Linear vs Tactile Switches – Which is right for you?

Those tiny switches in your mechanical keyboards can directly impact performance. Therefore, it is important to compare linear vs tactile switches, two of the most commonly used mechanical keyboard switches by typists and gamers. 

But how do these two types of switches vary from one another? In this guide, we’ll find out about each of them, so give it a read and find which type of switch you should go for. 

Linear vs Tactile Switches – The Difference

Linear Switches

Linear switches are a kind of mechanical keyboard switch that emphasize generating consistent and smooth actuation, excluding any tactical feedback. These switches work great for users who don’t want that tiny bump and want smooth typing. 

Linear Key Switch Actuation Graph
Linear Key Switch Actuation Graph

These switches are soft and quiet, and their motion stays consistent throughout the movement of the switch. They are ideal for gamers because these switches deliver in terms of speed. 

However, you will have to get used to them, especially if you are shifting to a mechanical keyboard for the first time. 

Pros

  • Extremely precise and smooth
  • Durable design
  • Faster and improved actuation
  • Slight resistance

Cons

  • A tad bit tough for starters
Linear Switches
Linear Switches

Tactile Switches

These switches are made to emphasize the tiny feedback that you get when you press these switches. Still, these switches are relatively quiet based on the audible click that follows the keystroke. 

If you do a lot of typing, you will get excellent feedback. And it will be an assurance that everything is working just fine. These switches are far more fun to use, particularly if you are a new user and have just started with a mechanical keyboard. 

Tactile Key Switch Actuation Graph
Tactile Key Switch Actuation Graph

These mechanical keyboards are different in feel and much better than their membrane counterparts. Here’s a great article if you want to learn more about the differences between membrane and mechanical keyboards.

These switches are not too loud, so you can avoid dirty looks if you’re using them in public (event/cafe, LAN party). If you like to play games that need more communication, these switches will work well on your keyboard. Your actuation will be faster and highly efficient

Pros

  • Excellent feedback
  • Beginner friendly
  • Sturdy construction
  • Fairly quiet for a mech keyboard

Cons

  • A bit too light for some
Tactile Switches
Tactile Switches

Linear vs Tactile Switches – Head-to-Head Comparison

FeaturesLinear SwitchesTactile Switches 
Feel of keystrokesConsistent and smoothA bit bumpy
Tactical feedbackNoneYes (tactile bump)
SoundQuiet to loudQuiet to medium
Primary benefitSpeedPrecision
SuitabilityGamingTyping
Actuation force45 g45 g
Overall travel distance4mm4mm

The primary difference between linear and tactile switches is that tactile switches are much quieter while linear are smoother. So let’s dive right in and find more differences in this head-to-head comparison between these two types of switches. 

Tactile switches are highly regarded for combining tactile and linear properties. And that is why it is a bit more challenging to tell which type of switch is the best option for you. 

People tend to use a switch tester before choosing the switch. This tester allows them to find the best option before they finalize their decision. This tester may greatly help you if you are serious about buying the right switch for your keyboard. 

Actuation Point

An actuation point indicates how far a key is pressed for the keystroke to be registered. And the force for actuation means how much pressure is needed to press the key for actuation. The lower the actuation point and force, the quicker the response will be. In most cases, the actuation is right in the middle and entirely depends upon the pressure you apply.

You need to consider actuation if you are more interested in a switch suited for gaming. But on average, both tactile and linear have similar actuation points and forces. So you will get similar responses from both of them, and you will have to put in some force for the keystroke to get registered. 

Winner: Tie

Travel distance

The switch’s travel distance is measured in millimeters, as it goes down and back up when you press and release it, and the keystroke is registered.

Your typing style and technique matter if you want to do something quickly. Both switches have a travel distance of 4mm.

Winner: Tie

Sound

If you go for a quiet tactile switch, it will be a complete joy. And this is especially the case if you want to minimize noise levels. It’s a huge plus point that they have over their linear counterparts. Plus, their sound levels only go around quiet to medium.

On the other hand, a linear switch can be pretty loud, depending on the brand. There are different sound levels for different manufacturers. Gamers prefer tactile bumps over sounds, especially when talking to other players while playing their game.

Winner: Tactile

Tactility

Linear switches generally tend to be more perceptible, and you don’t have to press the key down. On the other hand, tactile switches have a bump, and you will have to push them down all the way. Linear switches are just too smooth, making them more comfortable to use. 

Winner: Linear

RGB

RGB or multi-shaded backlit illumination comes in different keyboards these days. Almost all mechanical keyboards support this feature up to an extent. But some might have improved highlights. This RGB option is available in both types of switches. 

Winner: Tie

Linear Switches: Consistent & Smooth

One of the best features of linear switches is that they are super smooth and consistent. In addition, typing with them is bump-free in between keystrokes. Many users think these qualities make these switches best for gaming

It’s because some tactile feedback can slightly reduce speed and increase the overall response time. This might not matter much, but high-end linear keyboards are ideal for gaming and speed. 

These switches are noiseless, especially if you compare them with another type of switch called a clicky switch. It means that when you use these linear switches, you won’t be bothering your coworkers or anyone around you. But your keycaps might still clack if they bottom out. 

