A Comprehensive Guide to Brown Switches

August 24, 2023

Mechanical keyboards are popular among typing enthusiasts, gamers, and professionals seeking a superior typing experience. At the heart of these beloved keyboards are the mechanical switches, each offering unique characteristics that cater to diverse preferences. Among the array of switches available, Cherry MX Brown switches have carved out a special place in the hearts of users worldwide.

In this comprehensive guide, we will understand their internal workings, identify their distinct advantages and disadvantages, and provide you with a comprehensive understanding of Brown switches.

Whether you're a seasoned mechanical keyboard enthusiast looking to delve deeper into the nuances of Brown switches or a curious newcomer seeking the perfect tactile companion, we invite you to join us on this enlightening exploration of the key features, benefits, and potential considerations of Brown switches. 

What are Brown Switches for Mechanical Keyboards?

Brown switches are a type of mechanical keyboard switch, popular among enthusiasts and typists alike. They belong to the family of Cherry MX switches, developed by the German company Cherry GmbH. These popular switches for mechanical keyboards are designed to offer a balance between tactile feedback and smoothness during typing or gaming.

Brown switches are tactile, which means users can feel tactile bumps during actuation. When you press a key with a Brown switch, you'll feel a noticeable bump at the actuation point, which indicates that the key press has been registered. This tactile feedback provides a sense of confirmation to the typist or gamer that the keypress has been recognized without having to press the key all the way down.

Unlike the clicky switches (such as Cherry MX Blue switches), tactile Brown switches do not have an audible "click" sound when the actuation point is reached. This means they are generally quieter and more suitable for environments where noise might be a concern such as in an office or shared living space.

How do Brown Switches work?

Brown switches, like other mechanical keyboard switches, work based on a physical mechanism that registers a keypress and sends an electrical signal to the computer. Each key on a mechanical keyboard has its own individual switch, and when you press a key, it activates the switch, which then sends a signal to the computer to register the keypress. 

  1. Internal Construction: Brown switches consist of several key components inside a housing. The major components include a spring, stem, actuation mechanism, and electrical contacts.
  2. Tactile Bump: When you press down a key with a Brown switch, the stem inside the switch moves downward against the force of the spring. As the stem moves, it encounters a bump in the actuation mechanism. This bump creates tactile feedback that you can feel when the keypress is registered.
  3. Actuation Point: The actuation point is the specific point in the keypress where the switch registers the keystroke. In Brown switches, the actuation point occurs when the stem encounters the tactile bump. At this point, the switch sends an electrical signal to the computer, indicating that the key has been pressed.
  4. Tactile Reset: After the actuation point, the stem continues to move downward, overcoming the bump, and reaches the bottom of the switch housing. This is called "bottoming out." Once the key reaches the bottom, the switch resets, and the electrical signal is sent again as the key is released.
  5. No Audible Click: Unlike some other switches like Cherry MX Blue switches, Brown switches do not have an audible click mechanism. This means they do not produce a clicking sound when the key reaches the actuation point, resulting in quieter operation.
  6. Key Rollover and Anti-Ghosting: Mechanical switches, including Brown switches, usually support key rollover and anti-ghosting features. Key rollover allows multiple keys to be pressed simultaneously and still be registered accurately, while anti-ghosting prevents unwanted keystrokes when pressing multiple keys.

The tactile feedback of Brown switches provides typists and gamers with a sense of confirmation during each keypress without the need to press the key all the way down (which is called "bottoming out"). This can result in faster and more comfortable typing experiences.

Different manufacturers may produce their own versions of Brown switches with slightly varying characteristics, but the fundamental principle of operation remains the same across most Brown switches

Advantages of Brown Switches

Brown switches offer several benefits that make them a popular choice among mechanical keyboard users. These benefits stem from the unique characteristics of Brown switches, which strike a balance between tactile feedback and smooth key presses. 

