Clicky Switch Round-Up
Click Clack THOCK!
The base idea of testing out a bunch of clicky switches is to expand my switch repertoire. Clickys are not my favorite, as I do not particularly like the excessive click noise. I find the click sound already had from a tactile switch is satisfying enough, and for the most part all the clickys I have tried are linears that require very little actuation force, which is already my least favorite switch. This all said there is variation, and trying something different is fun and I can learn along the way!
For this test I will compare 4 different clicky switches, naturally crowing my favorite, and giving my thoughts as I conclude my comparison.
For this test I will be using my KDB67Lite R1 (now in R2), a budget 65% layout with 5-pin hot-swap sockets, ABS case with a polycarbonate back plate, and I have lubed the stabs with TriboSys 3204.
The 4 different Clickys I have gone with are:
Gateron Blue - MX Blue Clones, this is the standard Clicky switch that most think of in terms of Clickys, 55g Operating | 60g Bottom | 5-pin | $0.20 / switch KBDFans
Gateron Green - MX Green Clones, these offer a heavy actuation force with a tactile feel, 65g Operating | 75g Bottom | 5-pin | $0.20 \ switch KBDFans
Kailh Box White - Likely one of the most popular Clicky switches, sometimes referred to as a Box Blue as it features similar characteristics to the Blue, but with a Box stem, 50g Operating | 55g Bottom | 3-pin | $0.38 \ switch KBDFans
Kailh Box Thick Jade - Box Jades, or Box Thick Clicks, feature the same spring as the Box White, but with a thicker clickbar, creating a distinguished tactile feel, 50g Operating | 60g Bottom | 3-pin | $0.42 \ switch KBDFans
This is a sound comparison of the switches held in a acrylic case switch tester with blank caps, none of the switches will be lubed for any of the completed tests.
Kailh Box White:
Kailh Box Thick Jade:
* Amplified audio by 28db * (Audio recorded with a Blue Snowball Mic, at approximately 15cm from the switch)
Kailh Box White:
Kailh Box Thick Jade:
* Amplified audio by 10db * (Audio recorded with a Blue Snowball Mic, at approximately 15cm from the keyboard)
Quick Thoughts on the KBD67Lite:
Pleasantly surprised in the value of this board. It offers a lot of features for the price, namely per-key RGB and hot-swap sockets in a 65% layout, however the main draw back would be the construction. While implemented well for an ABS case you do not get the rigidity and sturdiness of a more solid material (aluminum, steel, even wood, etc), on top of that I personally do not like polycarbonate switch plates and combined with the ABS case it gives a mushy feel that I am not a particularly huge fan of. But this also comes with the objective views of a user who prefers an aluminum case with a brass plate, so take this with a medium-sized grain of salt.
For many buyers of the KBD67Lite I expect this to be their first custom mech, and for that buyer I can strongly recommend this. It is a great entry board that gets you in the market with good features and they did some things very well. I like the gasket mount design and the case foam also greatly helps overall feel. The fully QMK supported PCB is a welcome touch and the 5-pin Kailh hot-swap sockets is a must in a 2021 entry board, especially for 1st time buyers, and this is all done properly.
Now I will note that R2 is now in production and brings in a wireless version as well as wired, but you lose per-key RGB for the wireless board, and it no longer comes pre-assembled, which for many is likely not an issue, but for a few buyers it could be a deal breaker.
All of this for $109usd (r1) is a great deal, and while R2 is coming in at $135, I still see this an attractive option for many buyers.
My one some-what significant complaint is that many of the 5-pin switches are not able to fully click into place, or a lot of force is required, so they can either fall out (not that easily though) or come out when the keycap is removed. When I contacted KBDFans they did not elaborate much other than this could be a slight variance within manufacturing and that the updated Injection molding plate in R2 vs the CNC plate in R1 should address the issue. I am not sure if this is a one off or if this is somewhat wide spread, but I could not find similar complaints . At least this is not an issue with 3-pin switches and it my opinion this has something to do with the PCB and not the plate, but only time will tell.
Full review of the KBD67Lite coming soon!
Gateron Blue - Of the 4 this comes in dead last, the 'click' is loud enough that for those who like the sound it will suffice, however the light weight actuation and feel is not of my preference. They have a scratchy feel on keystroke and when typing slower the sound of the metal leaf is not pleasant, it sounds twangy and this feels like I am scraping the bottom of the barrel. Switch preference is all about what a user likes but I don't see how this would be a favorite of anyone's, if you like clickys the next on the list is far better, it has a similar actuation weight, but improves on the main drawbacks of the MX /Gat Blue.
Kailh Box White - Between this and the Gat Green it was a very close call but the Box White is 3rd on my list, although objectively it is the second best switch here (will elaborate). This is everything a novel clicky switch should be, it gives off the right 'click' sound and has a similar feel to the Gat Blue however all the drawbacks of the scratchy keystroke feel and twangy sound from the leaf are not present. You get the stability of a box switch and this eliminates keycap 'wobble' making this a nice linear clicky typing experience, if that is your thing.
Gateron Green - As mentioned, I have some elaborating to do. The Kailh Box White is objectively the better switch, but I prefer a heavier switch, and the MX / Gat Green is just that, a heavy clicky switch with a somewhat pronounced bump in the keystroke similar to a tactile (similar to a Kailh Pro Purple, the tactile bump is not very distinguished, but it is there). And this is why my bias places it ahead of the Box White, I prefer a heavier tactile switch. Now on to the sound, it has a similar profile to the Gat Blue but it does not sound or feel as scratchy, although the scratchy feel is still somewhat present. If you like a heavier clicky switch this is a great option, although our final candidate takes the cherry.
Kailh Box Thick Jade - Lets take what's good about the Box White, and the Gat Green. Okay so no scratchy feel or sound, check. A nice loud pronounced 'clack', check. Stability of a box switch, check. A heavier switch with more actuation required, check. And lastly, a nice tactile bump, check-mate! This is my number one choice of the 4 tested, it is the best feeling for typing, with a very distinguished tactile bump about half-way through the keystroke, and with more actuation required vs the Box White, this nails it for me. Again I do not prefer Clicky switches over Tactile or Linear, but in terms of type feel this is without a question my number one choice of the 4 tested.
To summarize, I can categorize this switch test into two easy recommendations, if you like clicky switches and prefer a linear switch, get the Box White, if you prefer tactile, get the Box Thick Jade. I will admit that there are other Box clicky switches, but these two are extremely popular for a reason.