Guide to Cherry MX Switches: All You Need to Know


Picking out the right switch for your keyboard is a difficult decision.

For a first time mechanical keyboard buyer, sorting through all the different Cherry MX switches can cause be a little overwhelming and headache-inducing, but we’re here to help.

The purpose of this guide is to cut through all of the confusion and help you pick out the perfect Cherry MX switch whether it be for typing, gaming, programming, or anything under the sun.

We’ll go over all the different Cherry MX switches along with a deeper dive into the nitty gritty details.

The Quick Guide to Cherry MX Switches

Here’s a quick overview of all the common switch colors and what they mean.

Cherry MX Switch ColorDescriptionUsage
MX RedSmooth switch with light resistance. No bump and relatively quiet.Gaming
MX BlackSmooth switch with heavy resistance. No bump and relatively quiet.Gaming
MX BrownBumpy switch with medium resistance. Moderate sound level.Typing/Gaming
MX ClearBumpy switch with heavy resistance. Moderate sound level.Typing/Gaming
MX BlueA clicky and bumpy switch with medium resistance. Very loud.Typing/Gaming
MX GreenA clicky and bumpy switch with heavy resistance. Very loud.Typing/Gaming

We’ll do a deeper dive into each Cherry MX switch and give our recommendations on their usage.

We’ll include sound tests and pictures of each switch.

Different Actuation Types

Switches can be broken down into three main actuation types: linear, clicky, and tactile. Here is a brief description of what they mean:

Linear: Smooth and consistent keystroke with a quiet noise.
Tactile: A small bump on each keystroke with a moderate noise.
Clicky: A small bump on each keystroke with a loud click noise

We’ll go over the Cherry MX switches in each category and explain the differences.

Cherry MX Clicky Switches

Clicky Switches: Cherry MX Blue vs Green vs White

Ah yes, clicky switches, the bane of my existence. I have been stuck working next to a person using clicky switches in the past and I still hear the click clacks in my nightmares to this day.

Jokes aside, clicky switches are a viable option for those who like a keyboard that is LOUD. These switches make a clicking noise on every keystroke and give you that extra auditory feedback to let you know everything is working a-okay.

Clicky switches are perfect for strictly home usage. Trust me, do not be that guy that brings clicky switches to the office and annoys everybody to no end (looking at you KEVIN).

Although I will be forever turned off to them, they are a good option if you want to keep your family up at night and want the neighbors to hate you. (I can’t write section without saying bad things about clicky switches)

In all honesty, Cherry MX does not have the best clicky switches due to their click jacket design, instead I would recommend the clicky Kailh BOX switches instead. You can read more about them here.

Due to their easy availability however, Cherry MX Blues are a great option in a pinch.

Cherry MX Blue

Type: Clicky
Feel/Sound: Bumpy and Loud
Actuation Force: 60g
Bottom-Out Force: 60g
Actuation Distance: 2mm
Travel Distance: 4mm

Cherry MX Blues are the hallmark clicky switch. On every keystroke they make a click noise and then bounce right back ready for some more clicking. You’ll experience a pronounced tactile bump as well. These switches are perfect for those who like to game/type in a confined space with nobody else around.

Some gamers find the Blue clicky switches to have a distracting and inconsistent feeling when button-mashing, so if you’re playing super competitive games, I wouldn’t recommend them.

Cherry MX Blues have an actuation force of 60g and a bottom-out force of 60g, which is ideal for someone with normal typing habits. The total travel distance is 4mm while the actuation distance is the normal 2mm.

Cherry MX Green

Type: Clicky
Feel/Sound: Bumpy and Loud
Actuation Force: 80g
Bottom-Out Force: 90g
Actuation Distance: 2mm
Travel Distance: 4mm

Another clicky switch is the Cherry MX Green, also perfect for annoying everybody with. The Green switches are significantly heavier than the Blues and much less common to find.

The Cherry MX Greens have a similar click noise to the Blues but with a more pronounced bump and heavier feel overall. Great for those with lead fingers who bottom out the lighter switches.

The MX Greens have an actuation force of 80g and a bottom out force of 90g. Definitely not a good switch for those type as lightly. The total travel distance of the MX Greens is 4mm with an actuation distance of 2mm.

