Thinking of modding your custom mechanical keyboard with some new mechanical key switches? Well, before you go any deeper into the rabbit hole of mechanical key switches, let me caution you that there are thousands (literally!) of options to choose from.
Hence, let me guide you to some of the best mechanical key switches that are available in the market right now. Read this article till the end to find which mechanical key switch fits your preference and could upgrade your custom mechanical keyboard.
Top 9 Key Switches to Get for Your Mechanical Keyboard!
Now, before we proceed to the actual list of the best key switches for your custom mechanical keyboard, there are a few things worth mentioning.
As you might already know, there are essentially three types of mechanical key switches – linear, tactile, and clicky. I have explained what they are and how they work in my previous story about custom mechanical keyboards. You can check that out to find out more about linear, tactile, and clicky switches.
So, I have categorized this list into three categories and have provided three of the best switches for each of the categories. Hence, scroll to the category of switches that you prefer to find three of the best options in that category. Otherwise, you can check out all the listed switches for a better understanding.
However, do keep in mind that this list is entirely made out of my preference, which might not match yours. Nonetheless, you can comment your favorite key switches and we can have a healthy conversation.
Now, with that out of the way, let’s get into the list, shall we?
Top 3 Linear Switches
Linear switches are those switches that have no operation feedback, be it physical or audible. They have smooth travel, and faster actuation points, and are generally preferred by the keyboard community, especially for gaming and long typing sessions.
You can find the top 3 linear key switches listed below:
1) Gateron CJ (China Joy)
Named after one of the most popular digital and entertainment exhibitions in China, the Gateron CJs are the most underrated mechanical key switches in the market.
It comes with a top housing made with Gateron’s proprietary ink material, which is used in the Ink Blacks (one of Gateron’s most popular linear switches) and POM bottom housing and stem.
This combination makes the Gateron CJs one of the smoothest stock switches in the market, which means you can use these babies without lubing them.
They have an actuation force of 50g and a bottom-out force of 60g that make the Gateron CJ a fairly light linear switch. Hence, these should be good for gaming as well as longer typing sessions.
Price: $0.60/ switch or $21.35/ pack (Each pack contains 35 switches)
2) NovelKeys Cream
The NovelKeys Cream switch, albeit a pricier option than the Gateron CJ, is considered one of the best linear in the market. It is one of the pioneering switches that used an all-POM design, featuring a POM top housing, POM bottom housing, and a POM stem.
However, many enthusiasts do not approve of NK Creams without breaking them in, meaning using them stock for at least a week before lubing and filming them. This is meant to get rid of the scratchiness of the switches, which prevents the NK Creams to deliver a smooth typing experience.
As for the specs, the NK Creams have a 2mm actuation distance with a 55g actuation force and a 4mm bottom-out distance with a 70g bottom-out force. Hence, these are heavier than the CJs and many other linears in the market, but not as much as the Cherry MX Blacks which have an 85g bottom-out force.
However, the bad news is that due to their popularity, they are rarely in stock. Currently, NovelKeys, the manufacturer of the switches, has plans to restock them in Q3 2023. Check out right below for pricing details.
Price: $0.65/switch or $23.40/ pack (Each pack contains 36 switches)
Where to get them: NovelKeys
3) Cherry MX Black
This list would be incomplete without a Cherry MX switch and I could not think of any switch other than the MX Blacks. These are similar to the MX Reds (which is also a linear switch) except they have a higher bottom-out force.
In fact, the Cherry MX Black has the highest bottom-out force of a whopping 85g and an actuation force of 60g, which makes them one of the heaviest liners in the market. The switch can either feature a clear top-housing (RGB edition) or a full-black top-housing (non-RGB edition).
Although modern Cherry MX Blacks are highly appreciated by the keyboard community, the “vintage” MX Blacks that were made using Cherry’s original tools and molds were considered the holy grail of linear switches by keyboard enthusiasts.
The vintage Black switches are very rare now and can only be bought from someone who already possesses them.
However, you can get the modern Cherry MX Blacks from various vendors worldwide or even from Cherry’s official website. Check out the pricing and availability details right below.
Price: $0.54/ switch or $5.42/ pack (Each pack contains 10 switches)
Top 3 Tactile Switches
Tactile switches are those key switches that feature a tactile bump at the actuation point of the switch. This provides physical feedback during typing that helps users understand that the switch has indeed been registered. Hence, these switches are better for typing than gaming and do not provide a smooth switch press due to the intentional tactile bump.
Check out the top 3 tactile switches that you should consider right below.
