Linear Vs. Clicky Switches

Nathan Rizzuti Profile image

Written By:

Updated July 27, 2022

When choosing the best keyboard for your lifestyle, there are many specs to review. Most consider the size, number of keys, and connection type, but few consider the type of switch their keyboard uses. There are three main types of switches, and below, we will be comparing two of them — linear vs clicky switches.

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Choosing a switch depends mainly on the user’s preference for sound and resistance.
  • Linear switches offer a smooth, silent keystroke and are often used in gaming keyboards.
  • Clicky switches provide strong tactile feedback and an audible clicking sound with every keystroke.

Another essential element when choosing a keyboard is the casing. For this, we have an article that explains polycarbonate vs aluminum keyboard cases and their benefits.

Differences Between Linear vs Clicky Keyboard Switches

The switch is an essential piece of any mechanical keyboard’s hardware. Mechanical switches are connected to the printed chipboard in one of two ways, so you’ll either have a hot-swap or solder keyboard. The switch’s function is to translate the physical keystroke into an electronic command. Not every switch type is made the same, and many have specific features to change the overall feel of the keystroke.

Insider Tip

If you aren’t sure what switch you want, buying a hot-swappable keyboard is a great way to test out many types of switches without having to do a lot of work.

Tactile Feel

The smoothness of the keystroke and the sound it makes when pressed down separates the linear switch from the clicky switch. Clicky switches (as well as tactile switches) have a small tactile bump built-in that causes resistance and sound when pressed, known as tactile feedback. Clicky switches, in particular, are designed to create a loud noise when typing.

A linear switch has virtually no tactile feedback and limited resistance. As a result, there is no bump or sound when making a keystroke; overall, it provides a very smooth and fluid feel.

Speed

Linear switches are made for a quick typing experience. However, they are often found on gaming keyboards because the smooth, consistent feel of the linear switch works better for precision gaming. You can read our article on Cherry MX Speed vs Red switches if you want to look at two of the most common linear switch types.

Clicky switches, on the other hand, are slower but work for those who use their computer mainly for typing and browsing. Although, if you have a job requiring heavy typing, the tactile bump of a clicky switch might impede performance.

Warning

There are linear switches with shorter actuation points, meaning that a key is much more sensitive and takes less effort to press down.

Sound

If you prefer a definitive clicky sound, the choice is clear. But many who require a high concentration level when using their keyboard (usually gamers) prefer a more silent keystroke.

Anyone who wants to look into some of the different brands offering clicky switches can find our article explaining the differences between Razer vs Cherry Green switches.

STAT: The actuation force of a Cherry Green clicky switch is .70N (Newton), and the actuation force of a Cherry Red linear switch is .45N. (source)

Linear vs Clicky Switches FAQs

What is a hot-swappable keyboard?

Hot-swappable keyboards have mechanical keyboard switches that are attached by sockets. These sockets allow users to remove and replace switches by hand.

What do the different switch colors do?

Different mechanical switch colors indicate the switches' different resistance levels and sound levels.

What are the top features to look for in a keyboard switch?

The best thing to do is to consider your main uses and needs from your keyboard and match them with the specs of a mechanical switch type.
Nathan Rizzuti Profile image