Tons of keyboard switches are on the market, and new ones are constantly popping up. With each having its own distinct feel and sound, it can be pretty confusing for you to choose a switch that fits your needs.
So, if you're on your way to customize your board, find the best switches for custom keyboards in this article.
Switches like Gateron G Pro Yellows , Cherry MX Blue, and NovelKeys Creams are among the ones that custom keyboard makers prefer the most. All of these switches have a great feel, sturdy build, smooth actuation, and an exceptional lifespan. Moreover, they are easily available on the market.
Apart from these three, there are 4 more switch options that are second to none. But before we dive into the products, let's see how you should choose a switch before buying it.
How to Select a Switch for a Custom Keyboard?
When you are on the hunt for new keyboard switches for yourself, the following questions may cross your mind.
- Do I want clicky or silent switches?
- Do I prefer tactile or linear switches?
- Will my hands and usage style need heavy or light switches?
- What do I need the switches for?
Now to answer all of these questions, I’ve brought together a comprehensive list to help you decide.
The options in this list range from the lightest and the most silent to the heaviest with the most prominent tactile feel. You can find all of them below!
1. NovelKeys x Kailh Creams
The NovelKeys x Kailh Creams are one of the best linear switches you can find on the market, albeit on the pricier side.
They have a pretty standard pre-travel distance of 2mm and a total distance of 4mm. The actuating force is 55g and they bottom out at 70g.
Made entirely out of POM, the NovelKeys Creams are buttery smooth and are claimed to be self-lubricating. That means they’d get smoother with increased use. Also, they can always be improved with further lubrication and filming.
With a guaranteed 50 million keystrokes, the Creams will last you a long time. They are 5-pin and may have limited compatibility.
If that is okay with you, this switch will be great if you prefer a slightly tougher key press.
2. Gateron Ink Blacks V2
If you prefer a slightly heavier switch requiring more finger strength to press, the Gateron Ink Blacks V2 offers you quiet, linear action with around 60g actuation force. They bottom out at 70g and 4mm of travel.
These switches, while linear, offer a satisfying ‘thock’ when pressed. Along with the POM stem, they offer an extremely smooth experience. They come lubed from the factory and have a hard rebound.
They are perfect for those who prefer a heavy switch and snappy keystrokes. Moreover, I'd term them ideal for intense gaming sessions for the heavy-fingered.
They also sport translucent housing, which diffuses the light from your keyboard beautifully across the board.
3. Gateron G Pro Yellows
The Gateron G Pro Yellow is a run-of-the-mill linear switch. It activates at a typical 50 g, and the trigger distance is 2 mm, while a full press is at 4mm.
The switches feature POM stems, which come pre-lubed for smooth operation. Gold Crosspoint contacts result in lightning-fast actuation. The Gateron G Pros are 3-pin switches, making them compatible with a wide range of keyboards.
Additionally, the 50 million keystrokes, quiet key presses, and transparent housing for better light conductivity make the Gateron G Pro Yellow a switch that is well-loved by gamers.
So if you want a switch that offers you a balanced mix of features for gaming, do check out this one.
4. Cherry MX Blues
Cherry was there before all these new players entered the keyboard switch market and their Cherry MX Blue is the OG of clicky switches.
Featuring German quality, the MX Blue has gold crosspoint contacts for quick response times and produces a satisfying click along with a prominent tactile bump. Travel distances are quite standard with 2.2mm pre-travel and 4mm fully pressed.
Moreover, Cherry’s precision coil spring, plastic polymer, and fiberglass housing come together to give you a satisfying keystroke.
The Blues are great for typing, as you can feel and hear each key press and know exactly when your key registers.
The switches won't leave you soon, thanks to a rating of 50+ million keystrokes.
So if you prefer a high-pitched click from your keys while typing or even gaming if you want, look no further than the Cherry MX Blue. The only downside is that they can be pricey.
5. Durock T1 Clears
The Durock T1 Clear is a premium switch that delivers tactile action and bottoms out at 67g. The stem is made of POM, and activation and full travel distances are 2mm and 4 mm, respectively.
It’s offered in clear or smokey housing, giving you a choice for your keyboard aesthetics. The 5-pin design makes it stable, and the contacts as well as the spring are gold-plated for added durability.
The feeling on this switch is amazing for gamers and typists alike. A user described the feeling as “popping really small bubble wrap”. That’s got to be a good feeling!
So if you want the best of both worlds, the Durock T1 Clears will not let you down.
6. Kailh Box Whites
This is the lightest switch in this lineup and a great choice if you have nimble fingers. The operating force is just 45 g, and the actuation distance is 1.8mm.
