Linear vs Tactile vs Clicky Switches: An In-Depth Comparison

  • Keycaps 101
  • Posted by: carson-rutz
  • Oct 9, 2022

The three types of mechanical switches are linear vs tactile vs clicky switches. In general, what differentiates them from each other are the typing feedback and responsive sound when pressing the keys.

Normally, you will find keyboards with one type of switch from one brand. However, the beauty of a mechanical keyboard is that you can customize different switch types in one keyboard.

So, let’s find out what are tactile, clicky, and linear switches. Moreover, there will be our recommendations for each type and also top-pick keyboards for you, so stay tuned.

Tactile vs Linear vs Clicky Mechanical Switches Quick Comparison

A Keyboard Customed With Different Switches (Source: MGR Gaming)
A Keyboard Customed With Different Switches (Source: MGR Gaming)
Tactile Clicky Linear
Feedback Tactile bumpy feedback Robust tactile feedback Smooth typing, no bumpy feedback
Sound Clear tactile sound, low-to-loud sound Clear ‘clicky’ sound,

normal-to-loud sound

No ‘clicky’ sound, quiet-to-low sound
Longevity Comparison Rather long Shorter than Tactile and Linear Rather long
Colors Brown Blue, Green, White Red, Black, Silver

The table above compares thoroughly the key differences among clicky vs linear vs tactile switches. Whenever you feel like forgetting the main features of clicky, linear, and tactile mechanical switches, you can get back to this table for a quick review.

Apart from the summary table, you should watch the video below to listen to the sound of clicky vs linear vs tactile switches. Nothing beats a direct visualization, to be honest.

Linear Switches - The Smoothest Switches

Kailh Linear BOX Red Switches
Kailh Linear BOX Red Switches

In one sentence, Linear switches are smooth, quiet switches with no bumpy response.

What is a Linear Switch?

When you press on a linear switch, there will be no resisted force responding to your fingers but a smooth and even typing feeling. Also, wherever your fingers move from the outer keys to the inner keys, the overall typing is consistent with no bump. Therefore, the typing speed is guaranteed to be the highest among linear vs tactile and clicky switches.

In addition, since there is no bumpy response, most of the linear switches emit low noise or even muted sound when you type. That makes it an ideal keyboard for public environments such as offices or schools. Listen to the sounds yourself with this video here.

Are Linear Switches Right For You?

Lynx Linear Mechanical Switch

The charm of consistent and even typing is quite irresistible. However, if you are new to mechanical keyboards, we think you should not go for linear switches first. The reason is that the almost-no feeling on those switches can strain your fingers.

Moreover, without bumpy feedback, you have no signal whether you have typed successfully or not. That’s why linear mechanical keyboard newbies tend to struggle with typo issues when they first use the keyboard, unlike tactile and clicky.

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But, a linear keyboard will be a good option for those who aim for pro-gaming. The smooth switches will speed up the typing time which is vital for game competitors. In contrast, tactile vs clicky switches can slow down your typing speed a little bit with every single bump they produce.

Additionally, noise-free lovers will enjoy the responses and sounds from the linear switches, especially if you mostly use the keyboard in a quiet place.

Recommended Linear Switches

Gateron Yellow Switches

Gateron Yellow Switch
Gateron Yellow Switch

It will be a loss if we mention any linear switch without Gateron.  Among all the bright candidates from Gateron linear lines, we think Gateron Yellow switches will be the most suitable one for those who start with a budget linear keyboard.

The switches have a 50 gf actuation force which is a middle level that will work well for almost everybody. Additionally, they are of high quality that will be with you for a pretty long time.

Cherry MX Speed Silver

Cherry MX Silver Speed Switch
Cherry MX Silver Speed Switch

No brand can stand above Cherry MX in terms of quality. The brand is truly a top dog in this mechanical switch field and so is the Cherry MX Silver Speed switch. It’s one of the fastest switches out there with a 1.2 mm pre-travel distance, a dream-like number for a pro-gaming keyboard.

