What Is A Tactile Switch? An In-Depth Guide In 2024

  • Keycaps 101
  • Posted by: carson-rutz
  • Aug 20, 2023

Whether you're an ardent gamer seeking that extra edge, or simply a lover of all things tech, the tactile switch phenomenon holds something remarkable for everyone. So what is a tactile switch? Join us on this enlightening journey as we uncover the world of tactile switches and how they redefine the very essence of typing. Your keyboard experience will never be the same again.

What is a Tactile Switch?

Tactile Switch Basics
Tactile Switch Basics

What is a tactile switch? Simply put, a tactile switch is one whose function can be felt by touch. It is a well-known kind of electrical switch that is activated manually to complete or interrupt an electrical circuit. The characteristic tactile bump you experience when touching a tactile switch gives them their name. 

These switches are designed to be audible enough so as not to disrupt the surroundings. Of all mechanical switches, tactile switches provide the best feedback.

However, tactile is not the only type of switches. In fact, there are many other sorts and the secret behind mechanical keyboard switches can be absolutely surprising. 

Characteristics of Tactile Switches

What is a tactile switch?
What is a tactile switch? Let’s discover! | The Gaming Setup

Tactile Bump

When the key is pressed, this tactile switch would provide physical feedback to the user through a tactile bump or click sensation. Moreover, not only in tactile switches but also clicky ones can you find tactile bumps.

A small clicky sound and a bump of varied proportions are produced by tactile switches. The bump gives users a tactile sensation, allowing them to feel and know that the keypress has been successfully activated.

Actuation Point

The actuation point is the crucial phase of the switch's travel where the key or button makes contact, completing an electrical circuit. When the button reaches this point, it requires a specific amount of force, known as the actuation force, to register the keystroke. The user feels a tactile bump or click at this point, providing feedback that the key press has been recognized.

Actuation Force

Understanding Tactile Switches: What is a Tactile Switch and How Does It Work?
Understanding Tactile Switches: What is a Tactile Switch and How Does It Work?

In the context of tactile switches, actuation force determines the level of pressure required for the switch to activate and send a signal to the device it's connected to. It can vary from light to heavy, offering different levels of resistance.

Actuation force is typically measured in grams (g) and can vary significantly between different tactile switches. Some switches have a light actuation force, requiring less pressure to register a key press, while others have a heavier actuation force, demanding more pressure.

Total Travel Distance

Total travel distance refers to the complete distance that the switch's button travels from its initial resting position to the bottom of the switch when fully actuated. It is a crucial characteristic that determines the physical depth or distance the key or button needs to be pressed before the switch registers the keystroke.

The total travel distance can vary between different tactile switches. Some users prefer a shorter travel distance for quicker keystrokes and potentially increasing typing speed, while others may find a longer travel distance more comfortable.


Depending on the design, tactile switches can produce different levels of sound when pressed. Some people enjoy the audible feedback as it provides a satisfying typing experience, and the click sound can help in confirming key presses. 

On the other hand, some users prefer quieter switches, especially in shared or quiet environments, to reduce noise and potential distractions.

Switch Profile

Tactile switches come in different profiles, such as Cherry MX, Kailh, or Gateron. Each profile may have slight variations in the design and characteristics of the tactile feedback.

Uncover the secrets behind their tactile feedback, design, and unique characteristics, paving the way for an unparalleled typing experience. Make an informed choice and find the perfect match for your ultimate keyboard adventure! Explore the Overview of Cherry MX and Kailh Switches Now!

Types of Tactile Switches

The most noticeable question: “What is a tactile switch?” can be answered in a quite large scope due to the fact that there are 9 sorts of tactile switches, each offering distinct characteristics and features.

  • Round/Square/Rectangular: These terms refer to the physical shape of the tactile switch. Depending on the application and design requirements, tactile switches can come in different shapes.
  • Flush: Flush tactile switches are designed to have a smooth and even surface when installed, without any protruding elements. 
  • Illuminated: Illuminated tactile switches have built-in LED lights that illuminate when the switch is activated, providing visual feedback or enhancing the aesthetics of the device.
  • Miniature/Micro: Miniature and micro tactile switches are compact versions of tactile switches designed for applications with limited space. As their name suggests, they are commonly installed in small electronic devices and compact keyboards.
  • Right Angle: Right-angle tactile switches have their terminals oriented at a right angle to the switch's body. This type is more preferable for PCB (printed circuit board) mounting applications.
  • Long Stroke: Long stroke tactile switches have a longer key travel distance, providing a more substantial tactile feel and feedback during typing or actuation.
Different Tactile Switches
Different Tactile Switches
  • 5-Way: 5-way tactile switches are designed with multiple actuators, allowing them to be pressed in different directions (up, down, left, right, center). They are often used in gaming controllers or other applications that require multiple input directions.
  • Switch Arrays & Keypads: These are configurations where multiple tactile switches are arranged in an array or grid to form a keypad or control panel. Switch arrays and keypads are commonly used in various electronic devices for user input.