  1. Tactile Feedback: Brown switches provide a tactile bump at the actuation point, giving users a sense of confirmation when a keypress is registered. This tactile feedback can help improve typing accuracy and reduce the chances of accidentally pressing keys.
  2. Quiet Operation: Compared to clicky switches like Cherry MX Blue switches, Brown switches are relatively quiet. The absence of an audible click at the actuation point makes them suitable for shared environments, such as offices or quiet living spaces, where noise can be a concern.
  3. Versatility: Brown switches are considered versatile as they strike a balance between typing and gaming needs. The tactile bump enhances typing experiences, while the smooth keypress allows for comfortable gaming sessions without fatigue.
  4. Comfortable Typing: The tactile bump of Brown switches allows typists to feel when a key has been activated without needing to press the key all the way down. This feature promotes a more ergonomic typing experience and can reduce finger fatigue during prolonged typing sessions.
  5. Faster Typing Speed: Some users find that the tactile feedback of Brown switches enables faster typing speeds, as the feedback allows them to move on to the next key more quickly with confidence.
  6. No Audible Click: While providing tactile feedback, Brown switches do not produce an audible click at the actuation point. This can be beneficial for users who prefer a tactile feel but don't want the noise associated with clicky switches.
  7. Key Rollover and Anti-Ghosting: Brown switches, like most mechanical switches, generally support key rollover and anti-ghosting features. This means that multiple key presses can be registered accurately, allowing for complex inputs in gaming or fast typing without missing keystrokes.
  8. Durable and Long-Lasting: Mechanical switches, including Brown switches, are designed for longevity and durability. They can withstand millions of keystrokes, making them a reliable choice for heavy typists and gamers.
  9. Customization Options: Mechanical keyboards with Brown switches often come with customization options, such as keycap replacement, lighting effects, and programmable macros, allowing users to personalize their typing or gaming experience.

Disadvantages of Brown Switches

While Brown switches offer several advantages, they also have some drawbacks that may affect users' preferences and overall typing or gaming experiences. 

  1. Less Pronounced Tactile Feedback: While Brown switches provide tactile feedback, the bump is less pronounced compared to switches specifically designed for more significant tactile feedback, such as Cherry MX Clear or tactile variants of other brands. This can be a disadvantage for users who prefer a stronger and more distinct tactile feel.
  2. No Audible Click: The absence of an audible click, which is a feature of clicky switches like Cherry MX Blue, may not suit users who enjoy the auditory feedback when typing. Some users find the click sound helpful for typing rhythm and audio feedback.
  3. Subjective Preference: Keyboard switches, including Brown switches, are highly subjective, and users' preferences vary widely. Some individuals may prefer the feel of other switch types, such as linear switches (e.g., Cherry MX Red), over Brown switches.
  4. Typing Fatigue: Although Brown switches offer a balance between tactile feedback and smoothness, some users may still experience typing fatigue, especially during extended typing sessions. The level of typing fatigue depends on individual typing habits and preferences.
  5. Gaming Preference: While Brown switches are versatile and can be used for gaming, some gamers may prefer linear switches (e.g., Cherry MX Red or Black) for gaming because of their smooth and consistent keystrokes without tactile bumps.
  6. Availability: The availability of keyboards with Brown switches may be limited compared to more common switch types like Red or Blue switches. As a result, users may have fewer options to choose from when shopping for a mechanical keyboard.
  7. Switch Variability: Different keyboard manufacturers produce their versions of Brown switches, and there can be slight variations in the actuation force and tactile feedback between different brands or models. Users should research and try out different keyboards to find the Brown switch that best suits their preferences.
  8. Pricing: Mechanical keyboards, especially those with premium switches like Brown switches, can be more expensive than standard membrane keyboards. The cost can be a disadvantage for budget-conscious users.

