What Are Topre Switches? Are They Better Than Cherry?

Topre switches
Image from Xahlee.info

Recently, we went to a Seattle Mechanical Keyboard meetup. There were so many different switches to try there, most of which we’ve heard but some we haven’t. A special switch that we didn’t know much about was the Topre switch, which someone told us a mix between a rubber dome and a mechanical switch. Interesting, so we did a lot more research about what it is and if they’re better than Cherry switches. What are Topre switches, and are they better than Cherry switches?

Topre switches are electrostatic, capacitive keyboard switches that have the feel of a rubber dome keyboard with all the benefits of a mechanical switch such as more tactility, less noise, and a non-mushy bottom-out. They are available on a limited number of keys. Topre switches are similar to Cherry MX browns with more “thonk” and a crispier tactile feedback. It is difficult to compare Topre vs. Cherry because there is a large variety of Cherry switches, and it is up to personal preference in the end.

Topre switches are only available in certain keyboards and have a unique feel. Some love them, and others don’t feel that they’re worth the premium price.

History of Topre Switches and What are They?

Topre switches are made by TOPRE Corporation. They are a Japanese manufacturer and are the only people that make Topre switches. TOPRE Corporation started making mechanical keyboard switches in 1983. Topre switches were first patented in 1986.

They are electrostatic capacitive non-contact keyboard switches. What does this mean? When you press a Topre switch, the first thing that moves is the plunger, it gets pushed down. This compresses the rubber dome, and a spring lives inside of the dome. When the electrical capacitance between the spring and the PCB (printed circuit board) reaches a certain amount, it registers a key press. Each rubber dome and conical spring is easily replaceable if one happens to break as they are all their separate parts.

Here is TOPRE’s patent for this kind of switch for more information.

These are also some of the most expensive switches on the market. Many Topre keyboards are over $200.

How do Topre Switches Feel?

Topre switches are comfortable and snappy to type on. They were designed with the primary goal of being a typing keyboard.

When typing on a membrane keyboard, the keyboard feels very mushy due to the membrane. Topre keyboards have a rubber dome that can be adjusted to change the tactile feedback. This enables Topre switches to not feel mushy when bottoming out or pressing the key until it’s at the very bottom.

Many feel that due to Topre’s special design, these switches must be tried out before committing to one due to its high price point. However, because of this, they also resell nicely without suffering much of a loss.

If you’re used to Cherry Browns, Topre switches can be described as similar, but with a better sound that’s less rattly or noisy and a crisp tactile feedback. Typing on it is very smooth. Some say it’s like “typing on pillows.”

They come in different force options, ranging from 35g to 55g. These are average forces because it doesn’t have a homed in actuation force or point.

There are many differing opinions on Topre switches. Some say that it’s just an overpriced rubber dome keyboard. Others feel that Topre switches are the smoothest switches in the world to type on.

What do Topre Switches Sound Like?

As for what they sound like, here is a sound clip of a comparison of different Topre switches vs. Cherry Browns and another sound clip of Topre switches. And another sound clip.

If you’re going to buy a Topre keyboard, it probably will be for the sound. It has a low-pitched bumpy sound and does not bother the ears while you’re typing.

There is no springy or clangy sound that you may hear in Cherry MX switches. It’s a mellow and soft sound.

What Mechanical Keyboards Have Topre Switches?

There are a limited number of keyboards available with Topre switches. It’s not possible to trial Topre switches by themselves like MX style switches such as Kailh or Cherry because you need a special PCB, housing, spring, rubber dome, and plunger. To get Topre switches, the only option is to cannibalize a pre-assembled mechanical keyboard with Topre switches.

A big benefit for Topre switches is that you can replace the individual rubber domes if one starts feeling mushy or different than the others. You can also get higher force rubber domes or lower force ones if you want. For the keyboards below, the “actuation” force ranges from 35g to 55g of average force.

Happy Hacking Keyboard (HHKB)

HHKB
Image by u/brianlzf

The Happy Hacking Keyboard (HHKB) is legendary within the community for its design and Topre switches.

HHKB makes several different keyboards, all of which are relatively similar. The Happy Hacking keyboard’s design first emerged in 1992 by Professor Eiiti Wada. The HHKB is light and compact with a 60% layout with 60 keys. It easily fits in your bag for easy transportation and saves space on your desk.

The HHKB is primarily all plastic. It is a light and compact 60% keyboard. It has two open spaces on the bottom left and bottom right spaces with the brand being on the bottom right side. It has a clean design in stealth black or grey.

The bottom of the keyboard has two rubber feet and 2 flip-out feet with 2 different angles. The back of the keyboard offers 2 low-powered USB drives, which you can connect mice or USB ports. However, being low-powered, it won’t be able to power headsets.

There are six DIP switches on the back as well. The bottom of the keyboard explains exactly what each DIP switch does.

The layout of this keyboard is non-standard with the FN key being on the same row as the Shift key. It may be difficult to get used to this layout. The backspace is also lower than it normally is by one row, so it sits right above the Enter key.

A downside is that there are empty spaces on the bottom of the keyboard that are unused. Why not add 2 keys there instead of empty space? The CapsLock is also not a dedicated key. Instead, it exists on another layer. Where the CapsLock currently is, there is a Control button instead.

Overall, it takes time to get used to this layout. However, once people have gotten used to this keyboard, others were not able to switch back to the regular layout without feeling disadvantaged.

The Pro Hybrid Type-S model and the Pro Hybrid can connect to PCs wirelessly via Bluetooth or via a USB-C cable. The Pro Classic is only able to connect via USB-C.

The Pro Hybrid Type-S and the Pro Hybrid both are fully programmable. You can make your own custom keymaps using their keymapping software. The curvature and layout of the keyboards reduce hand and finger fatigue because you leave the home row keys much less often due to the closer Backspace.

The keycaps are PBT plastic with dye-sublimated key legends that never fade. You can also choose to have blank keycaps rather than printed.

Now for the price: The HHKB ranges from $190 to $280, depending on which model you pick.

Cooler Master Novatouch TKL Mechanical Keyboard

The Cooler Master Novatouch TKL Keyboard has hybrid capacitive switches.  It has N-key rollover, only for Windows. This keyboard is not compatible with Mac computers. It’s also a TKL keyboard with 87 keys.

It also has a repeat rate modification, which changes what happens when a key is held down, ranging from 1x to 8x. I’m not sure why this would be super useful other than for gaming.

There are two kickstands in the back with 4 rubber feet. The Cooler Master branding is super subtly in the back of the keyboard. It has a Micro USB cable which is detachable.

It has a black case with white laser-etched legend keycaps. Unlike other keyboards that may not let you switch out your keycaps due to its non-standard stem, this keyboard does. It has a MX-stem, which is compatible with custom keycap sets.

The keyboard comes with O-rings to make the keyboard quieter if necessary. However, the keyboard is very quiet in the first place.  The switches have 45g of force for actuation and 4mm of travel distance.

One downside is that the Cooler Master Novatouch is not available in most retail stores, not even Amazon. It is available after-market, however.

Leopold FC660C/FC980C

The Leopold FC660C is a 65% mechanical keyboard, while the Leopold FC980C is a full-sized keyboard.

The base price of the FC660C is $239 on MechanicalKeyboards.com, and the FC980C is $259. Both come in different colors, such as black, blue and gray, white, and gray. They come with two switch options, the Topre 45g and the Topre Silent 45g (for $10 more).

Here is a sound clip of the Leopold FC660C with Topre 45g switches with the stock factory lubrication. The stabilizers have been lubed.