How does a Tactile Switch Work?

A tactile switch operates through a mechanism that generates a noticeable physical feedback, or "tactile bump," when the switch is pressed. This feedback is designed to provide users with a clear indication that the switch has been activated, which can be particularly beneficial for typing and other input tasks. Here's how a typical tactile switch works:

Tactile Switch Structure

Tactile switches have a simple yet effective structure that enables them to provide tactile feedback and register keystrokes or inputs. The basic structure of a tactile switch typically includes the following components:

Basic tactile switch structure
Basic tactile switch structure
  • Top Cover: The top cover is the visible part of the switch that users interact with. It serves as the outer shell, providing protection and support to the internal components. The top cover is designed to withstand repeated keypresses and external forces.
  • Plunger: The plunger is a small rod or stem located below the top cover. When you press the button or actuator on the top cover, the plunger is pushed down, creating the downward force needed to activate the switch.
  • Contact Dome: The contact dome, a vital part for tactile feedback, is a thin, flexible metal piece shaped like a dome. Pressing the plunger collapses it onto the conductive pad, completing the circuit and registering the key press, creating the user's tactile feedback.
  • Molded Resin Base: The molded resin base is the bottom part of the tactile switch. It is a plastic base that houses the contact dome and provides structural support to the switch. The base is essential for keeping all the internal components in place and ensuring the proper alignment of the switch.

Tactile Switch Operation

Brown Tactile Switch
Brown Tactile Switch

Imagine typing on a keyboard that lacks that satisfying tactile feedback. To prevent such a scenario, let's start by answering the question: What is a tactile switch? and How does this switch function? 

The basic working principle of a tactile switch involves a metal spring and two electrical contacts separated by a non-conductive material. Here's a step-by-step explanation of how it works:

Resting Position: When the switch is at rest, the metal spring holds the movable contact away from the stationary contact, creating an open circuit. This position deters the flow of electrical current through the switch.

Application of Force: When you press the key or button, an external force is applied to the switch's actuation point.

Compression of the Spring: As you apply force, the metal spring inside the switch begins to compress. The spring exerts an opposing force against your press, creating a resistance.

Actuation Point: As you press further, the spring reaches a critical point of compression. At this point, the movable contact swiftly connects with the stationary contact, completing the electrical circuit.

Halo True Tactile Switches
Halo True Tactile Switches

Tactile Bump: The moment of contact between the two electrical contacts creates the tactile feedback, resulting in a noticeable bump or click sensation under your finger.

Registered Press: Once the electrical circuit is closed, the switch sends an electrical signal to the connected device (e.g., computer, gaming console) to register the keystroke or button press.

Return to Resting Position: When you release the key or button, the spring returns to its original shape, pushing the movable contact away from the stationary contact, and the circuit is open again.

Pros and Cons of Tactile Switches

Tactile switches offer both advantages and disadvantages, depending on the application and user preferences.

Tactile Switches
Tactile Switches

Typing Experience

Enhanced Typing Experience: Tactile switches provide a satisfying tactile bump or click, enhancing the typing experience by providing feedback on each key press.

Improved Accuracy: The tactile feedback helps users to precisely feel the actuation point, resulting in improved typing accuracy and reduced errors.

The tactile bump or feedback in some tactile switches may require more force to actuate, potentially leading to increased finger fatigue during prolonged typing sessions.

Audible Feedback

Quieter Than Clicky Switches: Tactile switches are generally quieter compared to clicky switches, making them more suitable for quiet environments or shared spaces.

Unlike clicky switches, tactile switches do not provide a distinct audible click sound, which may be preferred by some users who enjoy the audible feedback while typing.

Voltage and Current Rating

Voltage and current ratings pertain to the electrical specifications of tactile switches.

On the one hand, the voltage rating of a tactile switch indicates the maximum voltage that the switch can handle without malfunctioning or causing damage. It is essential to operate the switch within its specified voltage range to ensure proper functionality and longevity.

On the other hand, the current rating of a tactile switch refers to the maximum amount of electrical current that the switch can safely handle. Exceeding the current rating can lead to overheating and potential failure of the switch.

Kailh Polia 3 pins Tactile Switch
Kailh Polia 3 pins Tactile Switch


Tactile switches are available in various actuation forces and profiles, allowing users to choose the level of tactile feedback and force that suits their preferences.


Tactile switches are designed to withstand extensive use, offering a long lifespan and reliable performance over time.

Pros Cons
  • Tactile feedback can improve typing accuracy and reduce typos.
  • Increased accuracy thanks to the tactile feedback
  • Long durability and long lifespan
  • More affordable, cost-effective 
  • Can be louder than linear switches, but quieter than clicky switches
  • Less customization
  • Less "linear" feel for some users

Are tactile switches good for gaming?