Cherry MX White

Type: Clicky
Feel/Sound: Bumpy and Moderately Loud
Actuation Force: 80g
Bottom-Out Force: 90g
Actuation Distance: 2mm
Travel Distance: 4mm

Cherry MX White switches are very similar to Green switches and are much less common. They are very difficult to find and in my opinion sound very strange. White switches sound like a muzzled Green switch and are almost like a tactile switch. Very strange experience overall.

There isn’t much good information out there about the actuation and bottom-out forces, but I think it’s safe to assume it’s the similar to the MX Green switches. So, about an 80g actuation force and 90g bottom out.

The travel distance and actuation distance are the same as any other Cherry MX switch with a 2mm actuation and 4mm total travel.

Linear Cherry MX Switches

Linear switches are buttery smooth and offer a consistent and even keystroke. These switches have no bump, which makes them perfect for those who want smooth typing experience.

Linear switches are typically regarded as the best for gaming due to the consistency when entering multiple keystrokes in a short period of time (AKA button mashing).

You can also use linear switches for typing, but if you’re not used to this style of switch you may experience “bottoming out”, where you press the key too hard and slam your fingers down. But after a while, you’ll adjust to the different feel of the switches.

In my experience, I have found the Cherry MX linear switches to be overrated and slightly overpriced. I find the Gateron linear switches to be much smoother and cost efficient, plus they have more options available. But to each their own.

Cherry MX Red

Type: Linear
Feel/Sound: Smooth and Quiet
Actuation Force: 45g
Bottom-Out Force: 75g
Actuation Distance: 2mm
Travel Distance: 4mm

Cherry MX Reds are a linear actuating switch with a relatively light spring force. These are perfect for gaming, although if you have lead fingers, these might not be the best option.

Cherry MX Reds are relatively quiet, more-so than the tactile and clicky switches such as the Brown or Blue switches. They have a 45g actuation force with a 75g bottom out force.

The total travel distance on the MX Reds is 4mm with an actuation distance of 2mm which is standard for Cherry MX switches.

Cherry MX Black

Type: Linear
Feel/Sound: Smooth and Quiet
Actuation Force: 60g
Bottom-Out Force: 85g
Actuation Distance: 2mm
Travel Distance: 4mm

Cherry MX Blacks are nearly identical to the Cherry MX Red’s except they have a higher actuation force. Each switch will feel heavier because the spring inside the switch is stiffer, which is perfect for those who have a heavy keystroke.

Cherry MX Black’s come with an actuation force of 60g and a bottom out force of 85g, which puts it at around 10-15g heavier than the Reds.

Much like the Cherry MX Red’s, the Blacks are perfect for gaming and can be great for typing as well, although they are a bit trickier to find on a keyboard.

Fun Fact: The original vintage Cherry MX Black switches are considered to be the holy grail of switches by mechanical keyboard enthusiasts (yes, this is a real hobby). Before the production methods were changed, Cherry MX Blacks were much smoother to use. It can be quite tricky to get your hands on vintage MX Black’s since they are no longer in production.

Tactile Cherry MX Switches

If you’re coming from a normal non-mechanical keyboard, a tactile switch will feel very familiar to you. A tactile switch has a bump on each keystroke which provides tactile feedback to let you know the key was registered.

This style of switch is perfect for those who need a switch for typing because the bump provides great feedback and the overall noise level of tactile switches is not too high (although louder than linear).

Some gamers may say the tactile bump can be distracting when trying to press the same key really fast, so keep that in mind.

Cherry MX Brown

Type: Tactile
Feel/Sound: Bumpy, Moderately Loud
Actuation Force: 55g
Bottom-Out Force: 60g
Actuation Distance: 2mm
Travel Distance: 4mm

Cherry MX Browns are the most common switches currently available; they are a perfect fit for typing and can be great for gaming as well.

As a tactile switch, they are slightly louder than a linear switch due to the extra friction at the tactile bump. You’ll basically hear the bump and the switch bottoming out on each keystroke, but it will not be quite as loud as a clicky switch.

If you work in an office, I advise against these switches unless your workspace is busy and loud. Although Cherry MX Browns are not clicky switches, they still put out a decent amount of sound on each keystroke.

Although being a tactile switch, many complain that the bump is not strong enough, and for that reason they prefer other tactile switches such as the MX Clear.

Cherry MX Browns have a total travel distance of 4mm along with a 2mm actuation distance. The actuation force is 55g with a bottom out force of 60g, which makes them a very normal feeling switch.

