Linear mechanical switches are arguably the most popular bunch of the three main types of mechanical key switches. This is for good reason. They’re reliable and offer a great typing experience without any extra bells and whistles.
If you’re new to mechanical keyboards, you’re probably wondering what the heck linear key switches are, and how they differ from other switch types. And if you feel like buying a set of linears, we have listed down the 7 best linear switches in the market right now.
What are linear switches?
In simple terms, linear switches are the most straightforward out of all mechanical switches. These are very similar to regular keyboards, especially traditional laptop or MacBook keyboards. Linear switches don’t have any audible click or tactile bump when a key is pressed. They’re the fastest out of all mechanical switches since it’s literally a straightforward press of the switch.
Why use Linear Switches?
Linear switches are favored by some gamers as well as anyone who works in an environment where clicky or even tactile-sounding switches are frowned upon.
The quick, uninterrupted travel of the switch is ideal for speed-focused users. The less resistance offered by linears results in faster reaction times, letting your fingers easily glide over the keyboard. High-intensity esports gamers and fast typists will absolutely love linear mechanical switches.
Linear vs clicky switches
The main difference between linear and clicky switches is definitely the sound. Linear switches are designed to be quiet and smooth, while clicky mechanical switches are purpose-built to produce an audible click whenever it is pressed.
The mechanism that is responsible for producing that distinct clickiness adds some latency to when the key is pressed till it registers in the computer. This lag is barely noticeable to your everyday Joe, but gamers especially will benefit from going linear as every second counts in the heat of battle.
Linear vs tactile switches
Tactile switches, on the other hand, are all about feel. They are designed to produce a tactile bump whenever a key is pressed. This is meant to provide feedback to the user to let them know when a key is successfully pressed.
Tactiles are usually recommended to anyone getting into mechanical keyboards for the first time as they feel very pleasing—especially to new adopters. But then again, they suffer the same problem as the clicky switch in that the added flair also adds some latency (which linears do not have).
What’s more, some people don’t like the feel of the tactile bump and prefer the muted feel of the linear mechanical switch.
The best linear switches in 2022
Now that you’re clued in on what linear switches are, and how they differ from the other mechanical switch types, here are some of the best linear switches you can buy right now.
1. Alpaca V2
The second coming of the Alpacas is a much better product than their original. The Alpaca V2 improves in almost every way over its predecessor, so much so in fact that they’re commonly regarded as the best linear switches out there.
They sound great without any awkward scratchiness. The bottoming out feels satisfying and smooth to the ears. Compared to the Alpaca V1, the V2s sound so much better. There is very low stem wobble to be found here, the Alpaca V2s are just solid all around.
The Alpaca V2s have a bottom-out force of 62g, which is pretty in line with linear mechanical switches. The distinct light pink color of the stems is a hallmark of the Alpacas, and actually gives the switches a lot of personality. What’s more, the switches are all hand-lubed at the factory, which means you’ll rarely have to re-lube them yourself (as is the case with many other pre-lubed switches).
The Alpaca V2s start at $0.55, which is the same price the V1s sold for. For a set of great linear mechanical switches that type superbly without any wobble—it’s a great deal.
2. Durock POM Linear
These monochrome switches offered by Durock are solid linears—albeit not as smooth as the Alpacas.
The POM ‘self-lubricating’ feature of these switches can be considered gimmicky, but as the housings smoothen over time, the switches do tend to feel smoother. Regardless, you should probably still lubricate these yourself before you daily drive them.
The Housing of the Durock POM linears has a super tight build with very little wiggle room, which means stem wobble is non-existent. This is probably the least wobbly linear switch out there—and that says a lot!
The POM linears feel heavy and satisfying, with a solid ‘thud’ whenever it bottoms out. This is more about feel rather than sound, as these are not very audible when bottoming out—which can be a good thing for a set of linears.
The Durock POM linears start at $0.70 per switch, which puts it on the slightly higher end of the price spectrum. At the same time, they don’t really have any glaring issues either. The Pom linears are a solid linear offering, and you won’t regret using them day to day.
3. C3 Tangerine
Thock fans rejoice! C3 offers a solid linear option with a surprising level of thockyness.
The C3 tangerine switches are smooth, very smooth. It’s clear to see that C3 is pretty confident about crowning themselves as the smoothest linears in the game. Even out of the box, the switches are lubed very well and feel amazing to type on.
As part of their fruity series, the tangerines come in a bright orange housing and a green stem (surprise surprise), which is actually a look that grows on you pretty fast.
