A good linear switch can make or break your keyboard When looking for a linear switch you want something that is buttery smooth, stable, and makes a deep *thud* sound on impact. We are going to help you pick out the best linear switch possible so you can get have ultimate keyboard typing/gaming experience.
The Best Linear Switches for your Mechanical Keyboard are:
- HyperX Red Switches
- Gateron Red/Yellow/Black Switches
- Cherry MX Red/Black (vintage is better)
- Kailh BOX Black
Best for Gaming: Cherry MX Speed Silver
We’ll dive a bit deeper into the various switches and explain why they ranked the way they did. Some switches may have limited availability based on price or by which keyboard models they come installed in. Most switches will be able to be ordered separately as needed, so we will link to those products as well.
What are Linear Switches?
I’ll explain some of the different lingo commonly thrown around in the mechanical keyboard world because if you’re new to the whole experience it can get quite confusing. A mechanical keyboard switch refers to the switch under each key that supports your finger through the keystroke and registers each entry. On mechanical keyboards, each key has its own dedicated switch, which makes for some high quality and extremely durable keyboards that have some fancy features such as N-key rollover (being able to press multiple keys and once and everything will register).
Linear switches are a sub-set type of switch that focus on producing a smooth, consistent actuation without any tactile feedback. Linear switches are great for people who don’t like the small bump experienced from tactile switches or the loud noises from clicky switches. Linear switches are usually quiet, smooth, and consistent throughout the entire movement. Linear switches are especially used by gamers as the consistent keystrokes allow for more precision in highly competitive games. Linear switches are also enjoyed by people who prefer the smooth movements while typing.
Should You Get Linear Switches?
While linear switches are smooth and satisfying to use, there are some factors you need to consider before jumping aboard the linear switch train. For those of you migrating from tactile switches, the transition can be difficult as you may bottom out the switches at first. This can lead to some mild finger pain and discomfort. Once you get used to typing on the linear switches, they can be incredibly enjoyable and fun to use. Because of bottoming out issues though, we don’t recommend linear switches if it’s your first mechanical keyboard.
Linear switches and more specifically, linear speed switches, are often used in the gaming community to give themselves a slight competitive edge over their opponents. If gaming is what you’ll primarily use your mechanical keyboard for, it may be worth it to explore some of the speed switch options form Cherry MX and Kailh. We’ll talk about these some more later.
Our Picks for Best Linear Switches
Now that we’ve got some explaining out of the way, let’s dig into our list a bit more and explore these switches and why they ranked the way they did. Keep in mind some of the ranking is subjective, based on our own opinions on what feel and sounds the best. That being said, we feel that choosing any of the linear switches on our list is a safe bet and will leave you with an super smooth, awesome linear switch keyboard.
1. Tealios by ZealPC
When it comes to linear switches, Tealios are the cream of the crop. Tealios are the most smooth, stable switches I’ve ever used before. While being quite expensive, as most products are from ZealPC, the Tealios really set themselves apart from the rest of the pack. They are extremely quiet and produce a very satisfying sound on impact. They have a clear housing and teal colored stem, and if you’re feeling fancy, you can get the teal colored housing if you’re willing to spend a little extra.
The spring force is sitting at 67g which is slightly on the heavier side when compared to other switch types. Most mechanical keyboard switches have a bottom out force of around 45-60g. If you’re willing to shell out the dough, these switches are definitely worth. You can check the price here on Amazon.
2. HyperX Red Switches
I recently discovered the HyperX Red switches when I tried out the HyperX Alloy Origins Core mechanical keyboard. I was absolutely blown away by the quality of their linear switch, I found the HyperX Red switch to be the best Red linear switch available on the market, beating out both Cherrry MX and Gateron. We highly recommend you try the switch out, we recommend this keyboard in our favorite mechanical keyboards of all-time.
Being the relatively cheap switches they are, the quality and smoothness is mind-blowing. They properly support your fingers throughout the entire keystroke and make the entire experience feel great. Unfortunately, you are not able to order the HyperX Red switches on their own, you’ll need to purchase a mechanical keyboard from HyperX to get them. So there are some limitations with the switch, they will be quite difficult to buy for a custom build as you will need to cannibalize the switches from a pre-built keyboard.
3. Gateron Red/Yellow/Black Switches
When most people think of Gateron as a switch brand, they think of Gateron making Cherry MX clone switches, which is quite accurate. Interestingly enough, we have found Gateron has a really nice linear switch line-up, their Red, Yellow, and Black linear switches are quite nice to use, and we find they feel smoother than Cherry MX linear switches.
