What’s in a Name(plate) Anyhow?

What’s in a Name(plate) Anyhow?

I’ll be the first to admit that the unending number of naming schemes for all of the mechanical keyboard switches out there are… quite confusing. No, I’m not talking about the weird translations of Chinese names for switches either - such as how (what is likely) “Leobog Boar Rush” in Chinese is mashed through Google translate into “Leobog Pig Synapse.” You’ve probably encountered the confusion I’m speaking about when you find the same switches referred to by nearly a dozen different names that all vary from vendor to vendor that you’re trying to buy your switches from. While you can at least still look up the switches by the common name that is shared amongst them, the variability in the modifiers that come before and after these names can be a bit misleading if you’re not used to it. After all, you’re just looking for Cream switches and it’s kind of hard to tell if Novelkeys Creams, Kailh Creams, Kailh POM Creams, or even Cream Linear switches are all the same thing or not! Unfortunately, there’s not really an easy and short list of switch naming conventions out there that I could share to 100% alleviate this confusion. What I can offer, however, is a little bit of a perspective on these naming practices and what I’ve noticed over the years.

Figure 1: New 'DK' nameplates used for Dangkeebs' Milk Switches

Mechanical keyboard switches typically have prefixes attached to them that are based on the company that manufactures them, the brand or sub-brand that they were made for at that manufacturer, and/or the company that is selling them to you. It’s quite rare to see all three of these things together on a single switch, and which one is more popular over the others has changed over the time. In the old days of modern switches from 2014-2017, it was most common to see switches that had names that started with their manufacturer of origin. (i.e. Gateron Reds, Cherry MX Blacks, etc.) However, as customized switch offerings and increasingly versatile OEM designs began being offered from 2018 to 2021, ‘brands’ of switches became increasingly popular. In the rise of manufacturers like Durock/JWK, this was especially evident with brands of switch releases being grouped together by their designers such as 43 Studio and C3Equalz - both of which had their names physically stamped into the switches. Nowadays, though, the increasing popularity and ease of access to custom switches for nearly all vendors in the hobby has resulted in the vendor’s name being appended to the front end of the switch if not altogether stamped into the switches. In fact, Dangkeebs is a perfect example of this with their DK Creamery and Tecsee-based Milk switch families!

Figure 2: The very first 'LICHICX' nameplates for a switch called HAPE Orange.

While the more localized naming conventions of recent years are great for helping newcomers develop relationships with impactful brands within the hobby as well as for those companies to establish new and interesting lines of switches, it does obscure some of the finer details about the switches. Most importantly, this naming style doesn’t really say where switches are from often. Unlike brands and vendors, there is a pretty short list of known, established manufacturers in the keyboard switch space. These are often overarching names that you’ll have recognized throughout your hunt through keyboard switches and include names such as, but not limited to: Cherry, Gateron, Kailh, Outemu, Tecsee, Durock/JWK, TTC, Huano, and KTT. These names are almost certainly referring to where these switches come from. However, in recent years some newer manufacturers have begun sprouting up with less than a clear amount of detail as to their authenticity. Names such as “LICHICX” and “Jerrzi” are currently believed to be manufacturers of switches, but could still very well be just one brand of a larger production house that is not fully understood in the west. Just because they have many switches that say LICHICX or Jerrzi on them doesn’t mean that is where they are from!

If we start at the more localized switch names from brands and vendors and try to figure out where they were manufactured at, you may find it quite a bit more challenging than you might think. As was glossed over, above, just because a switch has a nameplate on it that says a brand name - such as Razer for example - doesn’t mean that Razer manufactured the switches! In fact, Razer has had at least three different manufacturers make the same Razer Green switches over the years including Kailh, Greetech, and TTC. Other brands and vendors such as Akko, Gamakay, TKC, and Kinetic Labs have all had similar situations over the years as well - with switches branded by them having been made at multiple different factories. With this in mind, really the only way to determine the origin of switches named after the specific brands or vendors they are sold by is finding similarities in their designs to those designs used by switches known to have come from a specific manufacturer. For example, the new, recent sub-brand of switches known as ‘Everfree’ can be pretty easily known to come from Gateron as they share similarities in their housings and internal designs to that of the Gateron Jupiter and G Pro switch series!


Figure 3: Everfree Red, Brown, and Yellow switches from Gateron's newest sub-brand of switches.

All of this discussion about naming conventions has probably drummed up a simple question in quite a few of your minds thus far: “Why?”. At the most basic level, switches are named by the manufacturer or the vendors in order to help increase their marketing and make them easily recognizable amongst the crowd. If a keyboard switch vendor like Dangkeebs puts significant money and time into designing switches, packaging, and marketing around a set of switches they want to release - putting their name on it helps drive home that these are truly unique to them. Not all switches necessarily get the same treatment, though. Often times manufacturers with larger audiences like Kailh and Gateron will release switches entirely of their own accord, and will of course keep their names attached to switches so loyal fans of those companies will seek those switches out. Regardless of who it is that is selecting the names for these switches, at the end of the day they all want to point you to where you can buy more switches like the ones you’re looking at if you like how they perform. Speaking of, you should probably check out my article here talking about ‘Why You Should Buy More Switches’ to understand a bit more as to why it's probably in your best interest to follow that marketing. (I promise it's not just shilling - there’s actually a benefit to buying more switches!)


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