The Current Cutting Edge of MX Switches

The Current Cutting Edge of MX Switches

If a hypothetical time traveler was simultaneously interested in keyboard switches of the future and savvy enough to both make and pilot a time machine here from 2016 purely for the purposes of fulfilling this cold opener to this article, they would be absolutely astounded at the state of modern switches. That should honestly come as no surprise to most of us here as there’s literally thousands of more offerings than there were just a few short years ago. There’s so much so, in fact, that entire companies like Dangkeebs have built reputations on offering dozens of different switches each and every day that somehow don’t overlap with any other vendor on the market at the same time. However, after this short flung time traveler would get over the sheer volume of switches available today, they would likely become even more astounded by all of the funky switch technology that has been dreamed up in the MX-footprint since 2016. Even in the span of just the past few years, the diversity in designs, mechanisms, and unique effects realized in the MX footprint have absolutely exploded - and they are some of the things that keep me so excited about switches years after I first started collecting my own. So in order to help make you as excited about the wide world of switches out there, and to perhaps get you exploring into trying some new switches of your own, I figure it would be interesting to take a brief snapshot in time of all the fascinating MX-footprint switches we have out here today. After all, maybe we’ll get time travelers coming back from the future to read this article some day instead of forward from the past!

Modular Switches

Figure 1: Modular switches including Zeal 3-in-1 Clickiez, Novelkeys Cream+, and Kailh x MK Dose.

Perhaps some of the coolest features which have come about in MX switches in the past couple of years have been the ability to modify the feeling or type of switch by altering just a few internal switch features. And before you go ahead and make your guess, I’m not talking about frakenswitching either. Each of the three switches you see above - Zeal 3-in-1 Clickiez, Novelkeys Cream+, and the Kailh x MK Dose - all have the ability to operate in more than a couple modes depending on how they’re configured. For the Zeal 3-in-1 Clickiez, these switches have several different slots in the bottom housings which can have a movable click leaf installed to produce a tactile, clicky, or even linear feeling when interacting with the stems of the switch. The Cream+ switches also have interchangeable parts to modify their feeling, though they come in the form of inserts in the bottom of the stems of the switches which can be swapped between silicone, copper, and titanium to provide different feeling bottom outs to their linear strokes. Unlike these previous two offerings, the Kailh x MK Dose switches are even a bit more odd as they modify their feeling not by changing the switch’s internal components, but rather how they register a stroke within a PCB. These preinstalled switches rely on software that comes with their PCB that allows for the user to select any combination of ‘upper’ and ‘lower’ leaves, which can modify the actuation point of the switch and even make them double-acting like you would double click on something. This toggleable action helps explain why these switches look like they’re almost two different switches mashed together from the underside.

Figure 2: Interior of Kailh x MK Dose switches showing their toggleable two-leaf configuration.


Metallic Everything

Figure 3: Gold, Silver and Rainbow metallic coated Tecsee switches.

If you thought the inclusion of Titanium pieces in the Cream+ switches was wild, you’d also be surprised to learn that there have been a few more switches to include metallic components in their aesthetics as well as performances too. On the aesthetics side of things, Tecsee began really capturing the community’s eye back in 2020 when they released a series of gold, silver, and rainbow colored switches which had metallic-like outer shells that reflected light as if the switches were made of gold and silver themselves. As for the actual switch performance side of the coin, 2024 is shaping up to be the year of interesting metal designs in switches. Just one month into the year we’ve encountered Tecsee introducing new Honey Peach switches with stem center poles made entirely out of metal to try and capture a similar performance alteration as that of the Kailh-made Cream+ switches.  As well, we’ve also seen an entirely new manufacturer begin producing “ball bearing” switches which have small rollerballs embedded in the stems that roll up and down the insides of the housings with the attempt to reduce or change friction from the normal plastic on plastic form we’ve all become accustomed to. Both of these are so new, in fact, that I’ve not even managed to get my shipments of them in the mail yet as of the time of writing this article…

Silencing Techniques

Figure 4: Switches with new silencing mechanisms including Haimu Heartbeats, Nightshades, and Kailh Midnight Pale Yellow and Grey.

While metal-embedded switches and modular designs for switches are certainly attention grabbing enough from the uniqueness of their implementation, not all innovation in switches has been as obvious in recent years. In fact, some of the most interesting improvements have come in the way in which silent switches are now dampening their downstroke and upstroke feelings. Gone are the days of bulky, squishy rubber pads glued to the sides of stems mushing your bottom outs at the end of an otherwise average stroke, as a year or so ago Kailh began introducing thicker rubber pads located in the bottom housings of switches rather than in the stems. By moving these pads to the bottom in switches like their Kailh Midnight series and their Deep Sea pair of releases, the silencing pads can be much more sturdy without making the production of switch stems any more complicated than it already is. On the flip side, new and upcoming manufacturers in Haimu and LICHICX have chosen to take the challenge of stem design innovation on with incredible results so far. As seen in Haimu’s Whisper and Heartbeat switches, they developed an ‘S-shaped’ stem design which bounces at the point of bottom out to compress and dampen sound while avoiding any bulky rubber pads. As for LICHICX, they’ve integrated rigid silicone dampening pads into the middle of their stems, forcing bottom outs to occur at the center, most rigid part of the switch and thus mute the sound unlike anything else out there!

Figure 5: LICHICX-made Daydreamer switch stems with sound dampening middle layer.

Honestly, I would be completely wrong if I pretended that these were the only innovations in MX switches which have occurred over the course of the last few years. From mild to wild, there have been countless upgrades, changes, and tweaks in designs that have made all of our enjoyment of mechanical keyboard switches just that much better. If you’re not going to immediately rush out to go buy some more switches of your own to try out now, consider checking out some of my other articles here on Dangkeebs such as ‘Just How Different Similar Linears Are’ or ‘How I Categorize Tactile Switches’.

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