Brown Switches vs Other Types of Mechanical Switches

Comparing Brown switches with other types of mechanical switches can help users make an informed decision based on their preferences, typing style, and intended use. Let's look at some common comparisons:

  1. Brown vs. Red Switches
    • Brown Switches: Provide tactile feedback with a slight bump at the actuation point. Quieter compared to clicky switches. Preferred by typists and gamers who want tactile feedback without the audible click.
    • Red Switches: Linear switches with no tactile bump and no audible click. Preferred by gamers who require smooth and consistent keystrokes without tactile interference. Suitable for rapid key presses.
  2. Brown vs. Blue Switches
    • Brown Switches: Tactile feedback with a slight bump, but no audible click. Quieter than Blue switches, making them more suitable for shared environments.
    • Blue Switches: Tactile feedback with a noticeable bump and a distinctive audible click. Preferred by typists who enjoy the click sound as auditory feedback during typing.
  3. Brown vs. Black Switches
    • Brown Switches: Tactile feedback with a slight bump, quieter operation. More versatile for both typing and gaming compared to Black switches.
    • Black Switches: Linear switches with no tactile bump and no audible click. Preferred by gamers who prefer a consistent and smooth keystroke without the tactile bump.
  4. Brown vs. Clear Switches
    • Brown Switches: Tactile feedback with a slight bump, quieter compared to clear switches. More common and widely available.
    • Clear Switches: Provide a more pronounced tactile bump than Brown switches. Preferred by users who desire a stronger tactile feel.
  5. Brown vs. Green Switches
    • Brown Switches: Tactile feedback with a slight bump, quiet operation compared to Green switches.
    • Green Switches: Similar to Blue switches, providing tactile feedback with a bump and a loud audible click. Preferred by typists who enjoy a tactile feel and the click sound.
  6. Brown vs. Silent Switches
    • Brown Switches: Tactile feedback with a slight bump, but not silent. Quieter compared to clicky switches but still produces a sound when the key bottoms out.
    • Silent Switches: Designed to reduce noise significantly. Available in various types, such as Silent Red, Silent Black, and Silent Brown, which offer different actuation forces and tactile feedback levels.

Which Keyboards Use Brown Switches?

Many reputable keyboard manufacturers produce models that use Cherry MX Brown switches. Cherry MX is one of the most popular and widely used switch types, and it's available in various keyboard models. Here are some well-known keyboard brands that have offered models with Cherry MX Brown switches:

1. Corsair: Corsair's mechanical gaming keyboards, such as the K70, K95, and Strafe series, often include Cherry MX Brown switch options.

2. Ducky : Ducky is known for its high-quality mechanical keyboards. Many of their models, like the Ducky One 2 Mini, One 2 SF, and Mecha SF, have Cherry MX Brown variants.

3. Cooler Master: The Cooler Master CK550 and CK552 are examples of keyboards that come with Cherry MX Brown switches.

4. Filco: Filco, a Japanese keyboard manufacturer, offers a variety of models with Cherry MX Brown switches, such as the Majestouch 2 series.

5. Das Keyboard: Das Keyboard's mechanical keyboards, like the Das Keyboard 4 Professional, are available with Cherry MX Brown switches.

6. HyperX: The HyperX Alloy FPS Pro and Alloy FPS RGB are gaming keyboards from HyperX that come with Cherry MX Brown switches.

7. Varmilo: Varmilo offers a range of mechanical keyboards, and many of them have Cherry MX Brown switch options.

8. Leopold: Leopold is another reputable keyboard manufacturer that provides models with Cherry MX Brown switches.

9. Anne Pro: The Anne Pro series of keyboards often come with a choice of switch types, including Cherry MX Brown.

10. Razer: Razer occasionally offers limited editions of its popular keyboards with Cherry MX Brown switches.

How to Choose a Keyboard with Brown Mechanical Key Switches

Looking to upgrade your gaming or work setup with a keyboard featuring brown switches? Let's dive into the nitty-gritty of choosing the right board for you. Choosing a keyboard with Brown switches involves considering various factors to ensure it meets your typing or gaming needs and preferences. 

