CHERRY MX SWITCHES AT A GLANCE
08/2017 by FRIEDRICH STIEMER - Back to overview
"Switches","keys","mechanical" – anyone who has been recently looking for a new keyboard is likely to have encountered at least one of these three terms. Behind these words hide a unique key technology for PC keyboards, which allows a more reliable, precise, and durable input.
CHERRY MX: Mechanical X-Point
With the “Mechanical X-Point” technology, MX for short, CHERRY offers the most popular and widely used switch technology for mechanical keyboards on the market. Many major manufacturers use these MX switches in their gaming keyboards to meet the high demands of PC gamers, mainly because key factors in this segment are a reliable execution of keypresses as well as a long lifespan. MX switches feature both of these: every key switch is guaranteed to last over 50 million strokes without losing the quality of input. CHERRY is the only manufacturer to guarantee this lifespan. Mechanical keyboards with CHERRY MX switches are also popular in commercial and industrial environments, as they meet professional requirements.
THIS IS HOW A CHERRY MX SWITCH WORKS
An MX switch consists of several parts. First is the so-called stem, which is the most striking component of the switches; together with the precision coil spring, it defines the characteristics of the key. Its color shows how the switch handles in practice, i.e. whether it is triggered linearly and how much force is needed for an actuation – but more on that later. The stem also features a so-called cross-mount, which allows you to push key caps onto it.
Next up is the upper housing, which ensures precise guidance of the switching slide and covers the mechanical module, which is a precision coil spring made of metal. It determines the actuation force, which varies depending on the stem color, but remains the same for the whole lifespan.
The heart of every MX switch is the gold crosspoint contact, the base for the durability and reliability of a key switch. Patented triangular cross-contacts meet crosswise and at right angles with absolute precision, thus closing the electrical circuit and ultimately releasing the key operation.
The gold plating makes the electrical contacts self-cleaning to keep them permanently protected against corrosion. The final part of the CHERRY MX switch is the housing base, which serves as a base and support for the installation in mechanical keyboards. The housing is reinforced with glass fiber to achieve pressure stability and durability.
THE COLOR MATTERS
As already mentioned, the MX switch is available in several variants, which differ not only in the color of the stem but also in their real-world handling. Depending on the color, you might need more or less force to trigger a key operation. It is also important to distinguish between tactile and linear key switches. Tactile means that the module has a noticeable and/or audible click point, so you notice when you press the button – this clicky sound is a distinctive feature of mechanical keyboards. Linear switches, on the other hand, lack this type of feedback. The most popular four colors of the CHERRY MX switches are Red, Brown, Blue, and Black. In the paragraphs below, we will teach you what differentiates these modules from each other.
CHERRY MX RED: LINEAR AND POPULAR WITH GAMERS
Particularly in the gaming scene, CHERRY MX Red is very popular because it has a linear switch characteristic and can be triggered quite fast and with minimal actuation force: only 45 centinewton (or grams) are needed, and after two millimeters the switch actuates. That’s why MX Red is suitable for gamers who play fast games such as first person shooters.
CHERRY MX BROWN: TACTILE AND QUIET
CHERRY MX Brown has a tactile and thus detectable actuation point, but without the classic “click”. It requires 55 centinewton of actuation force and two millimeters of pre-travel to the actuation point. Due to its quiet operation and noticeable actuation, this switch is usually preferred by office users. It is also a good alternative for gamers who use frequently use their keyboard for typing.
CHERRY MX BLUE: AUDIBLE AND TACTILE
Writing maniacs, on the other hand, swear by the CHERRY MX Blue, as this switch offers precise feedback with an audible click and noticeable, relatively high actuation force. Due to these 'noisy' characteristics, these switches are not an optimal solution for open space offices. On the other hand, these keyboards are perfect for users who value a precise input. For the actuation point, 60 centinewtons of force are necessary; the actuation happens after 2.2 millimeters.
CHERRY MX BLACK: PRECISE AND LINEAR
Like the MX Red, the CHERRY MX Black is a purely linear switch, which however requires an increased actuation force of about 60 centinewtons and a pre-travel of two millimeters. If you are looking for maximum accuracy, CHERRY MX Black is a perfect choice – the tighter coil spring, for example, ensures a quicker return of the switch to its initial position. The MX Black is suitable for players of strategy games (RTS) as well as for point-of-sale because the switch characteristics reduce unwanted key inputs. By the way, CHERRY MX Black is the manufacturer’s oldest switch, first introduced back in 1984.
CHERRY MX SILVER SPEED: FAST AND PRECISE
CHERRY MX Silver Speed switches are currently the fastest mechanical key switches. The high switching frequency is made possible by a low activation force of 45 centinewtons, a short pretravel of 1.2 millimeters and a linear switching characteristic without audible feedback. These make the MX Silver Speed up to 40 percent faster than other MX switches, which is ideal for gamers and fast or frequent typists who value precise input.
THE AGONY OF CHOICE
Several years ago, most manufacturers offered only one switch color; these days you often have a choice in MX switches for most keyboards. CHERRY itself offers multiple models with its own switches, such as the CHERRY MX Board 3.0, which costs around 70 euros. This keyboard is the perfect entry into the world of mechanical keyboards and is ideally suited for those who have little interest in gaming, because the design is kept simple and the keyboard lacks light effects and dedicated gaming buttons. The MX BOARD 3.0 is currently available with MX Red, MX Blue, MX Black, and MX Brown switches.
CHERRY MX RGB: COLOR-INTENSE LIGHTING
RGB versions of the MX switch technology provide more variety and spectacular lighting effects. There is an LED under each upper housing, which can light up in the complete RGB color spectrum – that is 16.8 million colors! To ensure an even illumination of the keys, CHERRY has reworked the individual components: The upper housing consists of a translucent lens that actively breaks the light of the integrated LED and spreads it without loss. This CHERRY technology is called “Refract.” The housing base is transparent and redesigned, with a recess to leave room for the LED. The RGB lighting does not have any influence on the key characteristics.
But that’s not all: depending on the manufacturer, you can install driver software to control the color and intensity of each key, enable impressive rainbow lighting effects, and much more. This makes every keyboard with CHERRY MX RGB switches unique!
CHERRY MX SILENT: IDEAL FOR SENSITIVE EARS
Mechanical keyboards are noticeably audible in their operation, which can be annoying to some users. That is why CHERRY has further developed its tried and tested MX switches and launched a silent version with noise reduction. MX Silent switches have an additional component, the so-called “Bottom out / Top out damping” 2-component stem. It minimizes the classic click of the mechanical switches without affecting the respective characteristics of the MX key switches. Currently, CHERRY offers MX Red and MX Black switches in Silent versions.
Of course, there is also a combination of all three technologies in one switch: The MX SILENT RGB switch (Red or Black) combines the highest precision, individual key lighting, and quiet operation.