Understanding The Optical & Mechanical Switches: Mechanical Switch Guide 2022

Mechanical Keyboards are developing at a rapid speed now. Every other day we see new launches with new and advanced technologies. One such technology is the “Optical Switches” which are now mostly featured in gaming mechanical keyboards. Optical Switches are basically a new kind of mechanical switch which works on the principle of infrared light. When a key is pressed and the switch is lowered, after a certain trigger point the light touches the sensor and registers the key press. This makes them faster and quicker in terms of key triggers. But which one of the two is actually better? Optical Switch or our standard mechanical switch?? We are here to answer this forever query once and for all, with this blog we will be sharing some knowledge to help you choose between mechanical and optical switches. So, without wasting any more time, Let’s begin.

Optical Vs Mechanical Switches-1

Types of Optical Switches:-

Similar to regular mechanical switches that are available in linear, clicky, and tactile actuation, an optical switch can also be designed with any of the three above-mentioned types. They can be designed for smooth linear, Crisp Clicky, and Soft Tactile actuation. But since most of the optical switches are usually designed for gaming keyboards, they are designed with linear trigger responses. They offer a smooth switch core movement with fast key triggering. Current Optical Switches can easily be called Optical Mechanical switches mainly due to their working mechanism. While both of them work differently but their mechanism is identical. Now, let’s discuss that part.

Optical Vs Mechanical Switches-2

Operating Mechanism For Both The Switches:-

While both the switches have identical working mechanisms, there’s a small difference between their working mechanism. And that’s what entirely makes Optical Switches different from mechanical ones. A mechanical switch works by the mechanical movement of its parts. You press a key, the stem goes down, it connects with a metallic PCB, and then it registers the keystroke. An optical switch works identically, they work on the process called light induction. You press a key, and the stem of the switch starts to go down, once it reaches a certain point(known as the trigger point/actuation point), instead of coming in contact with another metallic component, it blocks a beam of light, giving the infrared sensor information that this particular key has been pressed and hence registering the key press. Since an optical switch uses light induction technology to register keystrokes, these are quicker in response time and usually offer low delay. Optical Switches are faster than traditional mechanical switches, which makes them an ideal choice for gaming keyboards where you benefit from fast response time. For some switches, this is as low as 1ms and even less. Optical Switches still have mechanical components, they still have physical moving parts including springs, stems, etc. 

Optical Vs Mechanical Switches-3

Now that we have understood the working mechanism for both switches, let’s check the main points of the benefit of Optical Switches over Mechanical Switches.

Pros of Optical Switches Over Mechanical Switches:-

Quicker Response:-

With Light Induction triggering technique, Optical Switches are quicker in response than traditional mechanical switches. For esports, professional, and casual gaming scenes, Optical Switches brings faster response keeping you ahead in your game.

Better Durability/Lifespan:-

Since there are less number of metal parts continuously grinding together upon every keypress, optical switches offer better durability compared to mechanical switches. Most of the mechanical switches in the market have a lifespan of 50-80 million keystrokes, Optical switches bring a better lifespan of 100 million keystrokes.

Smoother Typing:-

With less mechanical movement during keystrokes, an Optical switch brings a better, smoother typing experience for the users. Typing on the Optical switches is usually a tad bit louder than on the traditional mechanical switches, but it is smoother and offers easy typing.

Pros of Mechanical Switches Over Optical Switches:-

Better Typing Feel:-

If typing feel is your primary concern, nothing beats the amazing mechanical feel of a mechanical switch. These are satisfying to type on and also offer better feedback in comparison to optical switches.

Variety Of Options:-

Mechanical switches are available in a wide variety of options. There are multiple brands making different types of mechanical switches with different types of materials, different configurations, etc. When we go into the market for a mechanical switch, we get flooded with options available at different price points. Optical Switches have fewer options in comparison.

Easier to Mod:-

Mechanical Switches are easier to mod. There are countless guides, and resources available online that one can use to improve the feel of their switches. But since Optical Switches are fairly new in the market, there are not many guides or resources available for them. They can still be modded to improve the feel, but Mechanical Switches offer better and countless more options to mod.

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Finding your perfect switch is not an easy decision. Both the Optical and Mechanical Switches offer something or the other. On one hand, Optical Switches bring faster trigger response with better durability, Mechanical Switches on the other have a better typing feel and easy modding. In the end, it comes completely to you what you want from your next keyboard/switch. If you are working on a gaming keyboard, Optical Switches should be the primary choice, but if you need anything for typing or other regular usages, Mechanical Switches offer amazing performance.

 Well, that’s about the Optical and Mechanical Switches from our side. We hope you will be able to understand them better now and make your purchase decisions easier. Check out our library of Mechanical and Optical switches here. For anything else, feel free to write to us at Support@Mechkeys.com.

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