The Ultimate Guide to Red Switches


If you’re just getting into mechanical keyboards, and you’re seeing these red switches pop up everywhere this guide will tell you everything you need to know about them.

Let’s take a look at all of the different types of red switches out there from different brands.

What Are Red Switches?

Red switches are mechanical switches that are linear and have no tactile bump along its keypress. The movement is smooth throughout with no extraneous distractions.

They are typically lightweight and are recommended for use in gaming due to their quick actuation. Red switches come from a variety of different switch manufacturers and vary subtly.

Red switches are named that way because of the red color of the stem. The stem is the inner part of the switch that attaches to the keycap.

From the image above, you can see a Gateron Red switch that has been taken apart. As you can see, the distinguishing color of switches typically arise from the stem color.

The housing colors of red switches can vary from black, clear, milky, and more.

Best Uses for Red Switches

Red switches can be used for many purposes. To some, they may take some time to get used to, especially after switching to a linear mechanical switch from a rubber dome switch on membrane keyboards. This is because of the unique smooth keypress.

Are Red Switches Good for Gaming?

Red switches are typically recommended for gaming because they are lightweight switches. Most red switches actuate between 35g and 45g of force.

Actuation refers to the amount of force (in grams) that you need to use in order for the switch to register the press, sending the signal to your computer.

The low actuation force is good for in-game situations that require fast reaction and quickness. If you had a higher actuation switch, it would take more force from your finger to press (meaning more time) the key you want to, delaying the effect of the press even longer.

For gaming, all of these are good things. The smooth and linear feel doesn’t distract you while pressing keys. No need to feel for any tactile bumps or anything because reaction is the only thing that matters.

You can check out the best switches for gaming, if you want more details.

When using lightweight switches like this, you are more likely to bottom out. This may be a bit loud if you’re not used to it because it’s the sound of plastic hitting plastic. Bottoming out refers to pressing the key to the farthest it could be pressed.

Red switches are good for gaming because they let you respond fast in intense situations, don’t have any distractions, and are lightweight.

Are Red Switches Good for Typing?

Many mechanical keyboard enthusiasts, including myself, enjoy a nice red switch when it comes to typing.

However, that doesn’t mean that it’s recommended for beginners to linear switches for typing.

Typing on a linear red switch, especially in the beginning, will lead to many typos. It takes time to get used to because there is no bump for when the keyboard registered your keypress.

You’ll either have to get used to stopping midway or get used to bottoming out each keypress to be 100% sure that your keyboard said, “Ok, we got it. Move on to the next letter.”

For typing, a tactile switch such as a brown switch is much easier to get used to. This is because it has a bump that you can feel that tells your fingers and your mind to move on to the next key. In a way, it’s similar to the bump that you feel when typing on a rubber dome keyboard.

That doesn’t mean red switches are terrible for typing. For many people, they feel very satisfying to type on because of the fact that there are no distractions. The sound is more pleasant to listen to overall, and the keyboard produces less extra noise.

It is a very common thing to hear “It’s all about preference.” in the mechanical keyboard world. This is true.

However, if you’ve never used a mechanical switch before, it is not recommended to jump into linear switches right away. Perhaps start with a tactile switch and then try out linear switches after you know what a mechanical keyboard feels like first.

Better yet, it’s good to be able to try different switch types. This is the easiest in a hot-swappable mechanical keyboard because you can replace and switch between switches without desoldering and soldering. All you need is a switch puller.

For a list of the best hot-swappable mechanical keyboards that we recommend, see our best hot-swappable mechanical keyboards list here.

This will let you try linear, tactile, and clicky switches without having to buy three separate keyboards.

Are Red Switches Good for Programming?

Programming is an activity that requires a lot of precision, in each key stroke. When typing during programming, you want to be able to reduce the mistakes as much as possible.

One mistake can be the difference between perfectly working code and sitting there debugging code for hours only to find that you missed a bracket or semicolon somewhere.

With programming, unless you absolutely know that you like linear switches are typing, it is not recommended at all to use red switches to programming. The reason is because the likelihood of typos is too high to be safe.

For programming, it is recommended to go with a tactile switch such as Cherry MX Browns, T1s, or Halo Clears.

Halo Clears are a tactile switch with a very distinguished tactile bump. Switches such as this one will reduce the likelihood of typos because you feel where the actuation occurred.


Different Red Switches

Red switches vary slightly from manufacturer to manufacturer. However, they all are similar in the way that they’re lightweight linear switches. Let’s look at the slight differences between each one to see which switch is the best for you.