Cherry MX Clear

Type: Tactile
Feel/Sound: Bumpy, Moderately Loud
Actuation Force: 65g
Bottom-Out Force: 95g
Actuation Distance: 2mm
Travel Distance: 4mm

Cherry MX Clears are another tactile switch option, although they are only available on a select number of keyboards. MX Clears are a great switch option if you find the Cherry MX Browns to not be heavy enough, or if you feel the bump is not strong enough.

Cherry MX Clears are perfect for heavy typists who need to the extra support to keep from bottoming out and limit finger pain. If you have a lighter keystroke, this style of switch may fatigue your fingers, so it’s not for everybody.

This switch has an actuation force of 65g and a bottom-out force of 95g. Along with a travel distance of 4mm and an actuation distance of 2mm. As you can see, this switch is not for the faint of heart, but it can be incredibly comfortable for the right person.

Cherry MX Grey

Type: Tactile
Feel/Sound: Bumpy, Moderately Loud
Actuation Force: 80g
Bottom-Out Force: 120g
Actuation Distance: 2mm
Travel Distance: 4mm

The Cherry MX Grey is the equivalent of unicorn, you may spend your entire life trying out different keyboards, but unless you go out of your way to buy these specifically, you may never find one.

Greys are another variation of a tactile switch from Cherry, they are a slight derivation from the MX Browns, except they have a larger bump and are slightly quieter.

From my experience, they feel like a scratchier, heavier version of a Cherry MX Brown. You’re better off skipping this switch altogether and opting for a Brown or Clear switch instead.

The MX Grey has an actuation force of 80g and a bottom out force of 120g, which is quite intense for a switch. The only niche usage for this switch is if you type super heavy like an ogre (I don’t know how ogres actually type, they could be very gentle) and you prefer a big tactile bump.

Cherry MX Specialty Switches

Now that we’ve gone over all of the more common Cherry MX switches, let’s talk about the really juicy stuff, their specialty switches. Are they really that much different from the main lineup, or is all marketing? Let’s find out.

Silent Switches

Cherry MX Silent switches, the perfect switch for peace and quiet. The silent switches are nearly identical to the main switch lineup except they come with rubber dampening on the stem to lower the decibel output on each keystroke.

Cherry MX Silent Red

Type: Linear
Feel/Sound: Smooth and Extra Quiet
Actuation Force: 45g
Bottom-Out Force: 75g
Actuation Distance: 2mm
Travel Distance: 4mm

Cherry MX Silent Black

Type: Linear
Feel/Sound: Smooth and Quiet
Actuation Force: 60g
Bottom-Out Force: 85g
Actuation Distance: 2mm
Travel Distance: 4mm

The rubber will reduce the sound level when the stem strikes the lower switch housing and when the key is released and springs back up.

Cherry MX claims the Silent switches reduce the sound level by a whopping 30% compared to their non-silent sister, but from our testing it’s only 16%. While 16% sound reduction is significantly less than what’s marketed by Cherry MX, the sound difference is quite drastic, so they can be an excellent option for those who need a silent workstation.

The silent switches are offered in either Cherry MX Silent Red or Silent Black form, so you’ll be stuck to only linear. Unfortunately, Cherry does not currently produce a silent tactile switch, so you’ll need to look at the Gateron Silent Brown instead if you want a silent tactile switch.

From my experience, silent switches sound much better, but they feel a bit rubbery upon bottoming out. The overall feel is slightly worse, but the sound makes up for it. Deciding if you want a silent switch comes down to what you prefer more in a switch: sound or feel.

Speed Switches:

Cherry MX Speed switches are another interesting option from Cherry. These switches have a shorter actuation distance, which means the switch does not need to be pressed as far for the key to register.

The only speed switch currently available is the Cherry MX Speed Silver, which has an actuation distance of 1.2mm and a total distance of 3.4 mm. This puts the actuation distance at 0.8mm shorter than a normal mechanical switch.

Cherry MX Speed Silver

Type: Linear
Feel/Sound: Smooth and Quiet
Actuation Force: 45g
Bottom-Out Force: 80g
Actuation Distance: 1.2mm
Travel Distance: 3.4mm

In theory, this type of switch should be better for gaming because the shorter distance could equal a faster reaction time. But based on our own testing, however, we found that these switches had little to no improvement in our reaction times.