Here is a sound clip of the FC980C. They sound very similar. The only difference in them is size. The full-sized version differs from other full-size keyboards in the fact that it’s a compact version. The arrow keys are positioned in a cut-out area between the number pad and the alphanumeric keys. The browser buttons such as Home, Delete, PgUp, and PgDn are on top like the function row. The image below shows this.

Leopold FC980C
Image from MechanicalKeyboards.com
Leopold FC660C
Image from u/commontao

Both keyboards come with dye sublimated PBT keyboards with black/white legends depending on which keyboard color you go with. They have a detachable cable design with a mini-USB port. It also has four DIP switches on the back to swap key functions like Ctrl, Alt, Fn, etc.

Topre Realforce

The Topre Realforce is available in different varieties. There is a full-sized black keyboard with RGB version with ABS keycaps, a full-sized white PBT keycap version, a full-sized black PBT keycap version, a TKL Dye Sub PBT white and gray version, a TKL Dye Sub PBT black version, and then the variable Topre versions in black or white.

They have cable management built into the back of the keyboard. There are 4 DIP switches on the back. There are four rubber feet with 2 kickstands for some typing angle adjustability. The typing angle without the kickstands are already slightly inclined.

The variable Topre keyboards have 4 different weights on the keyboard: 30g, 45g, and 55g. The Esc key has 55g of force. All of the keys have 45g of force except the following: 1, Q, A, Z, 9. 0, -, +, O, P, [, ], L, ;, “, >, and ?. Mechanicalkeyboards.com has this in visual form on their product page.

The prices of all the versions are over $200. They range from $209 to $259. The switch options range from Topre Variable, Topre 55g, and Topre 45g.  

Mechanism Behind Why Mechanical Keyboards Can Be So Loud (with Sound Clips)

hyperx mechanical keyboard switches
Photo by Shrimay Dash on Unsplash

When I first started typing on a mechanical keyboard, the only switches available, at least I thought, were the clicky and loud switches. I started to wonder exactly why mechanical switches can be so noisy. So, I did some research, and this is what I found out. What makes a mechanical keyboard switch so loud?

Clicky mechanical switches such as Cherry MX Blues have a mechanism within each individual switch that produces a high-pitched clicking noise when the key actuates. Inside a switch is a stem, a plastic bottom and top housing, a spring, a slider component, and a leaf switch. When the key is pressed, the slider component builds up force on the leaf switch as it slides down. When the slider releases, it hits the housing, causing the clicky sound. Other switches that are also clicky have followed the Cherry MX Blue model, and most companies have kept the same color with some exceptions.

In addition of the mechanism of the switch itself, there are other sources of sounds that can make a mechanical keyboard make extra sounds such as rattles and echoes.

Why Do Clicks Matter?

There are two important factors to consider when picking a keyboard switch. They are sound and feel. For many, sound is a crucial element to consider because it’ll be something that you’ll listen to everyday as you’re typing.

For many, having a clicky mechanical keyboard makes them feel as if they’re typing super-fast. When people think of mechanical keyboard, the thought of clicks instantly enters their mind.

If you plan on doing things such as recording videos, live-streaming gameplay, or bringing your keyboard into your workplace, it may be a good idea to avoid getting these loud clicky switches. We have a guide on the top 5 quietest switches. But since you’re here, you probably want a clicky switch.

What Are Some Other Sources of Sounds in Your Mechanical Keyboard?

While certain switches may be quieter than others, a switch that emits a higher-pitched sound tends to be get picked up more on microphones and is more disturbing to those around you.

A deep, low-pitched sounding switch on the other hand, will be less intrusive and tends to not get picked up by microphones as much, even if it’s louder. The lower-pitched sound is generally much more pleasing on the ears and is a sound most keyboard switch manufacturers and enthusiasts attempt to go for when buying a keyboard.

Other sound factors include the amount the switch rattles and shakes. Rattling is when the switch is not fully secured or machined to a tight tolerance, this makes the moving components inside the switch bang against each other instead of smoothly sliding up and down.

The rattling increases the noise output of the keyboard and makes the sound output much more unpleasant.

The material of the keyboard also makes a difference when it comes to sound. A plastic case will create more sound for each key press. An aluminum case or acrylic is denser and will dampen the sounds more, causing less ringing.

Another factor is the stabilizer. Stabilizers can make rattling sounds when they are not effective at reducing the shakiness, especially the space bar. For different techniques and strategies to make your keyboard more silent, we wrote a thorough guide on how to do so. This could also help with clicky switches because you want to only hear the switch click, not the stabilizer rattle or the spring clang in the background after each press.

white meechanical keyboard
Photo by wang kenan on Unsplash

Guide to Clicky Mechanical Keyboard Switches

Now that we know why these switches make their clicks, let’s look at some animations to see exactly what happens.

Input Club has an animation that shows the blue stem being pressed, the slider building up force, releasing and then hitting the bottom housing, producing the clicking sound.

There is a YouTube video that visually shows the movement of these switches happening. He cut out a cross-section of the switch housing so that the inside is visible, and the switch remains fully functional.

There are many different clicky switches out there. The mechanism above only applies to clicky switches. Tactile switches have a tactile bump, but they do not have the second slider mechanism that produces the sound.

Clicky Mechanical Switches, What They Sound Like, and More Information

Switch NameActuation ForceTotal DistanceActuation DistanceSound Clip
Kaihua Gold31g3.5mm1.5mmhttps://youtu.be/n89OaleL2cg?t=185  
Kaihua Bronze*40g3.5mm1.4mmhttps://youtu.be/n89OaleL2cg?t=169  
Kailh Box White50g3.6mm1.8mmhttps://youtu.be/n89OaleL2cg?t=312  
Kaihua Blue50g4mm2.2mmhttps://youtu.be/a4-XclsIcX0?t=61  
Cherry MX Blue55g4mm2mmhttps://youtu.be/lAmiYr0GjaY?t=22  
Cherry MX Green52g4mm2.3mmhttps://youtu.be/ECK1Ym5V8Xw?t=25  
Kaihua Box Pale Blues42g3.7mm1.93mmhttps://youtu.be/eZuHJGoJQSs?t=173  
Kaihua Box Jade30g3.7mm1.95mmhttps://youtu.be/vKnH_SZbT1A?t=354  
Kaihua Box Navy40g3.5mm1.82mmhttps://youtu.be/93PCro8hB_A?t=14  
Gateron Blue45g4mm2.2mmhttps://youtu.be/gLWon7edBNI?t=377  
Oetemu Blue46g4mm2.7mmhttps://youtu.be/kmcz7qBVaQY?t=265  
Razer Green50g4mm2.3mmhttps://youtu.be/CcZhehmVRbs?t=74  
Gateron Green65g4mm2mmhttps://youtu.be/kbBvMQK9jBQ?t=12  

*Kaihua Bronze switches are also known as Thick Gold or Platinum switches.

Another thing that may be confusing is that some people say Kaihua or Kailh. They are basically the same company and the same switches. Kaihua is a brand under Kailh.

The table above covers most clicky switches that are available right now. If we are missing any, please let us know and we’ll fix the list with updated information.   

What Are BOX Switches?

Kailh/Kaihua makes BOX switches. These switches were initially created to be used in gaming cafes, cafes with rows of computers that people can pay to use and play games on, in primarily Asian countries.

The Kailh BOX switches are rated IP56, which we learned about in our article about waterproof keyboards where we also explained IP rating. IP56 means that the switches are dust-protected, permitting only little dust, and is protected against high pressure water jets from any direction.

