The 7 Best Optical Switches in 2023

Written by Azzief Khaliq
Last updated Sep 17, 2023

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Best Optical Switches

Optical keyboard switches are taking the keyboard world by storm, offering better reliability and lower latency than their mechanical forebears. But with so many new opticals on the market, we won’t blame you for not knowing where to start. That’s where this list of the best optical switches can help.

Unfortunately, optical switches aren’t as interchangeable as mechanical switches. Some optical switches only work with certain hot-swap keyboards, while others are only available in specific non-hot-swap keyboards. But with that caveat out of the way, let’s get started.

Short on Time? The Best Optical Switches at a Glance
  • Best Linear Optical Switches: Gateron Optical Red switches are an all-rounder set of linears that follow the traditional Cherry MX Red template to a tee.
  • Best Linear Optical Switches for Gaming: Corsair OPX switches in keyboards like the Corsair K100 are ultra-fast, short-travel linears precision-designed for gaming.
  • Best Linear Optical Switches for Gaming Alternative: Gateron Optical Silvers are the closest you’ll get to Corsair OPX switches in hot-swappable form.
  • Best Tactile Optical Switches: Gateron Optical Browns have decent tactility and factory lubing for a good “mainstream” tactile experience.
  • Best Tactile Optical Switches for Gaming: Skyloong Optical Green switches are short-travel tactiles with an early tactile bump and smooth travel.
  • Best Clicky Optical Switches: Gateron Optical Blues translate the traditional Blue switch experience into optical realms.
  • Best Clicky Optical Switches for Gaming: Razer Clicky Opticals in boards like the Huntsman V2 Optical offer low-latency operation, short travel, and reasonably satisfying feedback.

Our Favorite Optical Switches

1. Gateron Optical Red

Best Linear Optical Switches

Actuation Force45 grams
Pre-travel Distance2.0 mm
Total Travel Distance4.0 mm

Optical switch makers often focus on ultra-short travel and fast response times with their linear switches, but what if you’re not keen on that? Well, the Gateron Optical Reds will be perfect for you. These switches are a faithful translation of the traditional Red experience, just with the reliability advantages of optical switches.

Gateron’s Optical Red is a 45-gram linear optical switch with 2.0 and 4.0 mm of pre- and total travel, respectively. This makes them a dead ringer for the classic Cherry MX Red. However, these Gateron Optical Reds are factory-lubed, so they’re much smoother than stock MX Reds. Combine that with the contactless design of optical switches, and you have a great “standard” gaming switch.

Gateron Optical Red

Source: Gateron

Of course, the standard travel distances also mean that these will work fine in a mixed-use keyboard. Forty-five grams is still too light for me to type on, but most users should find the Optical Reds a good all-rounder switch.

However, only the newer KS-22 Optical Reds are factory-lubed. Gateron still sells the older KS-15 versions, which don’t have any lube. The two versions are also not interchangeable, so you’ll have to choose based on compatibility; some boards will only take the KS-15 Gaterons, while others will only accept the KS-22s.

Compatibility headaches aside, the Gateron Optical Reds are a good all-rounder linear switch. They won’t be as fast as dedicated gaming optical switches, nor are they quite as fun to type on as a tactile or clicky option, but they’re definitely a safe choice.

2. Corsair OPX (Corsair K100)

Best Linear Optical Switches for Gaming

Actuation Force45 grams
Pre-travel Distance1.0 mm
Total Travel Distance3.2 mm

Corsair’s OPX switches take advantage of optical switches’ contactless design to create a laser-fast, ultra-responsive gaming experience beyond what mechanical switches can offer. With short travel and ultra-low latency, these are the switches for those who want to eke out every advantage possible when gaming.

The OPX switches are linear, with a lightweight 45-gram actuation force and 1.0-mm of pre-travel. These are super easy to press and actuate almost immediately, responding to even the briefest touch. These switches also reset the moment you release them, with no debounce delay to worry about.

Corsair OPX

Source: Corsair

The upshot? You can spam the OPX switches during heated gameplay moments without worry, safe in the knowledge that the keyboard will register each and every one of your inputs.

However, like many short-travel gaming switches, the OPX switches can be challenging to type on. Their ultra-fast response and 45-gram weighting mean that typos will regularly occur for all but the most careful or light-fingered typists. So if you want a switch for work and play, the Corsair OPX switches aren’t it. But if gaming is all you’re after, these will do the job brilliantly.

The Corsair OPX switches are only available in Corsair’s high-end gaming keyboards like the K100 and K60 Pro TKL. The former is a particularly impressive keyboard. It’s pricey, but worth the price if you want a full-featured and ultra-responsive gaming keyboard.

