Switches: The Heart of Keyboards

Membrane, Mechanical, Keys, Switches - Anyone who’s looking to buy a keyboard must have come across one of these terms. The root for all these terms is keyboard technology, which provides reliable, sturdy, and precise key inputs. Yes, we are talking about Mechanical X-Point technology, also known as MX in short offered by one of the oldest key manufacturers CHERRY.


CHERRY MX: Mechanical X-Point


CHERRY offers the most widely used mechanical switches, used by almost all major keyboard manufacturers. As a matter of fact, major gaming gear manufacturers use these switches to meet the demands of PC gamers as, CHERRY switches are well known to provide efficient execution, accuracy, and a longer lifespan of more than 50 million keystrokes.


Switch Mechanism

These switches are available in different variants to suit the need of users. A switch consists of 4 major parts which bring the MX working to life and define the actuation characteristics of the switch.


This includes:

· Stem: The striking component in the switch. It is fixed on the key mount which allows the user to press the keycaps. Attached with a coiled spring, the stem defines the characteristics of the MX switch. The stem’s colour depicts the actuation mechanism – Linear, Tactile, and Clicky – including the force factor that is required to be applied to that switch.


· Upper Housing: The upper housing ensures the accurate direction of switching and covers the coiled spring also known as the mechanical module. It also decides the actuation force factor, which varies with the stem colour but is constant for a particular colour.


· Gold Plate Contact Point: The gold-plated electrical contacts, release the key signal upon meeting the crosswire at the precise angle. This process closes the electrical circuit and thus, the signal is released. These are considered the heart of every MX switch. The gold plating ensures that the electrical contacts are always clean to keep them protected against rust and corrosion.


· Base Housing: Last but not the least, is the base housing that acts as the foundation for all the components and supports the final installation of the switch in the keyboard. The base housing is fortified by heavy-duty glass fibre to provide durability and stability for the switch.


Understanding Actuation

As discussed in the previous section, the stem colour defines the actuation mechanism. But what exactly Actuation Point is? What is Actuation Force? and how to determine which mechanism suits your style? Let’s address these questions one by one:


The Actuation Point is the contact point where the key sends the signal to the PC. It is defined as the distance that the switch must travel to meet the contact point, to register the input signal. It is measured from the top of the keycap till the juncture.


Actuation Force is defined as the pressure required to hit the keyboard switch down so that they can meet the Actuation Point. This force is measured in grams. Both lighter and heavy switches have their pros and cons. Lighter switches will be able to register the user’s input more effortlessly than the switch with a higher actuation force. This will help the user to become faster in the games which require high APM (Actions per Minute), like Dota and other RPG games. On the other hand, these switches are more prone to accidental keypress while playing or typing. Therefore, if the user is playing games that demand high APM, then switches with a lighter actuation force would be ideal for them. Whereas, if the game demands more precision and accuracy, then switches with higher actuation force would be recommended. In the end, choosing the mechanism depends on the user’s preferences and their level of activity.


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