If you’re a gamer, you’ve probably considered swapping to a “gaming” keyboard switch to help level up your game. While the jury’s out on how much gaming mechanical switches actually help, there’s no denying that certain characteristics set the best switches for gaming apart from the rest.
“Gaming switches” are incredibly subjective, but desirable criteria include relatively light actuation force and smooth operation. That said, we’ve also opted to include a tactile and clicky mechanical switch option as well, since some gamers may value tactile feedback over the fast response that linear mechanical switches offer. Let’s get started.
- Best Speed Switches for Gaming: Cherry MX Speed Silvers are short-travel speed demons that last forever.
- Best Speed Switches Alternative: Kailh Pro Burgundies sit in between speed and normal switches, offering a good middle ground.
- Best Linear Gaming Switches: Gateron Yellows are straightforward, affordable keyboard switches that perform surprisingly well for the price.
- Best Tactile Gaming Switches: Kailh Speed Coppers combine up-front tactility with a high actuation point for a unique gaming experience.
- Best Clicky Gaming Switches: Kailh Box Pinks have a satisfying, deep click and good tactility, perfect for avoiding accidental inputs.
Our Favorite Gaming Switches
A quick word on our picks: unlike typists, we believe that gamers often won’t need the absolute best of the best keyboard switches. This isn’t to say that switch quality isn’t important when gaming. Instead, it’s simply that it might not be worth spending $0.60 – $1.00 per switch (or more) on a high-end enthusiast switch if you’re building a gaming keyboard.
To that end, we’ve opted for relatively accessible products that you can buy from most of the reputable switch retailers operating now.
|Actuation Force||45 grams|
|Pre-travel Distance||1.2 mm|
|Total Travel Distance||3.4 mm|
Short-travel linear mechanical switches have slowly become the go-to switch for gamers due to their lower latency and fast response. If that’s what you’re after, Cherry’s MX Speed Silver is one of the best options out there, mainly due to its increased durability and overall usability.
As with other manufacturers, Cherry’s speed switch has significantly reduced pre- and total travel distances. For context, a standard Cherry MX Red has 2.0 mm and 4.0 mm of pre- and total travel, respectively, compared to the Speed Silver’s 1.2 mm and 3.4 mm. These switches activate faster and bottom out quicker, making them technically better for games where input speed matters.
The shorter travel and low actuation force make the Cherry MX Speed Silvers awkward to use for anything other than gaming, however, and they’re best used in a dedicated gaming mechanical keyboard. You can get used to typing on these, but you might as well get one of the best linear switches if you want a more balanced overall experience.
Cherry isn’t the only company making “speed” switches, but we’ve made the Speed Silvers our top pick due to its impressive durability. While many MX clone manufacturers have caught up to Cherry in terms of smoothness or overall switch quality, Cherry’s “more than 100 million actuations” lifespan for its switches is still unrivaled.
The Speed Silvers also have minimal stem wobble and feel stable even under rapid inputs, something which not all MX-style switches accomplish. Between the durability and low wobble, you get a gaming switch perfect for those who want to build a solid-feeling, long-lasting gaming board.
Overall, the Cherry MX Speed Silver switches are an excellent choice, provided you’re sure you want (or need) the low-latency and faster response of speed switches. If so, these are very likely the best gaming switches for you.
On a tighter budget? Cherry makes a slightly cheaper version with solid black housings. However, their solid housings mean that they won’t let any RGB through, making the translucent MX Speed Silvers the default choice for RGB-equipped mechanical keyboards.
|Actuation Force||50 grams|
|Pre-travel Distance||1.7 mm|
|Total Travel Distance||3.6 mm|
Kailh’s Pro Burgundy switches are a perfect halfway switch between standard and gaming mechanical keyboard switches. Their reduced travel offers some of the potential latency benefits of a gaming switch without totally sacrificing typing accuracy and feel. At the same time, the pricing is friendlier on the wallet than our top pick, making them a good value option too.
The Kailh Pro Burgundies have a relatively conservative (as far as “gaming” switches go) pre-travel of 1.7 mm, which puts them closer to the 2.0 mm of many standard switches. The total travel distance is also slightly higher than gaming switches but still relatively short at 3.6 mm.
These are smooth switches overall, with no major issues throughout the travel. The shortened travel distance is noticeable, but users tend to agree that these feel surprisingly close to standard mid-range linear switches. The 50-gram actuation force means that these generally feel better to type on than the ultralight speed options, too.