3. Gateron Optical Silver

Best Linear Optical Switches for Gaming Alternative

Actuation Force45 grams
Pre-travel Distance1.0 mm
Total Travel Distance3.2 mm

Gateron’s Optical Silver switches are light, ultra-short-travel optical switches perfect for gaming. If you don’t want to buy a whole Corsair keyboard just to get some excellent gaming switches, then these are your best bet.

The Optical Silver has a 45-gram actuation force and just 1.0 mm of pre-travel. Total travel is also significantly shorter than usual at 3.2 mm. The benefit is that you’ll activate the switch quicker and bottom out sooner, minimizing downtime and ensuring you won’t get bogged down when performing rapid inputs.

Gateron Optical Silver

Source: Gateron

Unfortunately, like the Corsair OPX, this design does make the Optical Silvers quite prone to typos. You can activate the switches just by resting your fingers on them, and the short 1.0-mm pre-travel makes it even worse. You’ll need to be a precise typist to use these for productivity.

Gateron makes two versions of the Optical Silver, the KS-22 and KS-15. The KS-15 versions don’t come factory-lubed, which makes the KS-22s more desirable if your keyboard supports them. But the KS-15s are also excellent and will do great.

Overall, Gateron’s Optical Silvers are the closest you’ll get to a high-end optical gaming switch in loose, hot-swappable form. Trying to eke out every possible advantage in a competitive shooter? Drop a set of these into your optical keyboard and see how it goes.

4. Gateron Optical Brown

Best Tactile Optical Switches

Actuation Force55 grams
Pre-travel Distance2.0 mm
Total Travel Distance4.0 mm

Gateron’s Optical Brown switches are a close match to their mechanical counterparts, offering decent tactility and a good typing feel at a wallet-friendly price. They won’t win any awards for responsiveness, but they’re a good choice if you want a reliable, fuss-free keyboard switch.

The Gateron Optical Browns have a 55-gram actuation force with a standard 2.0 mm of pre-travel. They have more tactility than standard Cherry MX Browns or Gateron Browns but maintain the “traditional” tactile profile of a bump in the middle of the key travel. So they’re great tactiles for those new to the hobby or who don’t like the ultra-aggressive tactility of many of the best tactile switches.

Gateron Optical Brown

Source: Gateron

Gateron sells two types of optical switches, the KS-22 and the KS-15. The KS-22 versions come pre-lubed from the factory, making them the best choice for most users. However, you will have to opt for the KS-15 if your hot-swap keyboard doesn’t support the newer switch.

Overall, Gateron’s Optical Browns are solid, no-nonsense tactile optical switches. They’re not very exciting, but they’re satisfying to type on and come in at a very affordable price.

5. Skyloong Optical Green

Best Tactile Optical Switches for Gaming

Actuation Force55 grams
Pre-travel Distance1.2 mm
Total Travel Distance3.5 mm

If you enjoy tactility but want a shorter-travel switch for gaming, Skyloong’s Optical Greens are worth a look. While they’re not as compatible as Gateron hot-swap options, these Skyloong opticals are great smooth switches that feel better than their budget-friendly pricing suggests.

The Skyloong Optical Greens are 55-gram switches with reduced pre- and total travel of 1.2 and 3.5 mm, respectively. They feel more similar to modern enthusiast tactiles than the Gateron Optical Browns, with a tactile event immediately after pressing the switch. But once you get past that bump, it’s a quick and smooth ride to the actuation point and eventual bottom-out.

Skyloong Optical Green

Source: Skyloong

It’s quite a hefty tactile bump, but not to the point where it should disrupt your gaming. That said, light-fingered typists should probably opt for a linear switch instead. It’s also worth noting that these Skyloong Optical switches will only work in Skyloong keyboards like the GK75 Optical (or other keyboards built on the same PCB). They won’t work in Gateron Optical-equipped keyboards, at least in our experience.

Overall, the Skyloong Optical Greens are an interesting combination of tactility and smooth, short travel. We think most gamers will be best off with a linear optical for gaming, but those who want something different have a great option here.

6. Gateron Optical Blue

Best Clicky Optical Switches

Actuation Force60 grams
Pre-travel Distance2.0 mm
Total Travel Distance4.0 mm

Gateron’s Optical Blue is the best option if you want a traditional clicky experience with the low latency and high endurance of optical switches. They’re perhaps not an ideal gaming switch, but those seeking to type up a storm should enjoy these.

The Gateron Optical Blues are weighted identically to the Cherry MX Blues, with a 60-gram actuation force. The travel distances are also standard at 2.0 and 4.0 mm, respectively. So these should feel similar, if not identical, to a standard clicky mechanical switch. If you like clickies, you’ll like these.

