There are two main types of keyboard switches: mechanical and optical. If you’re looking for a new keyboard, it’s important to know the difference between these two types of switches so that you can make an informed decision.
The mechanical keyboard keys are more tactile than optical, which means they provide more feedback with every keypress. They also tend to produce louder click noises that typists find more pleasant.
1. Optical switches are more responsive
Optical keyboard switches use light induction to trigger the keys, whereas mechanical switches require physical contact between the key and a stem (the part that constantly hits the key).
Both of these types of switches can be found on some of the most popular gaming keyboards. However, some gamers find that optical switches tend to be more responsive than their mechanical counterparts.
The main reason for this is that optical switches are made from a laser sensor instead of two metal contacts like mechanical switches. When a key is pressed, a beam of infrared light is obstructed. When this occurs, an infrared sensor detects the blockage and signals the computer that a key has been pressed down.
This makes optical switches much faster than their mechanical counterparts. Some proponents of these keyboards claim that they are able to register a second press without any debounce delay at all, which can be useful if you are playing fast-paced games or want to maximize your productivity during a workday.
Another advantage to these switches is that they last longer than most membrane and dome-switch keyboards. They are also easy to repair if something goes wrong.
Depending on the manufacturer, these switches can have different actuation force values, which are usually measured in grams and tell you how much force it takes to push a key down. Generally, lighter values are preferred for gamers as they can provide faster execution, while heavier values are better for typing.
2. Optical switches are more durable
Optical switches work by using light to trigger the switch. When you press a key, the stem of the switch moves downward, triggering a sensor that logs the keystroke and activating the key. Unlike mechanical switches, optical switches do not rely on physical contact to trigger the switch, meaning they can be faster and more durable.
Unlike mechanical keyboard switches, optical switches do not use a metal plate to close a circuit when pressed, but rather a beam of infrared light. This eliminates issues associated with traditional switches such as oxidization and wear of the metal contact points inside the switch, as well as metal debounce noise that can add click latency by many milliseconds.
In fact, a recent study found that optical switches have a lifespan of 100 million key presses, whereas traditional mechanical switches last only 50 million. This makes them a more affordable option than their counterparts and offers users a wider range of options when it comes to selecting the right keyboard.
The key to choosing the right type of keyboard for you is understanding what your personal preferences are and how each type of keyboard performs. For example, some people prefer to mod a mechanical keyboard instead of an optical one because they can more easily achieve their desired feel.
If you’re a gamer, it might be worth considering investing in an optical switch. Razer has a line of analog optical switches that are praised as being among the fastest on the market, with some even claiming that they are 30 milliseconds faster than Cherry MX switches.
3. Optical switches are more affordable
When choosing a keyboard, you need to decide whether to get a mechanical or optical switch. This depends on several factors, such as your budget and personal preferences.
Optical switches are generally less expensive than mechanical keyboards. They also tend to be more durable and offer better keystroke accuracy, which are features that many users prefer.
They are also easier to replace, as they don’t need soldering. This makes them more convenient and less time-consuming to use, which is important if you’re on the go a lot or need to be able to switch your keyboard on the fly.
However, they aren’t as versatile as mechanical switches are, as there is less variety when it comes to switch bodies and customization options with optical keyboards. This can make it difficult to find a keyboard that fits your exact needs.
Lastly, if you don’t mind delayed response times or Clicky noise, optical switches are a great option. They are typically less loud than mechanical switches, and they have a smoother feel that’s more comfortable to type on.
In addition, they can be paired with RGB lighting to give your keyboard a more modern look and feel. This feature is popular with gamers, and some keyboards even come with it built in.
But the truth is that they aren’t quite as good as mechanical switches at providing a fast, smooth gaming experience. Optical switches are a step in the right direction, but they aren’t a substitute for mechanical keys and aren’t necessary for most players.
If you’re looking for a good keyboard for gaming, you should consider purchasing an optical switch. They are faster than a standard mechanical switch, which can help you gain a split second advantage in some games. They’re also more durable and are less likely to have issues with de-bounce.
4. Optical switches are more versatile
Unlike mechanical switches, which are activated by physical contact with the electrical plate, optical switches rely on light to register key presses. When you press a key, an infrared photodetector illuminates and changes the voltage level on a chip that is then translated into digital signals for processing.
Optical switches are more versatile than their mechanical counterparts because they can be used to create a variety of different keyboards. They are quieter and less prone to debounce delay, which is often a problem with mechanical switches. They are also more durable, and can last for up to 100 million keystrokes.
Another thing that makes optical switches more versatile is that they can be hot-swapped with other types of switches. This is important for gamers who want to be able to use a wide range of different keyboards, but it’s not possible with mechanical switches.
There are a few different types of switches, including the MEMS (microelectromechanical system) switch and the optomechanical switch. The MEMS switch is the newest type of all-optical switch and has many benefits over traditional mechanical switches, such as compact size, low power consumption, and good expansibility.
However, MEMS-based switches are still a little behind mechanical and electro-optic switches in terms of performance. This is due to the fact that MEMS-based switches are more complex to design and manufacture. This is partly because they rely on mechanical components, which require a lot of packaging work.
In addition to being more versatile, optical switches are also a great choice for gaming because they have a faster response time and are less likely to suffer from debounce delay. This is especially helpful for those who are using keyboards to play video games or other demanding applications.