Top Gaming Keyboard Switches of 2023

July 27, 2023

Switches are a crucial component of gaming keyboards. Not only do they register the actions of the players, they also determine the responsiveness and feel of each key press. How responsive, comfortable, and fast your key switches may spell the difference between winning and losing.

In this article, we will list down some of the best keyboard switches for competitive gaming. We will also list down factors to consider when choosing a keyboard. Such factors include actuation type, force, distance, travel distance, and lifespan.

What are Keyboard Switches?

Mechanical keyboard switches are an essential component of mechanical gaming keyboards. Each key press fires a weapon, allows a character to run, toggles your character's item list, unleashes your secret powers, and more. It's easily understandable, therefore, that in gaming, the right switch can greatly impact your performance and overall experience.

Mechanical switches are actual physical switches under keycaps, usually 1 switch per keycap. The switches must be activated physically, by moving, pressing, and releasing the keys.

There are various types of switches available for gaming including linear, tactile, and clicky switches.

It's important to consider factors such as actuation type, force, distance, travel distance, and lifespan when choosing key switches

Definition and Functionality of Switches

Mechanical switches are the preferred choice for gamers due to their responsiveness, customizability, flexibility, and durability. These are individual switches beneath each key on a mechanical keyboard, and they determine how each keystroke is registered.

The functionality of switches lies in their ability to actuate---or register a key press---with a certain amount of force and travel distance.

They come in various types such as linear, tactile, and clicky switches, each offering a different feel and sound.

Importance of Switches in Gaming

Having the right keyboard for gaming is essential for smooth and responsive gameplay. The gaming switch is at the heart of it all, determining how each keystroke translates into action on your screen.

These switches are designed to provide a seamless gaming experience, offering a quick and precise response to your commands. Whether you're a casual gamer or a professional eSports player, choosing the right switch for your gaming setup is crucial.

With features like RGB lighting to enhance the aesthetic appeal of your keyboard, gaming switches not only improve your performance but also add a touch of style to your gaming rig.

Types of Switches Available for Gaming

There are several types of switches available for gaming, each with its own unique features and benefits.

Linear switches like the Cherry MX Speed Silver and Razer Red Optical offer a smooth and consistent feel, perfect for quick and precise movements in any computer game.

Switches like the Kailh Speed Silver, Gateron Red, Yellow, and Black, and Cherry MX Red and Black, are known for their quiet operation, allowing you to focus on the game without distractions.

Some switches come with additional features like RGB lighting, providing convenience and style while gaming. 

Choosing the Right Switch for Gaming

When choosing the right switch for gaming, there are several factors to consider.

  • Consider the actuation type. Linear switches have low actuation. Thus, they're favorites for gamers who prefer a smooth and consistent feel as they play on their keyboards. Some love tactile responses so they could feel each key press. And some prefer clicky switches; they love bump and sound of each key press. 
  • Consider the force required to actuate the switch. The higher the actuation, the harder you need to press the switch to register a keypress. Some gamers prefer lighter switches like Kailh Speed Silver or Gateron Red for rapid action and speed. Others prefer heavier switches like Gateron Yellow or Black for more intense pressing (e.g. consistently having to rapid-fire an autocannon, for example).
  • The switch's force is often correlated to the travel distance of the key switch. The higher the key, the longer the travel distance, and the farther you need to press the keyboard to register a key press.
  • Consider the lifespan of the switch. Higher-quality switches may be more expensive but you get more value for your money because they last longer.

Popular Switch Brands for Gaming

When it comes to popular switch brands for gaming, Gateron switches are a top choice among gamers. Known for their tactile feel, Gateron switches are often compared to Cherry MX switches.

Cherry MX Red switches are also highly regarded in the gaming community for their smooth and quiet operation.

Kailh Switches are another brand that is gaining popularity. They have a range of options including their Speed Silver switches that are known for their fast actuation.

Gamers have their own opinions on different switch brands, but a comparison of popular switch brands can help you make an informed decision based on factors such as feel, durability, and performance.

Gateron Switches

Among the most popular choices in 2023 are the Gateron switches.

