Blue and Red switches are worlds apart in terms of typing feel and sound, catering to two entirely different audiences. Blues are clicky and preferred by typists, whereas Reds are smooth and loved by gamers.
That said, they’re both versatile switches that you could conceivably use for gaming and typing. So how do you choose between the two? That’s what our comparison will help you with.
Blue vs. Red Switches: Specifications
|Cherry MX Blue||Clicky||60 g||2.2 mm||4.0 mm|
|Gateron Blue||Clicky||60 g||2.3 mm||4.0 mm|
|Outemu Blue||Clicky||60 g||2.2 mm||4.0 mm|
|Kailh Blue||Clicky||50 g||1.9 mm||4.0 mm|
|Cherry MX Red||Linear||45 g||2.0 mm||4.0 mm|
|Gateron Red||Linear||45 g||2.0 mm||4.0 mm|
|Outemu Red||Linear||50 g||2.0 mm||4.0 mm|
|Kailh Red||Linear||50 g||1.9 mm||4.0 mm|
The two most common Blue and Red mechanical keyboard switches are the Cherry MX Blue and MX Red, so we’ll focus on them for our comparisons below. However, there are a plethora of Blue and Red clones from manufacturers such as Gateron, Outemu, and Kailh.
These clones are largely similar to their Cherry counterparts, but have subtle differences in weighting and travel distances.
On paper, Blue switches are generally heavier and have longer pre-travel distances than Red switches. But the specs don’t explain the biggest difference, which is how the switches feel to type on. Blues offer a tactile bump with an audible click, whereas Reds are smooth and linear.
Unsure what terms such as “actuation” or “pre-travel distance” mean? Take a look at our article on linear vs. tactile vs. clicky switches for a quick overview.
Blue vs. Red Switches: Typing Feel
The Cherry MX Blue is a clicky switch that offers a typing experience with tactile and audible feedback. There’s a crisp click during the switch’s travel and a slight tactile bump on the downstroke. This creates a lot of assurance with each key press, which is why typists love them.
As with many clicky switches, the click in an MX Blue comes from a click jacket, a plastic sleeve surrounding the stem. The jacket moves along with the stem when you press on an MX Blue, rattling as it moves past the leaf spring before contacting the bottom housing.
Blues are also considered tactile switches due to the feeling of a “bump” during the downstroke. This comes from the shape of the click jacket and its “prongs”. These prongs move over the leaf spring and provide tactile feedback on key presses, which is somewhat similar to a Cherry MX Brown switch. The tactile bump in a Blue switch happens alongside the click, offering a lot of feedback for each key press.
The tactile and auditory feedback makes Blue switches a fantastic choice for typing because each key feels and sounds great. However, Blues can feel a little inconsistent when you’re gaming. The longer actuation distance can make them feel a bit less responsive, and the heavier weighting could cause unnecessary fatigue during a long session.
Cherry MX Red switches sit at the opposite end of the spectrum, lacking the clickiness and tactility of an MX Blue. These linear switches offer minimal resistance outside of the spring inside the housing. They’re typically designed with lighter weighting, resulting in a smoother and quieter experience.
Typing with Reds can feel a bit strange at first because there’s no tangible feedback from the keys. The only audible response is from the switch bottoming out and the keycap colliding with the housing. In some cases, you might feel a slight scratchiness from Red switches due to the stem sliding up and down the switch housing.
Since you’re relying solely on the sound of the keyboard to give you feedback, it can feel less satisfying than Blue switches. However, it does have the advantage of being quieter and thus more suitable for an office or school environment.
This quiet and smooth operation is what makes Reds a popular gaming switch. Their light weighting and shorter actuation distance compared to blues makes them feel more responsive. The lack of a tactile bump also provides a smooth and consistent feel, making them suitable for fast key presses.
In general, we’d recommend Red switches for gamers and Blue switches for typists given their distinct characteristics. However, they’re not exclusive to those use cases, so there’s no harm in testing them both to see which you prefer.
Blue vs. Red Switches: Sound
Cherry MX Blue and MX Red switches offer vastly different sound profiles. Blues have a high-pitched click that comes from the click jacket. While pressing an individual Blue switch makes a satisfying sound, typing or gaming will create a mix of clicks and clacks at different pitches. It’s the stereotypical Blue switch sound profile that people look for.
Red switches only produce sound when they bottom out. It’s an audible sound, but isn’t nearly as loud as Blue switches. You may also notice a slight scratchy noise from the stem moving within the housing. This is common with Cherry Reds in particular, but you can fix this by lubing the switches.
First, the Cherry MX Blue switches:
Then, the Cherry MX Red switches:
Blue and Red switches offer vastly different sound profiles, making it a case of personal preference. It comes down to whether you want a quiet switch or a clicky one.
Blue vs. Red Switches: Price
Cherry MX Blues and Cherry MX Reds are affordable at around $0.40 per switch, although pricing will differ depending on retailer. Amazon and AliExpress are great options for buying in bulk, but you can also get them from specialist retailers such as MechanicalKeyboards.com.
MechanicalKeyboards.com is a great option if you’re in the Lower 48 as they offer free economy shipping in the US. MX Blues and MX Reds start at $4 for 10, with bulk discounts starting from 70 pieces.
Cherry also sells clear versions of MX Reds and MX Blues. These clear housings will let your keyboard’s RGB lighting through, so they’re a great option if you have an RGB keyboard. Thankfully, you don’t have to pay more for this option.
If you’re looking to buy clone switches such as Gateron, Outemu, and Kailh, you had best do a lot of shopping around. For example, MechanicalKeyboards.com sells Gateron Red switches for $0.85 per switch.
In contrast, you can get Gateron Reds from Amazon sellers for roughly $0.29 apiece, provided you buy 120. As such, it’s a good idea to do some research and look at different retailers to get the best deal.
Blues and Reds are very different switches, so choosing between the two really comes down to what you value in a switch. Reds offer a quieter and more responsive experience, and their smooth travel makes them fantastic for gaming. On the other hand, Blues offer tangible and audible feedback on each key press, making them excellent for typing.
We highly recommend that you try both of these switches to get an idea of their sound profile and feel, especially if you’re new to mechanical keyboards. If you’re ready to buy, check out our list of places to buy mechanical switches to help you find the best deals.