bump midway, a subtle sign that your command has been acknowledged.

Then there are the clicky switches that produce a sharp, audible click, giving a rhythmic backdrop to your typing sessions. These clicky switches will be the subject of this article's discussion.

What's With the Clicking Sound?

a close-up of a click jacket

What makes clicky switches actually click? The distinctive clicky sound in a mechanical keyboard with clicky switches is caused by a component called a "click mechanism" or "click jacket." This mechanism is commonly found in switches that provide tactile feedback and an audible click, such as Cherry MX Blue or Cherry MX Green switches. 

  1. Click Jacket: Inside the mechanical switch is a plastic component known as the click jacket or click mechanism. This piece is usually located inside the switch housing.
  2. Bump and Click: As you press the key down, you first encounter resistance known as the tactile bump. This is the point in the keypress where you can feel a slight increase in force, indicating that the switch has been actuated.
  3. Leaf and Slider Interaction: When the key is pressed and the slider (the part of the switch that moves up and down with the keypress) reaches a certain point, the click jacket snaps against a leaf inside the switch.
  4. Click Sound: The snapping action of the click jacket against the leaf creates a sharp sound, resulting in the audible click that many users associate with clicky mechanical switches.
  5. Resetting the Mechanism: As the key is released and the switch resets, the click jacket moves back into its original position, ready for the next keypress.

Not all clicky switches use the same mechanism, and different manufacturers may have variations in their designs. However, the basic idea is to create a tactile and audible feedback mechanism to enhance the typing experience.

Pros and Cons of Clicky Switches When It Comes to Typing

With their tactile feedback and distinctive audible click sound, clicky switches have both advantages and disadvantages. 

Pros

  1. Tactile Feedback: Clicky switches typically provide tactile feedback, giving users a noticeable bump at the actuation point. This feedback can help typists know when a key has been registered without having to bottom out the key.
  2. Audible Confirmation: The audible click sound can serve as confirmation that a keypress has been registered. Some users find this sound satisfying during typing.
  3. Enhanced Typing Experience: For users who enjoy a more "mechanical" and responsive typing experience, clicky switches can provide a sense of engagement and precision.
  4. Typing Speed: Some users claim that the tactile feedback and audible click can contribute to improved typing speed and accuracy since the feedback helps them find the actuation point more easily.

Cons

  1. Noise: The most significant drawback of clicky switches is the noise they produce. The audible click is disruptive in quiet environments, potentially bothering others sharing the space. Due to the noise they produce, clicky switches may not be the best choice for shared or communal workspaces where quiet is preferred.
  2. Not Ideal for Gaming: The tactile bump and audible click may not be ideal for gaming scenarios where rapid, repeated key presses are common. 
  3. Learning Curve: Some users may find the tactile feedback and click distracting or may take time to adjust to the unique feel of clicky switches, especially if they are used to linear switches.
  4. Fatigue: Continuous typing on clicky switches may lead to fatigue for some users as the tactile bump and audible click may require slightly more force and may be less forgiving during prolonged typing sessions.

Who Should Be Using Clicky Switches

a close-up of a black keyboard

Are clicky switches good for typing? Why do gamers like clicky switches? Here are some types of users who might find clicky switches well-suited to their needs:

  1. Typists Who Enjoy Auditory Feedback: Users who find satisfaction in the audible click sound as they type may prefer clicky switches. 
  2. Touch Typists: Touch typists who rely on muscle memory to navigate the keyboard may appreciate the tactile feedback of clicky switches as it helps them identify the actuation point without bottoming out the keys.
  3. Writers and Content Creators: Writers, bloggers, and content creators who spend long hours typing might enjoy the tactile feedback and audible click of clicky switches.
  4. Programmers/Coders: Programmers who type a lot of code or spend long hours on the keyboard may find the tactile feedback helpful for precision typing and reducing errors.
  5. Individuals Working in Private Spaces: If you have the luxury of working in a private or less noise-sensitive environment, the clicky switches' noise won't be as much of a concern.
  6. Enthusiasts and Mechanical Keyboard Fans: Some keyboard enthusiasts enjoy the unique feel and sound of clicky switches as part of their mechanical keyboard setup.

However, clicky switches may not be suitable for everyone, and certain users may prefer other switch types. 

  1. Shared Workspaces and Quiet Environments: In shared offices or workspaces, the noise produced by clicky switches may disturb colleagues. If you're working in a library, coffee shop, or any other quiet environment, the noise generated by clicky switches may be disruptive to others. 
  2. Gaming Environments: Gamers who need rapid and repeated key presses without the distraction of audible clicks may prefer linear switches for a smoother keystroke.

Best Clicky Mechanical Switches

different types of clicky mechanical keyboard switches

Are you looking for mechanical switches for your keyboard? Here are some popular clicky switches known for their quality and performance:

  1. Cherry MX Blue
    • Tactile and clicky
    • Widely recognized and used in many mechanical keyboards
    • Features a distinctive tactile bump and audible click
  2. Cherry MX Green
    • Similar to Cherry MX Blue but with a higher actuation force
    • Offers a tactile bump and audible click, suitable for users who prefer a stiffer switch
  3. Razer Green
    • Used in Razer's mechanical keyboards
    • Tactile and clicky with a similar feel to Cherry MX Blue
  4. Gateron Blue
    • Gateron switches are often considered smoother than Cherry MX
    • Gateron Blue is tactile and clicky, similar to Cherry MX Blue
  5. Kailh Box White
    • Kailh switches are known for their durability
    • Box White is tactile and clicky, with a distinctive design that enhances water and dust resistance
  6. Outemu Blue
    • Commonly used in budget-friendly mechanical keyboards
    • Outemu Blue is tactile and clicky, offering a satisfying typing experience
  7. Kalih Speed Blue
    • A variant of the Kailh switches designed for faster actuation
    • Tactile and clicky with a shorter actuation distance
  8. SteelSeries QX2
    • Used in SteelSeries keyboards
    • Tactile and clicky with a focus on gaming performance

Conclusion

Welcome to the intriguing universe of clicky mechanical switches. These switches don't just generate that pleasant click-clack noise. They can also improve your typing precision, speed, and overall experience. Whether you're an avid gamer, a tech enthusiast, or merely seeking a more comfortable typing experience, there's a perfect clicky switch for you.

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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