They’re easily recognizable with their box design around the switch stem. These were designed to prevent food dust and water/drink spills from people using them within gaming cafes. Due to their IP56 rating, they’re much more durable and protected than regular switches. They keep food, crumbs, dust, and liquids away from the keyboard PCB.

These BOX switches cost $3.00 10 switches, making them 30 cents each.

Where to Try These Switches

There are a lot of factors that contribute to the sound of your keyboard, including the case material, stabilizer quality, and the keyboard switches (of course). We listed out all the clicky mechanical switches available on the market right now, including the actuation distance, actuation force, total travel distance, and a sound clip of each switch type for your reference and convenience.

As always, it’s better to personally test each switch prior to filling up your entire keyboard with it and then realize that you don’t like it after all.

Some places to get switch testers include NovelKeys and MechanicalKeyboards.com. NovelKeys offers different size switch testers, ranging from 4-slots to 49-slots. They are acrylic with clear keycaps. You get to choose your choice of switches. Below are all their options for switches. YES, there are a LOT of options.

novelkeys switch tester options
novelkeys switch tester options
novelkeys switch tester options

MechanicalKeyboards.com provides a 6-slot switch tester for $15. You have the option of including different switch sets, including Cherry MX, Gateron, Greetech, Kailh, and Outemu.  

Amazon also has a few options as well. This Glorious MX Switch Tester includes 14 different switches of Gateron and Kailh brand along with O-rings. They do not come with a testing board or keycaps unlike the two above.

This 4-slot Cherry MX switch tester allows you to try the basic Cherry MX switches (Red, Blue, Brown, and Black) with a minimalistic case and clear keycaps. They also have one with 9 slots and includes additional Cherry MX switches (Green, Grey-brown, Grey-black, Clear, and White, as well as the original four).

Another good option for experimenting with Kailh BOX switches is this Kailh BOX switch tester kit with clear keycaps, an acrylic testing board, a keycap puller, and 9 BOX switches (Navy, Jade, White, Red, Black, Brown, Yellow, Blue, and Orange).

There are many places to try out different switches prior to getting them. If spending money is not possible, you can also look for mechanical keyboard meetups where people will bring and showcase their custom-made keyboards for people to try out and type on.

Many switches that are interesting to explore include the ZealPC switches and the panda switches, which are a combination of one part from one kind of switch and the other parts from another kind of switch.

As always, happy typing!

Comprehensive list of every single keyboard switch on the Planet

Comprehensive list of every keyboard switch on the planet

If you’re new to the world of mechanical keyboards or even an enthusiast then you must know looking at hundreds of different switch types can get a bit overwhelming. 

No matter where I looked on the internet, I could not find a comprehensive list that had all of the switches. Whether it’s Cherry MX, Gateron, Kailh or any other type of switch it’s quite difficult to sort through all these brands and find the switch that has the right feel for you.

The purpose of this post is to compile a list of all the different types and give a brief description of each switch. Search below to find info on every single switch you can possibly find.

Tip: If you’re looking for a switch in particular, CTRL + F is your friend.

Ace Pad Tech 

  • Hall Effect Linear
    • Linear contactless switch
    • Actuation force of 0.60N
  • Hall Effect Clicky
    • Clicky and tactile contactless switch
    • Actuation force of 0.60N
  • Hall Effect Tactile
    • Tactile contactless switch
    • Actuation force of 0.60N

Cherry MX

  • Red 
    • Linear switch
    • Actuation force of 0.45N
    • 2 mm actuation distance
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • Silent Red 
    • Linear switch
    • Actuation force of 0.45N
    • 1.9 mm actuation distance
    • 3.7 mm travel distance
    • Sound dampened
  • Low Profile Red
    • Linear switch
    • Actuation force of 0.45N
    • 1.2 mm actuation distance
    • 3.2 mm travel distance
    • Shallow profile
  • Low Profile RGB Speed
    • Linear switch
    • Actuation force of 0.45N
    • 1.0 mm actuation distance
    • 3.2 mm travel distance
    • Shallow profile
  • Speed Silver
    • Linear switch
    • Actuation force of 0.45N
    • 1.2 mm actuation distance
    • 3.4 mm travel distance
  • Nature White
    • Linear switch
    • Actuation force of 0.55N
    • 2 mm actuation distance
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • Black
    • Linear switch
    • Actuation force of 0.60N
    • 2 mm actuation distance
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • Silent Black
    • Linear switch
    • Actuation force of 0.60N
    • 1.9 mm actuation distance
    • 3.7 mm travel distance
    • Sound dampened
  • Linear Grey
    • Linear switch
    • Actuation force of 0.80N
    • 2 mm actuation distance
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • Brown
    • Tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.45N
    • Tactile force 0.55N
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • Clear
    • Tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.55N
    • Tactile force 0.65N
    • 2 mm actuation distance
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • Tactile Grey
    • Tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.80N
    • Tactile force 0.80N
    • 2 mm actuation distance
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • Blue
    • Clicky and tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.50N
    • Tactile force 0.60N
    • 2.2 mm actuation distance
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • White
    • Clicky and tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.70N
    • Tactile force 0.80N
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • Green
    • Clicky and tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.70N
    • Tactile force 0.80N
    • 2.2 mm actuation distance
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • Viola
    • Linear switch
    • Actuation force 0.45N
    • Tactile force 0.75N
    • Cheaper
    • 2 mm actuation distance
    • 4 mm travel distance

Flaretech (Wooting)

  • Red
    • Optical and linear switch
    • Actuation force 0.55N
    • 1.5-3.6mm actuation distance
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • Blue
    • Clicky and tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.55N
    • 1.8mm actuation distance
    • 4 mm travel distance
    • Tactile and audible feedback at two points
  • Black
    • Linear and optical switch
    • Actuation force of 0.60-0.80N
    • 1.5-3.6mm actuation distance
    • 4 mm travel distance

ALPS Fuhua (Fukka)

  • Green
    • Tactile and clicky switch
    • Actuation force 0.50N
  • White
    • Tactile and clicky switch
    • Actuation force 0.65N
  • Black
    • Linear switch
    • Actuation force 0.60N

Fraly

  • Blue
    • Tactile and clicky switch
    • Actuation force 0.60N

Gateron

  • Clear
    • Linear switch
    • Actuation force 0.35N
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • Red
    • Linear switch
    • Actuation force 0.45N
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • Black
    • Linear switch
    • Actuation force 0.60N
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • Blue
    • Clicky and tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.60N
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • Green
    • Clicky and tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.80N
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • Brown
    • Tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.55N
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • Yellow
    • Linear switch
    • Actuation force 0.50N
    • 4 mm travel distance

Greetech

  • Blue
    • Clicky and tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.50N
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • Brown
    • Tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.45N
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • Red
    • Linear switch
    • Actuation force 0.45N
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • Black
    • Linear switch
    • Actuation force 0.55N
    • 4 mm travel distance

IBM

  • Buckling Spring
    • Clicky and tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.65N