The lack of feedback can be a bit of a learning curve for those who are more used to tactile or clicky switches. Meaning that if they don’t feel their keystrokes, something seems wrong, and the keystrokes are not being registered. 

And it can result in inaccuracies. Moreover, they will need to get used to these linear switches. Some commonly used linear switches include the likes of Cherry MX Red, Cherry MX Black, Gateron Yellow, Gateron Red, etc. 

Tactile Switches: Tangible Feedback

When pressing a tactile switch, you will notice that satisfying bump during your keystroke. This bump provides instant feedback that is tangible. And users can confirm that their keystroke has been registered.  

Some tactile switches, such as Cherry MX Brown, are often considered the best all-purpose. And many users say that the bumps make these switches best for typing. 

Clicky sources can be categorized as a type of tactile switches because they provide you with feedback. But tactile switches are far quieter, so they are excellent for shared workspaces and even video recording.

These tactile switches can work well for those with itchy fingers as they won’t have to deal with many typos. These switches let you know when each keystroke is registered. 

But some people do things that tactile switches do to reduce their typing speed. Some commonly used tactile switches include Cherry MX Brown, Cherry MX Gray, Kailh Brown, Gateron Brown, etc. 

Other Features to Consider

You need to consider some other features before choosing between these switches. And we have listed them down as follows:

Longevity

Spending a decent bit of money on these switches will be a long-term investment for you. The more you pay, the better quality you get. Your switches will last longer, and you will get better value for your money. 

It is always a good idea to go for original Cherry MX switches because they are highly durable. The clones are not that great. Plus, Cherry MX provides a 100-million stroke guarantee as well. 

Spring force

Another important factor is spring force because it assists in repositioning the keys right after you press them. Therefore, the best switch should be able to match the typing force with a good spring force. 

Plus, your overall typing or gaming experience will become much more comfortable as your fingers have to deal with much less resistance overall. A lighter spring force is better for both typists and gamers. 

Feel

You must consider whether the switch is heavy, medium, or light. As a result, it will make your kayak more stable when you are gaming or typing. In this scenario, linear options are comparatively lighter in feel, while tactile switches are mostly medium to heavy. 

Price

The average price of these key switches ranges from $0.30 to $1.00. But the price of these switches can vastly differ. For example, Akko CS linear switches cost $13.00 for 45 pieces, which are 3-pin switches. 

5-pin variants like Gateron Milky Yellow switches cost $23.99 for 70 pieces. These prices can vary if the switches support RGB or their actuation force and point vary. Overall, this is the price range for these linear switches. 

On the other hand, 5-pin tactile switches like ZugGear T1 cost $13.60 for 20 pieces. While 3-pin variants like Akko CS Tactile switches cost USD $13.99 for 45 pieces. These pieces vary based on the actuation force and if any RGB features are available. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Are linear switches better for gaming?

Whether linear switches are better or not is entirely up to you. Linear switches are slightly noisier than their tactile counterparts. But they are much smoother and more consistent. 

However, these switches tend to make sounds, which can be slightly bothersome when the user is talking to other players during the game. But these keyboards are all about speed, so they can be better suited for gaming. 

Are tactile switches good for gaming?

Again, whether or not these tactile switches are suitable for gaming is a personal preference. These switches provide you with tangible feedback. Those who are used to this feedback while typing will love it. 

And under the above-provided scenario, a tactile switch is a better option. This feedback is important during the gameplay because gamers need to know when the keystroke is registered. 

Are tactile switches better for typing?

Tactile switches can be considered better for typing because they provide users with tangible feedback. In addition, they feel nice, and you enjoy typing with those soft clicky sounds. 

But some people say these tactile switches slow down typing speed. We think that it’s a mere matter of personal preference more than anything else. 

And the difference between the actuation point and typing style is more subjective than objective. So, one can say that these tactile switches are better for typing, while others say that linear switches are better. 

What’s the meaning of different switch colors? 

Most of these keyboard switches come in a variety of colors. They range from black, red, brown, blue, and others. And these colors do mean something, and they all start with Cherry MX, followed by different colors and switch types.  

For example, Cherry MX Red means linear medium-resistant switches, while Cherry MX Brown is a tactile switch with medium resistance. There are other brands on the market as well, and they are referred to as clones. These include the likes of Gateron, Kailh, Razer, and Outemu. 

Conclusion

Linear and tactile switches both have their pros and cons. Linear switches are best for their smoothness and consistency, while tactile switches are better suited for the tangible feedback they provide. 

Going for the right option is entirely up to you. Some users say tactile switches slow down typing speed due to feedback, while others say they are great for typing. Similarly, some users say that linear switches are better for typing, while others write that they produce noise and that they cause disturbance to others in the vicinity. 

We highly recommend you go for a switch tester if you are truly serious about buying switches for your keyboard. This way, you can make the right decision while relying on your personal preferences. 

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About Alex

Hello, I'm Alex and this is my website, Spacehop. I started the site as a way to talk about myself, and a few years later we're now a team of 6! I still work full time at a major PC retailer in the UK, and I'm a bit of a tech whizz (self-proclaimed, unfortunately!).

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