Switches, keys, mechanical – anyone who has been looking for a new keyboard lately is likely to have encountered at least one of these three terms. Hidden behind them is a special key technology for PC keyboards, which allows a more reliable, precise and durable input.
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. All major manufacturers, including names such as Corsair and Roccat, use the MX switches in their gaming keyboards to meet the high demands of PC gamers, mainly because key factors in this segment are reliable execution of keypresses as well as a long lifespan – both featured in the MX switches: Every switch module is tested for over 50 million strokes without losing the quality of input. CHERRY is thus the only manufacturer to guarantee this lifespan. Therefore, mechanical keyboards with CHERRY MX switches are also popular in commercial and industrial environments, as they also meet professional requirements.
This is how a CHERRY MX switch works
A MX switch module consists of several parts. Upmost is the so-called stem, which is the most striking component of the switches. Together with the precision coil spring both define the input characteristic: 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 – more on that later. The switching slide features the so-called cross-mount, allowing it to simply push the 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 pressure-resistance, which varies depending on the slide color, but remains the same for the whole lifespan.
The heart of every MX switch is the gold crosspoint contact, because this is the base for the durability and reliability. 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 ornate gold plating makes the electrical contact closure self-cleaning and thus keeps the contacts permanently protected against corrosion. The final part of the CHERRY MX module is the housing base, which serves as a base and support for the installation in mechanical keyboards. Thanks to glass fiber reinforcement, the necessary pressure stability and durability for the inputs are also given.
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 what is hidden under the hood. Depending on the color, for example, you need more or less force to trigger the key operation. It is also important to distinguish between tactile and linear modules: 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. Below you will learn what differentiates these modules from each other.
CHERRY MX RED: Linear and popular with gamers
Particularly in the gaming scene, the CHERRY MX Red are very popular because they have a linear switch characteristic and can be triggered with minimal resistance as well as quite fast: Only 45 grams are needed, after two millimeters the switch actuates.
CHERRY MX BROWN: Tactile and quiet
The brown CHERRY MX have a tactile and thus detectable switching point, but without the classic “click”. It requires 55 grams operating force and two millimeters to the actuation point. Due to the quiet operation and the noticeable resistance, the brown switches are preferred by office users.
CHERRY MX BLUE: Audible and tactile
Writing maniacs, on the other hand, swear by the CHERRY MX Blue, as these switch modules offer a very precise feedback with a pronounced click point and noticeable resistance, which is why these switches are not the optimal solution for open space offices. For triggering, 60 grams of force are necessary, the actuation happens after 2.2 millimeters.
CHERRY MX BLACK: Precise and linear
The CHERRY MX Black are again purely linear switches, which however require an increased operating force of about 60 grams and a distance to the actuation point of two millimeters. If you are looking for maximum accuracy, the black CHERRY MX are the perfect choice – the tighter coil spring, for example, ensures a quicker return of the switch to its initial position. By the way, the CHERRY MX Black is the manufacturer’s oldest module, first introduced back in 1984.
The agony of choice
While several years ago most manufacturers offered only one switch color, you now have the choice with which MX switches the keyboard is delivered. Corsair’s first models on the market appeared as the Vengeance series and mostly came with CHERRY MX Red. Some models with blue and black switches were gradually added, just like the monochrome lighting. The top model, the Vengeance K95, is still a true mechanics flagship, which is available for a price of 192.98 euros. However, also Roccat relies on CHERRY MX switches and offers keyboards such as the Ryos MK Pro for 179.99 euros in its portfolio, which even uses two microprocessors, one of which solely takes care of the lighting. Furthermore, this gaming keyboard is available with all switch colors.
But, of course, also CHERRY itself offers models with its own switches: the MX BOARD 3.0 costs around 70 euros, making it the perfect entry into the world of mechanical keyboards and the choice for those who have little or no business in gaming, because the design is simple and lacks light effects or special gaming buttons. Beyond that, the MX BOARD 3.0 is also available with red, blue, black or brown MX switches.
CHERRY MX RGB: Color-intense lighting
The RGB modules of the MX switch technology provides more variety and spectacular lighting effects. There is an LED under each module, 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 set that actively breaks the light of the integrated LED and spreads it without loss. This CHERRY technology is called “Refract”. The housing base is also reworked and translucent in the RGB versions, a recess leaves room for the LED.
But that’s not all: Depending on the manufacturer, driver software can not only determine the color and intensity of each key, but also lighting effects such as an impressive rainbow effect and many more can be defined. This makes every keyboard with CHERRY MX RGB switches unique!
Among the first models with these RGB switches was the Corsair Gaming K95 RGB starting at 172 euros. In addition to the numerous possibilities in terms of illumination, this keyboard is available with red, brown or blue switches. The current Corsair Strafe series is also available with single-color or RGB lights.
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. The Silent modules have an additional component, the so-called “Bottom out / Top out damping”. This is a 2-component stem. It minimizes the classic click of the mechanical switches without affecting the respective characteristics of the MX modules. To hear the difference, just follow this link and click “Soundtest”.
Of course, there is also a combination of all three technologies in one module: The MX SILENT RGB Switches combine highest precision, individual lighting and quiet operation. The first keyboard with the CHERRY MX RGB SILENT switch is the Corsair Strafe RGB Silent with a suggested retail price of 159.99 euros.
CHERRY MX NATURE WHITE: Linear and without detectable switching point
The switch color “NATURE WHITE” (not to be confused with the tactile MX-WHITE) is the newest member of the MX family, which is a purely linear switch with no contact feedback and thus allows for an easy actuation distance of only two millimeters . An operating force of 55 grams is required with this switch. To guarantee a high luminance of the RGB LED, the module adopts the translucent upper and lower housing parts of the MX-RGB modules. The Nature White will be used for the first time in the Shine 5 keyboard by Taiwanese manufacturer Ducky.