Kailh

  • Blue
    • Clicky and tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.50N
    • 2 mm actuation distance
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • Brown
    • Tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.45N
    • 2 mm actuation distance
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • Black
    • Linear switch
    • Actuation force 0.60N
    • 2 mm actuation distance
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • Red
    • Linear switch
    • Actuation force 0.50N
    • 2mm actuation distance
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • Green
    • Clicky and tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.60N
    • 2 mm actuation distance
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • BOX White
    • Clicky and tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.50N
    • 1.8 mm actuation distance
    • 3.6 mm travel distance
    • Dust resistant
  • BOX Thick Navy
    • Clicky and tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.77N
    • 1.8 mm actuation distance
    • 3.6 mm travel distance
    • Dust resistant
  • BOX Thick Jade
    • Clicky and tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.66N
    • 1.8 mm actuation distance
    • 3.6 mm travel distance
    • Dust resistant
  • Speed Silver
    • Linear switch
    • Actuation force 0.50N
    • 1.1 mm actuation distance
    • 3.5 mm travel distance
  • Speed Copper
    • Tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.50N
    • 1.1 mm actuation distance
    • 3.5 mm travel distance
  • BOX Red
    • Linear switch
    • Actuation force 0.50N
    • 1.8 mm actuation distance
    • 3.6 mm travel distance
  • Speed Bronze
    • Clicky and Tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.50N
    • 1.1 mm actuation distance
    • 3.5 mm travel distance
  • BOX Heavy Burnt Orange
    • Tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.60N
    • 1.8 mm actuation distance
    • 3.6 mm travel distance
  • BOX Heavy Dark Yellow
    • Linear switch
    • Actuation force 0.70N
    • 1.8 mm actuation distance
    • 3.6 mm travel distance
  • BOX Heavy Pale Blue
    • Tactile and Clicky switch
    • Actuation force 0.60N
    • 1.8 mm actuation distance
    • 3.6 mm travel distance
  • Kailh Speed Gold
    • Tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.50N
    • 1.4 mm actuation distance
    • 3.5 mm travel distance
  • Kailh BOX Black
    • Linear switch
    • Actuation force 0.60N
    • 1.8 mm actuation distance
    • 3.6 mm travel distance
  • Kailh ML Chocolate Red
    • Linear switch
    • Low profile
    • Actuation force 0.50N
    • 1.3 mm actuation distance
    • 2.8 mm travel distance
  • Kailh ML Chocolate Brown
    • Tactile switch
    • Low profile
    • Actuation force 0.50N
    • 1.3 mm actuation distance
    • 2.8 mm travel distance
  • Kailh ML Chocolate White
    • Clicky switch
    • Low profile
    • Actuation force 0.50N
    • 1.3 mm actuation distance
    • 2.8 mm travel distance

KBT

  • Blue
    • Clicky and tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.50N
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • Brown
    • Tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.45N
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • Red
    • Linear switch
    • Actuation force 0.45N
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • Black
    • Linear switch
    • Actuation force 0.55N
    • 4 mm travel distance

Logitech

  • GL Tactile
    • Tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.60N
    • 1.5 mm actuation distance
    • 2.7 mm travel distance
  • GL Linear
    • Linear switch
    • Actuation force 0.60N
    • 1.5 mm actuation distance
    • 2.7 mm travel distance
  • GL Clicky
    • Clicky and tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.60N
    • 1.5 mm actuation distance
    • 2.7 mm travel distance

Matias

  • Click
    • Clicky and tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.55N
    • 2.2 mm actuation distance
    • 3.5 mm travel distance
  • Quiet Click
    • Clicky and tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.55N
    • 2.2 mm actuation distance
    • 3.5 mm travel distance
    • Dampened sound
  • Linear
    • Linear switch
    • Actuation force 0.35N
    • 2.2 mm actuation distance
    • 3.5 mm travel distance

MOD

  • H Tactile
    • Tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.62N
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • H Linear
    • Linear switch
    • Actuation force 0.62N
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • L Tactile
    • Tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.45N
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • L Linear
    • Linear switch
    • Actuation force 0.45N
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • M Tactile
    • Tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.55N
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • M Linear
    • Linear switch
    • Actuation force 0.55N
    • 4 mm travel distance

Outemu

  • Blue
    • Clicky and tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.60N
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • Brown
    • Tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.55N
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • Red
    • Linear switch
    • Actuation force 0.50N
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • Black
    • Linear switch
    • Actuation force 0.65N
    • 4 mm travel distance

Razer

  • Green
    • Clicky and tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.50N
    • 1.9 mm actuation distance
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • Orange
    • Tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.45N
    • 1.9 mm actuation distance
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • Yellow
    • Linear switch
    • Actuation force 0.45N
    • 1.2 mm actuation distance
    • 3.5 mm travel distance
  • Clicky Optical
    • Clicky and tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.40N
    • 1.5 mm actuation distance
    • 3.5 mm travel distance
  • Linear Optical
    • Linear switch
    • Actuation force 0.40N
    • 1.0 mm actuation distance
    • 3.5 mm travel distance

Topre

  • 30g
    • Tactile switch
    • Rubber dome
    • Actuation force 0.30N
    • 1.5 mm actuation distance
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • 35g
    • Tactile switch
    • Rubber dome
    • Actuation force 0.35N
    • 1.5 mm actuation distance
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • 45g
    • Tactile switch
    • Rubber dome
    • Actuation force 0.45N
    • 1.5 mm actuation distance
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • 55g
    • Tactile switch
    • Rubber dome
    • Actuation force 0.55N
    • 1.5 mm actuation distance
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • Silent 45g
    • Linear switch
    • Rubber dome
    • Actuation force 0.45N
    • 1.5 mm actuation distance
    • 4 mm travel distance

Varmilo

  • EC Sakura
    • Linear switch
    • Actuation force 0.45N
    • 2 mm actuation distance
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • EC Ivy
    • Clicky and tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.50N
    • 2.3 mm actuation distance
    • 4 mm travel distance
  • EC Rosery
    • Linear switch
    • Actuation force 0.55N
    • 2 mm actuation distance
    • 4 mm travel distance

ZealPC

  • Tiffany Blue Tealios
    • Linear switch
    • Actuation force 0.67N
  • Blue Zilents 62g V2
    • Tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.62N
  • Orange Healio
    • Linear switch
    • Actuation force 0.67N
  • Zealios 62g V2
    • Tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.62N
  • Zealios 65g V2
    • Tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.65N
  • Zealios 67g V2
    • Tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.67N
  • Zealios 78g V2
    • Tactile switch
    • Actuation force 0.78N
  • Blue Zilents 65g V2
    • Tactile and silent switch
    • Actuation force 0.65N
  • Blue Zilents 67g V2
    • Tactile and silent switch
    • Actuation force 0.67N
  • Blue Zilents 78g V2
    • Tactile and silent switch
    • Actuation force 0.78N

Custom USB Cables for Your Keyboard

custom cables for your keyboard from the switch and click

Question and Answer

I’ve been seeing those super cool coiled cables that have sick colors. What are they? How much do they cost? How do I get exactly what I want? How long does it take to get it shipped to me? One last thing, can I make it myself?

That’s a good question. These custom USB-C cables usually come in any colors that you want. They are made to order only from different companies, but it’s possible to get DIY cable kits to customize it yourself. They can come straight or coiled. The price can range anywhere from $30 to $60, depending on the materials that you choose. Typically, they are a paracorded cable with a heatshrink wrap around them. Currently, many websites are closed for orders or out of stock, but typical time from order to your door will be about 2-4 weeks. You can absolutely make these yourself with some equipment that we’ll discuss further.  

keyboard with custom cable
https://www.reddit.com/r/MechanicalKeyboards/comments/e6z3ij/
custom_cable_arrived_today_and_i_love_it_cant/

Cable Basics

Different Parts of the Custom Cable

These have 2 connectors on each side like regular cables. One side will be USB-A, the part that plugs into your computer. The other side will be the part that connects to the keyboard, USB-C or micro-USB.