 

 Gateron switches are highly regarded for their tactile feedback, which allows gamers to feel each key press. For example, if you're firing a gun in your game, the tactile bump that you feel when you press the key assigned for firing assures you that the gun is firing.

Gateron switches offer a range of options including the Gateron Red, Yellow, and Black switches, each with its own unique characteristics.

The Gateron Red switches provide a light and linear feel, which are perfect for speed typing and quick movement across the keyboard. The Yellow switches have a slightly heavier actuation force, which is ideal for regular gaming.

The Black switches offer a heavier and more pronounced tactile bump, which is perfect for serious gamers who want to "feel" all aspects of the game.

Cherry MX Red Switches

Cherry MX Red switches have a smooth, consistent, and linear feel without a tactile bump.

 

They have a low actuation force, which means you don't need to exert too much pressure on the keys to register a keystroke. This can be particularly helpful for fast-paced games where quick reactions are important.

The Cherry MX Red switches also have a relatively short actuation distance, allowing for rapid key presses. 

Kailh Switches

The Kailh switches offer a smooth feel. These switches are known for their responsiveness and consistency, providing a satisfying typing and gaming experience.

Kailh switches come in different variants. The Kailh Speed Silver, for example, has a low actuation force and shorter travel distance. This results in faster keystrokes, which is advantageous for gamers who require fast reaction times.

Gamers' Opinions on Different Switch Brands

Gamers have varied opinions based on their personal preferences and gaming styles. Some swear by Cherry MX Speed Silver switches, praising their lightning-fast response and smooth keystrokes. Others prefer the Razer Red Optical switches, highlighting their precise actuation and satisfying feedback.

Kailh Speed Silvers are popular among gamers who want low actuation force and durability.

Gateron switches, including the Red, Yellow, and Black variants, are popular due to their affordability and smooth key presses.

Cherry MX Red and Black switches continue to be classic favorites due to their reliable performance and satisfying feel.

Types of Switches for Gaming

Gamers fit their mechanical gaming keyboards with mechanical switches. These often come into 3 types: linear switches, tactile switches, and clicky switches.

Additionally, a new breed of keyboard switches called optical switches is becoming increasingly popular due to their faster response, durability, and absence of mechanical components. 

Linear Switches for Gaming

Linear switches are highly regarded for gaming due to their smooth and consistent feel, a lack of tactile bump, and quiet operation. They provide a seamless experience and allow for quick and precise keystrokes.

Shorter actuation distances are often believed as better for gaming. In reality, the difference in reaction time is negligible. Testing has shown that there is no significant difference in reaction times between speed switches and normal switches.

However, the benefits of speed switches may still be worth considering, as a millisecond or two of speed could make a difference in intense gaming situations.

Opting for a switch with a lower actuation and travel distance may sacrifice some typing comfort and tactile responses.

Tactile Switches for Gaming

Tactile switches can enhance your gaming experience with their satisfying feedback and precise keystrokes. Tactile switches provide a noticeable bump when pressed, giving you a tactile sensation that helps you know when a key has been registered. This feedback can be especially beneficial for gamers who rely on sensory inputs for accuracy.

Popular choices for tactile switches include the Cherry MX Brown, which offers a subtle tactile bump without being too loud. Another option is the Razer Orange, which has a similar feel to Cherry MX Brown but with a slightly lighter actuation force.

Tactile switches may not be as smooth or quiet as linear switches, but they can provide a more satisfying and sensory typing and gaming experience.

Clicky Switches for Gaming

Clicky switches are highly regarded by gamers who enjoy audible and sensory responses when pressing the keys. The clicky sound produced by these switches can enhance the overall gaming experience, adding a sense of satisfaction and feedback with each key press.

Cherry MX Blue switches are popular clicky switches. They have an actuation force of 50 grams, providing moderate resistance that can prevent accidental keystrokes for keys you don't want to press. 

Clicky switches like the Cherry MX Blue can be quite loud, which may not be suitable for a quiet gaming environment.

Optical Switches for Gaming

Optical switches are new kinds of switches that use advanced technology.