Whether this means they’re not as responsive as dedicated speed switches like our top pick is uncertain. We believe that most gamers likely won’t notice a huge difference, but those after the fastest possible switches regardless will want our top pick instead.
The main issue with the Kailh Pro Burgundies is their relatively poor stem wobble. They’re not unusable, but most units exhibit noticeable wobble in vertical and horizontal directions. This wobble won’t affect performance and key registration, but it may make the Pro Burgundies feel less solid than other options.
Overall, the Kailh Pro Burgundy switches are a solid gaming switch worth checking out. Their smooth operation, satisfying weight, and overall quality are impressive, especially since they’re available for less than $0.40/switch.
|Actuation Force||50 grams|
|Pre-travel Distance||2.0 mm|
|Total Travel Distance||4.0 mm|
Gateron’s Yellow switch is something of a modern classic, appearing in a ton of enthusiast mechanical keyboards across many price points. It’s not the outright best linear mechanical switch ever, but its combination of great price ($0.30/switch or less) and solid performance make it an excellent option for a gaming keyboard.
You can use any linear switch as a great gaming switch, even something as high-end as the Everglide Aqua Kings. However, many of the finer details that typists tend to obsess over often get lost in the middle of a heated match. So there’s little point paying for the Aqua Kings when the Gateron Yellow offers most of the smoothness and quality at a third of the price.
Unlike speed switches, the Gateron Yellows are perfect for work and play. The standard travel distance and 50-gram actuation make these a great multi-purpose switch; they’re light enough for gaming but aren’t so light as to make non-gaming use uncomfortable. Sure, it’s not as fast on paper as the Cherry MX Speed Silver, but the jury’s out on whether that matters for most gamers.
Gateron sells a few versions of its Yellow switch, most easily differentiated by the housings. The “Milky” ones we’ve linked seem to be the most popular, likely due to a combination of great sound and low price. But the KS-3-X47s with milky top and black bottom housings are usually slightly smoother, so those are an option if you’re OK with paying more per switch.
The main issue with Gateron’s cheaper switches is the amount of switch wobble. The Yellow stems wobble noticeably on the vertical and horizontal axes, which can feel slightly sloppy during fast-paced gaming. Applying switch films is a common mod many users do, as it significantly improves the overall feeling.
Gateron’s Yellows aren’t an exciting switch; they don’t have easy marketing bullet points like factory lubing or ultra-short travel. But they do a brilliant job of offering a smooth linear typing experience at home in either CS:GO or on Google Docs. The fact that they’re so affordable just makes them even better.
|Bottom-Out Force||40 grams|
|Pre-travel Distance||1.1 mm|
|Total Travel Distance||3.5 mm|
Kailh’s Speed Copper is a relatively unique switch, as it combines the short-travel design of a speed linear switch with the kind of tactile bump you’d find on a modern enthusiast switch. The result is a gaming tactile switch that you’ll either love or hate.
Like many of the best tactile switches, the Speed Coppers have an early tactile bump that happens near the start of the key travel. What sets these apart from most typing-centric tactiles, though, is that the actuation point is very close to the bump. It’s close enough that users say it feels like the Speed Coppers actuate during the bump itself.
Most tactile switches actuate very obviously after the bump, leading to missed keypresses in the heat of the moment. Not so the Speed Coppers; the tactile feedback confirms every input, ensuring you never miss a beat. Provided you can get used to the early tactile bump, that is.
As with many speed-focused mechanical switches, these may not be all that suitable for typing. The combination of tactility and higher actuation point is somewhat hard to get used to, especially if you’re used to the later actuation of other switches. We wouldn’t recommend these for a mixed-use mechanical keyboard.
While the Kailh Speed Coppers are acceptably smooth out of the box, they definitely benefit from lube and switch films. The increased smoothness and stability will help in game, and it’s worth pursuing if you’re looking for create the best tactile mechanical switches for gaming.
And that’s really the main use case of these Kailh Speed Coppers. They’re not something we’d recommend for general use, but those able (or willing) to build a dedicated gaming mechanical keyboard will find a lot to like here.
|Actuation Force||55 grams|
|Pre-travel Distance||1.8 mm|
|Total Travel Distance||3.6 mm|
Not every gamer needs blazing-fast inputs. Some genres prioritize accuracy, punishing accidental keypresses with wasted resources or unforeseen downtime. In those situations, you may prefer heavier clicky switches that offer auditory and tactile feedback. Enter the Kailh Box Pink.
