Which Mechanical Keyboard Switch should I get? – Cherry MX Red Switch
This article is about one type of keyswitch found on Mechanical Keyboards; the Cherry MX Red keyswitch, and why you may like to use this particular mechanical keyswitch for typing. Are you confused about Mechanical Keyboards? Why you would want to spend ten times as much on a Mechanical Keyboard as you would on a bog standard one?
What’s next – Quick Links to Cherry MX Red impressions:
- Mechanical Keyboards and keyswitches: The Basics
- Personal Impression
- Typing Proficiency and Accuracy
- Video of Typing on Cherry MX Red keyswitches
- Will You Like Cherry MX Red Keyswitches
- Pro’s and Con’s
- Technical Nerdbox Details
- Actuation Force
This review is typed on a Filco Majestouch Mechanical Keyboard with Cherry MX Red keyswitches using the Colemak keyboard layout.
First things first; what the hell is a Mechanical Keyboard you’re probably thinking? The reason why you would want a mechanical keyboard is because they provide the best typing experience you can get.
What is a Mechanical Keyboard?
Most likely your current keyboard is a cheap rubber dome type from Logitech or Microsoft or a low profile scissor switch type found in laptops. Both are simple, cheap, and easy to make. Most people are aware of nothing other than those two varieties and will likely never have encountered a mechanical keyboard.
However, if you know a keyboard enthusiast, or are a budding keyboard enthusiast (from which there is no turning back) and you care about the typing experience as you write, then it may have been bought to your attention that there is a third much more appealing type of keyboard lurking out there; the Mechanical Keyboard; where each key has its own dedicated manual keyswitch.
Mechanical Keyboards and Keyswitches – The Basics
The typing experience from a Mechanical Keyboard is dictated by the type of keyswitch it utilises. Most mechanical keyboard manufacturers release several versions of the same model each with a different type of keyswitch in order to provide the user with a choice of tactile typing experiences.
Different keyswitches provide variations in feel, fluidity (of finger depression), resistance, key cap profile (shape) and overall general typing experience. Don’t be overwhelmed by all these nuances, it is what makes some keyboards a dream to type on whilst leaving others feeling like you are struggling in sticky mud. Sticky mud is a reference to rubber dome or rubber membrane keyboards. Read on.
Some typists claim to have increased the accuracy and speed when typing on a mechanical keyboard, but that is a personal experience and probably more closely related to the usage than attributing it to the presence of high quality components.
The authors first experience with mechanical keyboards was using a Filco Majestouch TenKeyless with Cherry MX Brown Keyswitches. Cherry MX Brown’s are classed as Tactile Non-Clicky (silent-ish)switch that has a tactile bump half way down the shaft that actuates or registers a key stroke when the keyswitch is depressed.
Cherry MX Red Keyswitches are classed as a Linear Non-Tactile Non-Clicky keyswitch with the actuation point absent of any tactile or audible actuation feedback during operation. This results in a very smooth action giving an almost silky or fluid typing experience.
The keys respond sharply and precisely with only slight effort required of the fingers. With only 45 grams of finger resistance Cherry MX Red Keyswitches have the leasred lineart resistance of all Cherry Corp keyswitches.
It took a week to get used to the silky smooth feel of Cherry MX Red’s however over zealous typing often results in bottoming out on the base plate of the keyboard resulting in a louder thud than usual. This is a noticeable noise but becomes less distracting as you adapt to Cherry Mx Reds.
The lack of tactile feedback resulted in the keyboard feeling a little unforgiving for want of a better word. It registered keystrokes cleanly and efficiently every time; whether you accuracy was perfect or abysmal. This will be a good thing for touch typists because the light resistance allows your fingers to seemingly flow across the keyboard as you type as the Cherry MX Red’s yield well to a light touch.
Typing Proficiency and Accuracy
The use of Cherry MX Red Keyswitches resulted in an initial deterioration in the authors typing accuracy; down from 97.5% accuracy by approximately 3-4%, last recorded at 94.5%. However this was an adaptation phase and as my hand and typing got use to the tangibly lighter feel, using the switch felt as if your fingers were gliding over the keys. Typing accuracy is at approximately 96.5%.
The lack of tactile feedback can also, apparently, result in a higher typographical error rate than with other switches which provide tactile (clicky) feedback upon key actuation (Cherry MX Brown and Cherry MX Blue keyswitch).
Many typist may not mind this because you will soon get used to the feel of the switch and learn to only depress the switch approximately 3mm of the full 4mm distance the shaft is capable of travelling. This may sound absurd but is quite common for typists to develop this level of familiarity and habit with a mechanical keyboard. This is the stage the author is just about at now; only depressing the switch enough to register a keystroke and not bottom out on the keyboards metal base plate.
YouTube Video: Typing with Cherry MX Red Keyswitches
This is a video of typing with an a mechanical Keyboard using Cherry MX Mechanical Keyswitches. The sound of the MX Red Keyswitch is fluid, with most of the noise present evident from the typist bottoming out on the baseplate of the keyboard. Proficient typists will not have this problem as they should adapt to the travel distance of the shaft in the barrel. Note the ping sound of the key returning to its original position.
