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9 minutes

Linear Switches Aren't All the Same!

This short blog post by Theremingoat discusses the differences between linear switches and provides research to highlight what to look for in each of them!

Husky Linear SwitchesHusky Linear Switches

Husky Linear Switches

No, I'm not just talking about their colors either!No, I'm not just talking about their colors either!

No, I'm not just talking about their colors either!

Throughout my many years of being a part of the mechanical keyboard hobby, I’ve witnessed the same anecdotes, stories, and pieces of advice about switches be handed down countless times over. Chief among these pieces of wisdom is a warning to all newcomers to the hobby not to get so caught up in the nuances of buying linear switches because “all linear switches are basically the same.” It’s been repeated so many countless times over the years that it still gets perpetuated to this day and even was used in a meme on r/mechanicalkeyboards just a few short days before I sat down to write this article in 2024. Even as switches have continued to differentiate themselves and fill unique niches that we would have never thought were accessible years ago, there are always people who claim hundreds of different, interesting switches out there could all just be boiled down to a single offering. To be as blunt as possible – there’s no reason we should still be parroting this as a community. Cherry MX Blacks are clearly different than Kinetic Labs’ Husky Linear Switches.

Tealios aren’t the same as Novelkeys Creams, either. While that may seem pretty obvious to some of you who know at least a little bit about switches, the differences I’m talking about go much deeper than you’re thinking. Those claims of differentiation aren’t just based on the housing materials, their springs, and their sound too. As I’ve dug deeper and deeper into linears, myself, there’s actually two things that are hardly ever talked about that can be used to divide up the spectrum of linear switches out there and I intend to walk you through them here today. Here’s the real two biggest reasons that not all linear switches are the same:

Force curve comparison between Kinetic Labs Gecko and Kailh Pro Midnight Grey switches.Force curve comparison between Kinetic Labs Gecko and Kailh Pro Midnight Grey switches.

Force curve comparison between Kinetic Labs Gecko and Kailh Pro Midnight Grey switches.

Bottom Outs

Those out there who repeatedly claim all linear switches are basically the same as each other are usually doing so from the point of considering linear switches as ones that just go straight down when pushed in and come straight back up when released. There are no tactile bumps, clicking noises, or anything else that helps make them “different” enough. However, these people rarely stop to think that not every linear switch goes straight down to the same degree. I’m not just talking about the differences between springs, either, as the physical designs of some stems and bottom housings cause them to contact sooner when pressed in than other switches. If, for example, you had a stem that was really long and bottom housing that was really shallow, they might collide and reach the bottoming out of keystroke at way less than the traditional 4.00 mm travel distance that an MX-style switch will go. On the flip side, if you had a really short stem and a really deep housing, the switch may even be able to be pressed in further than 4.00 mm!

A more concrete example of this can be seen in the force curves comparing the Kinetic Labs Gecko Silent Linear Switches and Kailh Pro Midnight Grey Silent Linear Switches just above this paragraph. The stems of the Gecko switches are just a bit longer than the Midnight Greys, which causes them to reach the point of bottoming out at just around 3.40 mm of total stem travel whereas the Midnight Greys go all the way out to about 4.00 mm. That is not to say that the differences stop there either! Because of the fact that the Gecko switches have slightly longer stems than the Midnight Greys, they contact their housings with a different amount of surface area between the stem and housing which can drastically change the feeling of bottoming out on top of housing material differences mentioned above. If you wanted to get even crazier with it, you could also toss in some “progressive” springs that make the bottoming outs not as harsh and abrupt as well!

Force curve comparison between Kinetic Labs Gecko and Haimu Heartbeat switches.Force curve comparison between Kinetic Labs Gecko and Haimu Heartbeat switches.

Force curve comparison between Kinetic Labs Gecko and Haimu Heartbeat switches.


Alright, I’ll cave in and admit that this difference between linear switches is a little bit more of an exotic one. Let’s go ahead and just straight to the force curve comparison between Kinetic Labs’ Gecko and Haimu’s Heartbeat switches above. While you probably already notice that there are some differences in spring weight and, hopefully, bottoming out distances as well, if you read the last paragraph, go ahead and look at the differences in the slopes of the downstroke curves on the right side. The Heartbeat switches increase force so much more rapidly than the Gecko switches that they actually pass by the Geckos halfway into their downstroke and are heavier than the Geckos in the bottom half of their downstroke. Breaking this out a little bit further, I’m sure you could probably already put together that I’m pointing to the fact that not all linear switches are linear in the same fashion. While it is mostly true that all linears “just go straight up and down”, the rate of force increases differently between different linears and thus causes some to feel heavier more rapidly than others.

Even though some of this can certainly be chalked up to the springs used in each linear switch, there’s pretty good reason to suspect that the physical structures of the stems and housings also affect this rate of increase as well. However, “steepness” or differences in how the rate of force is applied in different linear switches is a topic that has basically never been discussed outside of my article “On Differences in Linear Switches” on my own website. While I have no real way to suggest that you implement this metric into your shopping habits when you’re seeking out your next set of switches, I would highly suggest that you at least keep it in the back of your mind when thinking about linear switches. After all, this is one of the big things that helps differentiate things like Cherry linears from other brands, as Cherry often has ‘steeper’ springs than most other modern switch manufacturers…

Ultimately, I doubt that this article will turn the tides against the misinformed anecdotes about linear switches being pushed out there to this day. Honestly, I don’t even think that it will save you from getting downvoted on r/mechanicalkeyboards either if you point out to other people that linear switches are quite different from each other when you just look a bit closer. However, I think that these are incredibly important and interesting points around which we can learn to both discuss and appreciate linear switches in our journey deeper into the hobby. Maybe this will even help you figure out which linear switches you like more than others – be them steeper and with shorter travel distance, or flatter and with longer stem travel. In the event you’re looking for some other things to help you learn a bit more about switches, consider checking out my other articles here on Kinetic Labs about ‘How Long Do Keyboard Switches Actually Last?’ or ‘An Introductory Guide to Keyboard Switch Springs’!