Trust me, the irony of an article written by me on one of my sponsor’s website with that kind of title is not lost to me.
I promise you that I’m not crazy for this take. People often start their journey into mechanical keyboards by picking one or two switches to try purely based on recommendations from a YouTube video or the first content creator they come across. Distracted by all the pretty keycaps, keyboards, and artisans they soon run into thereafter, and only a few short years later they find themselves having only tried a small handful of switches – the vast majority of which were on other boards at keyboard meetups. No exploration, no self-discovery, and definitely no trying new, strange switches they come across. What happens as a result of this? Their keyboards suffer. The boards, themselves, don’t suffer from the lack of variety and personal exploration into keyboard switches, but rather all of those expensive groupbuy boards worth hundreds and hundreds of dollars never actually find their true endgame switch combination. Maybe your favorite board would be better if you had that one light tactile switch you didn’t try out five years ago? Maybe that one keyboard you use for work would sound a lot better with silent linears instead? There’s plenty of reasons to jump outside of your switch comfort zone and try more switches, such as…
1. Newer brands tend to be cheaper even if they’re novel or of the same quality!
Hardly anything else gets cheaper the further you are willing to dig into the depths of mechanical keyboards, with the golden exception of switches. While there will still always be everyone’s favorite budget friendly options like one of the infinite variations of Gateron Yellows, newer, more unfounded brands tend to operate on much thinner profit margins. At the extreme end this can translate to switches being as cheap as $0.20 per switch, and even conservatively you can cross paths with incredibly usable switches on part with bigger, more well-known manufacturers like Durock/JWK or Tecsee for 25% cheaper! Akko switches made by KTT, any of the recent LICHIEX releases, and even some of Haimu’s latest like the Wuque Studio Morandi all fit under this umbrella and also have added benefits that most people simply won’t know about until they buy them for themselves. Whether it’s the brand new, never before seen silencing technology of LICHIEX silent linears, or the new LED condensers and improved factory lubing of Haimu’s latest switches, all of these switches are well below the market average in pricing and yet still boast features that larger manufacturers are only just starting to catch up to months later.
Is buying newer, more unfounded brands and manufacturers a bit more risky with respect to what you could get in the performance of your switches? Sure, and unfortunately there’s so little coverage at the cutting edge of keyboard switches that it’s really hard to stay on top of it all without buying some switches as ‘guideposts’ to help inform and grow your opinion over time. Also consider that even if buying new switches is a gamble over more established brands, at one third to one half the price you can buy two to three times more switches without spending more money than you had originally planned for!
2. The Aesthetics of newer switches will make your keyboard even that much more standout.
Even though switches are among one of the most well-hidden parts of any complete keyboard build, there’s no denying that the aesthetic design and color schemes of switches have been a massive part of their increase in sales over the past few years. Back when I had first started collecting switches, even custom offerings only consisted of a few matte colors thrown together, with the inclusion of colors like pink and orange being enough of a differentiation from the OEM-style offerings of the day. Year over year following Novelias and Gateron Tangerine V1s, though, switch designs have become more complex to the point that they would’ve blown the minds of keyboard enthusiasts from only a handful of years ago. Switches in all colors of the rainbow, with glitter in their housings, custom per-switch serialization, and even dye-sublimating patterns and logos in non-traditional places all exist as of the writing of this article in 2023, and I have no doubt that this will only continue to age poorly as time goes on. As keyboard designs only continue to get more extravagant with time, sooner or later people will begin wanting flashier switches to pair off with their endgame designs – and buying into it now will not only pimp out your current day boards but ensure that manufacturers will continue to push the limits in the future!
3. Brands and designs you love are ever changing and don’t last long.
As switch releases and designs have grown in number and frequency over the past few years, we’ve also seen a parallel decrease in the staying power of most switches. Gone are the days in which you could pick a switch at random today and expect that it will be around and available three years from now for your latest keyboard build. Sure, there will always be those tried-and-true classic switch offerings like Cherry MX Blacks or (the already mentioned) Gateron Yellows that will outlast the sands of time. However, their longevity and consistency will always make them fall behind innovation, pricing, and design of newer brands and manufacturers. In the event that you favorite keyboard brand like Akko were to make a move from using KTT to Outemu, or even your favorite long standing manufacturer like Cherry were to make changes to their entire product line, having bought some other switches and tried out other brands affords you a safety net to know what to buy the next time you come around to building a keyboard. Even if those brands and switches have changed in time too, as some of the most recent brands will produce less than 50,000 switches ever of some offerings, having tried a good few cheap brands today will help develop your preferences for certain brands and could help you better narrow in on options for the future if not help you find something altogether you never would have thought you’d like! After all, you don’t want to be left caught off guard when you can’t find those switches you wanted when your groupbuy keyboard ships three years later, right?
At the end of this article, you shouldn’t have many reasons left to not try out some new switches. On the whole they tend to be cheaper, not around as long, and can boast incredible design features that would make even the plainest of keyboards one of the most standout at any meetup. While change is hard and finding some switches to start out with is even harder, just starting in a direction and buying a few packs of 10 switches of whatever strikes your fancy could be the start of a complete shift in your appreciation for switches and could make your next keyboard builds so much better than you’d have ever thought was possible!