Gateron switches generally feel better to type on and are more affordable than their Cherry MX counterparts. Combine that with a wider variety of switch types, and we feel that Gateron is the better choice for most mechanical keyboard hobbyists. However, those who demand consistency and longevity should still stick to Cherry MX.
Choosing switches for your mechanical keyboard isn’t just about deciding on the switch; you also have to decide on a brand. Do you go for the Cherry MX originals, or opt for products from a clone manufacturer like Gateron? While there’s no right or wrong here, several factors certainly give one of the brands an advantage in the Gateron vs. Cherry MX comparison.
This article will run through a handful of crucial comparison areas, such as typing feel and price, to help you decide which of the two brands to go for. Let’s get going.
Cherry AG is a German company, albeit with roots in the United States. It’s best known for its mechanical keyboards and Cherry MX line of mechanical keyboard switches. These made their debut in the mid-80s and were, for a time, the primary mechanical switch option in new mechanical keyboards.
Gateron is a trademark of Huizhou Gateron Electronics Technology Co., Ltd., a manufacturer based in Huizhou, China. The company is one of the most prominent Cherry MX clone manufacturers from the Far East and was one of the first to launch Cherry MX clones in the mid-2010s alongside Kailh and Outemu. The company also manufactures switches for several popular brands within the mechanical keyboard community, most notably ZealPC.
Switch Specs Compared
Both Gateron and Cherry make very similar switches. They share actuation types, weighting, and colors. How similar? Let’s compare the two brands and see how they stack up.
Let’s start with Cherry’s switches. If you’re unsure what these terms mean, head over to our guide to linear vs. tactile vs. clicky switches for a quick overview of the switch types, actuation force, and travel.
|Cherry MX Black||Linear||60 g||2.0 mm||4.0 mm|
|Cherry MX Brown||Tactile||55 g||2.0 mm||4.0 mm|
|Cherry MX Blue||Clicky||60 g||2.2 mm||4.0 mm|
|Cherry MX Red||Linear||45 g||2.0 mm||4.0 mm|
|Cherry MX Silent Red||Linear||45 g||1.9 mm||3.7 mm|
|Cherry MX Silent Black||Linear||60 g||1.9 mm||3.7 mm|
Now, let’s take a look at Gateron switches.
|Gateron Black||Linear||60 g||2.0 mm||4.0 mm|
|Gateron Brown||Tactile||55 g||2.0 mm||4.0 mm|
|Gateron Blue||Clicky||60 g||2.3 mm||4.0 mm|
|Gateron Red||Linear||45 g||2.0 mm||4.0 mm|
|Gateron Silent Red||Linear||45 g||2.0 mm||4.0 mm|
|Gateron Silent Black||Linear||60 g||2.0 mm||4.0 mm|
An apples-to-apples comparison shows that Gateron’s copied the basic Cherry MX specs down to a tee, with the only notable difference being the travel distances for the Gateron Silent Red and Silent Blacks. Otherwise, the two brands have identically-specced switches. Note that we limited ourselves to switch types that we can compare directly, which explains the absence of Cherry MX Speed Silvers and Gateron Yellows here.
That said, anyone who’s experimented with mechanical keyboard switches will tell you that specs only tell half of the story. Typing feel matters most, and so that’s where we’ll go next.
When it comes to linear switches, we feel that Gateron has a significant advantage over Cherry. We find Gateron linears generally smoother and more enjoyable to type and game on than standard Cherry linears.
For instance, when I compare Gateron Red vs. Cherry Red switches side-by-side, the latter feels scratchier and slightly less enjoyable to type on. The Gateron Reds are smoother and easier to press, despite having identical spring weight and actuation distance specs. This applies to most Gateron vs. Cherry linear switch comparisons, too; the Gaterons tend to feel better overall, no matter the switch.
That said, Cherry is fighting back with linears like the MX Black Hyperglides, which are noticeably smoother than standard MX Blacks. There’s also the new Cherry MX2A range of switches, which come factory-lubed. But the real cherry (so to speak) in the lineup is the Cherry MX Black Clear-Top, one of the best linears Cherry has ever made.