NovelKeys Cream

NovelKeys Cream
NovelKeys Cream

NovelKeys Cream switches are a co-product between NovelKeys and Kailh. Therefore, you may find them under the name of Kailh Cream. The distinct feature of NovelKeys Cream switches is their housing is made of high-quality plastic - POM with little spring wobble.

Besides these three candidates, visit our article to find out the 10 expert-pick linear switches.

Tactile Switches - Bumpy yet Satisfying

Lilac Tactile Switch
Lilac Tactile Switch

Tactile switches will give you discernable feedback with an audible ‘clicky’ sound for every press.

What Are Tactile Switches?

When you press down a tactile keyswitch, there will be a noticeable resistance on your fingers that tell you successfully register the key. Normally, it will come together with a clear ‘clicky’ or ‘thocky’ sound. We think that tactile is somewhat in-between linear vs clicky switches.

Most Cherry-MX style tactile switches share a similar tactile feeling. However, renowned brands like Logitech or Razer who went with a different design approach will have different tactile bumpy feels.

Curious what is the ‘clicky’ sound? We have a demonstration for you right here.

Are Tactile Switches Right For You?

Salmon Tactile Switch
Salmon Tactile Switch

Tactile vs Clicky switches are mostly recommended for those who first step into the world of mechanical keyboards due to the clear feedback. As you will know immediately whether your keys have been pressed fully or not, you can instinctively move on to other keys so your typing progress can go smoothly.

If you worry that a tactile switch keyboard can be noisy in the public, don’t be so. There are low-sound tactile keyboards that won’t disturb other people, taking you away from being over-concerned about your typing sound.

Recommended Tactile Switches

Glorious Panda Switches

Glorious Panda Switch
Glorious Panda Switch

Good budget-friendly tactile switches for your keyboard? Let's shout out Glorious Panda switches’ name. Many users love the sharp and strong bounce-back response from these switches and they think that the feelings are truly one-of-a-kind.

Cherry MX Brown Switches

Cherry MX Brown Switch
Cherry MX Brown Switch

The legendary switch that defines most of the tactile switches in the market is no one else but Cherry MX Brown. There is nothing to complain about the bumpy feedback and sound of these famous tactile switches. One of the best choices for precise typing if you can afford the top-tier price.

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Kailh Speed Copper Switches

Kailh Speed Copper Switch
Kailh Speed Copper Switch

Kailh and its BOX switches are highly praised by the mechanical switch community for their stable typing, so we cannot forget to mention a candidate from them to you guys.

If you are finding rapid-respond switches for your keyboard but get tired of Cherry MX with only linear Speed Silver, Kailh Speed Copper switches are tactile super-fast switches promised to satisfy your gaming requirement.

Want to explore more about the world of tactile switches? You should read our top 10 choices right here.

Clicky Switches - The loudest switches

Razer Clicky Switch
Razer Clicky Switch

Clicky switches are similar to tactile switches but every feature is manifested to be more dramatic.

What Are Clicky Switches?

You will receive a sharp and robust response after pressing down a clicky switch. Compared to the tactile switches, clicky switches’ feedback is stronger regarding the feels and louder to the sound.

Therefore, clicky switches usually have mid to heavy force when typing on them, causing hand fatigue for some people. Another thing is they tend to wear off faster than linear vs tactile switches, so you should keep an eye on the lifetime of this type of switch.

You can watch this video to understand why clicky switches are called ‘public bans’.

Should You Get Clicky Switches?

Kailh Jade Clicky Switch
Kailh Jade Clicky Switch

Same to tactile switches, clicky switches are suitable for people who first use mechanical keyboards. The clear feedback will help you avoid mistyping as well as the fun loud ‘clicky’ sound.

However, the strong point could be a weakness if you use a clicky keyboard in the public. The sound is very loud that can disturb people around you. So, you should consider carefully if you don’t want to receive ‘irritated eyes’ from other people.

On an additional note, you should pay attention to the hand straining issue from the clicky type as you don’t want to feel tired after a long time using.

Recommended Clicky Switches

Kailh BOX White

Kailh box white switch
Kailh box white switch

Among cool Kailh clicky switches, Kailh BOX White switches are our best pick today. The switches are quite light compared to other clicky switches, at 45 gf, resulting in a stress-free keyboard that won’t tire you fast.

