If you are looking for getting the best performance switch choice for your mechanical keyboard, this thing often comes to our mind, that whether Optical or Mechanical Switches are better.
However, difference is not straightforward, so, I compared with all its criteria in this post to give you a complete guide to know which one would be the right fit for you.
Let’s get started!
Contents of The Article
- 1 Optical vs Mechanical Switches
- 2 What are Optical Switches and How do they Work?
- 3 What are Mechanical Switches and How do they Work?
- 4 Switch Feel
- 5 Durability
- 6 Actuation Speed
- 7 Price Point
- 8 Sound of Clicks
- 9 Modding Ability
- 10 Availability
- 11 Pros and Cons of Mechanical Switches
- 12 Pros and Cons of Optical Switches
- 13 Which is better between Optical and Mechanical Switches?
- 14 FAQs
- 15 Conclusion
Optical vs Mechanical Switches
|Criteria||Optical Switches||Mechanical Switches||Diff/Upgrade|
|Switch mechanism||Uses light beam to register keystrokes||Physical contact points between metal parts to register keystrokes||Optical switches have no physical contact points. Mechanical switches provide tactile feedback and a satisfying click or bump sensation.|
|Durability||No physical contact points means less wear and tear over time||Physical contact points can wear down with use||Optical switches may have a longer lifespan compared to mechanical switches, especially if used frequently or for extended periods of time.|
|Actuation force||Generally lighter and easier to press||Typically requires more force to actuate||Optical switches may be easier to use for people with hand or finger fatigue. Mechanical switches require more force to actuate, leading to hand or finger strain over time.|
|Sound||Quieter and less audible||Audible clicks or bumps when keys are pressed||Optical switches are often quieter and less distracting than mechanical switches, which can be beneficial in shared workspaces or quiet environments.|
|Customizability||Limited options for customization||Wide range of customization options available||Mechanical switches can be easily modified with different keycaps, springs, and other components to create a unique typing or gaming experience. Optical switches have limited options for customization.|
What are Optical Switches and How do they Work?
Optical switches are keyboard switches that use light to register keystrokes. When a key is pressed, a beam of light is interrupted by a stem within the switch, which sends a signal to the computer to register the keystroke.
Optical switches are known for their speed and reliability, as they do not have any physical contact points that can wear out over time. They are also resistant to dust and debris, which can accumulate in mechanical switches and cause them to malfunction.
What are Mechanical Switches and How do they Work?
Mechanical switches are a type of keyboard switch that use physical contact points to register keystrokes.
When a key is pressed, a spring-loaded stem within the switch makes contact with a metal or plastic contact point, which sends a signal to the computer to register the keystroke.
Mechanical switches are known for their tactile feedback and customizable feel, as well as their durability and longevity.
The feel of a keyboard switch refers to the tactile and auditory feedback it provides when a key is pressed. Mechanical switches are known for their tactile feedback, which provides a satisfying “click” or “bump” sensation when the key is pressed. (To know more about the different mechanical switches comparison, like tactile vs clicky vs linear, you can check this post written by me.)
Optical switches, on the other hand, do not provide as much tactile feedback and are often described as “mushy” or “linear”. However, some prefer the smoother feel of optical switches for typing or gaming.
Mechanical switches are known for their durability and longevity, as they are designed to withstand millions of keystrokes without wearing out. Optical switches are also durable, as they do not have any physical contact points that can wear out over time.
However, both switches can be prone to malfunction if they are exposed to dust or debris, so it is important to keep your keyboard clean and free from contaminants.
Optical switches are known for their fast actuation speed, as they do not have any physical contact points that need to make contact in order to register a keystroke.
Mechanical switches can also be fast, but they require a certain amount of force to actuate, which can slow down typing or gaming speeds.
However, some people prefer the tactile feedback and slower actuation speed of mechanical switches for a more deliberate and precise typing or gaming experience.
The price of a keyboard switch can vary widely depending on the switch’s brand, type, and quality.
Generally speaking, mechanical switches are more expensive than optical ones, as they are more complex and require more materials to manufacture.
However, there are affordable options for both types of switches, and it is possible to find a high-quality keyboard with either switch at a reasonable price.
Sound of Clicks
One of the most distinctive features of mechanical switches is the audible “click” or “clack” produced when a key is pressed.
Some people find this sound satisfying and enjoyable, while others find it distracting.
Optical switches do not produce as much sound as mechanical switches, which can be a pro or a con depending on your preferences.
Mechanical switches are highly moddable, which means they can be customized and adjusted to suit individual preferences.
It is possible to change the keycaps, springs, and other components of a mechanical switch in order to create a unique and personalized typing or gaming experience.
Optical switches are not as moddable, as they are designed to be more streamlined and consistent.
Both optical and mechanical switches are widely available in the market, with numerous brands and models. Some popular optical switch brands include Gateron, Kailh, and Flaretech, while popular mechanical switch brands include Cherry MX, Gateron, and Kailh.
