Many mechanical keyboards use a color-coded RGB lighting system to represent each key’s function.The blue, green, and red keys are referred to as “diodes,” indicating the feedback signal from the switch underneath the keycap.
In addition to this illuminating system, some keyboards have white lights installed underneath their keys (even some mods) to indicate other things such as Caps Lock or Num Lock states.Below are some guides on what colors mean for different brands of mechanical keyboards.
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- 1 Types Of Mechanical Switches:
- 2 What Do Colors Mean For Mechanical Keyboards?
- 3 The Gold Standard Of Switches For Mechanical Keyboards – Cherry MX Switches and Colors
Types Of Mechanical Switches:
There are several mechanical switches, which can be classified into three main groups: clicky, tactile, and rubber dome.
Clicky Switches – Blue Switches
Clicky switches are the most common type of mechanical keyboard switch. They feature a spring-loaded mechanism that makes a “click” when pressed.
The click is louder than it would be with a rubber dome or membrane switch. However, it’s not as loud as an actual mechanical switch. Clicky switches are also known by other names, including “Tactile” or “Clack.”
Rubber Dome Switches – Red and Yellow switches
Rubber dome keys are the quietest type of mechanical keyboard switch. They have no tactile bump, so they do not make any noise when pressed. Rubber dome keys are also known by other names, including “Silicone,” “Squishy,” and “Soft-Sensitive.”
Tactile Switches – Brown switches
Tactile switches provide a more distinct tactile bump compared to rubber dome and clicky switches.Furthermore, tactile switches lack the distinctly audible bump of rubber domes or clicks from clicky switches. Still, they make a much softer sound when pressed than rubber dome or clicky keys.
What Do Colors Mean For Mechanical Keyboards?
The vast majority of mechanical keyboards have a switch color scheme that’s not standardized. Thus, it’s hard to say what the color means unless you have one in your hand. But here are some general guidelines:
The gold switch is one of the most popular options among gamers, thanks to its low actuation force and short travel distance. These keys are typically used for gaming keyboards because they’re easy to press and offer quick responses.
This is a common color for backlighting keyboards and other specialty models that aren’t meant for gaming. It’s also used in some of the more expensive mechanical keyboards out there because of its ability to light up without consuming too much power or space on the board itself.
Blue switches are designed for faster typing speeds than other colors, thanks to their tactile feedback and shorter travel distance. They’re used mostly in office applications where typing speed is more important than accuracy or comfort.
Is Switch Colors Scheme Same For Every Brand?
While there are some brands that do play off their keycaps’ color options in their marketing materials and even on their websites, this isn’t always the case.
Let’s take Corsair’s K65 RGB keyboard as an example: The manufacturer claims that its Cherry MX RGB switches have “chrome” keycaps on top of their plastic stems.
In fact, the stems themselves aren’t chrome but rather a textured plastic material called PBT (polyethylene terephthalate).
The Gold Standard Of Switches For Mechanical Keyboards – Cherry MX Switches and Colors
Cherry MX switches are the most popular mechanical switch on the market. They were first introduced by Cherry in 1982, and since then, they have been used in nearly every keyboard made.
An MX switch is a momentary contact-type switch with a tactile bump for each keypress. It was one of the first types of switches to be developed and proved quite successful. It is still used today because it is durable, reliable, and easy to manufacture with low-cost parts.
Let’s explore the color types of MX switches because most top brands like Corsair and Logitech use these switches in their top variant.
Cherry MX Reds:
Cherry MX Reds switches are the most popular gaming keyboard switches with a smooth, linear feel that is ideal for fast-paced games.
Moreover, MX Red switches have a 45g actuation force, making them easy to press without pushing down too hard. It makes them ideal for gamers who want an extremely responsive switch with minimal resistance but still want a tactile response.
Cherry MX Blacks:
The Cherry MX Black switches have a tactile bump and a click.
The tactile bump is a more pronounced version of the double-shot injection molding process that gives it that distinctive ‘bump’ on the bottom of the switch. It makes them more suitable for typing, especially where there’s a lot of lateral movement.
Cherry MX Browns
Cherry MX Brown switches are similar to Cherry MX Red switches in that they are linear and clicky with a moderate 45g actuation force.
The difference is that the stems of the switch are more straightforward, and the keycaps do not have much concavity. It means that the keycap can fit more snugly on the switch.
Apparently, it helps prevent accidental activation of the key. It makes it easier to clean because you do not have to worry about dirt getting inside your keyboard.
Cherry MX Blues:
Cherry MX Blues are the most common switches available to buy today. They offer a tactile bump with a short travel and a loud click.
The Cherry MX Blue switch has a very short (1.2 mm) actuation distance, making it perfect for gaming keyboards requiring fast reaction times.
More so, these switches are also described as having a tactile bump and being rather loud compared to other mechanical switches.
Aside from this, Cherry MX Blues are rated at 50g of actuation force, which means they’re suitable for use in most keyboards with weights between 50 and 60 grams.
Cherry MX Speed or Silver switches
Cherry MX Speed or Silver Switches are built for players of all stripes. They are linear switches with 45g of actuation force that require 1.2 mm of movement to actuate compared to the standard 2 mm.
Apparently, it is helpful in fast-paced gaming genres like MOBA (League of Legends, Dota 2) and MMO (World of Warcraft, Star Wars: The Old Republic).
In simple words, these are the best where skills are constantly refreshing but also come in handy for other activities such as typing or writing lyrics where speed and accuracy matter but no more than precision.
Choosing a keyboard is another thing that will largely come down to personal preference, with just two major factors that we can consider in order to narrow down our options.
Are you looking for an ergonomic keyboard (one designed for comfort)? Or one that’s actually designed for gamers?
Well, both types have their strengths and weaknesses. However, a gamer-centric model might be better suited if you’re looking for something more responsive than the average keyboard.
If possible, you should get a keyboard with Cherry MX switches. The difference between them and the other brands isn’t as huge as it used to be even years ago, but there’s a reason Cherry is still the most prominent brand on the market.