NovelKeys Sherbet

NovelKeys Sherbet Switch
NovelKeys Sherbet Switch

NovelKeys Sherbet switches have a heavy typing feel at first, at around 83 gf, and then followed by a light feeling at 45 gf. That is why some people are not satisfied with the typing feelings but the ‘click’ sound is guaranteed to be great and loud.

Cherry MX Blue/White

Cherry MX White Switch
Cherry MX White Switch

We have mentioned that clicky switches tend to be less durable among clicky vs linear vs tactile types. However, Cherry MX really tries hard to tackle the issue so here we are, an honorable mention of Cherry MX Blue and White switches.

Of course, there are more awesome clicky switches out there. You can find them in the article ‘Recommended Clicky Switches in 2023’.

Which Mechanical Switch is better between Clicky, Tactile, and Linear?

Rii K61C Backlit Keyboard
Rii K61C Backlit Keyboard

Finding A Keyboard With Your Ideal Switch Type

Based on the characteristics of clicky vs tactile vs linear switches, you can pick out your favorite switches for an ultimate keyboard.

Best Mechanical Keyboards Under $50

Tecware Phantom 87 Keyboard
Tecware Phantom 87 Keyboard

Mechanical keyboards are quite expensive so sometimes a good one is out-of-reach for some people. But, if we look carefully, there are still good affordable mechanical keyboards on the market. Check out those under-50-dollar keyboards as they are all good deals for your pocket.

  • Tecware Phantom 87 mechanical keyboard
  • Velocifire TKL02WS mechanical keyboard
  • Drevo Calibur V2 keyboard
  • Redragon Surara K582 mechanical keyboard

Best Tenkeyless Mechanical Keyboards

HyperX Alloy Origins Core Keyboard
HyperX Alloy Origins Core Keyboard

A tenkeyless keyboard is smaller than a regular keyboard in size, therefore, it is more mobile and portable for those who need to travel a lot with their keyboards. If you also need one tenkeyless keyboard for traveling, those keyboards below might meet your requirements.

  • HyperX Alloy Origins 60 keyboard
  • Logitech G915 wireless keyboard
  • Durgod Taurus K320 mechanical keyboard
  • HyperX Alloy Origins Core keyboard

Best Budget Gaming Keyboards

Keychron K6 Keyboard
Keychron K6 Keyboard

Gaming keyboards are indeed way more expensive than normal mechanical keyboards so it’s not easy to find the budget one out there. Hope our affordable gaming keyboard list has the one you are looking for.

  • G.Skill KM360 mechanical keyboard
  • E-Element Z-88 mechanical keyboard
  • Keychron K6 keyboard
  • SteelSeries Apex 3 TKL keyboard

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Other Switch Features to Look for

If you wonder what should pay attention to aside from tactile vs clicky vs linear switches, we suggest you care for the lifecycle aka longevity, spring force aka weight force, and travel distance.

Longevity

Mechanical switches are not cheap at all. That is why you must pay attention closely to longevity.

Looking at the mechanical switch specs, the longevity will be depicted by million keystrokes. This means the number of keystrokes one switch can perform before reaching its ending. The higher the number is, the longer it can stay.

A high number, besides describing the lasting time, also shows you how problematic your keyboard will be. Of course, with a high figure, you will be less worried about issues like double-typing or not working arrow keys.

Spring Force

Inside Gateron Low Profile Switch
Inside Gateron Low Profile Switch

Another figure you should care about is the spring force or the weight force. This means the required force from your fingers to fully press the keyswitch to register. This figure will depend on the hardness of the spring inside a mechanical switch.

If you are a heavy typist, you should look for tactile, linear, or clicky switches that are higher than 55 gf. If you prefer a light feeling, a number below 50gf will be your good choice. Something in the middle? Go for 50 - 55 gf switches.

You should remember that normally, a very heavy tactile, clicky, or linear switch can cause hand fatigue while a very light switch may lead to mistyping. So, don’t forget these issues when picking your keyboard’s weight force.

