Choosing a Switch: Why Cherry MX Whites

  • Here is how I decided to go with the Cherry MX White Switch

  • Brand
    • Go with best predictability
    • Cherry
  • Model
    • Play with 8 switch types on tester for a couple weeks
      • Red, Black, Brown, Clear, Grey, Blue, White, Green
        • Only noted the actuation force after testing for two or three weeks
    • All felt fine
      • Linears felt great surprisingly
      • Tactile bump makes sense
        • Different the laptop because you begin the travel and then encounter another obstacle, keep pressing and then the key activates. They are two different bits of action: the energy to get the switch moving because of the weight and then the energy? to get it over the bump
      • Click noise interesting to add another dimension of feedback
        • Maybe also headache
    • Find that all keyboard make noise no matter what so choosing something that feels right
  • Research
    • Switches on my laptop
      • Are not silent, but not clicky either
      • Go with something close to that
      • It takes 12 US 25 cent coins to activate the ALT key
        • Easiest one to test, a quarter can sit on it without obstacles
        • 11 will not press the key no matter how I nudge it
        • Tested 3 times
      • One of them weighs 5.670 grams
      • Key press weight: 68.03999999999999
  • Cherry Candidates Data
    • Legend
      • Color: Color
      • Switch: Cherry Switch Type
        • L, Linear
        • T, Tactile
        • TC, Tactile & Clicky
      • Act: Switch activation in grams
      • Δ: Difference between desired actuation force of 68 grams and actual
        • Positive number means larger than desired force
        • Negative number means smaller than desired force
    • CE: Close enough?
      • Want the actuation force as close as possible
      • If competing, take smaller, don’t want extra strain
    • SO: Sounds OK?
      • On my laptop keyboard, I hit the keys so hard that I stop when I hear them. Never noticed this before the past few weeks testing switches. Great to know. I want sound.
  • Analysis

    Color Switch Act Δ CE SO
    White TC 65 -3 T T
    Clear T 55 -13 T T
    Black L 60 -8 T F
    Red L 45 -23 F NA
    Brown T 45 -23 F NA
    Grey T 80 12 F NA
    Blue TC 50 -18 F NA
    Green TC 80 12 F NA
  • Decision: White
    • Comes down to the Clear and White
    • White’s delta is closer, but that isn’t what sold me
    • I press the key until I hear that it is activated
    • With the Clear, I keep pressing until it bottoms out and I hear it, in addition to feeling it
      • The feel is the same as on my laptop
    • What I hope to gain from the tactile and clicky feedback is not having to pound on keys to know that they have been pressed
      • If the Clear has been closer, that would have been another great thing to try. Maybe I will in the future anyway.
  • Thoughts
    • Switch tester was helpful
      • And very different than a full keyboard!
    • Fun to learn about different options
    • Fun to learn what I think that I want
    • Look forward to trying it out

6 thoughts on “Choosing a Switch: Why Cherry MX Whites”

  1. Just found your site. Great stuff! I’m a keyboard / emacs nut. I’ve had so many keyboards. Currently use 10-keyless with Cherry Brown. I hope White aren’t as loud/clicky as the common Blue. Those drive me crazy – especially in an office with multiple people.

    One issue I have is with back-lit keys. I like them for programming in the evening. The problem is that Cherry MX keys have the cross in the middle and LED above so only top half of key is illuminated. This results in many stupid designs like the Razer Blackwidow Tournament Chroma I’m using right now the has most of the key legends reverse – e.g. “7” on top of key with “&” below it. My new CoolerMaster Masterkeys Pro S sort of gets around this by using really bright LEDs. This works but gives off more distracting light between the keys. It’s also great that you can do all the color assignments from within the keyboard so your not tied to some special config program – which is usually Windows-only (I use Macs).

    Anyway, if you manage to come up with some design people could buy / build, please allow use of keys with the LED connections. Even just all one color with only brightness control would be very helpful – if not as much fun as RGB.

    1. Nice to meet you David. It sounds like you’ve got some nice keyboards. Glad to know your preference for LEDs. They seem to be pretty popular I just never look at my keys anymore (I still love the caps though).

      In order to keep the keyboard community friendly I did go with Cherry MX Clears. They are firm without the click. Should help friends stay friends.

    2. BTW David, where are all of the Emacs+Mechanical keyboard users?

      I can’t seem to find them.

        1. Yes. I have read every post of his on Unicode including the keys that he proposed as OS alternatives. I knew was an Emacs fanatic and I somehow ended up on his review for the TypeMatrix. Yet I didn’t dig deeper to discover that he is also a keyboard fanatic. Thank you for sharing that.

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