Fully depressing the key brings the numbers to 55g and 3.6mm.
The Kailh Box White is a clicky switch (you wouldn't assume from the specs), but it does this rather innovatively. Rather than having a plastic piece hit the plastic jacket to produce the ‘click’, this switch has a metal bar slamming into the housing.
This produces two very crisp clicks per key press.
Also, the POM stem and an amazing 80 million rating will ensure it remains smooth and durable for a long time. If you prefer lighter clicky switches, the Kailh Box Whites are your target!
7. Gateron Zealios V2
This tactile, non-clicky switch is offered in four variants. While the travel distances are 2mm for actuation and 4mm for fully pressing the key, the bottom-out forces are different in the 4 variants.
The force ratings offered are 62g, 65g, 67g, and 78g. These make the switches go from being crispy and light to having longer, smoother tactile bumps, which are felt more remarkably on the way up.
All the variants come with transparent housing and are PCB-mounted, ensuring wider compatibility. However, the Gateron Zelios V2s do come at a higher price.
But hey, if they provide that satisfying tactile operation with an operating force of your choice, they are well worth it.
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What is the best custom keyboard?
It is perfectly fine to pick any off-the-shelf keyboard for your needs with the switch that you want. But down the line, you may want something that feels and sounds different.
The two I would recommend the most are the Keychron Q1 Pro and the Glorious GMMK Pro.
The Keychron Q1 Pro improves over the original Q1, which was already a great, affordable custom keyboard.
Q1 Pro offers a 75% 82-key barebone or assembled version and can be used wired or over Bluetooth.
It has a robust aluminum body and plate with sound-dampening foam and gaskets. This provides a great platform to make any switch and keycap feel and sound good. It also sports a fully programmable knob.
Glorious GMMK Pro
On the other hand, the Glorious GMMK Pro is also a 75% keyboard with 82 keys.
What’s special about this keyboard is that Glorious has made every component accessible for you to mod as you wish. All the parts can be ordered from the manufacturer, and the switches and keycaps have endless options.
For those wishing to modify their keyboard to the fullest or those not easily satisfied by off-the-shelf products, the GMMK Pro offers a myriad of possibilities.
Psst! You might want to check my article on the 8 Best Linear Switches for Your Keyboard.
What are the best keyboard switches for custom keyboards?
For those looking for a middle tactile ground, the Durock T1 Clears and Zealios V2 will be perfect!
It is imperative to start by mentioning that no single switch is the best. It all comes down to what you want and need.
Are Linear or Tactile Switches Better for Custom Keyboards?
It is normally understood that linear switches are better for gaming, while tactile ones are more suited for typing. This is because linear switches actuate quicker and provide smoother operation.
On the other hand, tactile switches make you feel the exact moment the switch is actuated, indicating that the key has been registered.
The force needed to actuate or bottom out the switches depends completely on your personal preference and your hand size. It can also be determined by your habits.
If you habitually press your keys hard, a heavier tactile switch may be best for you.
Psst! check my article on Linear Vs Tactile Switches for full comparison.
What switches sound the best on a keyboard?
If you are a typist and prefer satisfying feedback when your key actuates, then clicky and tactile switches may suit you best.
The Cherry MX Blue, Kailh BOX White, and Kailh Box Jade are some amazing typing-friendly switches.
If you mostly game on your keyboard, then the fast actuation and silent-sounded operation of linear switches may be best for you.
Cherry MX Red, Cherry MX Speed Silver, and Gateron G Pro Yellow are extremely fine options here.
What are the best keyboard switches for everything?
The tactile switch, a tactile switch provides a great feeling when typing for extended periods of time. It is also perfectly suitable for casual gaming.
I have been using a tactile (Cherry MX Browns) switch, and I find it very well-suited for all my tasks.
There are many great tactile switches that you can use. Some of the best options include Glorious Panda, Boba U4T, Kailh Speed Copper, and more.
What switches are best for a heavy typist?
The best switches for a heavy typist are generally any switches with higher actuation forces, usually around 60g or more.
I'd suggest getting the Cherry MX Black, Gateron Zealios V2, Kailh Box Heavy Burnt Orange, and more of the kind.
All these switches have high actuating forces. So if your fingers already press down hard, these will be a good match for you.
So, these were the best switches for custom keyboards, and all of them have sublime performance. You can go for any of these, depending on your preferences and budget.
I have covered options in every price range and every category of switch (clicky, tactile, and linear).
For more reviews like this, go through the switch reviews section on TheTechSetup. Also, I'll be covering more such topics, so do keep checking!