Cherry MX Red

Cherry MX Red is probably the most common red switch that you’ll see, next to Gateron Reds. Cherry MX switches are pretty much the original mechanical switch. Cherry started the entire patent for mechanical switches.

When that patent was over, other manufacturers started coming out with their own switches, referred to as Cherry MX clones. Nowadays, each individual switch type exists as their own.

Cherry MX Red switches typically have a bright red stem with a dark black housing. On the top housing, you’ll see the word Cherry inscribed onto the housing.

Cherry MX Red switches have the following properties:

  • Type: Linear
  • Actuation force: 45g
  • Total travel distance: 4.0mm
  • Pre-travel distance (actuation distance): 2.0mm
  • Noise level: Moderate

They have a clack sound for the bottom out that is high-pitched, depending on the keyboard case and keycaps of course.

Keyboard sounds are a result of every part together: the plate, case materlal and design, keycap thickness, keycap profile, keycap material, switch type, and more.

There are so many factors that go into it.

Cherry MX switches are made in Germany and are rated to last at least 50 million key presses. The updated Cherry switches are now rated to last up to 100 million key presses. It’s likely that the keyboard will break before the switch does.

Inside the mechanical keyboard community, Cherry MX Red switches are known to be quite scratchy. This means when you press the switch down, you feel the friction from the stem rubbing against the housing. If you look for this feeling, it can be unpleasant.

With lube, the friction will be reduced and feel much better. However, for many people, Cherry MX switches are too expensive for what they are and are not as smooth as they would like.

However, Cherry MX makes high quality switches that are durable with tight tolerances. They are tested and tried.

As someone just getting into mechanical switches and mechanical keyboards, there is nothing wrong with Cherry MX Red. Give them a try before you just listen to what other people say.

Cherry MX Silent Red

Cherry MX Silent Reds are a variation of Cherry MX Reds. They include rubber dampeners around the bottom of the stem to reduce the sound and impact of bottoming out.

Their stems are typically lighter in color, and these are usually called Cherry MX Pink switches within the community.

The properties of these are slightly different than original Cherry MX Reds due to the dampening material:

  • Type: Linear
  • Actuation force: 45g
  • Total travel distance: 3.7mm
  • Pre-travel (actuation) distance: 1.9mm
  • Noise level: Low

The noise level is quite low, and these silent reds are appropriate for use in the library, office, classrooms, and more! However, with silence comes some sacrifice.

The feeling of bottoming out of plastic on plastic is no longer there. It’s replaced by plastic on rubber dampener, which makes for a slightly mushy feeling. If you’re not used to this, it may be a weird feeling to get used to.

Some people cannot stand this mushy feeling. It reminds them too much of a membrane keyboard, and the feeling is similar to a regular red switch with very thin O-rings installed. So if you want to see what it sort of feels like, give that a short.

Gateron Red

Gateron Red switches are known to be the more budget-friendly and smoother counterpart to Cherry MX Red switches.

Their housings are very similar, except Gateron Reds typically have a clear top housing. This is because RGB and LEDs can be seen through them easily without having to buy a special switch.

The Gateron Red stem is a bright red color as well with the word Gateron inscribed on the top housing. It’s a little difficult to see because it’s really small and the clear housing has low contrast.

Gateron mechanical switches are typically much more affordable than Cherry MX switches. They’re also less scratchy and come stock in many mechanical keyboards sourced out of China.

Despite their price, it doesn’t mean that they’re “cheap” by any means. These switches are known to be much smoother and better feeling. With a layer of lubricant, they can be butter smooth to the touch.

When using a linear switch for the first time, often the Gateron brand pops up because of their quality, smoothness, and affordability. The Gateron Reds are no different.

The Gateron Reds are very similar to Cherry MX Reds with their stats:

  • Type: Linear
  • Actuation force: 45g
  • Total travel distance: 4.0mm
  • Pre-travel (actuation) distance: 2.4mm
  • Noise level: Moderate

The Gateron switches are slightly different, as you can see. Actuation occurs a little bit later compared to Cherry Reds. For typists or gamers who do not bottom-out, this may be missed during quick floating typing or touch typing.

By floating typing, we mean typing where each keypress does not bottom out. Instead, the user tries to stop at the actuation point and move on from there. This can result in many typos or lifting up too early, before actuation occurs.

The smoothness that is attributed to Gateron switches are due to their looser tolerances between the stem, slider, and the housing. It allows more room for the stem to travel, but this results in more-than-necessary stem wobble.

However, the differences in actuation distance is not really noticeable when typing between these vs the Cherry MX Reds. With MX Reds, the static friction seems more apparent at first. The Gaterons seem lighter, despite having the same spring force, because of the smoother feel.