Around the cable is paracord. This can come in various sizes such as standard, 550 or jumbo. It can optionally be covered in tech flex that can also come in different colors. The Techflex improves the memory of the coil, so it will bounce back to its original position if pulled out slightly.

Surrounding the cable second is the heat shrink. This is the plastic material that covers the cable. 

They can come straight or coiled. A coiled cable takes more labor and time to make. Because it’s coiled, it also uses a lot more cable to take up the same amount of space on your desktop.

But what is that metal thing that looks so cool?

This is called an aviator connector. To use this, you will need to have two custom cables. One that connects to your keyboard and then to the aviator head. And the other will have an aviator head on one side and connect to your computer on the other side.

The aviator connectors are optional. They primarily are there to look cool and add some flair to your set-up.

Another purpose they offer is if you have several different custom cable sleeves and want to change it up easily without reaching over too far. It also lets you switch out keyboards easily if you have multiple daily drivers.

There are different options if you have a coil. The aviator connector can be on the left of the cable or to the right of the cable.  

Pricing and Ordering

Where do I go to order them?

There are many places to order custom USB cables. A quick search on Google or Reddit, and you’ll find many opinions on where to order.

Mechcables

Many people love Mechcables. They have an ordering form that is very hard to find. Make sure you email them first before ordering to make sure they’re taking orders.

Mechcables lets you include a picture of the cable that you want so they’ll know what colors to use.

Melgeek

Other places to order include Melgeek. They are in stock right now and make cables that range from $50-$60.

These cables come with a small aviator connector that is unlike others. It keeps the design very sleek and non-intrusive. Unlike Mechcables, you are unable to customize it with your own colors, but they have different colorways already made.

Currently, they offer 13 different custom-sleeved USB cables. I’ll list some of the colors down below:

  • Classic black and grey
  • Green and purple
  • Skyblue and yellow
  • Purple and blue
  • Purple and pink
  • White and green,
  • Pink and brown
  • White and purple
  • Navy and red
  • Teal and blue
  • And so much more! Each product has their own colorways, so check them out.

Space Cables

Space Cables is a relatively new company that is gaining popularity fast. They are currently out of stock as well.

They offer magnetic USB-C tips, which is convenient for when you don’t want to manually insert the plug into your keyboard. Just swipe your connector near the general area and it’ll put itself into the hole. Haha.

They also offer high-end custom cables with LEMO Cable connectors, starting at $85. Currently, this option is NOT available.

Pricing for these cables start at around $25, but the price is not available currently. To order, look down below.

Other honorable mentions:

Occasionally Drop (formerly known as Massdrop) will have group buys of custom USB cables. Be on the lookout. Here’s what they have to offer right now.

Clark Kable is in the UK but offer custom cables and DIY kits.

Juju Cables is in Australia. They’re currently sold out but have DIY cable kits, coiled cable kits, and custom cables. Check out their website and social media.

How do I order?

If you’re looking for a single cable without the aviator connector, the first thing to consider is the length of the cable.

How far is it from your keyboard to your computer? Would you like some extra room in case you decide to switch desks one day?

They come in sizes from 1ft to 16ft, with jumps of 1ft in between.

Websites will have colors to pick some, so make sure you look at the images for each custom cable maker.

They give you the ability to pick the Techflex color (which will cost about $5 more).

For a single cable, the head of the device will be the side that connects to the keyboard. This could be USB-C, mini-B, or Micro-USB. Make sure you get the correct one for your keyboard.

The other end, the host end, will be the side that connects to your computer. Usually, this is USB-A.

To add a coil, this will cost about $10 or more extra. There are different size options for the cable diameter.

The last option to select is what color heatshrink to use. This is a rubber/plastic that covers everything and keeps the connectors held together.

Remember to heck each website for images of colors for color selection!

keyboard with custom cable
https://www.reddit.com/r/MechanicalKeyboards/comments/b16ezo/
first_custom_cable_lovely_badgercables/

DIY Kits

Many manufacturers make DIY kits to allow yourself to put the cables together, coil them, and rep your self-made customized cables.

For example, 1UP Keyboards offers 2 different selections of DIY kits, one that involves soldering and one that doesn’t.

The no-solder version lets you pick a length (cost varying based on length), pick the type of connector, the heat shrink color, and techflex color. It starts at $12, but a 5ft cable with USB-A connector with clear Techflex will cost around $16. They have an instructional video as well as PDF guide on their website.

The solder version lets you pick both ends of the connector, heat shrink color, paracord color, and Techflex color. You’ll need the following materials to complete the product:

  • Soldering iron
  • Solder
  • Heat source such as hair dryer or heat gun
  • Wire strippers
  • Pliers

They have instructions on their website.

Space Cables offer DIY kits for the USB cable and for datable ones as well. They offer materials for different connects such as USB micro, USB-A 2.0 and 3.0, USB-B, and USB-C. Prices depend on what you pick but range from $3 to $13.

The DIY USB kit has just the cable itself with the connects, paracord, heat shrink, and cable. The detachable USB kit offers the choice to include an Aviator connector. Currently, these are both SOLD OUT.

Manufacturing and shipping time

Mechcables have a turnaround time of 2-3 weeks. This means that once they receive payment, they’ll ship the item out after 2-3 weeks. It will take some additional time to get your order at the doorstep depending on where you live.

Melgeek has a turnaround time of 4-7 days, it could take up to a week or more to get the product shipped out. Expect a few more days after that for shipping time.

Space Cables has a turnaround time of around 4 weeks, but because they are out of stock right now, it is hard to say.

Sources:

The Plug Ep 1: How to Order Custom Cables feat. Mechcables & Space Cables Youtube.com

Custom keyboard cables. Where to Buy! Reddit.com

Making your own custom USB cables GeekHack.org

Razer Mechanical Keyboard Switch Types

razer mechanical keyboard switch types on the Switch and click blog

Question and Answer

Razer has been in the gaming world for a long time. They’ve always had those green clicky ultra-loud switches, but recently they’ve come up with new switches. Ones that are not as clicky. My favorite kinds of switches are the tactile ones that are not clicky, does Razer have a tactile switch, I wonder? Let’s do some research!

These are all mechanical switches. Razer’s most common switch is the clicky green switch that we’ve seen throughout the years. They’ve come up with new orange and yellow switches, which are known to be quieter and faster. The quick response would be the orange switches are tactile and silent, while the yellow switches are linear and quiet. The newest of the new are the optical switches, the purple and red switches. The red switches are linear whereas the purple ones are clicky.

Mechanical Switches

Green Switch

Okay first, the most common, the Razer green switches. These are tactile and clicky. When playing games with others, your friends will probably complain of the loud clicks coming from your keyboard for every time you press WASD.

Even with O-rings, it’s still super loud. Only get this if you REALLY want the clicks. I didn’t know any better when I did.

Its total travel distance is 4.0mm with the actuation point at 1.9mm. The actuation force is 50g, which is the heaviest of all three switches.

These switches are usually compared to Cherry MX blue switches.

Green switches from a 2014 Blackwidow Tournament Edition
Green switches from a 2014 Blackwidow Tournament Edition, don’t judge the dust

Razer’s Lineup with Green Switches

Here are the keyboards in Razer’s current lineup that feature these green switches.

First up is the Blackwidow, the iconic keyboard that started it all. This keyboard has RGB lighting, a full-size layout, and fully customizable keys.