Switch TypeActuation DistanceActuation TypeAverage Reaction Time
Cherry MX Red2.0 mmLinear0.2466 seconds
Cherry MX Speed Silver1.2 mmLinear0.2468 seconds

We found out that a shorter actuation distance doesn’t actually reduce the reaction time, in fact, I found the Speed switch to make my gameplay worse because the different actuation distance threw off my timing in game.

I’m not saying Speed switches are bad, I just didn’t feel the benefits of the switch that Cherry said would be better for gaming. In addition, we found typing with a Speed Silver to feel more uncomfortable as the short distance led to more bottoming out.

I personally wouldn’t recommend them for gamers and especially not for typists. You’re better off with a normal ol’ linear switch.

Cherry MX Low Profile Switches

Low profile keyboards are quite the rage nowadays, especially amongst the gaming community. These keyboards are typically thinner and also have shorter switches as well.

Cherry MX Low-Profile Switches are made specifically for this style of keyboard, as they offer a shorter actuation distance along with a shorter travel distance.

Low Profile vs Normal

Similar to the Speed switches, we have found low-profile switches to not have a noticeable impact on gaming reaction time.

As we mentioned earlier, we have found no relationship between a shorter actuation distance and a faster reaction time, which leads me to believe these switches are purely marketing. Although a pretty interesting attempt to improve normal switches for the purpose of gaming.

If you do find mechanical keyboards to be too thick, however, low profile keyboards equipped with these switches can save your wrists from having to raise your fingers so high when typing and gaming. That’s really the only application where these style of keyboards make sense.

We have found low-profile keyboards to be quite uncomfortable to type on, and are not great for writing long essays (or in my experience a 4000+ word article about switches), although some weirdos find them enjoyable because they feel similar to typing on a laptop.

There are two low-profile switches currently available, the Cherry MX Low-Profile Red and the Speed Silver. They are slightly different with the speed silver having a shorter actuation distance.

Cherry MX Low Profile Red

Type: Linear
Feel/Sound: Smooth and Quiet
Actuation Force: 45g
Bottom-Out Force: 80g
Actuation Distance: 1.2mm
Travel Distance: 3.2mm

Cherry MX Low Profile Speed Silver

Type: Linear
Feel/Sound: Smooth and Quiet
Actuation Force: 45g
Bottom-Out Force: 80g
Actuation Distance: 1.0mm
Travel Distance: 3.2mm

Explaining the Different Switch Terms

  • Actuation Type – This indicates the behavior of the key and whether it is linear, tactile, or clicky. Whether the keystroke is smooth, bumpy, or loud will determine its classification.
  • Actuation Force – this refers to the force required to make the key press down and register the keystroke to the computer. I.e.: how hard you must press the key. This measurement of (g) refers to grams.
  • Actuation Distance – this indicates at which point the switch is pressed down hard enough to translate information from keyboard to computer. Most switches will have an actuation point of around 2mm unless the switch is low-profile or speed, in which case the activation point is shorter. This pressure point is measured in millimeters (mm).
  • Travel Distance – the travel distance of a switch is the distance from the top of the key (un-pressed) to the bottom of the key (when pressed all the way down.) The point at which the switch is fully bottomed out is the end of the travel distance. It is also measured in millimeters (mm).
  • Lifespan – this refers to the number of keystrokes that can be made before the switch deviates from its factory conditions. Most switches will actually last longer than the lifespan, and many prefer the feel of a well-used switch to a brand new one. A well-used switch will often have a less scratchy feel and will have a better sound.

The Anatomy of a Cherry MX Switch

  • Upper Housing: The upper housing rests on top of all the other switch components and hold everything together with four small clips. It’s possible to take apart a switch buy unclipping the plastic parts. The upper housing comes in two different styles on Cherry MX switches, either clear or a solid black plastic. If you have a switch with RGB lights, the clear housing will allow the light to shine through.
  • Stem: The stem is the skeleton of the switch. This component moves the most and will glide up and down. After reaching a certain distance the stem will actuate the switch and register a keystroke.
  • Spring: The spring provides all of the resistance and can affect the overall stiffness of the switch. A heavy switch will have stiff spring and vice-versa. A bent or twisted spring can cause a lot of extra pinging noise.
  • Lower Housing: The lower housing is what stores all of the complicated components. There is a metal leaf in this section of the switch which is responsible for the tactile bump/click of a switch. If this part is bent or damaged it can ruin the switch. On the underside of the switch is a few metal and plastic pins which get soldered to the PCB to secure the connection.

