June 9, 2023

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Tired of the sluggish response time, weary keyboard switches, and limited keystroke durability of mechanical keyboards? Well, you're one pack of optical switches away from becoming as fast as the Flash!

But What Are Optical Keyboard Switches? and how they work?

Optical keyboard switches use light to detect and register key presses. They are extremely fast, durable, and spill-resistant. Optical keyboards provide a consistent and smooth typing experience and are highly recommended for gamers. Experienced typists can also work with them.

What Are Optical Keyboard Switches?

In this article, I'll tell you everything you need to know about optical keyboard switches. They can take your typing and gaming experience to an unprecedented level of goodness with lightning-fast actuation and precision.

Furthermore, I'll suggest the best keyboard with optical switches. So, don't miss out on that!

Are optical switches better?

Despite being significantly less popular than their mechanical counterparts, optical switches are a ready-to-go option for users of all levels, ranging from beginner typists to avid 24/7 game freaks.

The debate over which kind of keyboard switch is better is surely never-ending. However, when it comes to my personal preference, I am a tad bit inclined toward optical switches for gaming.

Optical switches are a good pick for all the reasons listed below:

1. Super-Fast Responsiveness:

Optical switches are way faster and more responsive than all other keyboard types. The reason is their light-based mechanism, which provides an almost instantaneous response time.

The change is so noticeable for all the keyboard enthusiasts that I would say shifting to optical keyboard switches is like leaving your old rusty gaming PC for the latest 60FPS 144 Hertz top-of-the-line gaming PC. 

2. Enhanced Durability

Optical switches are built to last. The absence of metal contacts that can degrade over time means they can withstand a significantly higher number of keystrokes without sacrificing performance.

This durability ensures that your keyboard remains reliable and consistent, even after prolonged and intense usage.

3. Consistent Performance

Optical keyboard switches provide consistency and uniformity in the keyboard structure. Each keystroke provides the same feeling, leading to greater muscle memory.

Moreover, this significantly reduces the possibility of every typist’s biggest nightmare: typos! 

4. Spill Resistance

Ever spilled coffee over your keyboard and then spent hours cleaning each key, still not being satisfied?

Worry not with optical key switches! Here, the absence of sensitive and open electrical circuitry or tiny mechanical parts reduces the chances of liquid damage substantially. 

5. Customizable Options

Optical switches provide amazing variety. They include but are not limited to clicky, tactile, and linear variants. All of them cater to each individual’s preference.

Whether you prefer a satisfying click, a tactile bump, or a smooth keystroke, optical switches have you covered to match your typing or gaming style.

Overall, optical keyboard switches provide you with a fine-tuned blend of speed, durability, comfort, and innovative future potential at your fingertips.

What does an optical switch do?

An optical keyboard switch is mainly composed of two components: an infrared (IR) light emitter and an IR light receiver. These components are positioned facing each other beneath the keycap. When the key is at rest, the IR light emitted by the light emitter is blocked by the keycap and does not reach the receiver.

When a key is pressed, the path of the infrared light beam within the switch is interrupted, allowing light to pass through the switch and the infrared light to reach the IR light receiver. Hence, signaling that a key is pressed.

What Does An Optical Switch Do?

The IR light receiver then informs the controller about this key press. It does that by generating an electrical pulse that signals which key was pressed.

The keyboard's controller translates the electrical signal received from the IR light receiver into the corresponding keystroke or command. The controller then sends this information to the computer or device it is connected to.

The mechanism of optical keyboard switches may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. However, the underlying framework is more or less the same.

Best Keyboard With Optical Switches

For all those seeking to shift to optical keyboard switches as a faster and more durable alternative, the Razer Huntsman V2 Optical Gaming Keyboard is the perfect find!

Razer, a brand that promises performance to all its users, is highly regarded among keyboard enthusiasts and gaming experts. Their boards have premium build quality, innovative design, and vast customization options.

Huntsman V2 Optical Keyboard

The Huntsman V2 Optical Gaming Keyboard comes geared up with the fastest clicky optical keyboard switches available, having a polling rate of up to 8000 Hertz for lower input latency.

best keyboard with optical switches

There are three different color variants available and two different sizes with different lengths of wrist rest. Furthermore, it has two optical switch variants available: clicky optical switches and linear optical switches.

Moreover, additional key features such as the double-shot PBT keycaps, multifunction digital dial, non-fading keys, ergonomic wrist rest, and sound dampening make this keyboard one of the most optimal and appreciated optical keyboards available.

What is the difference between analog and optical switches?

Analog and optical keyboard switches majorly differ in their approach to handling a key press. Analog switches are designed to provide variable input based on the amount of force applied to the key.

They measure the pressure or position of the key during a key press using infrared LEDs and some advanced sensors.

These switches work like a joystick. When you press a button lightly on a controller, the character moves slowly. And when you press it all the way, the character starts running.