The next one is the Blackwidow Elite, which is everything the Blackwidow has but so much more. You get a comfortable spot to rest your wrists on while gaming or typing, the choice of using green, yellow, or orange switches, and digital media keys and dials to change music and volume whenever you want.

Other variations such as the Blackwidow X Tournament Edition Chroma and the Blackwidow X Tournament Edition, also featuring green switches. This keyboard has a tenkeyless layout. The Chroma has RGB lighting and preprogrammed lighting effects, whereas the original does not.

Also the Blackwidow Tournament Edition Chrome V2, which has an additional wrist rest attached and the choice between the three different switch types.

There’s also the Blackwidow Ultimate, which is a full-sized keyboard that is water and dust resistant. Don’t worry about spills or dust getting into this bad boy. It only comes with green backlighting though. Hopefully, that matches with your computer’s look.

Yellow Switch

Razer’s yellow switches are linear and silent. They’re like Cherry MX Red Switches.

The total travel distance is 3.5mm (which is much shorter than Cherry MX Reds) and the actuation point is at 1.2mm. The actuation force is at 45g, which is lighter than their green switches.

These switches are the fastest due to their short travel distance and light actuation force. They’re extremely quiet as well. They’re good for gaming that requires fast button presses for optimal responses.

Pair these switches with O-rings and you’ll dampen the sounds of bottoming out (when your switches hit the bottom).

Razer’s Lineup with Yellow Switches

Currently, only the Blackwidow Elite and the Blackwidow Tournament Edition Chrome V2 have the option of having yellow switches in them when ordering.

Orange Switch

Razer’s orange switches feel like the green switches, but with less of a bump. It still gives you the tactile feels, letting you type quickly and accurately.

The total distance of the orange switches is 4.0mm with an actuation point of 1.9mm, exactly like the green switches. However, its actuation force is 45g, which is lighter and easier to press.  

These are usually compared to Cherry MX Browns.

If you’re going a lot of typing and gaming, these switches are for you. If you’re mostly using the keyboard for gaming, yellow will be your best bet. But it all boils down to personal preference. Don’t let common statements make decisions for you. Go to your local store and try them out. Press on all the keys as if you’re gaming or typing.

Razer’s Lineup with Orange Switches

Out of their current lineup, here are some of the keyboards that offer orange switches.

First, the Razer Blackwidow Lite which comes in black or white has these switches alongside coming pre-installed with O-rings to further dampen the sounds. It also has a sleek look, letting you see the white lighting underneath as well as the switches and stabilizers.  

The Razer Blackwidow Elite lets you pick between any of the green, yellow, or orange switches. This full-size keyboard sites at a hefty $170 price tag, but it does have the convenience of changing media keys at a button push and scroll wheel as well as an ergonomic wrist rest.

The Blackwidow Tournament Edition Chrome V2 offers the orange switches as well with a tenkeyless layout and RGB lighting.

For more details of the green, yellow, and orange switches, Razer has a full page with videos, graphics, and convenient charts.

Optical Mechanical Switches

Purple Switch

The Razer purple switch is labeled as an optical switch because when you press on the key, it covers a light that sends a signal to the computer that the key was pressed.

The optical switches are advertised to be able to handle over 80 million keystrokes. They come with a stabilizer bar on each switch to reduce wobble and increase stability.

This switch still gives a tactile feel and is clicky with actuation at 1.5mm (which is 30% shorter than common mechanical keyboards), but it is purely for the feels and not for the function. The actuation force is 45g, lighter than the green switches but like all the other ones.

cherry mx blues
Purples sound like Cherry MX blues with the clicks.

Red Switch

The red switch is also an optical switch. It’s a linear switch that gives you no tactile bump for feedback.

The actuation force is 40g, which is the lightest of all of Razer’s switches. It also has the shortest actuation distance of 1.0mm, which is 60% shorter than common mechanical switches.

Fun fact, the actuation and rest point are the same due to the way optical switches work, via infrared light. This lets you complete more keystrokes with less finger movement.  

Razer’s Lineup with Purple or Red Switches

For additional information on Razer’s optical switches, they have a full web page with graphics, videos, and tables.

The following keyboards offer purple or red switches:

The Razer Huntsman, which we’ve all heard of recently, has a Tournament Edition, and Elite edition, and the original Huntsman.

The tournament edition has a tenkeyless design, double-shot PBT keycaps, linear red switches, and a USB-C cable. Razer has finally listened to the people. The double-shot PBT keycaps are much higher quality than the old ABS ones.

No longer are the days of glossy and grimy keys, but new are the days of textured high-quality keys.

The Elite version is a full-sized layout with digital media keys and dials just like the Blackwidow Elite. This version lets you pick between the purple or red switches.

The Huntsman is a full-sized keyboard that offers only the purple switches. It’s available in three colorways: black, pink, or white with special keycaps as well. With RGB lighting.

Summary

We’ve discussed all 5 different switch types that Razer has to offer. The greens, yellows, and oranges fall into the mechanical switch category, whereas the purples and reds are optical mechanical switches.

The greens are loud, clicky, and tactile. This is the cornerstone of old-school gaming keyboards. The yellows are linear switches, and the oranges are tactile without the extra sounds.

The purples are clicky and tactile with less actuation force and distance. The reds are linear and quiet with the lowest actuation force and shortest distance. The optical switches offer more durability and improved response.

The mechanical switches go with Razer’s Blackwidow lineup, and the optical ones go with Razer’s Huntsman lineup.

In a few years, we’ll get to really see where Razer’s new switches are going to stand. Will they be the new standard compared to Cherry? Only time will tell.

Sources

What’s the difference between Razer mechanical switches? Windows Central

Which Razer Keyboard Switch is Right for You? Youtube.com

Razer.com

The Essential Pieces of Equipment You Need to Build a Mechanical Keyboard Right Now

essential parts to build a custom keyboard on the switch and click blog

Question and Answer

I’ve been in the mechanical keyboard world for only a short time now, but I’ve come to really see the wonders of having a custom-built keyboard. If you’re reading this, I’m sure you have the same thoughts on your mind. So, exactly what do I need on my desk at this very moment to be able to build a mechanical keyboard?

Well, to start with, you’re going to need all these parts: switches, a case, keycaps, a printed circuit board (PCB), stabilizers, a soldering kit, snippers, and maybe a keycap puller and a switch puller. A way that you can save time and some money is to buy a prebuilt keyboard kit, which we’ll discuss later in the article.

custom 60% keyboard

The Main Parts

PCB and aluminum frame

PCB stands for printed circuit board.  The PCB is the base of your keyboard. It lets the switches communicate with your computer, after it’s soldered.

Tenkeyless and 60% layouts are the most common size for building your own custom mechanical keyboard.

Upon doing some research, the Satan GH60 is widely used in the community and has extensive documentation. It is fully programmable, has macro support, and has an RGB option too. It does require soldering and is not hot-swappable.

Some resources for PCBs include Keebio, the beloved KBDfans, Clueboard, and mechanicalkeyboards.com.

Case

The case is the foundation of a stable keyboard that will be steady and not wobbly.

Cases vary from plastic to wooden to aluminum. Even gold. Anything you can think of.

Aluminum offers the sturdiest option for your keyboard. But if you’re lugging it around to tournaments or to work and back, this might be too heavy. Typing on this keyboard can result in loud echoing and metal sounds.

The important points to consider here are:

  • Make sure the keyboard size you are planning on making is compatible with the case.
  • Do you want a certain angle for your case?
  • Do you usually type with the feet of your keyboard up or down? Make sure your case agrees with your typing position.