Are Cherry MX Switches the Best Switches Available?

Now that we’ve gone over all of the different switches and the common lingo, let’s talk about how they compare to the competition.

Cherry MX switches absolutely have the best quality standards and go through all sorts of rigorous testing. Their entire testing process is quite impressive. The switches are stress-tested in extreme temperatures and are pressed multiple times by a machine to validate how long they’ll keep their force curve.

Cherry MX switches have a lifespan of 100 million keystrokes, which is bonkers. They double the lifespan of their competitors switches which usually is around 50 million.

And even after the 100 million keystrokes, the switches will usually still work, they will just feel slightly different. Some enthusiasts actually prefer having a broken-in switch because they tend to feel smoother and less scratchy.

From a quality standpoint, Cherry MX switches win hands-down.

For feel and sound, however, there is a bit more competition. While Cherry MX switches are precisely toleranced, they do tend to feel scratchier than the competition. In addition, they have a premium price which can double or triple the cost from other manufacturers.

Gateron switches for example, typically have a smoother keystroke and are way cheaper, but don’t have the high durability standards in exchange for the lower price.

Whether you want a smoother feel or higher durability standards, it’s up to you what you value more.

How to Improve your Cherry MX Switches

After purchasing a mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX switches there are a ton of cool mods you can do to improve the feel and sound of the switches.

Lube your Switches

Lubing your switches is a great way to limit the amount of spring ping and scratchiness while simultaneously making them feel smoother and sound better. This is the best improvement you can make to your switches, hands down.

Lubing your keyboard can be quite a project, so we’ll link to a few guides we have written on this process. Trust us, the difference is night and day. There are different techniques based on what tools you have available and if your keyboard is hot-swappable or not (can remove switches without desoldering).

Here are the guides:

Install Switch Film

When switches and keyboards are manufactured there a slight deviations in the product that make the switches not fit perfectly snug. This can result in extra switch wobble and movement when typing.

To make your switches extra secure and stable, you can install switch film which will reduce the amount rattle and make them feel better as well. We don’t have a guide on this process, so we’ll link you to a super helpful video. This process also requires you to open your switches up so we’ll show you our guide.

Should You Trust Our Opinions/Analysis?

I’ve pretty much plastered you with everything I know about Cherry MX switches, which took a bit longer than expected. If you’ve read all this, how do you know you trust can me?

Well, you don’t. I’m just some person on the internet talking about switches. However, I have tried hundreds of switches at this point, and I have all of the different Cherry MX switches sitting in front of me, so I know from personal experience how they feel and sound.

We’ve also done our own independent testing of the different switch types and performed all of the switch modifications, so we can say from experience if they help or not.

While I interjected my opinion in several places, there is no right or wrong “best Cherry MX switch”. It comes down to personal preference and what you plan on using the switch for. I just tried to remove the mystery and confusion surrounding the switches, so you can learn all of the subtle differences.

Conclusion

Well, that was a ton of information. We gave you a quick overview of Cherry MX switches, and broke down what a clicky, linear, and tactile switch is, along with more details of each individual switch. The main Cherry MX switch line up consists of: Red, Black, Brown, Clear, Grey, Blue, and Green.

There are also specialty switches offered such as the Cherry MX Silent Red, and Silent Black, which are both awesome quiet options. In addition, you could get a speed or low-profile switch, which both have a shorter actuation distance to supposedly improve gaming reaction speeds (which we personally think is baloney).

We also dug into the different switch terms such as actuation distance, travel distance, etc, and explained all the complicated foreign-sounding lingo commonly throw around in the keyboard world. The switch anatomy went over the various components of a switch including the upper/lower housing, stem, spring, etc.

Overall, Cherry MX switches are a great option if you’re looking for a long-lasting, incredibly durable switch, but they do slack a little when it comes to the overall feel and sound. In addition, they are quite pricey, so they are not the best switch for someone on a budget.

Jake Harrington

Jake has been an avid mechanical keyboard user for the past six years. He has a background in Mechanical Engineering and wants to apply his expertise to break down how mechanical keyboards and other tech work to show the world all of the cool aspects of the hobby.

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