The Box Pink is one of Kailh’s well-loved range of Box clicky switches. These are recognizable by their boxy stem, which looks cool and offers IP56 water- and dust-proofing. The clicky Box switches are also unique because they use a different click mechanism to the one you may be familiar with from the Cherry MX Blue.
Kailh’s clicky Box switches use a horizontal click bar inside to provide the tactile feedback and audible click they’re known for. The click bar makes Box clickies much more tactile than MX Blues, with a deeper, more pleasing sound that many users enjoy. And, as a bonus, the deeper click doesn’t intrude on voice chat nearly as much. While they’re still loud, your teammates likely won’t find your Box Pinks quite as annoying as MX Blue.
The Box Pinks have a lower actuation force than the MX Blues at 55 grams vs. the latter’s 60 grams, but the increased tactility means you’re less likely to actuate a key accidentally. Of course, it also means that you’ll encounter more resistance when pressing a key, which may not always be beneficial.
Unlike MX Blues, the Box Pinks also “reset” very quickly. The shorter pre- and total travel mean they return to a non-activated state much quicker, so quick double-taps may be easier than with the MX Blues. While we’d never recommend a clicky switch for fast-paced competitive gaming, this quicker rest may just make these viable for such games. At least, if you can get used to the weighting and tactility.
Overall, the Kailh Box Pinks are a strong option if you like gaming on clicky switches. They won’t be for everyone (or for every game), but gamers seeking precision and solid feedback over fast inputs will appreciate what these can offer.
Before You Buy
We’ve covered most of the crucial switch-related buying issues in other guides (such as our list of the best linear switches), so we won’t repeat them here. So let’s focus on whether gaming switches are right for you, with a short section about switch wobble afterward.
“Gaming” Switches and You
As we alluded to at the start, “gaming” switches are a problematic category simply because the criteria are so subjective. For instance, common knowledge states that linear switches are the best options for gaming. However, I’ve been gaming on a 55-gram Topre Realforce for the past few years and really like it.
Are heavy Topre switches slower than a speedy short-travel linear mechanical switch? On paper, definitely. But are they holding me back? Am I even mechanically skilled enough to see an immediate and noticeable improvement by swapping to a mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX Speed Silvers? Probably not.
The issue with reduced-travel switches is that the real-world benefits aren’t always as obvious as the specs suggest. Not only does it rely on being skilled enough to benefit from the shorter travel, but it’s also up in the air whether the reduction in pre-travel distance matters all that much. Sure, a 0.8 mm reduction seems huge, but how crucial is it when switch activation feels almost instantaneous anyway?
Of course, you may firmly believe that you game better with short-travel switches or that a board with MX Silvers is precisely what you need to improve your game. That’s fine; it’s why we included two shorter-travel linears on our list. They’re worth a try, especially if you’re a high-level competitive gamer. Just drop a set into a hot-swap keyboard and see whether they work for you.
For most casual or mid-tier gamers, however, I’d suggest that the most important thing is how comfortable the switch is to use. Sure, linear switches are generally the most suitable mechanical switches for gaming, but nothing’s stopping you from using whatever you want. Clicky, tactile, or linear; if it works for you, it’s a good gaming switch.
“Wobble” refers to the unintended (and undesirable) horizontal and vertical movement of a switch’s stem within the housing. This usually doesn’t stop MX-style switches, so it’s not a catastrophic issue. However, it can make a switch feel less solid and imprecise to press, especially if you’re the type that hits keycaps on the edges.
You can measure switch wobble relatively objectively, but how much it matters is wholly subjective. I’m personally not too picky about it, but I know people who are. So it’s worth pointing out to cover all bases.
Trying to pick out the best keyboard switches for gaming is a difficult task, made even harder by how subjective switch choices are in the first place. After all, one person’s dream ultra-responsive gaming switch is another person’s awkward, mistake-inducing nightmare.
Cherry’s MX Speed Silver is the switch for you if you want a speedy, fast-response switch. It’s smooth, durable, and will hold up to thousands of hours of gaming. But if you’re after a more balanced option, the classic (and very affordable) Gateron Yellows are likely the best choice.
All the best!