Switches

Switches are a necessity. Make sure you know the basic switch types and have an idea of what you’re looking for: linear, clicky, or tactile. We discussed the very basic Cherry MX switches in a previous article.

There are many resources for getting different keycap sets: Amazon, the mechanical keyboards subreddit, Geek Hack, websites such as KBDfans, eBay, and mechanicalkeyboards.com.

This is your time to shine! Time to find your feel. Cherry MX switches are the most common, but you can explore around. Make sure the switches are compatible with the PCB.

Input Club has an amazing guide on different switches with graphics, charts, and descriptions. For sound tests, you can do to Youtube or ask someone on Reddit.

Keycaps

Keycaps are another are where you can be creative. Or sleek and clean. Or colorful and dazzling. Again, this is where you can shine through.

Some of the same websites we’ve linked to before have keycaps to offer in different sets. Make sure you are buying the right size set. Don’t build a 65% keyboard and forget to get arrow keys.

It’s not all about looks, sometimes it’s about feel too. There’s different kinds of plastics, finishes, heights, and size.

Different websites for keycaps: KBDfans, the keycaps subreddit, mechanicalkeyboards.com, KPREPUBLIC, and Drop (formerly Massdrop) also has keycaps.

MT3 /dev/tty keycaps on a keyboard
MT3 /dev/tty

Stabilizers

Stabilizers are super important for your larger keys such as the space bar, enter, shift, and backspace. We explained what stabilizers are and what they did in a previous post.

There are different price points for stabilizers with different feels and quality. We previously did research on the 3 best keyboard stabilizers for your mechanical keyboard and talked about the differences.

You’re going to need one longer stabilizer for the space bar, the space varies based on your PCB. And four smaller stabilizers for the other ones. Again, make sure you get the right sizes.

There are different mods you can do, but I think that’s going further than the scope of this article.

Soldering Kit

TaeKeyboards recommends getting a variable temperature soldering station rather than an iron that plugs straight into the wall to keep it at a safe temperature. Make sure it has an iron holder to avoid burning things or yourself.

Input Club has a good list of recommended soldering irons. The best one is the Hakko FX888D-23BY Digital Soldering Station. Currently, it is priced at around $100 on Amazon (not affiliated).

For their other recommendations, go to their guide on their website. A solder sucker to fix up mistakes and cutters are also recommended.

JUJU on YouTube has great video tutorials on how to solder your own keyboard.

soldering a circuit board

Keyboard kits and how they might save you some time and effort

For the beginners out there, there are keyboard kits out there a hot-swappable PCB. Some popular places to buy these keyboard kits are KBDfans (This is a scary website! It’ll hook you in quickly. Beware.)

Inside most kits, you get the USB-C cable, switch remover, and keycap puller. The kit itself includes stabilizers, the PCB, case and aluminum framing.

Depending on pricing, the case can range from plastic to aluminum to wood.

When looking at these kits, make sure the switches that you want to use are compatible with the PCB.

These kits enable you to build a fully customized keyboard without having to solder anything. There are only three steps.

Building a keyboard using a keyboard kit

  1. Open the keyboard kit and gather your keycaps and switches.
  2. Match the switch to the PCB and push your switches in.
  3. Put the keycaps on top, and tadah! All done!

If you were to do all this yourself, you would need to clip on the stabilizers, mount the aluminum frame to the PCB, insert switches, solder it, put it into the casing, and then keycaps.

Having a kit saves you about an hour of work if you know what you’re doing and are experienced.

In no way am I turning you off buying individual parts, but as a beginner myself, soldering is a hump that I must overcome. And don’t worry, I will. Custom build incoming someday.

Another option that’ll reduce all the effort but still end up with a customized build

Now I know you’re hear to build your own keyboard, but if you’re looking to make a customized keyboard without going through the effort of putting it together yourself, you can go this route.

Certain manufacturers such as WASD Keyboards give you the option to customize a keyboard online. They’ll send you the completed product in the mail, and you can start typing right out of the box.

On WASD Keyboards, there are many options such as choosing your case color and choosing the switches.

When picking out keycaps, you can select your colorways. For example, my letter and number keys and the space bar could be mint green. The modifier keys could be, hmmm, royal navy blue. And together, you have a beautiful work of art. It’s possible to add specific colors for the engravings on each key.

For the more creative people, you can upload image designs for the keys and even pick your own engraving fonts and styles.

Summary

We’ve looked at all the essential parts to building your very first mechanical keyboard.

For a convenient list, I’m going to bullet list it down below for reference in the future:

  • PCB
  • Aluminum frame
  • Case
  • Switches
  • Keycaps
  • Soldering station
  • Solder wire
  • Cutters/snippers
  • Solder sucker
  • Keycap puller
  • Switch puller
  • Stabilizers

We’ve also discussed other options out there such as customizing your keyboard online from a manufacturer and having them build the keyboard to ship to you.

And don’t forget about keyboard kits that come with PCB, frame, and case all put together so all you must do is put in switches and keycaps. This method doesn’t require any soldering.

There were a ton of links and resources to other websites and stores to obtain some ideas for purchasing your different parts.

Good luck! And I cannot wait to see your custom keyboards! Make sure you link it so we can see in the comments down below.

If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, we would love to hear it in the comments down below. If there’s anything else you want us to research, we are at your bidding.

As always, happy typing!

Sources

How to build a custom keyboard (cheap) Youtube.com

How to design your own mechanical keyboard Youtube.com

Can you build your OWN mechanical keyboard? Youtube.com

Build your own mechanical keyboard project: What you need to get started Techspot

How to build your own keyboard Kotaku

Beginner’s Guide: How to build a 60% mechanical keyboard Youtube.com

Plate mounted vs PCB Mounted Keyboard

Plate mounted vs pcb mounted keyboard.

Let’s set a scene.

You’re in the beginning stages of laying out a design for your ultra-custom keyboard, and you’re looking at several different configurations but you’re scratching your head because you’re not sure which type of keyboard will be the best fit for you.

Or maybe you’re trying to pick out a pre-built mechanical keyboard and have come at an impasse trying to decide between which style of keyboard is the best. Do you pick a keyboard with PCB-mounted switches or a keyboard with plate-mounted switches?

In this post we will go over the differences between the two and help you determine which one will best fit your needs.

So, let’s jump right in.

Awkward Kermit
Kermit meme stolen from Reddit, no shame.

What the heck is a PCB/plate-mounted board?

Let’s clarify some of the differences really quick. The PCB is the foundation of your keyboard, everything starts here and is built off this part. Like a motherboard on a computer, the operations of the keyboard start at the PCB. The switches are soldered onto the PCB and send the electrical impulses when the keys are pressed. Pretty cool right?

The plate mount is added on top of the PCB for extra support, this helps prevent the keyboard from flexing and provides some extra stability. Not every keyboard has this part. This is what the main difference between the two types of switch mounted configurations, whether or not they have this plate.

Both configurations (plate-mounted and PCB-mounted), both have a PCB board. The main difference is in how the switches are soldered to the PCB.

Phantom PCB board
Phantom PCB board

PCB-mounted

The switches are soldiered and mounted directly to the PCB, making for a relatively simple installation.

The switches also come with guiding pins to help install the switch to the PCB. In general, this type of installation has a lighter feel and the keys will tend to bounce a bit more. The PCB mounting style is generally used with smaller keyboards as they tend to flex less and need less structure to hold together.

