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The 7 Best Mechanical Switches For Gaming - Fall 2023 Reviews

Best Switches For Gaming

The idea that there's a 'best keyboard switch for gaming' often sparks debates in the keyboard enthusiast community. One of the prevailing outlooks is that you shouldn't worry too much about finding the 'best' gaming switch, and that's generally the right approach.

Whenever choosing a keyboard switch for your build, the most important element is that you enjoy using the switch you've chosen. That said, some switches do provide measurable latency benefits over other switches, and you should bear this in mind if you primarily play fast-paced, competitive titles like FPS or rhythm games.

Even then, if you're interested in getting the best latency performance possible, optical switches and hall-effect switches such as those used in a keyboard like the SteelSeries Apex Pro TKL (2023) and the Wooting 60HE are beginning to offer more concrete advantages. We haven't tested those switches because what sets them apart is handled at a software level, which falls outside the scope of testing traditional mechanical switches. If you're interested in the performance differences between optical and hall-effect switches compared to conventional mechanical switches, you can check out the changelog for our Keyboard 1.3 Test Bench, where we cover these subjects in much more depth.

If you've still got questions about how to choose the best keyboard switches for gaming, check out the Additional Details section near the end of this page. Also, note that the pricing of keyboard switches can vary quite a bit depending on the quantity you purchase and the website you buy them from. It might be worth shopping around a little!

For more recommendations, see our picks for the best keyboard switches, the best linear switches, the best tactile switches, and the best clicky switches.

  1. Best Linear Switches For Gaming

    The best linear option for gaming, and the best gaming switches we'd recommend overall for most people, are Cherry MX Speed Silver switches. Although many enthusiasts have moved away from some of the older Cherry MX designs, these switches are an exception that keeps people coming back. When it boils down to it, these switches are pretty simple. They don't come pre-lubed from the factory and don't match the out-of-box smoothness of some other options, but they're lightning-fast and ultra-lightweight, making them ideal for playing fast-paced, competitive titles.

    If you're seriously committed to an even faster and more lightweight experience, check out the related Kailh Super Speed Silver switches as an alternative. The Super Speed Silvers deliver the same outstanding latency performance, but they're markedly smoother out of the box and have an even shorter pre-travel distance. The reason they don't take the place as our main pick is that most people find them slightly too fast and lightweight. They're quite unforgiving, and they can dramatically increase the risk of accidental keystrokes that can spell disaster in a competitive gaming scenario.

    See our review

  2. Best Budget Linear Switches For Gaming

    If you're looking for a more affordable linear pick for a budget build, we recommend Akko CS Silver switches. While they may not be Speed switches in name, they offer a similarly lightweight, fast-actuating experience and come close to offering the same level of latency performance as the more expensive Cherry MX Speed Silver switches above. Additionally, they have a perimeter stem design, which adds a bit of stability, and the upper housing is clear, which can better help show off any RGB lighting on your keyboard.

    So why don't these switches snag our top spot? As mentioned, they don't match the same latency performance. The minor latency difference isn't dramatic enough that you're going to be able to feel in-game, so in many cases, these switches still may be a better bet for most people. However, if you're trying to optimize latency performance for high-level competitive play, even small optimizations can impact the entire chain of components that contribute to latency, including your keyboard, CPU, GPU, monitor, and internet connection.

    See our review

  3. Best Tactile Switches For Gaming

    For a tactile fan, we recommend Tecsee Neapolitan Ice Cream switches. These switches have a playful colorway with a white bottom housing, pink upper, and brown stem in reference to their name. More importantly, they deliver excellent latency performance with a good balance between press and release latency, while many linear options tend to have a much lower initial press release at the cost of release latency. This means that these switches are slightly better equalized, giving good initial speed but also good speed for follow-up inputs on the same key. That said, these switches are classified as heavier switches, with a particularly crisp and responsive-feeling tactile bump and a slightly higher-pitched sound.

    Their long, two-stage springs contribute to that heavier feel and ensure a snappy rebound. Ultimately, these switches are a great pick if you're forceful with your inputs, as the multi-stage spring will help cushion the feeling of bottoming out your keypress. The downside of these switches is that they're expensive and known for being a little scratchy and wobbly out of the box, so we recommend adding films and a bit of lube yourself if you're thinking about picking these up. While these aren't typically available from major online retailers, you can find them from several keyboard switches retailers, like CannonKeys and iLumkb.

    See our review

  4. Best Budget Tactile Switches For Gaming

    As the best budget tactile for gaming, we recommend Kailh Speed Copper switches. While these switches offer the same high-end latency performance as the Tecsee Neapolitan Ice Cream switches above, that's where the similarities end. While those switches are heavy and snappy, the Kailh Speed Copper switches are much more lightweight-feeling and have slightly shortened springs. These switches also have virtually no pre-travel, with a more subtle tactile point to overcome right at the beginning of travel.

    While still lightweight by tactile standards, the Speed Coppers offer enough tactility that you can very gently rest your fingertips on your keycaps without accidentally actuating a keypress, which is something you can't do with our top linear pick, the Cherry MX Speed Silver switches. These switches also have a clear upper housing, allowing RGB lighting to shine through without interference. One final note: while these switches have pretty good factory smoothness out of the box, we suggest lubing them lightly for best results.

    See our review

  5. Best Clicky Switches For Gaming

    In the world of clicky switches, we recommend Kailh Speed Bronze switches for gaming. Admittedly, clicky switches are slightly less popular among gamers than their linear and tactile counterparts. While some clicky switches have great latency characteristics, they're much too heavy for most people, not to mention too loud for some households. Kailh Speed Bronze switches are slightly different in this respect, as they're comparatively lightweight and have a very short pre-travel distance. They make a characteristic clicking noise on both the downstroke and upstroke due to their click bar design.