Optical switches use pulses of light instead of physical contact to register keystrokes. This results in faster response times. The absence of metal contacts also means that optical switches are resistant to dust and debris. More importantly, without mechanical parts, optical switches are less prone to key press malfunctions.

Without mechanical parts, optical switches provide a smoother keystroke experience than even linear switches, making them ideal for long gaming sessions. With their precise actuation and increased lifespan, optical switches are a popular choice among gamers who prioritize speed, accuracy, and durability.

RGB Lighting on Gaming Switches

There are mechanical switches available with RGB lighting built directly into the switch. These switches are commonly referred to as "RGB switches" or "RGB-enabled switches." RGB lighting is integrated into the individual switch housing, allowing for customizable lighting effects on a per-key basis.

With these switches, you can create dynamic lighting patterns that match your game. The RGB lighting not only looks impressive, but it can also serve a practical purpose by providing visual cues or indicators during gameplay.

For example, you can assign different colors to specific keys or actions, making it easier to execute complex commands quickly.

RGB lighting can also be programmed via an app or a gaming keyboard's on-board functionality.

RGB lighting can also be integrated into the keyboard rather than key switches. For this setup, it's best to purchase key switches with transparent housing.

Keycaps Compatibility with Gaming Switches

Most keycaps are designed to be compatible with a wide range of switches.

However, it's always a good idea to double-check the compatibility before making a purchase. The keycaps should fit securely on the switches. Some keycaps are specifically designed for gaming and offer features like textured surfaces or custom legends for better visibility.

Switch Response Time and Gaming Performance

When it comes to gaming, every millisecond counts. Switch response time refers to how quickly a switch registers a keystroke and sends that information to your computer.

Choosing a switch with a faster response time may make a noticeable difference in your gameplay. However, it's important to note that the difference in reaction time between high-speed switches and normal switches is negligible. In fact, testing has shown no significant variation in reaction times.

So, while the benefits of speed switches may be mainly marketing, a millisecond or two of speed difference could still be worth it for some gamers. 

Durability and Lifetime of Gaming Switches

The durability of a switch depends on the quality of the materials used and the manufacturing process. Most mechanical switches are designed to withstand millions of keystrokes, ensuring they can handle the demands of long gaming sessions.

Gaming Keyboard Recommendations

High-quality gaming keyboards not only offer a range of switch options but also come with features like media and shortcut controls, customizable setups, and sleek designs that enhance your gaming experience.

When it comes to gaming keyboard brands, a few names stand out. Corsair is known for its high-quality keyboards like the Corsair K95 RGB Platinum and the Corsair K70 RGB MK.2. Logitech is another popular brand with its Logitech G915 Lightspeed and Logitech G513 Carbon models. Razer also offers top-notch gaming keyboards such as the Razer Huntsman Elite and the Razer BlackWidow Elite.

These brands prioritize performance, durability, and customization options to enhance the gaming experience. Each keyboard has its unique features and switch options, allowing gamers to find the perfect fit for their preferences and playstyle.

Gaming Keyboard Setup and Customization

Personalizing your gaming keyboard setup can greatly enhance your gaming experience. From customizing the keycaps and backlighting to creating macros and assigning specific functions to different keys, the possibilities are endless.

Many gaming keyboards come with dedicated software that allows you to easily customize these features to suit your preferences. Whether you're a competitive gamer looking to optimize your gameplay or simply want to add a touch of personal style to your setup, taking the time to explore the various customization options available can truly make a difference.

Media and Shortcut Controls on Gaming Keyboards

Gaming keyboards often come equipped with dedicated media and shortcut keys. These keys allow you to control various functions without interrupting your gameplay. With these controls, you can easily adjust the volume, play, pause, and skip tracks. You can even answer calls or mute your microphone.

Additionally, shortcut keys enable quick access to frequently used commands, macros, or in-game actions. This enhances your gaming experience and increases your efficiency. These features save you precious time by eliminating the need to navigate through menus or use complex key combinations.

Conclusion

When it comes to choosing the best switch for gaming in 2023, it ultimately boils down to personal preference and your specific requirements. Choose the switch that suits your gaming style and typing comfort. Happy gaming!

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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