1) Glorious Panda
The Glorious Panda switches are essentially clones of Drop’s premium and most tactile switches ever, the Holy Pandas. Although there are minimal differences between the two, the most significant difference is the pricing.
While the Holy Pandas usually cost more than a dollar for a single switch, the Glorious Pandas are much cheaper, coming in at approximately $0.69/ switch.
Furthermore, unlike the Holy Pandas, you can get the Glorious Pandas lubed or unlubed. However, the Glorious Pandas have a 3-pin design, which can make them a bit wobbly on a mechanical keyboard. They come with a 67g spring, which is slightly on the heavier side.
Fun fact, when Glorious launched the Panda back in 2020, they named it after the Holy Pandas. However, after backlash from the keyboard community for using the name without the permission of the original creator of the Holy Pandas, Glorious removed the “Holy” and named the switch Glorious Panda.
Price: $0.69/ switch or $25/ pack (Each pack contains 36 switches)
2) Gazzew Boba U4T and U4
The Gazzew Boba U4T and the U4 are two versions of one of the most popular tactile switches on the market. The Boba U4T, manufactured by Outemu, is a fan-favorite in the keyboard community and is considered to deliver a similar experience to the Holy Pandas.
They have the same thocky sound profile and come in two different spring options – 62g and 68g, which is a pretty good range. While the U4Ts are the general edition, the U4s are the silent variants.
As for materials, the Gazzew Boba U4T switches feature top and bottom housings made with a custom material, and a stem made of POM. They have a 5-pin design, meaning they will not wobble on the PCB and deliver a consistent typing experience.
Price: $0.65/ switch or $6.50/ pack (Each pack contains 10 switches)
3) Durock T1
The Durock T1 switch is also one of the best tactile switches in the market that you can currently get for your mechanical keyboard. Although these are also tactile switches like the Glorious Panda or the Holy Panda, the T1s deliver a different tactile bump than the Pandas.
The Durock T1s feature polycarbonate top housings, POM stems (with a “stepped” tactile bump), and nylon bottom housings.
They have a 2mm actuation distance and a 4mm bottom-out distance with a 67g bottom-out force. The T1s also have a 5-pin design to eliminate PCB wobble and come factory-lubed.
Price: $0.55/ switch or $9.90/ pack (Each pack contains 18 switches)
Where to get them: Divinikey
Top 3 Clicky Switches
Ah! Clicky switches. This is the switch type that defined mechanical keyboards for a long time. These are the switches that not only provide a physical tactile bump as feedback but also deliver a distinct click when pressed to deliver auditory feedback to users.
Hence, clicky switches are generally much louder than linears and tactiles and are not recommended for those who work in an office with other workers.
However, if you are someone who works at home and like the clickety-clack of your mechanical keyboard, here are the top 3 clicky switches you should consider trying.
1) Kailh Box Jade
The Kailh Box Jade is one of the clickiest switches ever, delivering a very loud click. They have a 1.8mm actuation distance and a 3.6mm bottom-out distance with a 50g actuation force and a 65g bottom-out force.
Although the Box Jades offer a distinct click and consistent sound profile, they are not the smoothest of switches. However, they feature a box stem to mitigate keycap wobble.
Price: $0.34/ switch or $12.24/ pack (Each pack contains 36 switches)
2) NovelKeys x Kailh Sherbet
The NK Sherbet is another popular clicky switch in the market that has a good reputation. It comes with a polycarbonate top housing, a nylon bottom housing, and a POM stem.
As a result, it delivers a smoother typing experience than the Box Jades, albeit the click sound is similar to the Jades.
Furthermore, compared to the Box Jade, the NK Sherbet has a lower actuation force of 45g but a higher bottom-out force of 70g, which makes it a unique clicky switch in the market. The NK Sherbet also comes with a 3-pin design, which is okay considering its low price point.
Price: Approx. $0.46/ switch or $4.66/ pack (Each pack contains 10 switches)
3) Cherry MX Blue
The Cherry MX Blue is one of the OG clicky switches that were preferred by keyboard enthusiasts back in the day when clicky switches were around. It is manufactured by the German company Cherry, which is considered to be one of the pioneering companies in the keyboard industry and has been tested for 100 million actuations. This makes the MX Blue one of the most durable clicky switches on the market.
Price: $0.4/ switch or $4/ pack (Each pack contains 10 switches)
So, these are the top 3 three mechanical key switches in each of the categories of switches in my opinion. If you agree with this list (or disagree), do let me know in the comments. And I hope you find your preferred key switch for your precious custom mechanical keyboard soon.