The last time we made a switch guide... it was bad. Or at least, it was not very comprehensive. So now, we've done more research, tried out more switches, and present the Tech Advantage Switch Guide V2.
How it Works
The basic principle of a keyswitch is that it connects an electric circuit, causing the keyboard's circuit board send a signal to the computer. The electric circuit in this case is called the leaf, which is two small pieces of metal that are connected or separated.
There are five components to a mechanical keyswitch, six if you include the keycap.
The stem is mostly what creates the feel of the switch. Stems with bumps on the legs will create a tactile feel, because when the stem is pushed down, it bumps past the leaf on the switch. It is the most commonly lubed part of the switch.
The leaf sits on the bottom housing of the switch, and also helps determine the feels as well as completes the circuit when the switch is pushed down. The two prongs on the bottom of the leaf protrude out the switch and go into the PCB.
5. Bottom Housing
The bottom housing is where the spring and leaf sit.
The spring decides how much weight is required to actuate the switch. Enthusiasts often swap out springs to get the actuation weight they desire (weight required to make the switch send the signal, NOT how much weight is required to bottom out). Weight is usually measured in grams. I use medium-heavy 70 gram springs, the "default" weight is 60 grams. Springs are usually the source of twanging when pressing the switch, leading most enthusiasts to lubricate them.
3. Top Housing
Arguably the least important part of the switch, the top housings clip onto the bottom housings to prevent the stem from springing out.
This is not technically part of the switch, but it does affect the sound a lot, and the profile can give you a more preferred feel as well.
Although there are many different switches out there, they can be separated (mostly) into four types. Let's take a look at them.
Good for gaming and sure-handed typists, linear switches are often considered the "endgame" of mechanical keyswitches. There are also the biggest variety of linear switches out of any keyswitch. When pressed, linear switches go straight down, with no bump, until they bottom out. When lubricated, these arguably feel the best to type on. The buttery smooth travel enchants many keyboard users. Additionally, with no obstacles to actuation, linear switches are by far the most popular with gamers as well.
Common Linear Switches
Popular Enthusiast Linear Switches
Gateron Ink (red, yellow, black)
Novelkeys x Kailh Cream
Zeal silent linears(roselios, sakurios, healios)
Tactile switches are very popular with typists, as the bump helps prevent typos, or in some cases lets you know where you've actuated. Tactile switches from different companies can feel immensely different. For example, Zealios have a massive tactile bump right at the start of the key travel, while Cherry MX Browns have a small bump towards the end of the key travel.
Common Tactile Switches
Popular Enthusiast Tactile Switches
Durock Koala (multiple weights)
Zealios (multiple weights)
Zilents (multiple weights)
Clicky switches have a tactile bump, but also have a click jacket, which is a second piece of plastic on the stem that hits the bottom of the stem, producing a click. There can also be a clickbar, which is a small piece of metal that the stem legs snap past, producing a click on the way down and a click on the way up. Clicky switches are used by people who like ASMR, or by people who just enjoy the sound while typing. They are not recommended for gaming though, as clicky switches are usually heavier and their sound tends to annoy teammates.
Common Clicky Switches
Popular Enthusiast Clicky Switches
Kailh Box White
Kailh Box thicc clicks (jade/navy)
There are many different plastics that switches are made out of. The most important thing about the plastics is their coefficients of friction. Even though tactility is important, switch manufacturers want to make sure that the only thing affecting the smoothness of the switch is the shape and not plastic rubbing.
The most common material for the switch housing. It has a pretty low coefficient of friction, is quite durable, and is also inexpensive. Cherry, the most prominent switch company, has been using nylon for the switch housing for a long time and never changed it.
POM has a low coefficient of friction because it contains a good bit of Teflon (an extremely slippery lubricant). Thus, almost all switch stems are made of POM. In the case of Novelkeys Creams, the whole switch is made of POM. POM is a pretty good balance between friction and durability.
This is pretty similar to POM in its properties. For the most part, you can only find UHMWPE in switches manufactured by JWK.