Gateron switches are also in the budget category, so they are quite affordable compared to the rest of the switches on the list. You can find them here on Amazon for an extremely good price.
You have the option between several different Gateron linear switches depending on if you want Red (light), Yellow (medium) , or Black (heavy) resistance. The travel distance is 4mm for all three which is standard for a linear switch.
4. Cherry MX Red/Black
The Cherry MX linear switch lineup ranks fourth on this list, we have found the Cherry MX switches to be extremely durable, consistent, and all-around great switches. The only downside is we have found the Cherry MX linear switches to be slightly scratchy which can ruin the feel of a linear switch. On the plus side, Cherry MX is the most highly rated switch for durability, and they last for up to 100 million keystrokes. You can find the Cherry MX linear switches through this link on Amazon for an affordable price.
It is worth noting that “vintage” Cherry MX Black switches are considered one of the absolute best linear switches in existence. “Vintage” refers to the older switches that were made with the original tools at the Cherry MX factory. Within the last couple of years, the factory parts have been retooled and made differently, so the Cherry MX Black switches are not quite as nice anymore. If you can get your hands on a set of vintage Cherry MX Black switches, they are a rare and exciting find.
5. Kailh BOX Black
Kailh BOX switches are designed slightly different from the traditional switch design. They have wider, more boxy shape to the switch stem, which makes the keys feel more stable and less wobbly. The Kailh BOX switch lineup are mostly known for their clicky switches, but I have found the linear switches to be highly underrated. They have a lifespan of 80 million keystrokes, feel super smooth, and the box design is unique.
Kailh BOX switches are quite inexpensive so you can get a lot of switches for an affordable price. You can find the Kailh BOX Black switches on Amazon through this link.
Best Linear Switch for Gaming: Cherry MX Speed Silver
When it comes to gaming, the best switch is the one you enjoy using the most, regardless of if the switch is linear, tactile, or clicky. But if we had to choose a switch for gaming, we would choose the Cherry MX Speed Silver. The Speed Silver have a short travel distance, which means the switch actuates slightly faster than the switches with a longer travel distance. You can find the Speed Silver on Amazon through this link.
This style of switch comes with big drawbacks if you do a lot of typing, because the shorter travel distance can be uncomfortable to type on for long periods of time. There is definitely a trade off to getting an ultra-specialized gaming switch. For maybe a <1% advantage in a game, you give up the comfort and enjoyment of a normal switch.
Improve Your Linear Switches
If you’re up for a little project, you can always take your linear switches to the next level. There are some awesome DIY projects you can do to your linear switches with minimal equipment to improve the smoothness and quality of your linear switches. Regardless of what linear switch you have, you can make them better! Let’s explain some of the different upgrades.
Lube Your Switches
Getting your linear switches directly from the factory and slapping them onto your keyboard can sometimes result in a scratchy linear switch. The scratchy feel comes from some friction between the housing (outside) of a switch and the stem (long narrow part). By lubricating the switch, you can get rid of the scratchiness and all you are left with is a smooth switch. You can improve all linear switches with this simple upgrade.
Keep in mind, lubing your switches can be a time-intensive activity, so make sure you are willing to put in an hour or so of your time. You’ll also need to invest in some basic tools and equipment, such as lubricant, switch puller, and keycap puller. Once you have all that equipment ready and some time blocked off, it’s time to get started. Check out the short video tutorial above, it will teach you all the steps to lube your linear switch.
Switch Film for Ultimate Stability
During the tooling and production process of a switch and the keyboard components, there are often small imperfections. These imperfections can make the parts not combine perfectly, so you may experience some slight wobble or shaking when typing. You can install switch film to fix this issue and make your linear switches more stable and quiet than ever before. We’ve included a link to another video that explains the entire process.
Well that’s our list of the best linear switches for your mechanical keyboard. We went over what classifies a linear switch and why you might want a linear switch. For those of you who enjoy the buttery smooth feel of switch over the bumpy feel of a tactile switch, you can’t pass up on a linear switch for your next mechanical keyboard. Our recommendations for linear switches were the Tealios by ZealPC, HyperX Red switches, Gateron Red/Yellow/Black, Cherry MX Red/Black, and the Kailh BOX Black switch. We hope you enjoyed our list of the best linear switches.