Travel Distance

The last number we want you to look closely at is the travel distance. This refers to the distance between the first pressing point of a switch and the final traveling point where your key is activated.

If the travel distance is very small, your keyswitch will register insanely fast. The standard travel distance is 2 mm to 4 mm and most Cherry MX style switches are around these figures.

But, if you are a pro gamer or simply want to have an edge over the game, you should look for switches with a Speed in name or figures that are under 1.5 mm.

It’s All About Personal Preference

At the end of the day, choosing between clicky vs linear vs tactile switches is simply based on your personal taste.

Do you love a smooth feeling and muted sound? Linear switches will be your best friend.

Do you prefer a bumpy response with an audible ‘clicky’ sound? You will love the tactile or clicky switches.

But, how can you know what will be your favorite feedback? It’s easy. You should not go eye shopping for a mechanical keyboard. You must visit a physical store to interact with the keyboards of different tactile, linear, or clicky switches. Only by touching those keyswitches and feeling them with your hands and ears, you will be able to choose the best for yourself.

Moreover, as we have told you that tactile, linear, and clicky feelings can be different if the brands are different. So, you should definitely go type them directly to get a grasp of how they feel.

Mechanical Keyboard Switch Colors Explained

All Mechanical Switches’ Colors
All Mechanical Switches’ Colors

Cherry MX is a leader in the mechanical field so there are a lot of brands making Cherry dupes in the keyboard world. They also use the same color code as Cherry MX so when you read a keyboard description, you can know immediately the switch type - linear vs clicky vs tactile, just by reading the color.

Blue Brown Red Black Silver
Type of switch Clicky Tactile Normal linear Heavy linear Mega-fast linear

Blue Switches

Outemu Blue Switches On Keyboard
Outemu Blue Switches On Keyboard

Switches in blue color will be of the clicky type. Sometimes, brands can add shade to the blue like Dark Blue or Light Blue and they still refer to clicky switches.

Red Switches

Outemu Red Switch
Outemu Red Switch

If you see a red switch, you will know they are of linear type. After Cherry MX introduced the color code red for linear, the cloned brands did the same for their linear lineup.

Brown Switches

Outemu brown switch
Outemu brown switch

Brown is the color for the tactile switch. Gateron Brown, Kailh BOX Brown, and Outemu Brown are all famous dupes of Cherry MX Brown tactile switch.

Are Switch Color Meanings the Same Across Brands?

Yes, they are if you talk about the Cherry MX dupes. However, big tech companies like Razer and Logitech did not want to play the easy game so they choose different color codes and naming styles for their switches.

Therefore, reading a color code won’t ensure 100% right. It’s better to check the switch type specification to know the exact tactile, linear, or clicky switches.

Can you change the color of your switches?

If you feel like the standard color theme is boring, you can change it. One way to do this is to paint over the switch’s housing and stem. However, you will include another layer of paint that may cause friction, so think carefully before deciding to do so.

Final Thoughts

We hope this guide has introduced you clearly to the world of switch types. A quick summary, shall we?

Being super smooth with low sound and no bump is a linear switch.

Being bounced back when pressing with a clear sound is a tactile switch.

Being dramatic with strong bumpy feedback and a loud ‘clicky’ sound is a clicky switch.

There you go! Remember in order to pick out the best ones among clicky vs linear vs tactile switches, you should definitely try them on at a tech shop. Have fun reading! 

Linear vs Tactile vs Clicky Switches FAQs

What is better tactile or linear or clicky?

This depends on your personal preferences and needs. You should choose them based on the feedback and the emitted sound.

What is better for gaming: tactile or linear or clicky?

We prefer linear switches for gaming purposes as smooth typing can speed up your game process. Cherry MX Silver Speed is a good candidate for a gaming keyboard.

What is better for typing: tactile or linear or clicky?

Bumpy feedback from clicky vs tactile switches can prevent mistyping, hence, we think they are the most suitable for good typing performance.

What is the quietest switch type? What is the loudest switch type?

A clicky switch with the clear loud audible ‘clicky’ sound is the loudest switch while a linear switch with almost no noise is the quietest type.