Red and Brown switches are two of the most popular mechanical keyboard switch types, but how do you choose between the two if you’ve never tried either before? While nothing beats first-hand experience, our comparison of typing feel, sound, and price should help steer you in the right direction. Let’s get going.
Red vs. Brown Switches: Specifications
We’ll focus on Cherry MX Red vs. MX Brown switches for our comparison, as they’re the defining examples of both switch types. While the weighting differs slightly between Cherry MX switches and some clone manufacturers, the basic traits are the same: Reds are linear, while Browns are lightly tactile.
Thus, our points here will apply to other brands, too. So they’ll still be relevant even if you compare Gateron Red vs. Brown (for example).
Here’s a table showing the specs for Red and Brown switches from several manufacturers:
|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||2.0 mm||4.0 mm|
|Cherry MX Brown||Tactile||55 g||2.0 mm||4.0 mm|
|Gateron Brown||Tactile||55 g||2.0 mm||4.0 mm|
|Outemu Brown||Tactile||50 g||2.0 mm||4.0 mm|
|Kailh Brown||Tactile||50 g||2.0 mm||4.0 mm|
As you can see, Gateron makes the closest copies of the Cherry MX Red and Cherry MX Brown switches, right down to the actuation force. Outemu and Kailh vary the actuation force slightly, although the minor 5-gram differences mean that the switches should still feel roughly the same.
Unfamiliar with terms like actuation or travel? Check out our guide to linear vs. tactile vs. clicky switches for some quick explanations of several important mechanical switch concepts.
Red vs. Brown Switches: Typing Feel
Red switches are linear switches, which means the stem moves smoothly from start to finish without any bumps or interruptions. This smooth, consistent movement makes Reds the preferred switch for many gamers. Combine that with the 45-gram weighting, and Reds are perfect for fast-paced games that require rapid inputs.
Reds are reasonable to type on, too, but the lack of tactile feedback makes them feel uninspiring to use for productivity tasks. The light weight also makes it easier to press keys accidentally, leading to more typos and mistakes. So you’ll probably need time to get used to Red switches if you’re coming from a standard membrane keyboard.
Brown switches are tactile switches, meaning there’s a slight bump when the switch activates. Some users find this tactile bump satisfying, especially for typing and office work. But the Browns are also good for gaming, as the tactility isn’t very pronounced. While there is a bump, it’s not a huge one. So you’ll still be able to frag hard without getting caught up in a tactile bump halfway through pressing your keys.
Some Brown mechanical switches (like the Cherry MX Brown and Gateron Browns) require slightly more force to type on than their Red counterparts like the Cherry MX Red switches. It’s a more neutral weighting that will likely feel familiar if you’re used to membrane keyboards. The extra force helps reduce accidental key presses, but very light-fingered typists may find Brown switches less comfortable than Red ones.
Overall, Red and Brown switches are too different to compare directly. Your choice will depend on what you want from a mechanical keyboard switch. If you want a great gaming switch, you’ll want a Red switch like the Cherry MX Red or Gateron Red. However, if you plan to do a bit of typing and gaming, the more versatile Cherry MX Brown or Gateron Brown will be a safer, more rounded choice.
Red vs. Brown Switches: Sound
Red and Brown switches sound similar but have subtle differences that will likely lead you to prefer one over the other. Based on my testing, Cherry MX Red switches have a sharp “clacky” sound, while Cherry MX Brown switches have a lower-pitched and slightly more muted sound.
The Cherry MX Browns I have also sound scratchier than the Cherry MX Reds, likely due to the tactile bump. This makes them sound less pleasant than the Cherry MX Red to my ears. But this is my subjective opinion, and you may feel otherwise. It’s a minor difference, anyway.
I recorded a couple of audio clips to give you an idea of the sound differences. I installed both switches in my Skyloong GK61 and recorded them with an Audio Technica AT2020. First up, the Cherry MX Reds:
And here are the Cherry MX Browns:
As with so many switch comparisons, sound quality is entirely up to personal preference. And with so many other variables that can affect the sound (such as the plate, case, and keycaps), the only way to know for certain is to try both in your keyboard.
Red vs. Brown Switches: Price
Thankfully, price won’t be an issue here. Red and Brown switches cost the same, so you can freely choose without worrying about your budget. Of course, pricing will differ between manufacturers, but Reds and Browns from the same company will have identical prices.
It’s much the same story for Gateron switches. You can get 120 Gateron Reds and Gateron Browns for about $40 on Amazon. Incidentally, this makes Gateron switches a better deal if you’re dead-set on only buying from Amazon. Head over to our Gateron vs. Cherry comparison to see how the two brands stack up in other areas.
The two switches will cost you the same amount of money, provided you’re comparing Reds and Browns from the same manufacturer. So don’t worry about price; choose based on other factors such as typing feel or sound.
Red and Brown switches are mainstays of the mechanical keyboard hobby and most users’ first encounter with mechanical keyboard switches. They’re both solid switches, no matter who makes them, and we think you’ll be happy with either. However, Red switches are slightly preferable for gaming, while Browns will suit mixed-use and typing keyboards more.
The best thing about switches is that it’s all down to personal preference and what you feel most comfortable with. Want to write your thesis on Red switches? Nothing wrong with that. Planning to hit Global Elite in CS:GO with Browns in your keyboard? Be our guest!
Have you made your decision? Head over to our list of best places to buy keyboard switches to grab a bunch of Reds or Browns.