Will You Like Cherry MX Red Keyswitches?
Will you like Cherry MX Red Keyswitches? In all honesty, I can’t tell you. Everyone’s’ preference and typing habits are different. Some people will find this keyswitch a dream to type on because it is so light and fluid whilst others will loath it for its lack of tactile feedback.
As a side note, my wife prefers this switch to the other types of keyswitches in use in the office; of which there are four: a Filco Majestouch Tenkeyless with Cherry MX Browns, another Filco Tenkeyless with Cherry MX Blues, and a Dell 104 key rubber membrane (dome) type keyboard.
So,in general, females do tend to prefer Cherry MX Red Keyswitches because they are light to the touch allowing your fingers to feel as if they are gliding over the keys. Males may prefer Cherry MX Browns or Cherry MX Blue’s because they are a little heavier to the touch and provide a satisfying acknowledgement that your key press has been received. MX Blues are the same as Browns, tactile, but MUCH noisier.
Cherry MX Reds do require some getting use to but provide a pleasant, even fun, typing experience with no fatigue noted during use. Most of the authors typing sessions were between 20 – 60 minutes between OH & S breaks and within those time frames finger exertion or fatigue were absent. The author use to suffer from mild RSI till abandoning the use of the mouse and focusing solely on keyboard shortcuts.
The aspects of mechanical keyswitches appraised in this article form the basis of a day to day typing experience. Typists adapt to the feel of a particular keyswitch and develop an affinity with the small nuances that differentiate one from another.
If you are a proficient typist with a high accuracy and speed then the lack of tactile feedback will be a minor, if not irrelevant concern. It will take a few days to a week to adapt to a new keyboard and how it responds to you personally, but over time I believe you will enjoy typing on Cherry MX Reds.
The advantages of a Mechanical Keyboard include more pleasurable typing experience, superior durability with many mechanical keyboards offering up to 50 million keystrokes, per key, before the typing experience is degraded. Cherry MX Keyswitches set this benchmark and are rated for a lifetime of 50 million keystrokes.
50 Million is a lot of keystrokes. It equates to a lifetime measured in decades. Most typists will only type a particular key up to 2 or 3 million times in a year. When compared to rubber dome switches which are rated at approximately 5 million keystrokes; scissor style keyswitches with approximately 8 – 10 million keystroke lifespan [ ] the durability and longevity of mechanical keyboards begins to justify the price premium.
Summary – Pro’s and Con’s
- Smooth and light feel.
- Reduced finger fatigue
- No tactile bump at actuation point.
- Quieter than than non-linear keyswitches
- My speed up touch typing speed once adapted tactile feel
- Some women prefer Cherry MX Red keyswitches
- Rarer (harder to find) than Cherry MX Browns, Blues, or Blacks
- More expensive than other Cherry MX keyswitches due to lack of availability
- Tendency for typist to bottom out on mounting plate of keyboard due to absence of tactile feedback.
- Some typists my prefer more tactile feedback during typing.
- Men may prefer to try a heavier keyswitch
- Not suitable for gaming.
Technical NerdBox Details
The Cherry MX Red Switch is a linear type mechanical keyboard switch made by the German manufacturer Cherry Corp. It is distinguished by a Red Shaft as per its name, which travels 4mm down into the barrel of the switch; with actuation occurring precisely 2mm through the depression. Further information can be found here.
Actuation Force (measured in cN – CentiNewtons)
The actuation pressure of the Cherry MX Red Switch is 45cN, written as CentiNewtons, or cN, of downward force, and is equivalent to approximately 45 grams of resistance at the point of actuation, with resistance increasing marginally towards the bottom of the keystroke when the spring is under maximum compression. 45 grams (or 45cN CentiNewtons) is considered to be a light amount of force compared with other Cherry MX Keyswitches; and is in fact the least resistance of all Cherry MX Keyswitches.
The Cherry MX Red Switch was considered to be a Limited Edition switch because Cherry claimed to be no longer manufacturing them in 2010 according to Ducky a mechanical keyboard manufacturer. However Leopold,another mechanical keyboard manufacturer has recently released a line of keyboards with Cherry MX Red switches. So, it appears Cherry Corp have started manufacturer again some time in 2011.
The Filco Majestouch MX Red Limited Edition board was purchased because it was supposed to be Limited Edition. That appears to no longer be the case. There are now at least three manufactures offering mechanical keyboards with the Cherry MX Red Switch. Filco, Ducky, a Chinese based company, and Korean based Leopold (try Google Translate if you can’t read Korean.
So much for Limited Edition! It looks like keyboards with the Cherry MX Red Switch are now becoming more popular and for good reason. They provide a wonderful typing experience for proficient touch typists.
Many thanks to Lethal Squirrel @ Geekhack who made the images. They are great images, although he doesn’t know they are being used on this website.
Have fun typing
GeekHack.org WiKi is one, if not the, premier Mechanical Keyboard website.
DeskThority is a Mechanical Keyboard website dedicated to the affectionardo of Mechanical Keyboards.