Gateron Optical Red

Gateron Optical Reds are very similar to Gateron Reds, except that they only work with optical PCBs.

The Gateron Optical Red stats are identical to Cherry MX Reds:

  • Type: Linear
  • Actuation force: 45g
  • Total travel distance: 4.0mm
  • Pre-travel distance: 2.0mm
  • Noise level: Moderate

Gateron Optical Reds have a dark stem that is more of a burgundy color than the bright red of Gateron Reds and Cherry MX Reds.

The top housing is clear and allows LEDs to shine through without much interference.

Optical switches have less latency than regular mechanical switches because they actuate using a beam of light rather than electrical signals that activate due to two metal pieces contacting each other.

When the beam of light is obstructed, the keyboard signals to the PC what key you pressed.

Gateron Optical Reds are seen commonly in budget hot-swappable optical boards that are available such as the GK61, SK61, SK64, and other similar designs.

Optical switches are recommended for gamers who prioritize reaction speed above all else. There is less debouncing or latency occurring for each press.

The only downside to optical switches is that optical hot-swappable boards can only hot-swap with other optical switches. And the number of optical switches out there in the world currently is very limited.

Kailh Box Red

Kailh Box Reds have a very unique look compared to many of the red switches because it has a box-shaped stem rather than the usual stem. These switches are still compatible with keycaps with cross-shaped holes because the stems are still cross-shaped.

The box of these switches make them more stable and less wobbly than other switches. Originally, Kailh made box switches to be used in gaming cafes and in public use settings.

Their housing design makes them self-cleaning and rated to be dust and water resistant in case of food and water spills. This is a good and bad thing.

The good part is that if you spill water/food on your keyboard, it’s okay.

The bad part is that you can’t really lube these box switches. Eventually the lube just goes away. And the switch itself is difficult to place lube onto it.

Box Reds are slightly faster than Cherry and Gateron Reds as well.

Their specs are as follows:

  • Type: Linear
  • Actuation force: 50g
  • Total distance: 3.6mm
  • Pre-travel (actuation distance): 1.8mm
  • Noise level: Moderate

The spring is slightly heavier than Cherry MX Reds, but the actuation and total distance is decreased. The life cycle of these switches are rated up to 80 million keypresses. Quite impressive!

Another downside of the Kailh Box Switch is that for RGB to work, it must have SMD LEDs rather than through-hole LEDs. This is because the switch housing doesn’t have any openings in them to let light through.

Keyboards don’t typically come with Kailh Box Reds, but when they do, it’s really unique. These switches are generally used in custom mechanical keyboard boards where you pick all of the parts separately and put it together yourself, whether hot-swap or solder them on.

Outemu Red

Outemu Red switches generally seen as a budget mechanical switch.

Outemu Reds have a similar design to the Kailh Box Reds in the way that they’re protected against the elements, primarily dust (food crumbs) and water (soda or juice or water).

They also have the original design without the box as well.

It really depends on the keyboard which switch type it comes with.

Outemu Red’s have the following stats:

  • Type: Linear
  • Spring force: 47g
  • Total distance: 4.0mm
  • Pre-travel distance: 2.1mm
  • Noise level: Moderate

Outemu Reds as just as scratchy as Cherry MX switches, but they do have the option of being protected from the elements, which makes it nice for use around children and in public places such as cafes and libraries that allow food (I don’t know if that exists or not though).

Outemu Reds aren’t bad switches, they’re just very budget-friendly. Also, the pins of Outemu switches are smaller than most mechanical switches.

Therefore, if you do end up getting an Outemu hot-swappable board, keep in mind that it will NOT swap with other mechanical switches such as Gateron, Cherry, and Kailh.

You are limited to only swapping with other Outemu switches. This isn’t a bad thing per say, being hot-swappable lets you mod the board to your liking without desoldering and soldering, but the limits in switches can be a nuisance.

HyperX Red

HyperX Reds are only available in HyperX boards, but not all of them.

These are extremely smooth switches with minimal spring ping. They will probably be amazing when lubed, but to do this, you’ll have to desolder and solder the switches back when done.

HyperX Red switches have a bright red bottom housing, a clear top housing, and a bright red stem as well.

Their stats are as follows:

  • Type: Linear
  • Spring force: 45g
  • Total distance: 3.8mm
  • Pre-travel distance: 1.8mm
  • Noise level: Moderate
  • Lifespan: 80 million keypresses

As you can see, the HyperX reds are slightly faster than Cherry MX Reds. Alongside this, they’re known to be much smoother as well. The bottom housing can be seen on the HyperX boards, so if you’re color scheme isn’t red, the red may clash a bit.

