The most common/popular clicky keyboard switch is the Cherry MX Blue switch. Indeed, Cherry brand switches seem to be the baseline that most other switches are compared to, with companies like Gateron following similar color-coding (Gateron Blues are similar to MX Blues). Razer’s green switch is an other example.


Perfect For: People who want noise but not a whole lot of noise.

Tactile, AKA The Bump

Tactile switches are less about noise and more about feeling. Rather than a crisp click, pressing a tactile switch delivers more of a gradual bump. It’s a nice feeling, and not an unpleasant sound.

The Cherry MX Brown is your basic tactile switch. Razer’s version is orange, because Razer has to be different. The tactile switch is often recommended for people who type a lot. It’s the switch I recommend to my writing friends. It usually does the trick.


Perfect for: People who want to feel what they type, those who like thunks more than clicks.

Linear, Straight Down To The Bottom

Clicky and tactile keyboard switches are clicky or tactile because of the shape of a contact inside the switch that the stem rubs against as the key is depressed. Linear switches feature a straight contact. There’s no bump or click. That does not mean linear switches are quiet—they can actually be quite loud, as there’s no resistance keeping the keys from bottoming out. Check out the video below from Youtube’s Rhinofeed to see how loud they can get.

Cherry MX Reds are one of the most commonly-referenced linear switches. Many gamers really enjoy the responsiveness of linear switches, with their lack of resistance making it easier to perform double-tapping and other special keyboard maneuvers. That same lack of resistance can make them a little tricky for typing.


Perfect For: People who want their keyboards fast and loud.

That’s the basic three, and I’m sticking with those for the purposes of this guide, but there are many different degrees of each made by several prominent brands, each with their own group of fans who swear by them. Beyond the Cherry MX compatibles there are Matias (Alps) switches, and the lovely but contentious Topre electrostatic capacitive switch. My suggestion would be to start off basic, see what you like and go from there.


If you need help making up your mind, inexpensive switch testers are readily available. Though they won’t give you the exact same experience as typing on a full-size board, they’re great for getting a general sense of what a switch feels like.


For an even better sense, grab a keyboard that allows switches to be swapped out. Team Wolf sells a $60 mechanical keyboard that allows users to pull out the included switches and put in any MX compatible switch they desire. It’s not a great board, and it’s garish as hell (gold!), but it’s a relatively cheap way to test switches on a full-size keyboard.


Extra Features

Once you know your form factor and the switch type you prefer, it’s time for the bells and whistles. Here are a few common features that can help sway a keyboard buyer one way or the other.


Keycap Material: The two most common types of plastic used in keyboard caps today are acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) and polybutylene terephthalate (PBT). ABS is more common and easier to work with from a manufacturing standpoint, but it’s often thin and flimsy. PBT is thicker, sturdier and more resistant to shine (shine is when key texture is worn down, leaving the tops shiny). I prefer a nice thick PBT, where available.

Removable Cables: Some keyboards come with USB cables that can be detached from the main unit. Others do not. I can go either way, though when I display my keyboards I prefer detachable for obvious reasons.


Extra Keys: Do you need dedicated macro buttons? How about multimedia controls? Technically you don’t need either, but sometimes they’re nice to have.

Programmability: Does the keyboard you’re buying have everything you need right on the surface, or will you require layers of custom gaming or productivity macros?


Lighting: Rainbow colored LED lighting is silly, but sometimes you need silly. And with many gaming keyboard makers now building in the ability to program keyboard lighting to change and react on a per-game basis (red and blue flashes when cops are chasing you in Grand Theft Auto, for example), it can be a neat thing to have.

USB and Audio Pass-Through: Some keyboards also act as a USB hub, allowing users to plug in their mouse or other accessories, lessening the tangle of cables going to the back of their PC. Some also pass audio, allowing a chat headset to be plugged in. Convenience can be nice.


All of these things can be nice to have, though keep in mind, the more features included, the pricier the keyboard gets. Speaking of which...

Now How Much Would You Pay?

You don’t need to break the bank to get started with mechanical keyboards, but you might need to bend it a little to get started right. Doing a search for “Mechanical Keyboards” on Amazon and sorting by “price lowest to highest” will bring up boards as cheap as $35. But cheap keyboards often use cheap materials. Flimsy plastic, questionable no-name switches, thin keycaps—these don’t make for a good first impression.


For a good beginning board, I’d expect to spend somewhere between $75 and $100. Head to a site like (U.S.) or The Keyboard Company (based in the UK) and see what’s available. Then run the name of the keyboard that strikes your fancy through the search at mechanical keyboard community sites Geekhack or r/MechanicalKeyboards and see what users there have to say.

Better yet, join those communities, find their “what keyboard should I buy?” posts and tell them what you’re looking for. Some of my favorite keyboards were recommendations from those communities that I would have never come across on my own. And really, the one of the best things about having a mechanical keyboard is sharing it with other mech lovers.