Due to the lack of reinforcement, the keyboard will feel more rickety and less stable. If you are a heavy-handed typist or you enjoy of feel of a very stable keyboard, this might not be for you.

But overall, the PCB-mounted style is cheaper to produce because it does not require the additional reinforcement plate and some might find it easier to build.

Plate-mounted

Instead of getting installed directly to the PCB, the switches are mounted to a metal plate that is installed above the PCB. The switches are then soldered to the PCB after being placed in the metal plate. The plate allows the keyboard to feel more reinforced and stable with a heavier feel.

These plates are often used with larger keyboards to provide more support because due to the extra size, the keyboard tends to flex more. The plate also adds more rigidity to the keyboard and helps keep everything better secured.

The switches have one major difference from the PCB mounted style, they do not need the additional guiding pins because they are installed into the plate instead of directly to the PCB. Once the switches are installed into the plate, they are soldered to the PCB board.

Related image
PCB-mounted switch (Left) / Plate-Mounted Switch (Right)

Just keep in mind, once you solder the keys the plate will be very difficult to remove. You will need to remove the keys to take off the plate and re-solder each key back to the PCB board again. If you plan on making lots of modifications and changes, this might not be the right style for you.

Overall the plate-mounted keyboards are higher quality and tend to last longer.

Some people prefer the finger-feel of this style of mounting because it makes the keys more stable and less rocky. Just keep in mind this configuration is typically more expensive due to the extra components and assembly.

In a pinch, it’s possible to modify the PCB-mount switch to work with a plate-mount by removing the extra pins on the bottom used to secure into the PCB. Keep in mind you cannot PCB-mount pin less switches.

The Best Keyboard Stabilizers for your Mechanical Keyboard

The best key stabilizers for your mechanical keyboard

If you’re planning to build a custom keyboard and are puzzled about which key stabilizer will be best for your build, keep reading, you’re in the right place.

We’ll go over the best stabilizer and how to optimize it for your build so you can get that perfect sound and feel that you’ve been desperately craving.

In case you’re wondering what a keyboard stabilizer is, read here.

To kick this off, lets start with:

Cherry Stabilizers from GMK

These come in screw in, snap in, and plate mounted styles, you can read more about the different styles here. Basically, your PCB plate mounting holes determine what will fit on your keyboard. The linked posts goes more into detail about what will work for you.

Cherry stabilizers. Photo from novelkeys.xyz

These are the industry standard, so if you already own a mechanical keyboard, it is most likely equipped with these stabilizers. Coming in at $2 a pop, they are a relatively cheap option. We highly recommend you order from Novelkeys.

The Cherry stabilizers are known to rattle and feel a bit mushy. In addition, they are a bit slow. If you are willing to put a little extra work in, these stabilizers really benefit from some custom modifications (band aid, clipping, and lubrication).

The band aid modification dampens some of the sound and creates a much nicer acoustic. Clipping the stabilizer actually makes the key feel less rickety, which is a bit counter intuitive. But what works, works. Lubricating the stabilizer really helps with the friction-y slow feel of the key, and helps it feel more consistent and smooth.

After some modification, these compete as one of the best stabilizers out there. The modifications reduce the rattling and create a much better smooth and stable feel.

Click test before and after modification

If you’re not interested in modding your stabilizers, keep reading because the next stabilizer is for you.

Costar Plate-Mounted

If your looking for a stabilizer that is great without mods, Costar’s are the ones for you.

Coming in at $9, they’re a bit more expensive than the Cherry’s but still affordable.

They can be difficult to install but are superior to the unmodded Cherry stabilizers. They are smooth as butter, don’t rattle much and make a very satisfying sound on impact.

Listen here for the click test

I would place them on par with the modded Cherry’s as far as performance, feel and sound go.

Costar can be difficult to mod and swap out since to install you need to hook them into the key caps. Trying to remove the keycaps afterwards to clean your keyboard can be quite frustrating and time consuming, because of that some people don’t enjoy this type of stabilizer.

The Costars are great if you want to install them and forget about em. No modding required, very solid performance, and a decent mid-range price. However, not the best if you enjoy tinkering with your keyboard and swapping out your keycaps regularly.

ZealPC Transparent Gold Plated Stabilizers

If you enjoy sitting on a golden toilet and looking down at the rest of us from your ivory tower, these stabilizers are for you.

Picture from zealpc.net

The fanciest and most expensive on the list ($30). Gold-plated and aesthetic, these are high quality stabilizers and one of the best on the market.

Offered only in the screw-mount style, with a custom nut design to prevent stripping the threads.

Made to be durable and stylish, but only if you’re willing to shell out the dough. The price tends to turn off a lot of people, which is totally understandable. At 15x the price of the Cherry stabilizer only the truly passionate people will pay for these.

Zeal PC stabilizer click test

That about wraps it up for the list! If you have any questions, corrections or additions to the list, please let us know.

You can also check out our YouTube video if you don’t feel like reading.

Common Questions:

Where do you buy Costar stabilizers?

These can be difficult to find online, and most stores do not keep them in stock. I was able to find them on Amazon here.

How do you install the stabilizers?

We do not have a post about this yet, but you can reference this link.

Want to learn more about the Cherry stabilizer mods?

Watch this YouTube video by TaeHa Types. He goes over how to do it in great detail.

What Are Keyboard Stabilizers?

What are stabilizers

If you’re attempting to build your own keyboard from scratch or fix your stuck spacebar and are wondering what the heck a stabilizer is, hopefully I can help you understand. We’ll go over the specifics of what a stabilizer is and some of the different styles.

Keyboard stabilizers are installed underneath the keycaps of the larger sized keys to help minimize the key rattle.

The stabilizers get installed directly in the PCB (print circuit board) and help, well, stabilize the keys. Trust me, nobody wants rickety keys!

Try gently pressing on the corner of your keys and if they rock back and forth, your stabilizers need help. You can swap them out for a better set of stabilizers or even mod them to increase the performance

Stabilizers are incredibly effective and come in all shapes in sizes. The most common sizes are 2u, 6.25u, and 7u.

A standard keyboard will require four 2u stabilizers and one 6.25u (for the spacebar). However, I would highly recommend that you search for the sizes of your specific keyboard or PCB plate. Different keyboards require a wide variety of stabilizer and key cap sizes.

Picture of keyboard stabilizer

There are also different styles of stabilizers. The most widely used are:

  • PCB Snap In (AKA Stab In)
  • PCB Screw In
  • Plate-mounted
  • Hook in (Costar only)

Much like the different sizes, the type you will choose is based mainly on your PCB mounting plate or whatever your keyboard currently uses.

You can find out what is compatible with your PCB by the shape of the mounting hole. If your PCB plate has the notch shown in the picture below, that means it is compatible with both PCB mount and snap-in styles.

PCB board mounting hole
Compatible with both PCB mount and PCB snap-in.

If you’re still confused about which styles are compatible, you can reach out to the company you purchased the board from to get the specifics of what works and doesn’t work.

Overall, the screw-in style is the most secure of the options and has the least amount of rattle. They remain in place when taking off the key caps, unlike the snap-in style which have a tendency to dislodge.

The Snap-in style are the most common and in general have a little bit of rattle, but overall are a decent and cheap option. But as mentioned above, you need to be careful when removing keycaps as they might get removed as well.

The hook-in style is only available with Costar stabilizers, you can read more about it here. This style hooks into the keycaps and can be quite a pain to tinker with after installation. Otherwise, these are a great option to pick.

Hopefully this list helped and if you have any questions, corrections, or additions to this list please let us know!