Two of the most popular mechanical keyboard switches today are brown and red.
The brown mechanical switch is a tactile switch that provides a tactile bump at the 2mm actuation point to mark a registered keypress. The red mechanical switch is a linear mechanical switch and does not have a tactile bump but still registers a keypress at the 2mm actuation point.
This article will explain the different categories of mechanical switches. It will also discuss the different features and characteristics of red and brown mechanical switches and the type of switch most suitable for gaming and typing.
Types of Mechanical Switches
The most popular mechanical keyboard switch manufacturer is a German company called Cherry. In 1983 Cherry created the “Cherry MX Switch” and in 1984 they patented it. The patent has since expired and has been reproduced by several companies like Kalih.
Cherry MX Switches and other manufacturers use stem color to help distinguish their characteristics. Some of the most popular mechanical keyboard switches are blue, brown, red, and black.
These mechanical switches are further classified into three primary categories: linear, clicky, and tactile. Each of these categories represents a specific property of the mechanical switch, particularly in terms of the keypress feel.
Linear switches are characterized by a smooth and consistent key press. It has no bumps or audible clicks in the middle of the keypress. As such, linear switches are also known as top-to-bottom switches because each keypress reaches the bottom of the key. Red and black are the most popular linear switches.
Tactile switches have a bump in the middle of the keypress to mark when a particular keypress has been registered.
Clicky switches are a variety of tactile switch. Clicky switches feature a bump as well as an audible click in the middle of the keypress. The brown mechanical switch is the most popular tactile switch.
Red Mechanical Switches
Red mechanical switches are a linear switch and and require 45cN of force to register a keypress. As a comparison, black mechanical switches are also linear and require 60cN of force.
It has a 2mm actuation distance and a 4mm total travel distance from the top to the bottom of the keypress. It is noted for being one of the quietest switches due to its top-to-bottom nature.
For fast-paced gaming like first-person shooters (FPS) and multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games where key spamming or actions per minute (APM) is part of the nature of the game, red switches can provide a distinct advantage to the user. Its lightweight key press and lack of a tactile bump make it easier to press and snap back in place, which is ideal spamming.
Brown Mechanical Switches
Brown mechanical switches are tactile and have a noticeable bump in the middle of the keypress. This bump can help typists establish muscle memory for when a keypress has been registered.
Both the red and brown mechanical switches require the least actuation force (45cN).
The brown switch also has a 2mm pre-travel or the distance the keycap travels before hitting the slider that presses the spring. The total travel distance from the top of the keycap to the bottom of the key is also 4mm, similar to red mechanical switches.
Brown mechanical switches are also marked as quiet but have a distinct sound when compared to reds. The tactile bump in brown mechanical switches creates a deeper click than that of a blue switch and is slightly louder than the sound of a red.
Brown mechanical switches are referred to as hybrid mechanical switches as they are used for both gaming and typing. Its tactile bump that actuates the keypress registers more noticeably.
Software developers and writers often prefer the brown switches over red because the tactile bump helps in creating the impression of a keypress register which promotes more accurate typing. As such, the brown switch also reduces typographical errors, which is essential to their line of work.
Brown vs Red Mechanical Switches: Which is Better?
Red and brown switches offer a different keypress feel for different audiences. The red switch caters to gamers who require faster keypresses. The brown switch caters to writers and typists who enjoy the tactile bump when typing.
The tactile bump is a feature designed primarily for typing. Oftentimes, gaming requires more speed than precision during keypress. Despite being referred to as a hybrid mechanical switch that excels at both typing and gaming, the brown switch provides more control and accuracy than speed.
The red switch is the best mechanical switch for speed. As such, it is often the default switch used in gaming mechanical keyboards.
Faster response in red mechanical switches makes it a good keyboard for fast-paced and competitive FPS games like CSGO. Brown switches are still relatively fast and can compete with red mechanical switches as they require the same amount of actuation force to activate a keypress. However, the lighter feel in red mechanical switches due to the lack of a tactile bump promotes a faster response.
Brown switches provide the distinct tactile bump which can help in increasing typing accuracy. This can prevent typographical errors and improve overall workflow.
Red switches, on the other hand, have a light feel and fast actuation which makes it ideal for speed. This keyboard switch can provide an extra advantage for games that require key spamming.
While red switches are often referred to as a “gaming switch”, a lot of people are comfortable using the red switch for typing as well. Personal preferences for the feel and experience of each switch play a key role in choosing them.