    While they're far from the loudest clicky options available, they're still likely to get on people's nerves if you have roommates, family members, or even pets in the same space you use them. Altogether, these switches are well-suited for fast-paced or competitive games when input speed is crucial. They provide reasonable smoothness out of the box, but you can upgrade the experience with some lubing at home. Note that these switches typically aren't available from major retailers, but you can get them directly from Kailh's website here.

    See our review

  6. Best RGB-Friendly Switches For Gaming

    If you want to prioritize your board's RGB lighting at least as much as latency performance, we recommend Gateron North Pole 2.0 Yellow switches. Note that all switches featured in this article will show off your RGB to some degree, but the more transparent parts a switch has, the more this effect is amplified. Gateron North Pole 2.0 Yellow are linear switches that use the community favorite Gateron Yellow switches as a template. However, their upper and lower housing and stems are made of clear polycarbonate, allowing your RGB lighting to bounce around and stretch out its legs rather than get obscured by darker or sometimes opaque materials used on other switches.

    But these switches aren't all show, and they provide great latency performance as well. The only major downside is that polycarbonate lends slightly more scratchiness to the entire switch system. The good news is that you can dramatically improve the factory smoothness with a bit of lube.

    As a final note, as their name suggests, these switches are actually a follow-up to Gateron's original North Pole 1.0 Yellow switches. The difference is that the 2.0 version adds a small silicone disk to the bottom of the stem, which helps to cushion the feeling of bottoming out a keypress. That said, this addition also dramatically changed the sound profile. Where the original 1.0 switches had a deeper, 'thockier' sound, the new 2.0 switches are significantly quieter, almost muted, sounding a bit like a silent switch. Otherwise, these switches are the same, so it's just a matter of choosing the sound profile you like best.

    See our review

  7. Best Quiet Switches For Gaming

    While many popular linear options are pretty quiet to begin with, if you're particularly sensitive to noise or you live with others who are, we recommend Kailh Box Silent Pink switches. No mechanical switch options are truly silent, but these do a great job of keeping the noise to a minimum.

    Even as far as linear switches go, they have great latency characteristics, and they feel very smooth right out of the box, so they're a great pick if you'd rather avoid having to lube your switches yourself. They also have a round stem perimeter, which increases overall stability. The only aspect that may take some getting used to is that these switches have a slightly shallow total travel distance, so you may need to adjust how much force you apply if you tend to bottom out your keys. To that end, this switch also has a thin rubber dampener at the end of travel that takes a bit of the harshness of the bottoming-out experience, which can help.

    See our review

Additional Details

Linear, tactile, or clicky?

Mechanical switches fall into three categories: linear, tactile, and clicky. Generally, most gamers prefer linear switches. These switches are quick and smooth all the way to the bottom of the keypress and are ideal for fast-paced games like FPS, where registering an input before your opponent can make all the difference. That said, large groups of gamers also use tactile or clicky switches, sometimes for their signature sound profiles but also for the tactile feedback they provide to confirm you've registered a key. This feedback can be especially helpful for games with complex keybinds. When playing MMOs, RTS, or rhythm games, this tactile feedback can be super useful to confirm that you're inputting keys successfully, in the right sequence, and at the right time.

Do I really need a gaming switch?

When it comes down to it, you can play any game with any switch, even at a highly competitive level. That said, the best switches for gaming are typically designed specifically with gaming in mind and can offer better latency performance. Although it isn't only about latency performance, some models, like Kailh Box Thick Clicky Navy switches, offer impressive latency performance, but they're primarily designed for typists. They can still be a great gaming pick for some people, but they're among the heaviest feeling switches available, and they're extremely loud. It's important to consider the switch as a whole and not just look at its latency performance alone.

Gaming brands like Razer and HyperX produce switches for their keyboards that you can buy and add to your builds. Additionally, several manufacturers designate special 'Speed' switches, many of which feature some of our recommendations above. Speed switches are a classification of switches that typically have extremely short pre-travel distances and often very lightweight actuation. These characteristics mean you can register inputs more quickly and reduce total latency. Just be aware that while these switches feel noticeably different than most standard switches that we'd typically recommend for typing and everyday use.

Will I notice a difference in-game?

To be clear, you're still unlikely to notice a big difference in gameplay performance even if you're using the fastest switch on the market. However, it's important to note that faster switches with better latency performance offer a measurable advantage. However, it's small, and it only makes up one piece in the long chain of elements that contribute to the total latency you experience in a competitive online game, including your keyboard, your GPU, your CPU, your monitor, and your internet connection.

Final notes

It's important to remember that a short pre-travel means comparatively longer reset travel. Hence, a faster initial reaction speed comes at the price of repeated input speed, which can be an issue if you play FPS games heavily reliant on tap strafing, for example. If you're concerned about this, it can be helpful to look for a more balanced switch with a higher Release Average latency. Many tactile switch options offer a better overall balance of Press Average and Release Average latency than linear switches.

Lastly, if you're an RGB fan, note that almost all keyboard switches will still showcase your keyboard's lighting to some degree. That said, darker-colored and fully opaque housings can dampen the amount of light that shines out from your keycap by up to about 40% or so compared to switches with clear housings. Also, be aware that due to the materials required to make clear housings, they typically make for a slightly scratchier switch. Thankfully, you can usually solve this almost completely with a good lube job.

All Reviews

Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best keyboard switches for gaming for most people. While no switch is perfect for every person and every use, most will perform adequately in any role.

When choosing our recommendations, we factor in the price, feedback from our visitors, and availability. If you'd like to do the work of choosing yourself, here's a list of all the tactile keyboard switches we've tested below.