  1. Identify Your Purpose: Determine the primary purpose of the keyboard. Are you mainly typing, gaming, or a mix of both? Different switch types cater to different needs.
  2. Research Different Switch Types: Familiarize yourself with the different mechanical switch types available, including Brown switches, Red switches, Blue switches, etc. Understand their characteristics and how they feel during typing or gaming.
  3. Test the Switches: If possible, visit a local electronics store or a computer peripherals shop to test the switches in person. Typing on each switch type will help you experience the feel and decide which one suits you best.
  4. Consider Tactile Feedback: If you prefer tactile feedback without the audible click, Brown switches might be a suitable choice. However, if you want a more pronounced tactile bump, you may want to explore alternatives like Cherry MX Clear switches.
  5. Noise Level : If you need a quieter keyboard, Brown switches are quieter than clicky switches but may still produce noise when the key bottoms out. If noise is a significant concern, you might consider switches labeled as "silent" variants.
  6. Gaming Requirements: For gaming, consider whether you need a linear switch with no tactile bump, like Cherry MX Red switches, for quick and smooth keystrokes, or if the tactile feedback of Brown switches suits your gaming style better.
  7. Brand and Build Quality: Look for reputable keyboard brands known for producing quality products. Research customer reviews and feedback to gauge the keyboard's build quality and overall reliability.
  8. Customization Options: Consider whether you want customizable features like RGB lighting, programmable macros, or detachable cables.
  9. Layout and Form Factor: Choose a keyboard with a layout and form factor that suits your needs, whether it's a full-sized keyboard, a tenkeyless (TKL) layout, or a compact 60% layout.
  10. Price and Budget: Determine your budget and compare keyboards within that price range. Remember that mechanical keyboards with Brown switches may have a higher price compared to membrane keyboards.
  11. Additional Features : Check for additional features that may be important to you, such as USB pass-through ports, media control keys, or wrist rests.
  12. Availability: Ensure the keyboard model you choose comes with Cherry MX Brown switches and is available in your region.
  13. Warranty and Support: Look for a keyboard with a warranty period and good customer support in case you encounter any issues.

By carefully considering these factors, you can find a keyboard with Brown switches that aligns with your preferences, provides an enjoyable typing experience, and suits your specific needs, whether you're a typist or a gamer.

Competitors of the Cherry MX Brown Switches

Cherry MX Brown switches are among the most popular mechanical keyboard switches due to their tactile feedback without the audible click. However, several competitors offer similar switches with varying characteristics to cater to different preferences. 

1. Gateron Brown: Gateron is a well-known switch manufacturer that produces switches similar to Cherry MX switches. Gateron Brown switches offer a tactile bump and smooth keypress, similar to Cherry MX Brown switches. Some users find Gateron switches to be smoother and lighter in actuation force.

2. Kailh Brown: Kailh is another switch manufacturer that offers Brown switches, often referred to as Kailh Brown. Kailh switches are known for their affordability and can be found in many budget-friendly mechanical keyboards. Kailh Brown switches also provide tactile feedback with a slight bump.

3. Outemu Brown: Outemu is a switch manufacturer that offers Brown switches, providing tactile feedback and a smooth keypress. Outemu switches are often found in budget mechanical keyboards and offer good value for the price.

4. Razer Orange: Razer's Orange switches are designed to be similar to Cherry MX Brown switches, offering tactile feedback with a bump and a relatively quiet operation. Razer's switches are found in their gaming-oriented mechanical keyboards.

5. SteelSeries QX2 Brown: SteelSeries offers the QX2 switch, which is designed to be tactile and smooth, similar to Cherry MX Brown switches. These switches are featured in certain SteelSeries mechanical keyboards.

6. Romer-G Tactile: Logitech's Romer-G Tactile switches offer tactile feedback without an audible click. While they have a different design and feel compared to Cherry MX switches, some users find them to be a viable alternative to Cherry MX Brown switches.

7. NovelKeys Cream: NovelKeys Cream switches offer a unique blend of smoothness and tactile feedback, and some users compare them favorably to Cherry MX Brown switches.