Availability may depend on your location and specific preferences. Online retailers such as Amazon, Newegg, and Best Buy typically offer a wide selection of optical and mechanical switches, complete keyboards, and DIY keyboard kits.
Additionally, local computer stores may carry a selection of switches for purchase.
When considering availability, it’s important also to consider the availability of replacement switches or parts. Some keyboard models may require specific switch types, and it’s important to ensure that replacement switches are readily available in case of malfunction or damage.
Pros and Cons of Mechanical Switches
- Tactile feedback: Mechanical switches provide a tactile feedback that can make typing or gaming more satisfying and accurate. The tactile bump or click can help you know when the keystroke has registered, leading to fewer mistakes and faster typing or gaming.
- Customizable: Mechanical switches can be customized with different keycaps, springs, and other components to create a unique and personalized typing or gaming experience.
- Durability: Mechanical switches are designed to last for millions of keystrokes, making them a good investment for people who use their keyboards frequently or for long periods.
- Sound: Some people enjoy the sound of mechanical switches, which can be satisfying and pleasant.
- Price: Mechanical switches are generally more expensive than optical switches, making them less accessible for people on a tight budget.
- Maintenance: Mechanical switches require more maintenance than optical switches, as they can accumulate dust and debris affecting their performance.
- Loudness: The sound of mechanical switches can be distracting or annoying to people working in a quiet environment or sharing a workspace with others.
- Actuation force: Some mechanical switches require a significant amount of force to actuate, which can be fatiguing or uncomfortable for some users.
Pros and Cons of Optical Switches
- Speed: Optical switches are faster than mechanical switches, as they do not have any physical contact points that need to make contact in order to register a keystroke.
- Durability: Optical switches are designed to be more durable than mechanical switches, as they do not have any physical contact points that can wear out over time.
- Quietness: Optical switches are quieter than mechanical switches, which can benefit people who work in a quiet environment or who share a workspace with others.
- Smoothness: Optical switches have a smoother feel than mechanical switches, which can be more comfortable for some users.
- Lack of tactile feedback: Optical switches do not provide as much tactile feedback as mechanical switches, making typing or gaming less satisfying or accurate.
- Limited customization: Optical switches are not as moddable as mechanical switches, as they are designed to be more streamlined and consistent.
- Price: Although optical switches are generally less expensive than mechanical switches, they can still be more expensive than other types of keyboards or switches, which can be a barrier for people on a tight budget.
- Sensitivity: Optical switches can be more sensitive than mechanical switches, leading to accidental keystrokes if you are not careful.
Which is better between Optical and Mechanical Switches?
The answer to this question depends on your individual preferences and needs.
When it comes to gaming, optical and mechanical switches can be effective options. Optical switches are generally faster and more responsive than mechanical ones, which can be beneficial for games that require quick reflexes and response times, such as first-person shooters and real-time strategy games.
The lack of physical contact points in optical switches means they can register keystrokes faster and more consistently than mechanical switches.
On the other hand, mechanical switches can provide some people a more satisfying and accurate gaming experience. The tactile feedback and audible click or bump sensation can help you know when a keystroke has registered, leading to fewer mistakes and faster reaction times.
Additionally, mechanical switches can be customized with different components to create a unique and personalized gaming experience.
When it comes to typing, many people often prefer mechanical switches due to their tactile feedback and satisfying click or bump sensation.
The tactile feedback can help you know when a keystroke has registered, leading to fewer mistakes and faster typing speeds. Mechanical switches can also be customized with different components to create a unique and personalized typing experience.
However, optical switches can also be effective for typing. The lack of physical contact points in optical switches means that they can be smoother and quieter than mechanical switches, which can be beneficial for people who type for long periods of time.
Additionally, some optical switches have a more linear feel, which can be more comfortable for some users.
Do optical switches need lube?
No, optical switches do not require lubrication. Unlike mechanical switches, optical switches do not have physical contact points that rub against each other when actuated. Instead, optical switches use a light beam to register keystrokes, meaning there is no friction to cause wear and tear.
Can you hot-swap optical switches?
Yes, many optical keyboards are designed with hot-swappable switches, so you can easily remove and replace them without having to desolder them. This allows you to customize your keyboard with different types of optical switches or even mechanical switches if you prefer.
How much faster are optical switches?
Optical switches are generally faster and more responsive than mechanical switches due to their lack of physical contact points. When you press a key on an optical switch keyboard, the light beam is interrupted, and the keystroke is registered almost instantly. In contrast, mechanical switches require physical contact between two metal parts, which can result in delays and inconsistencies in keystroke registration.
Let’s conclude the post on Optical vs Mechanical Switches!
So, here is the takeaway:
Optical switches may be the best option for you if you are looking for speed, durability, and smoothness.
If you value tactile feedback, customization, and a satisfying click or bump sensation, mechanical switches may be the better choice.
I hope you liked reading this post and found it useful.