The same is true with analog switches. They are also being labeled as the future of gaming keyboards.

Meanwhile, the optical keyboard switches, as mentioned above, use light to detect key presses. It provides its own set of benefits, such as lightning (pun intended hah!) fast speed, higher durability, and better spill resistance.

Psst! you might want to read my article on; What Are Analog Keyboards? 

What is the difference between optical switch and electrical switch?

Similar to all traditional keyboards, the electrical switches depend on physical contact between the metallic components of the key to register a stroke.

Optical switches use a completely different mechanism and use light to detect a key press without the need for any physical contact.

In electrical switches, when a key is pressed, the switch's metal contacts complete an electrical circuit and generate a signal that is sent to the keyboard's controller for keystroke registration.

Unlike optical switches, their electrical counterparts are highly prone to wear and degradation of performance over a few years due to the need for physical contact in their working mechanism.

Are optical switches smoother?

Optical keyboards are the perfect choice for all those keyboard lovers who prioritize a fluid and frictionless typing experience. Optical keyboards are smoother than mechanical keyboards because of the absence of physical contact.

Moreover, their linear actuation profile contributes massively to providing smoother actuation. The actuation force remains consistent throughout the pressing mechanism.

Optical keyboards also substantially minimize key wobbles (the lateral instability when a key is pressed), enhancing the overall typing experience for you. 

It should be noted that the specific designs and implementations of optical keyboards vary from brand to brand. As a result, different keyboards may differ in their typing feel and smoothness.

What are the best Optical Switches for Gaming? 

Gateron’s optical switches are widely considered one of the world’s fastest switches. Specifically, their red optical switch and brown optical switch are the ultimate perfect fit for gamers.

Gateron Red Optical Switches

The Red Optical Switch from Gateron has bump-less, smooth-feeling, and super-fast keys with a linear actuation force similar to Cherry MX Reds. They also make significantly less sound when used.

These features make them a great choice for competitive gaming. 

Gateron Brown Optical Switches

The Brown Optical Switches from Gateron are the ideal suggestion for all those gamers who love real-time tactile feedback. These keys require a medium pressing force of almost 55 grams and have a tactile bump.

They make a slightly more noticeable sound with their presses as compared to the red ones. They are optimal for all those who want to maintain a balance between typing and gaming. 

Are optical and mechanical switches the same?

No, optical switches use light to detect a key press, while mechanical keyboards rely on physical contact between mechanical components to register a keystroke.

Mechanical switches are known for their tactical feedback and satisfying click noise, while optical switches are preferred for faster actuation, higher responsiveness, and durability. 

How do you tell if a switch is optical or mechanical?

Do optical switches need lube?

No, Lubricating optical switches will yield no good; hence, it is never advised to lube optical switches.

Lubrication is performed on mechanical switches to reduce friction in mechanical parts. There aren't many mechanical components in optical switches. This means there's almost no resistance in the keys by default.

Tampering with the light-detecting functionality of optical switches can potentially be harmful to your optical keys. It can potentially damage the underlying sensors responsible for detecting key presses.

Are optical switches hot-swappable?

Are optical switches hot-swappable? Well, this is highly dependent upon the specific build, model, and manufacturer of the keyboard.

The Razer Huntsman V2 Optical Gaming Keyboard recommended in the article does provide the feature of hot-swappable keys. Besides, many other keyboards provide the same feature. 

are optical switches linear?

Yes and no, optical switches can be both linear and non-linear depending on their design and mechanism. Some optical switches feature an actuation point at the top of the stroke with no additional feedback beyond that point, making them non-linear by nature. On the other hand, some optical switches offer smooth keystrokes with no tactile bump or click sound whatsoever- making them indeed Linear!

Can you use optical switches on any PCB?

No 🙁 you guessed it right: optical switches cannot be used on any PCB. Why? because they require the PCB to be compatible with their innovative light detection mechanism.

Optical switches require dedicated openings or cutouts on the PCB to accommodate their infrared light emitter and receiver components.

This is the reason PCBs mostly support mechanical switches and not electronic ones.


Unlike traditional mechanical and electrical keyboards, switches are a great alternative, especially if you're a pro gamer. You'll appreciate the high speed, low actuation, and smooth keystrokes with low latency.

Although optical switches are extremely good for both gaming and typing, there are certain downsides to using them as well. Not all optical keyboards are hot-swappable, and you might need a dedicated PCB to use optical switches.

In the end, I'd say that, if you really want to optimize your keyboard experience, optical is definitely optimal for you. Go for it!

I cover more keyboard and switch reviews like this here on TheTechSetup. So, make sure to keep a check. 

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About the author 


Hussain is a self-taught "tech nerd" and has been tinkering with computers & keyboards since he was a kid. After working in the IT industry for a few years, he decided to start this blog as a way to share his knowledge with others.


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