For those considering using mechanical keyboards for their computer setup, whether it’s for gaming, work or whatever else, there are three different types of keys that you need to consider: Linear, tactile, and clicky keys. This article will go over the best linear switches, or keys, currently on the market.

We’ll do a quick review of what exactly are linear switches before jumping into the best linear switches/ keys on the market today for your setup.

What Exactly Are Linear Switches?

Linear switches are one of the three types of switches you find in mechanical keyboards. Due to the way they are built, linear switches aim to provide the most silent and smooth keystrokes when compared to tactile or clicky switches.

Linear switches do not have bumps or any tactile feedback when you press them down. Due to this, you’ll experience a natural glide as you press the key down. They feel smooth and create minimal noise without that tactile feedback.

The reason gamers swear by linear switches over tactile or clicky keys is due to the fast actuation experience. Actuation refers to how much force you need to push down a key. Since there isn’t any feedback, nearly no effort is required to push down a linear key.

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What Are The Best Linear Switches?

Best Overall
Cherry MX Red

Cherry MX Red Linear Switches are the best linear switches on the market.

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If you’ve never researched about linear keys but have delved into gaming keyboards, chances are you may have run across the term “Cherry Keys” or “Cherry Red Keys”.

Cherry MX Red linear keys are the most popular keys in the market for good reason: they are considered the gold standard for linear switches.

If you are not sure what keys to purchase, then you cannot go wrong with the Cherry MX Red linear switches. With a standard actuation force of 45g and travel distance of 4mm, its a great starting place for beginners to try out linear switches. For experienced users, you’ll find the optimal mix of comfort and quality with Cherry MX Red.

If you prefer to add extra RGD to your keyboard setup, then Cherry offers a transparent version of these keys, called MX RGB, as well.


  • Actuation Force: 45g
  • Travel Distance: 4mm
  • Approx. Price per key: $1.30


  • Golden standard for the linear switch industry
  • Backed by the reliable Cherry brand


  • Expensive for some
  • Some customer feedback of poor manufacturing quality

Most Durable
Cherry MX Black

The Cherry MX Black linear switches are the most reliable and durable keys on the market.

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Following the golden standard of Cherry, their MX Black keys have been manufactured to optimize their overall durability in mind, lasting at least 100 million keystrokes. If you’re planning to stick with keys for a very long time, the Cherry MX Black is an excellent pick.

Due to the focus on durability, I recommend not using these keys if you are highly sensitive to delays in gaming as the actuation force is above average at 60g.

Due to the extreme popularity of these keys, you’ll find retooled variants of these keys. Older keys (pre 1994) are more popular due to being much smoother than modern versions.


  • Actuation Force: 60g
  • Travel Distance: 4mm
  • Approx. Price per key: $1.30


  • Extremely durable, will last longer than any other linear switch on this list
  • High quality build


  • Due to its popularity, it’s been retooled over the years
  • Difficult to find older, more popular and reliable models

Best for Gaming
Cherry MX Speed Silver

The Cherry MX Speed Silver are the most efficient linear switches mainly used for gaming.

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The Cherry MX Speed Silver is the fastest linear switch Cherry has developed in their MX lineup of switches. With a low resistance and short travel distance of 3.4mm, you’ll find the response time to your keystrokes much faster than nearly all its competitors.

If your focus is on optimized gaming with quick and precise switches, then the Cherry MX Speed Silver is the best pick for you.

While the keys are advertised to be much faster than its competitors, keep in mind these are simply minimal increments in speed. For those not gaming, or even gaming casually, you’ll find no improvements in overall speed. Worse yet, you may feel awkward typing with them due to their speed.

This is a tradeoff between getting those millisecond improvements in your games vs. overall comfort.


  • Actuation Force: 45g
  • Travel Distance: 3.4mm
  • Approx Price per key: $0.82


  • Crazy fast; great for those looking for the most optimized response times while gaming


  • Tradeoff: uncomfortable for many, especially for non-gaming purposes due to its speed

Great Overall
C3 Tangerine

The C3 Tangerine Linear Switches are a great alternative to the Cherry MX Red as the best linear switch on the market.

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The C3 Tangerine linear switches are advertised as having the most smooth keys in the market. Based on customer feedback, they have definitely backed up their claims. With having some of the most smoothest keystrokes for a linear switch, many people swear by these keys.

Due to its superior ‘smooth’ feeling, those who are looking for the best typing experience are highly recommended to stick with the C3 Tangerine linear switches.

Let’s be honest, most of us aren’t gamers competing for money. Unlike the Cherry MX Speed Silver, there is a lot of positive feedback around how great these keys feel outside of gaming. If you aren’t in the top 1% of gaming, chances are these keys are your best bet to achieving the best typing experience.


  • Actuation Force: 62g
  • Travel Distance: 4mm
  • Approx Price per key: $0.75


  • Smooth like butter; great for general typing outside of gaming
  • Pre-lubed very well


  • Quite loud for linear switches due to its unique popping sound when pressed

Best Budget
Gateron Yellow

For cost savings, the Gateron Yellow Linear Switches is a great alternative given its low price point.

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Gateron is well-known for having their entire linear switch line-up as beginner friendly. The Gateron Yellow is the best switch to start with if you are looking for a budget linear key without breaking the bank. While they have red and black linear switches, I recommend you stick with the yellow.

The yellow switch has an actuation force of 50g, a rather medium or middle-of-the-pack resistance that works great for those new to linear switches. From this experience, you can determine how you want to approach future iterations of linear switches for your setup.


  • Actuation Force: 50g
  • Travel Distance: 4mm
  • Approx Price per key: $0.45


  • Smooth typing experiences and simple for beginners
  • Affordable price


  • Quality notably lower than Cherry
  • Slight pre-lubing from factory may turn off some users

Linear vs. Tactile Keys

Tactile keys focus on the feel of the tactile feedback that is produced when you press the key. Due to this, tactile keys are the preferred choice of typists.

It is recommended that those starting out with mechanical keyboards start with tactile keys as they are the closest feeling to typical membrane keyboards that you find anywhere.

Tactile keys also have higher latency due to the tactile feedback which is a negative for those looking to minimize delays (e.g. gamers).

Linear vs. Clicky Keys

Clicky keys are like tactile with one extra inclusion: a loud, clicky-like sound when pressed. Since clicky keys are like tactile keys, they are bumpy when pressed with an additional audio clicky sound.

While the sound may be therapeutic to the user using the keyboard, it may be annoying to those around them. Just like tactile keys, having tactile feedback introduces extra latency and delay from pressing the button.

What are Retooled Switches?

Companies like Cherry use large manufacturing machines in their production plants to produce linear keys. Overtime, these machines slowly start to decline in quality as they depreciate in their lifespan.

In order to keep the keys smooth and high quality, the manufacturer retools the machines which refers to creating new molds for their injection machines.

Newer switches you purchase today are most likely retooled keys. There is a large demand for older keys as their supply continues to dwindle every passing year.


The best linear switches for an average user are the Cherry MX Red linear switches due to years of reliable feedback and brand quality from Cherry. As the golden standard of linear switches, you cannot go wrong with them.

For those focused on typing outside of extreme gaming, then the C3 Tangerine is not a bad pick. Finally, those looking to fully optimize their gaming experience are recommended to stick with the Cherry MX Speed Silver.

If you’re looking to further optimize your gaming experiences, I have curated articles on the best gaming desks as well as great gaming keyboard and mouse combos.