However, these Cherry switches are the exception rather than the rule. Gateron still holds the overall advantage here, as all its linears are reasonably smooth and good to type on out of the box. They’re not all amazing, but the baseline level is higher than Cherry’s. Gateron also makes a range of high-end linears like the Oil Kings and the Ink Blacks, which are as good as (if not better than) as Cherry’s best offerings.
The two brands are more closely matched for tactile and clicky switches. While we still think that Gateron has an advantage when comparing Gateron Brown vs. Cherry Brown (for example), the differences are more subtle. We’d be happy with either brand if we were shopping for Brown switches, which is more than we can say for linears.
However, one area where Cherry wins is in stem wobble. Stem wobble is the unwanted horizontal and vertical movement of the stem inside the housing due to component tolerances. All MX-style switches will have some wobble, but the basic Gateron switches have significantly more than Cherry MX switches.
We don’t think Gateron switches’ wobble affects typing feel significantly (if at all), but it is there. So if you’re concerned with wobble, go with Cherry MX. But for most users, we think that Gateron switches’ overall typing feel advantage makes up for the wobble.
On balance, we believe Gateron holds the edge here. Standard Gateron switches, especially the linears, are noticeably better than Cherry’s MX equivalents. The two brands are neck-and-neck at the high end, but Gateron has more options if you’re keen on ultra-smooth premium linears.
Tactile and clicky switches aren’t as clear-cut, however. For those switch types, the differences between Gateron and Cherry are minute enough that it’ll be more a matter of taste (or budget) than objectively better typing feel.
Gateron switches, especially linears, generally don’t sound quite as scratchy as Cherry MX switches. This gives them a slight advantage in our books, but it’s not a huge difference and becomes less noticeable once you start typing quickly.
Now, the Gateron Reds:
Note that the Gateron Reds I used here are the “milky” Reds with translucent white top and bottom housings. Other Gateron Reds, such as those with black housings, will sound slightly different due to the change in housing material.
Winner: It’s a Tie
Gateron and Cherry MX switches are broadly comparable sound-wise, as long as you compare identically-colored switches. You could argue that the reduced scratchiness of the Gateron Red (for example) makes it a slightly quieter switch, but it’s not a huge enough difference to my ears.
However, it’s nowhere near as silent as a proper quiet mechanical switch. So, if you want a quiet switch, stop splitting hairs comparing Cherry and Gateron switches; instead, get a silent switch like the Cherry MX Silent Red.
Gateron switches tend to be more affordable than Cherry’s offerings, although that very much depends on where you buy your Cherry switches from. Let’s compare Gateron Blue vs. Cherry Blue pricing to show you what we mean.
You can buy a 10-pack of Gateron Blues on Amazon for around $10, while you’ll pay $13 for the same amount of original Cherry MX Blues. The price difference climbs further if you buy in bulk. For example, 65 Cherry MX Blue RGB switches will set you back around $45, while the same amount of Gateron Blues will only cost you around $25.
Similarly, you can buy 65 Cherry MX Reds for around $40 or pay only $25 for 65 Gateron Reds. The Gateron Reds will also be smoother to type on and have transparent housings perfect for RGB lighting, making them a much better deal overall.
However, if you’re in the US, you can buy affordable Cherry MX switches from MechanicalKeyboards.com. For example, MK.com sells a 10-pack of PCB-mount (i.e., 5-pin) Cherry MX Blues for around $4. That generally equals the price of Gateron Blues on Amazon, and you can get free shipping if you’re in the Lower 48 and don’t mind slower economy shipping.
Unfortunately, shipping costs mean MK.com’s competitive pricing only applies to US residents. Europeans and Asians will likely find that Gateron switches are much cheaper than Cherry MX, making them a better-value option.
Mainstream Gateron switches are generally more affordable than their Cherry inspirations, with the price gap increasing once you start buying in bulk. If you’re looking for a good deal on mechanical keyboard switches, then Gateron is the way to go.