Tactile switches can be a good choice for gaming, but whether they are the best option depends on individual preferences and gaming style.

AKKO Switch v3 – Cream Blue
AKKO Switch v3 – Cream Blue

Tactile switches provide tactile feedback, which means you can feel a slight bump when the key actuates. This can help you recognize when a key press has been registered without fully depressing the key, potentially leading to faster response times in games and preventing accidental key presses.

Are tactile switches good for typing?

Tactile switches are good for typing. Firstly, they offer tactile feedback with a noticeable bump or click at the actuation point, providing typists with confirmation of key presses.

This feedback boosts typing accuracy and reduces the likelihood of errors. Additionally, tactile switches are durable and comfortable for extended typing sessions.

How to choose the right Tactile switch?

Choosing the right tactile switch involves considering your typing or gaming preferences, as well as the specific qualities of the switches themselves. Here are some noteworthy categories regarding the switches themselves while considering whether the tactile switch is the best for your keyboard.

Tactile Feedback

Determine the level of tactile feedback you prefer. Some switches offer a subtle bump, while others have a more pronounced tactile response. Consider trying out different switches to find the type of feedback that suits your typing style.

Actuation Force

Evaluate the actuation force required to register a keystroke. Tactile switches come in various actuation force options, from light to heavy. Decide on the force that feels comfortable for your typing speed and finger strength.

Noise Level

Consider the noise produced by tactile switches. If you prefer a quieter typing experience, look for switches with dampeners or opt for silent variants. However, if you enjoy the audible feedback, clicky tactile switches might be suitable.


Assess the durability of the switches. Look for switches with a high lifespan rating, indicating their ability to withstand extensive use without losing performance or consistency.

With the construction of very few moving parts, tactile switches typically can offer greater durability than other mechanical switches. This permits them to be directly affixed to circuit boards, reducing concerns about the need for removal during repair.

Emogogo Tactile Switches
Emogogo Tactile Switches | Ashkeebs

Switch Brand and Type

Research different switch brands and types available in the market. Popular options include Cherry MX, Kailh, and Gateron. Each brand offers unique characteristics and variations within tactile switches.

Keyboard Compatibility

Carefully check whether the tactile switches are compatible with your keyboard or not in advance. Some keyboards allow for easy switch swapping, while others may require additional modifications or be limited to specific switch types.


Set a budget for your switch selection. Tactile switches come in a range of prices, so consider how much you're willing to invest based on your needs and preferences.

Tactile vs Other switches

There are three main types of mechanical keyboard switches based on their behavior and feedback: tactile, clicky, and linear. Each of these types has various switches from different manufacturers, resulting in a wide variety of options. Here's a table that condense the differences between these three types:

Linear VS Tactile VS Clicky Switches
Linear VS Tactile VS Clicky Switches
Feedback Feel Sound Noise Level Common Colors Suitability
Tactile Tactile bumpy feedback Bumpy Soft and muted sound Moderate noise Brown, clear Users who want a balanced typing and gaming experience
Linear Smooth typing, no bumpy feedback Smooth Subdued and gentle keystroke sound Quiet noise Red, yellow, black, silver Gamers, fast typists
Clicky Robust tactile feedback Bumpy Audible click sound Loud click noise Blue, green Typing enthusiasts

Tactile switches provide a noticeable bump, giving you a clear tactile indication that the keypress has been registered. This can enhance typing accuracy and reduce the likelihood of accidental key presses. 

Moreover, tactile switches are generally quieter than clicky switches, making them a more discreet option. Linear switches are also quiet but lack the tactile bump.

When it comes to choosing the right switch for your device, understanding the differences is crucial. What is a tactile switch, and how does it differ from linear and clicky switches? Let's explore!


After seeking for details about these tactiles switches, I believe tactile switches present an enticing proposition for those in pursuit of a well-rounded mechanical keyboard experience. Among the three primary types of switches – tactile, clicky, and linear – tactile switches stand as a compelling middle ground, offering a harmonious blend of benefits that cater to a wide range of preferences. 

Finally, I believe that at the moment everyone can have their own answer to the very first question in this article: What is a tactile switch?


What are tactile switches good for?

Tactile switches are good for tasks that require precise typing, as they provide tactile feedback with a noticeable bump or click, enhancing typing accuracy and speed. They are also suitable for users who prefer a balanced typing and gaming experience.

Are tactile switches loud?

Tactile switches can produce a moderate noise level which can be louder than Linear switches, but quieter than Clicky ones.

What do tactile switches feel like?

Tactile switches provide a noticeable bump or click at the actuation point, offering tactile feedback during typing.

Are tactile switches slower?

No, tactile switches do not slow down typing.Typing speed is not directly related to tactile switches; it depends on the user's typing proficiency and comfort with the switch type.

Are tactile switches durable?

Yes, tactile switches are generally durable and can withstand heavy usage.