8. Zealios V2: Zealios V2 switches from ZealPC are highly regarded by keyboard enthusiasts and come in different tactile variants, including one with a tactile bump similar to Cherry MX Brown switches.

Tips for Maintaining and Cleaning Brown Switch Keyboards

Now that you've chosen your perfect keyboard with brown switches, let's talk about how to keep it in top shape.

Regular Cleaning Routine

Cleaning your Brown switches can help maintain their performance and prolong their lifespan. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to clean Brown switches:

Note: Before cleaning any electronic device, including mechanical keyboards, make sure it is disconnected from the power source and turned off.

  1. Remove the keycaps: Start by removing the keycaps from the keyboard. You can use a keycap puller or a flat tool (like a credit card) to gently lift and remove the keycaps.
  2. Blow away fust and debris: Use a can of compressed air or a handheld air blower to blow away dust and debris from the switches and the keyboard's surface. This will help remove loose particles that might be affecting the switch's performance.
  3. Wipe the keyboard surface: Use a soft, lint-free cloth or a microfiber cloth to wipe the keyboard surface. This will remove any remaining dust or dirt that the air blowing might have missed.
  4. Clean the keycaps: If the keycaps are dirty, you can soak them in warm soapy water for a few minutes and then gently scrub them with a soft brush to remove grime. Rinse thoroughly and let them dry completely before reattaching them.
  5. Clean the switches: To clean the Brown switches themselves, you can use a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol). Gently clean the switch housing and stem to remove any dirt or residue that might have accumulated.
  6. Lubricate: You can apply a small amount of switch lubricant (preferably a thin, plastic-safe lubricant) to the stems for smoother actuation. However, be careful as improper lubrication can affect the switch's performance.
  7. Reattach the keycaps: Once the switches are clean and dry, reattach the keycaps to their respective switches. Ensure each keycap is firmly and evenly pressed onto the switch stem.
  8. Test the keyboard: After cleaning and reassembling the keyboard, connect it back to your computer and test each key to ensure they are functioning correctly.

Additional Tips

  • Avoid using excessive force when removing or reattaching keycaps to prevent damaging the switches.
  • Do not use water or liquid directly on the switches or inside the keyboard to prevent damage to the electrical components.
  • Cleaning frequency may depend on the environment and usage. Regularly dusting and keeping your workspace clean can help reduce the need for frequent deep cleaning.

Disassembling and cleaning a mechanical keyboard might void its warranty, so it's essential to follow the manufacturer's guidelines and recommendations. If you're unsure about cleaning the switches yourself, consider seeking help from a professional or contacting the keyboard manufacturer for advice.

Replacing Brown Switches

Replacing switches on a mechanical keyboard, including Brown switches, is a complex and advanced process that requires specialized tools and knowledge. It involves desoldering the existing switches and soldering the new ones onto the keyboard's PCB (printed circuit board). It is essential to have experience in soldering and a good understanding of electronics before attempting this procedure. Additionally, replacing switches on a keyboard may void the manufacturer's warranty.

Here's a general overview of the steps involved in replacing Brown switches:

Note: Before proceeding, make sure to disconnect the keyboard from the power source and ensure you have a safe and static-free workspace.

  1. Prepare the keyboard: Remove all keycaps and disassemble the keyboard to access the PCB and switches. This may involve removing screws and any case clips.
  2. Desolder the existing switches: Using a soldering iron and desoldering pump or solder wick, carefully remove the solder from the switch's pins on the PCB. This will allow you to detach the old switches from the PCB.
  3. Remove the old switches: Once the solder is removed, gently desolder the switches' pins from the PCB. Take care not to damage the PCB or any other components during this process.
  4. Insert new switches: Insert the new Brown switches into the switch cutouts on the PCB. Ensure they are aligned correctly and securely seated.
  5. Solder the new switches: Use a soldering iron to solder the new switches' pins to the appropriate spots on the PCB. Apply solder evenly and avoid creating solder bridges between adjacent pins.
  6. Test the keyboard: After soldering all the new switches, reassemble the keyboard and test each key to ensure the switches are functioning correctly.
  7. Reattach the keycaps: Once you confirm that the new switches are working correctly, reattach the keycaps to their respective switches.

