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The 6 Best Linear Mechanical Switches - Fall 2023 Reviews

Best Linear Mechanical Switches

Linear switches are smooth and fast. Some typists appreciate how fluid and consistent these switches feel, not to mention how quiet they are compared to tactile and clicky options. However, some may find them too sensitive, leading you to make unintentional typos, especially if you like to rest your fingers directly on your keycaps.

Above all, linear switches are a reigning favorite choice for gamers. With extra-low pre-travel distance and no tactile bump to overcome, linear switch models tailor-made with gaming in mind allow you to register keystrokes faster, giving you a latency performance advantage. If you play games that require a lot of quick follow-up inputs, keep in mind that low pre-travel distance means a higher return travel distance and, typically, a higher release latency as a result.

We've tested 101 switches, including 58 linear models. Below are our picks for the best linear switches. 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 tactile switches, the best clicky switches, the best gaming switches, and the best keyboard switches.

  1. Best Linear Switch

    The best linear switches we recommend for most people are the Gateron Ink Black V2. This switch is a longstanding favorite in enthusiast circles, and for good reason. People gravitate towards linear switches for the unrivaled smoothness they bring to the table, and these are among the smoothest ones you can get right out of the box without needing any home-lubing on your part. They've also got an attractive sound profile that's still fairly quiet and almost muffled-sounding, which is great if you're concerned about disrupting anyone around you while typing.

    The only real downside is that these switches also carry a reputation for being a little wobbly to type on, which is unusual since they're five-pin switches, which are typically more stable. That said, if you want to elevate your experience with these switches, you can add switch films yourself to increase the stability and get the full premium typing experience. Also, keep in mind that if your keyboard's PCB has three-pin sockets, you'll need to clip the extra two pins for compatibility, but the added effort is certainly worth it.

    See our review

  2. Best Mid-Range Linear Switch

    For a mid-range option, we recommend NovelKeys x Kailh Cream switches. It's easy to see where these switches get their name, as both the upper and lower housings are a soft cream color. These housings, as well as the switch stem and slider, are made of POM plastic. In their marketing material, Kailh somewhat exaggerates by calling POM plastic self-lubricating. While this isn't strictly true, these switches are reasonably smooth from the factory but get a bit smoother as you break them in. That said, if you're going for as much smoothness as possible, you should still look into lubing these yourself.

    These switches are also reputed for being fairly soft-sounding, even compared to some linear options. Overall, they provide a pleasant linear experience without any one element that's too in your face. Also note that, like with our best pick above, these are five-pin switches. This only means you'll need to clip off those extra pins if your PCB only accepts 3-pin switches.

    See our review

  3. Best Budget Linear Switch

    At a budget price point, we recommend Gateron G Pro Yellow switches. Gateron has many versions of Yellow switches that stretch across different lineups or families of switches. When shopping, you may see Yellow Ink, Yellow Cap V2, KS-8 Yellow, and more. While all these different models are somewhat similar linear switches, it can be confusing to compare the different versions and generations. Most of what sets Gateron's various Yellow models apart are small cosmetic changes, often different housing colors or finishes, or tiny differences in the geometry that produce slightly tweaked typing elements or sound signatures.

    Ultimately, we recommend the G Pro Yellow switches because they're a clear community favorite and are made from new molds with tighter tolerances for their stems and housings. Notably, unlike older Gateron Yellow switches, these newer ones are pre-lubed from the factory, making them a surprisingly smooth and no-fuss linear option at a budget price point.

    See our review

  4. Best Cheap Linear Switch

    If you're working on a cheaper build, we recommend the Akko V3 Cream Yellow Pro switches. These switches are Akko's most recent iteration in a lineup of affordable Cream Yellow linear switches. This newest version boasts some small material upgrades over the previous Akko V3 Cream Yellows, aimed at improving their overall durability and consistency in the long run. They also have newly-lubed rails, significantly boosting their smoothness. In addition, these switches now have a five-pin design, which provides better stability but also means you'll need to clip the support pins if you have a 3-pin PCB.

    Altogether, these switches offer surprisingly high-level stability, smoothness, and consistency, considering they're significantly less expensive than some premium favorites among linear advocates. Unless you're looking for a specific attribute in one of the more premium switches above, these switches are worth considering for builds at any budget.

    See our review

  5. Best Linear Switch For Gaming

    The all-time classic gaming switch, if you're a linear fan looking for the best gaming switch for your build, look no further than the Cherry MX Speed Silver. While some enthusiasts have moved away from some of the earlier Cherry MX designs, there's magic in the Speed Silvers that keeps people coming back. In the end, these switches are pretty straightforward. They're not quite as smooth out of the box as other options on this list, but they're ultra-fast, which makes them perfectly suited for any fast-paced or competitive gaming.

    If you want to double down on speed, check out Kailh Super Speed Silver switches instead. These offer the same outstanding latency performance, but they're noticeably smoother even before lubing and have a marginally shorter pre-travel distance. The only reason we don't necessarily recommend them to everyone is because of their extremely light actuation force, which may feel way too sensitive for some and increase your chances of accidental keystrokes that can spell disaster in competitive situations.

    See our review

  6. Best Budget Linear Switch For Gaming

    If you're on a budget and want to dodge the premium price tag that most Speed switches carry, we recommend Akko CS Silver switches. These switches may not be Speed switches in name, but they come pretty close to offering the same level of latency performance as the more expensive Cherry MX Speed Silver switches above.

    As a bonus, these switches have a dustproof stem cover and a clear top housing to provide better RGB illumination. If you're wondering why you wouldn't just get these over the more expensive Cherry MX Speed Silver switches above, it mostly boils down to the minor difference in latency performance. The small latency difference isn't going to be something you notice in-game. Still, when it comes to competitive gaming, where multiple components later in the chain (keyboard, CPU, GPU, display, internet connection) all add to the total system latency, small optimizations can have an impact when it all adds up.

    See our review

Notable Mentions

  • Gateron Oil King: Gateron Oil King switches are a bit newer, and many people find they offer a similar experience to Gateron Ink Black V2 switches. They're also typically a bit less expensive. However, our tests found they weren't quite as smooth out of the box, and their opaque black upper housing means that any RGB illumination is significantly dampened. See our review

All Reviews

Our recommendations above are what we think are currently the best linear switches 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.