When it comes to sound, the C3 tangerines are pretty… unconventional. The bottom-out sound is unfortunately quite loud for a set of linears. But instead of a traditional clack or a thud, the tangerines give off a high-pitched ‘pop’. In my opinion, this can get quite annoying when typing fast. But who knows, you might even like the sound!
Other than being constructed in a cutesy color, the C3 tangerines are built very well. there’s very little stem wobble to be found, and I had no complaints in this regard.
The tangerines start at $0.95 per switch, which puts them on the higher end of the spectrum. So, if you want all the flair and features C3 offers, you will have to pay a premium. For possibly the smoothest switches in the game right now, I personally don’t mind coughing up a little extra.
4. Gateron Black Ink
The Gateron Black Ink switches are a huge fan favorite. But out of the box, you might find it hard to understand why so many enthusiasts swear by them.
In their stock form, the Black Inks feel very scratchy, and the housing is just wobble galore. The bottom-out feels thin and harsh. However, once you lube and film it up, these switches completely flip the script. If you’re looking for a reliable and super creamy set of linears, the Black Inks are definitely it.
In terms of acoustics, the Gateron Black Inks shine when you give them a little extra care. After applying a bit of Krytox 205g0, the sound of these switches really improves. With all of the scratchiness eliminated, the Black Inks sound super satisfying with a nice and bassy bottom out.
One of the best things about the Gateron Black Inks is that they’re readily available. Unlike most other linears on this list, you can easily find them at most switch retailers online. This makes them very easy to recommend to beginners; since they won’t have to wait around for group buys.
5. Gateron Speed Silver Pro
For fast-paced gamers who like a super smooth linear offering, Gateron has got you covered with their Speed Silver Pros.
These switches are buttery smooth and feel super consistent across the board. The speed moniker means that the Silver Pros are super low actuation—which makes them ideal for gaming.
Moreover, the Gateron Speed Silver Pros are factory lubed pretty well. So, you can really use these out of the box and still have a great experience. The switches actuate at 4g and bottom out at 65g.
In terms of sound, the Speed Silver Pros have a low-pitched clack, with a slight thock if you listen close enough. The sound is very consistent just like the smoothness, and you won’t find this switch unpleasant to listen to at all.
The Gateron Speed Silver Pros start at $0.21 a switch—which makes them one of the greatest value offerings out there for linear switches. If you’re looking for a super smooth set of linears that offer great actuation and feel, these might just do the trick.
6. Gateron Milky Yellow
The Gateron Milky Yellow switches are often called the linear budget king, and I agree.
This is a pretty straightforward linear switch that checks all the boxes without ever falling behind in any categories. It’s very smooth, quiet, and has a satisfying feel when typed on. This is a perfect switch if you work in an office space and tend to type a lot.
The sound and feel of the Gateron Milky Yellows are very consistent. This is an important thing to remember, especially for a budget linear switch. While the bottom-out sound is louder than most other offerings on this list, the Yellows tread the line between cheap and good like no other switch does.
Speaking of cheap, these switches can be easily found selling anywhere from $0,20 to $0.3—that’s an insanely good deal! What’s more, if you dig around a little on AliExpress (or other Chinese markets), you can sometimes find these going for as low as $0.11 per switch!
If you’re a beginner who’s looking for a good set of linears that gives you the full experience without breaking the bank, these are hands down the easiest recommendation on this list.
7. NovelKeys Cream
The NovelKeys Cream was released way back in 2018. But these still hold up even today as one of the best linear switches out there.
Just like the Durock POM liners, the NovelKeys Creams also have a POM construction that helps with reducing friction. However, the out-of-the-box experience of these is less than ideal. They feel quite scratchy and don’t sound as good.
Once you lube them up, however, the Creams are very good. They feel super smooth, and this will only continue to improve as the POM housing breaks the switches in.
Sound-wise, they are very creamy and thocky. the unique sound profile of this switch is partly because of the housing construction, which gives it a deep, rich sound that is very distinct from other linears.
The NovelKeys Creams can be found for $0.65 per switch, which is a respectable price point for what you get with this switch. If you’re looking for a super smooth set of linears that sound downright amazing, the NK Creams are definitely the choice for you (given that you’re willing to lube them up yourself).
There you have it—our top choices for the best linear mechanical switches you can get right now. Each of the switches above are great choices, and you wouldn’t go wrong going with any of them.