Important Tips

  • Be patient and gentle during the process to avoid damaging the PCB or other components.
  • Take pictures or create a diagram of the keyboard's layout and switch orientation before desoldering, as a reference for reassembly.
  • Use a soldering iron with appropriate wattage and a fine tip for precision soldering.
  • If you are unsure about any step of the process or lack experience with electronics, it is best to seek help from an experienced technician or professional keyboard modder.

Replacing switches is a challenging task, and mistakes can permanently damage the keyboard. If you are not confident in your soldering abilities or are worried about voiding the warranty, consider getting in touch with the manufacturer to have your key switches replaced.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Being made of moving, mechanical parts, brown switches, like any mechanical keyboard switch, can encounter certain issues over time or due to specific factors. Here are some common issues with Brown switches and possible troubleshooting steps:

  1. Key chattering: Key chattering occurs when a switch registers multiple keystrokes from a single press. This can be caused by debris, dust, or a faulty switch. Troubleshooting: Clean the affected switch using compressed air or isopropyl alcohol. If the issue persists, consider replacing the faulty switch.
  2. Key sticking or stiffness: Keys may feel sticky or stiff if there is debris or residue on the switch or if the switch is damaged. Troubleshooting: Clean the affected switch using isopropyl alcohol and ensure there are no obstructions. If the problem persists, consider replacing the switch.
  3. Inconsistent tactile feedback: Tactile feedback may become inconsistent over time due to wear or damage to the switch. Troubleshooting: Ensure there are no obstructions or debris in the switch. If the issue persists, consider replacing the switch or lubricating it if you have experience with keyboard maintenance.
  4. Switch wobble: Switch wobble occurs when a keycap wobbles or moves laterally on the switch stem. Troubleshooting: Check if the keycap is securely seated on the switch stem. If it still wobbles, consider lubricating the stabilizers or replacing them if they are the cause of the wobble.
  5. Switch rattling: Some users may experience a rattling sound when pressing certain keys. Troubleshooting: Check if the stabilizers are secure and properly seated. Lubricating the stabilizers may also reduce the rattling noise.
  6. Switch not registering keystrokes: If a switch is not registering key presses, it may be due to a faulty switch or a loose connection. Troubleshooting: Check the soldering connections if you have replaced switches before. If the switch is not responsive, it may need to be replaced.
  7. LEDs not working: If your keyboard has RGB lighting or individual LED backlighting and the LEDs for specific keys are not working, it could be due to a faulty LED or connection. Troubleshooting: Check the LED connection or try resetting the keyboard's firmware. If the LEDs still don't work, they may require professional repair or replacement.

Important Notes

  • If your keyboard is under warranty, contact the manufacturer's support for assistance with troubleshooting and potential repairs.
  • Before attempting any troubleshooting that involves disassembling the keyboard or replacing switches, be aware that it may void the warranty.

If you are unsure about troubleshooting mechanical keyboard issues or do not have experience with keyboard maintenance, it is best to seek help from a professional or experienced keyboard modder to avoid causing further damage

Conclusion

We hope this ultimate guide to Brown mechanical switches has helped you. Brown switches truly offer a unique blend of versatility, comfort, and precision. These switches are ideal for avid gamers, typists, bloggers, and users who want to enjoy a smooth typing experience.

Remember to consider your needs when choosing a keyboard with brown switches. With proper care and maintenance, your brown switch keyboard can serve you well for years.

Dive in and enjoy the tactile satisfaction these switches offer!

Erickson, a certified Interior Designer and Ergonomist, has cultivated a unique career blending aesthetics, functionality, and well-being. Holding a Bachelor's degree in Interior Designfrom a prestigious institution, Erickson is well-versed in creating spaces that are both visually pleasing and conducive to human comfort and health.
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