Gateron Optical Blue

Source: Gateron

Unfortunately, the similarities extend to the sound profile. While they don’t sound bad, these Gateron Optical Blues don’t sound nearly as satisfying as some of the best clicky switches out there. They’re slightly thin and weak, far removed from click-bar switches like the Kailh Box Jades.

Like the Optical Browns, Gateron makes two versions of the Optical Blue: the KS-22 and KS-15. However, Unlike Gateron’s other optical switches, the KS-22 Blues aren’t lubed, so you won’t miss out on a factory-lubed typing experience if you have to get the KS-15s.

Overall, Gateron’s Optical Blues are decent traditional clicky switches, albeit in optical form. If you like clickies, then you must consider these. There are better gaming options, but these will still do an OK job if buying a whole new keyboard for Razer opticals doesn’t appeal to you.

7. Razer Clicky Optical (Razer Huntsman V2 Optical)

Best Clicky Optical Switches for Gaming

Actuation Force45 grams
Pre-travel Distance1.5 mm
Total Travel Distance3.5 mm

Gaming-focused clicky switches may seem like an oxymoron, but Razer’s Clicky Optical switches show that they’re entirely valid. Their crisp click and extreme durability make them a great keyboard for those who want tactile and auditory feedback while they game.

Razer’s Clicky Optical switches have a purple stem with Razer’s signature “winged” stem and key stabilizer bar combination. While the result may look a bit odd, the upside is that these Clicky Optical switches are highly stable and will feel the same no matter where you press your keys. Whether you hit your keys in the center or on the sides, you’ll get the same crisp click and 45-gram actuation.

The Purples sound quite similar to Cherry MX Blues and other click jacket-based switches, so they’re nothing to shout about as far as sound goes. Not bad, but nothing amazing, either. They’ll do the job if you want some clickiness from your optical keyboard, but those focused on sound quality will want to stick to mechanical switches.

Razer Clicky Optical switch

Source: Razer

As with all gaming-focused optical switches, these Razer switches boast a rapid response time of 0.2 ms, with no debounce. This ensures that your inputs get to your PC near-instantly, which may give you the edge in ultra-heated gaming situations.

Razer Clicky Optical-equipped keyboards like the Razer Huntsman V2 Optical go a step further by adding an 8000-Hz polling rate option, which allows your system to take full advantage of the ultra-fast switches. Pushing such a high polling rate ensures that your keyboard sends data to your PC every 0.125 ms, near-instantly registering every input from your Razer Optical switches.

Overall, Razer’s Clicky Optical switches are the best option for a clicky optical keyboard switch. They sound great, have ultra-low latency, and the keyboards they come in are some of the best gaming ones on the market.

Before You Buy

Optical switches share many characteristics with mechanical switches, including the three switch types. So we won’t cover those here. Instead, head over to our linear vs. tactile vs. clicky switch comparison to learn more about switch types. But there is one area where opticals differ significantly from mechanical switches: compatibility.

Compatibility, or: Pay Attention to Your Keyboard’s PCB!

Unlike mechanical switches, optical hot-swap switches aren’t universally compatible. Where mechanical switches will work in almost every hot-swap mechanical keyboard (except for a tiny minority), optical switches are often limited to specific PCBs.

For example, Skyloong Optical switches only work in certain Skyloong GK keyboards. For example, the GK75 Optical we reviewed only takes Skyloong Optical switches. You can force Gateron KS-15 switches into the hot-swap sockets, but the keyboard won’t detect them.

Skyloong GK75 Optical Silver switches

Source: Voltcave

The same goes for Gateron Optical switches. The company makes two ranges of opticals, KS-15 and KS-22, and they’re not interchangeable. You’ll have to figure out which model works with your keyboard PCB before buying. Manufacturers generally indicate this clearly, either, so you’ll have to do some digging to be sure.

However, we can confirm that GK61-based optical keyboards like the HK Gaming GK61 require Gateron KS-15 switches. So go for those if you’re using one of these keyboards.

There’s also the issue that some of the best optical switches, like the Corsair OPX and Razer Optical Clicky switches, aren’t hot-swappable. You’ll need to buy an entire keyboard just to use them. This isn’t entirely a bad thing, but you’re certainly not as free to customize your experience as you are with mechanical switches.

Closing Thoughts

Optical switches have some real advantages over traditional mechanical switches, including extended reliability and lower latency. However, constraints such as limited compatibility and variety mean they still have some way to go to be on equal footing with mechanical switches.

That said, there are still some excellent options out there that should satisfy anyone curious about optical switches and their benefits. Gateron Optical Reds are a safe all-rounder linear option, although they can’t compete with the Gateron Optical Silver switches for pure gaming prowess. If you’re more of a typist, then Gateron Optical Browns are for you.

Unsure about optical switches and their benefits? Check out our comparison of optical vs. mechanical switches to get the low-down on both types.

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