Alongside this, HyperX only offers keyboards with floating keycap style designs (other than the Ducky X HyperX One 2 Mini, but that’s limited edition). The switches will definitely be visible.

There are really no downsides to the HyperX Reds, except that they must be desoldered from the board to do anything to them, such as putting them into a custom board.

Razer Optical Red

Razer Optical Red switches are some of the lightest and fastest switches in the game right now. They are only available within the Razer Huntsman lineup of mechanical keyboards.

These switches are meant primarily for gaming, as they are terrible for typing tasks. They actuate way to quick and they’re so lightweight that just resting your hand on the keyboard will press some keys in.

Definitely just get these if you’re interested in distinguishing yourself in games with speedy reactions.

The stats of Razer Optical Reds are below:

  • Type: Linear
  • Spring force: 40g
  • Pre-travel distance: 1.0mm
  • Noise level: Low (updated in the Razer Huntsman Mini)
  • Lifespan: 100 million keypresses

These are a very impressive switch. They’re different looking and very distinguished than other switches. Take a look at the Razer’s product page on their switches.

Each singular switch as a stabilizer bar that goes across it, making the switch more stable and subject to less wobble.

However, this bar makes the switch have extra sounds such as the bar moving and rattling. The updated Razer Optical Reds now have sound dampeners within the switch, similar to Cherry MX Silent Switches (but with different patented technology).


Best 3 Keyboards with Red Switches

Now that we’ve dived into the differences between each red switch, let’s look at our top 3 recommendations for mechanical keyboards with red switches.

Durgod Hades

The Durgod Hades is a well-built 65% mechanical keyboard with 68 switches. It is a compact layout, but you don’t sacrifice the arrow keys.

This keyboard has many options for Cherry MX switches, including Cherry MX Red and Cherry MX Silent Red. Both are great options to pick if you’re interested in picking yourself up a keyboard with red switches.

This keyboard has exceptionally built and lubed stabilizers. It has literally no rattle or wobble at all. Durgod gets the basics right!

Alongside that, the keyboard comes with PBT doubleshot keycaps, no need to worry about shine! The caps are slightly textured and satisfying to use.

Additionally, the USB-C cable is detachable as well. It comes in black or white colors. The RGB lighting is amazing and can be edited using Durgod’s software.

You can’t go wrong with a Durgod board! Especially the Hades.

Epomaker EP84

The Epomaker EP84 is another mechanical keyboard that won’t disappoint! It’s a 75% compact layout with PBT doubleshot keycaps as well. Alongside this, it’s hot-swappable! With 5-pin hot-swappable sockets.

What this means is that it can hot-swap with pretty much any mechanical switch without many issues.

Starting with keyboard is a great way to really get into mechanical keyboards too. With the hot-swappable sockets, you can start learning things like modding your stabilizers, lubing your switches, putting foam inside your board, and more.

This board can go a really long way, you’ll be able to experiment with different switches if you suddenly realize that red switches might not be your thing after all.

Definitely check this one out! There’ a lot of good reviews out there on the internet such as this one on YouTube.

Keychron K6

The Keychron K6 is a crowd favorite. It’s also a hot-swappable mechanical keyboard. It’s 65%, with RGB, with aluminum bezels, with hot-swappability, with Bluetooth, and it’s Mac and Windows compatibility.

What more is there to even ask for?

This keyboard checks off a lot of boxes.

It’s super compact. The only downsides is that many people consider the height of this keyboard a bit high… but in my experience, it’s at a perfect height. But if you are worried, get yourself a nice wooden palm rest.

Alongside this, it has ABS keycaps that do shine over time. So in that case, you can upgrade to PBT keycaps down the line, if you’d like.

Many people really like the original keycaps because the font is so clean and nice. It also comes with Mac-specific keycaps for Command and Option. Not many boards out there have that, do they?

It’s just an overall amazing board. We’ve had ours since the Kickstarter ended, still is amazing!

Conclusion

In conclusion, red switches come in many shapes and sizes. However, they’re all lightweight and linear switches that actuate pretty quickly.

They’re great switches for gaming, but not necessarily the best for typing. This is because there is no tactile bump, so you don’t feel where it actuates.

This can lead to a bunch of typos and stuff over time. Once you get used to them though, typing on them isn’t that bad.

There are also many keyboards with red switches, but we recommend getting a hot-swappable one, just in case you end up not liking your reds, you know?

Anyways, good luck on your mechanical keyboard journey! It’s a deep rabbit hole you’re jumping into. Prepare yourself.

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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