Of course, the lower pricing isn’t without its caveats. We’ve mentioned the switch wobble issue earlier, but durability and build quality are also concerns. Let’s discuss those next.
Durability and Build Quality
Cherry switches’ primary advantage over Gateron (and most other clone manufacturers) is durability. Cherry claims a lifetime of “> 100 million actuations” for its mainline switches like the MX Red, MX Blue, and MX Brown.
In contrast, Gateron’s mainstream mechanical switches, like the Gateron Red and Gateron Yellow, are only rated for 50 million actuations. That’s still a lot of actuations, mind you, but Cherry has a clear advantage here.
Cherry also has the upper hand over Gateron regarding overall build quality. Cherry switches tend to be more consistent than Gateron switches, especially at the lower end of the price bracket. Gateron switches can sometimes have inconsistent lubing, smoothness, or spring noise, which can get annoying. On the other hand, a bag of Cherry MX switches will tend to all feel and sound similar.
Cherry MX switches are some of the most durable mechanical switches on the market and, on paper, last longer than their cheaper Gateron rivals. They’re also better built, with better switch-to-switch consistency.
While we don’t think durability matters that much for the average mechanical keyboard user, Cherry’s consistency advantage will be valuable for certain users. If you’re picky or sensitive, Cherry MX switches will likely be the safer bet for populating a keyboard, even if they may not be quite as smooth as Gateron’s offerings.
Cherry’s switch lineup has remained the same for years, with the MX Blue, MX Brown, MX Red, and MX Black being the mainstays of the company’s offerings. It’s expanded its horizons with offerings like the short-travel MX Speed Silver and enthusiast-styled offerings like the MX Ergo Clear and MX Black Clear-Top. However, there still isn’t that much variety here.
In contrast, Gateron makes a bewildering number of switches, from mainstream Cherry switch equivalents to high-grade enthusiast options. One of our favorites from the former is the Gateron Yellow, which sits halfway between the ultra-light Reds and the Blacks. It’s an excellent switch with great weighting that has no Cherry equivalent.
One downside is that Gateron has multiple versions of its basic switches, usually with different combinations for top and bottom housings. The Gateron Yellow, for example, comes with transparent tops and black bottoms (the Gateron Yellow KS-8), milky top and bottom housings (Yellow KS-3), or milky top and black bottoms (Yellow KS-3-X47). There’s also the Gateron G Pro 3.0 Yellow, an excellent linear switch worthy of anyone’s consideration.
They’re all fundamentally the same switch, but the different housing materials lead to subtle differences in sound and bottom-out feel. They’re all great, but choosing one can be confusing if you’re new to the hobby.
Beyond that, there are also more niche options like the smooth Gateron Ink linear switches, the Gateron Kangaroo tactile switches, or optical switches like the Optical Red. Compare that to Cherry’s lineup, which only really offers a couple of high-end enthusiast options, and we think you’ll agree that Gateron switches offer something for everyone, regardless of your preference for weighting, tactility, or budget.
Gateron matches the mainline Cherry switches but goes further into more enthusiast and niche territories. It’s a boon if you’re bored of the same old standard switch options and want something different for your mechanical keyboard.
That said, Gateron’s lineup can be confusing if you’re new to the hobby, especially all the different versions of the same switch. Overall, though, the extra choice is a good thing. Even the most intimidated newbie will eventually learn to appreciate all that Gateron’s switch lineup offers.
Both Gateron and Cherry make good mechanical keyboard switches, and you can’t go wrong with products from either company. Still, we feel Gateron has usurped the original in vital areas such as typing feel and overall value.
That said, Cherry’s MX switches have a clear advantage in longevity, durability, and build quality. And with the aforementioned Cherry MX Black Clear-Top and new MX2A switch revisions, Cherry’s making a serious case for once again being an enthusiast-grade brand for mechanical switches. You can’t ever count Cherry out, even if it may have taken them years to catch up to the Cherry MX clones out there.
For most users, though, Gateron’s great variety, good pricing, and smoother linear switches make it the better brand overall.