August 24, 2021

Guide: Mechanical Keyboard Switches Explained

Gateron, Kailh? Pandas? Outemu? Boba? Cherry MX? These are words we hear all the time when browsing for mechanical keyboards switches. However, as the keyboard hobby grows more and more, brands and switch names all become convoluted. We hope to clear the air by providing a clear list of brands, popular switches, and everything one must know to get started!

Switches Manufacturers / Brands

Cherry MX

Cherry Corporation started out as an American company dedicated to electronic switches for automotives. In 1984, they received a patent for a new keyboard switch that ultimately defined the Cherry name, the Cherry MX.

In 2008, Cherry Corp merged with German company, ZF Electronics. This led to the refocus of the Cherry brand into soon becoming the leaders in the keyboard switch market.

Cherry MX switches are known for their unique cross-shaped stem often called the "Cherry MX mount". They have been regarded as being the best mechanical switches due to their quality and durability. But in 2004 their patent expired and their monopoly ended. Many manufacturers such as Kaihua, Gateron, and Outemu copied the design and produced their own line of switches. This is why most switches are "MX styled"

Now Cherry is competing with more affordable switches – some are better, some aren't. What is clear, it's that more and more, many seek for "enthusiasts" grade switches, experimenting with different plastics and styles, and Cherry has lacked in this regard.

Cherry MX switches are more often found in OEM Keyboards, such as Corsair.

Kailh

the now-famous company for creating the Novelkeys enthusiast-grade switches was first put into the map by Razer, who was tasked to develop razer exclusive switches, akin to the Corsair-Cherry partnership.

Aside from the typical red, blues, and browns, they now offer their own enthusiast-grade switches, such as Kailh Speed switches, Kailh Box switches, Kailh Low Profiles, and many others.

Kailh is also known to collaborate with NovelKeys, one of the largest retailers in the Mechanical Keyboard hobby in order to produce a new line up of switches, The NK x kailh Creams, the Jades, and others

Gateron

Gateron switches are now common among keyboard enthusiasts, thanks to many of their switches being favored. They are manufactured by Huizhou Gateron Electronic Technology Co., Ltd., which was established in 2000.

Aside from the typical red, blues, and browns, we find that they have produced several switch lineups that have lived the test of time and are still used to this day. Among these are the INKS V2, CAP switches, and more.  

Gateron is the selected manufacturer of the popular enthusiast designer brand Zeal PC from Canada. They are recognized for big switch brands, such as the Tealios, Roselios, and Zealios. Also known as one of the most premium and expensive switches in the market.

Matias

Matias was founded in 1989 in Toronto. They’ve always been in the business of manufacturing keyboards both for Mac and PC.

In the late 80’s and through the 90’s, Alps Electric Co. was regarded as how we see Cherry Corporation today. Most keyboards then used Alps switches. Now, Alps Electric no longer produces keyboard switches but the Alps name is still used to denote the stem type on the switch.

Today, Matias switches are globally recognized as a recreation of Alps. They are available in 3 types such as the Quiet ClickClick, and Quiet Linear.

Outemu

Outemu switches are made by Dongguan Gaote Electronics Co.

Outemu also has its own line of switches such as reds, blacks, browns, and Outemu Ice, which also has a transparent base like the Zealio switches. However, they are better known to be the manufacturer for the switch designer GAZZEW.

Gazzew and Outemu produce one of the most famous and valued switches in the market the Boba U4T and U4 switches. Known for their snappy tactility and one of the first to make a good tactile silent switch.

Eloquent Clicks is proud to be one of the few selected vendors to carry Gazzew switches!

Romer-G

Although Logitech is a big electronic product conglomerate. They deserve the spot on this list because of their development of the Romer-G.

The Romer-G design is different than the common MX switches. It has the shortest total travel distance, 3.2mm, among all its competitors. It features dual contacts to register actuation. Also, the stem of the key goes around the metal spring rather than inside it. This allows the entire top of the key to be brightly lit up.

Romer-G switches cannot be bought off-the-shelf, as they are a Logitech exclusive.

Durock (JWK)

Durock (JWK) is a brand of switches, producing a lot of well-known switches, but also a manufacturer. The link between Durock and JWK is a bit unclear to the public at large, but be sure that Durock's switches are manufactured by JWK in China.

Some of Durock's popular switches are POM Piano, Koalas, Linear T1s, and others.

Switches Designers / Brands

Just how there are manufacturers that produce the keyboards, there are those individuals, vendors, or brands that seek to design a switch and then utilizing a manufacturer in order to produce a switch. Here is a list of the most common designers in the game.

ZealPC

ZealPC originated from Geekhack, a keyboard enthusiast forum. It all started with providing custom handmade, sleeved USB cables catered to each user's specifications. Turnaround times have always been lightning fast, typically completing the cable same or the next day without sacrificing quality. Our goal has always been to provide the best possible product and service to our customers.

ZealPC's Bio

Zeal has produced many switches that are considered "premium" or enthusiast-grade switches. Some of these are Tealios, Zealios, and Roselios

Gazzew

The Californian-based designer has set his focus on providing products of unparalleled quality and no compromises, and his switches follow that philosophy. His switches manufactured by Outemu (a name not previously known to the wider keyboard scene) came as a surprise to many. Not only he had developed a switch of unmatched quality, but also at a good price.

Gazzew's most popular entries have been the Boba U4T, U4 (silent variant), and Bobagum (silent linear)

Eloquent Click is a proud official vendor in Spain and the European Union

TheKey.company + C³EQUALZ Collab: Fruit Switches

TheKey.company, (an American keyboard vendor) and C³EQUALZ (switch designer) have worked together to produce their fruit line: Kiwi tactile, Tangerine Linears, and Dragon Fruit Tactiles. These are manufactured by JWK

NovelKeys + Kailh Collab: NK Switches

NovelKeys (American keyboard vendor) and Kailh (Manufacturer) have come together in order to produce several switch series that, although a bit dated in 2021, continue to thrive in today's switches preferences. As the name suggests these are manufactured by Kailh in China.

Conclusion

Hopefully, by the end of this guide, you will have a better idea of who is who, where a lot of the switches come from. Please, note that while we provided a list of manufacturers/designers, this is not a complete guide. Many switch projects start with individuals or communities that are able to design a product and fund it through collective purchases. It is almost impossible to make a guide that covers all the projects and collaborations in the market.

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