Tactile switches bring the crisp feeling without all the noise. There are a lot of options to choose from, so which ones are absolutely the best? What do you look for if you want an upgrade on brown switches?
I’ve gathered everything you need to know about tactile key switches all in one place—so you can make an informed decision about the most important part of your next mechanical keeb.
What are Tactile Switches?
Tactile switches get their name from the distinct tactile bump you feel when pressing one. These switches are designed to be audible, but not too loud that it disturbs your surroundings. Tactile switches offer the best feedback out of any mechanical switch. The sound and feel when typing on them make it easier to type accurately without any misclicks.
The tactile bump generated is a great indicator of when a keypress is logged without having to fully bottom out your keys.
Why Use Tactile Switches?
If you’re just now dipping your toes into mechanical keyboards, tactile switches will be perfect for you. They feel satisfying to use and do not have the clickety clack-ness of clicky switches, so you won’t have any problems using them in public places.
Tactile switches can be easily recommended for beginners since they offer a noticeable feel upgrade from basic laptop or membrane keyboards. The level of tactile bump offered varies by the brand of switch that you buy, so you can easily choose how much tactility you really want.
Tactile vs Clicky Switches
While tactile switches are relatively quiet while offering a distinct tactile bump, clicky switches are the exact opposite. As their name implies, the main selling point of clicky key switches is their audible click. While clickies also provide a tactile bump, their sound is what sets them apart.
Both tactile and clicky switches are beginner-friendly options if you’re looking to get into mechanical keyboards. But keep in mind that using clicky switches in public might not be the best idea. The last thing you’d want is to be that guy clacking away on his keyboard in the office.
Tactile vs Linear Switches
Linear switches on the other hand are known for being quiet, with a smooth keypress without any bumps. When a linear switch is pressed, it travels straight down and bottoms out without any interference.
Linear switches such as the Cherry MX reds are quite popular among gamers who need that low latency.
Ultimately, it all comes down to your personal preference. If you feel like a smooth, silent key switch is what you need, go for linears. If you want the satisfying tactile bump, go for a tactile switch.
Best Tactile Switches in 2023
Below are some of our favorite tactile switches. Each of them has its own merits, and you really can’t go wrong with any of the ones below.
1. Boba U4T
The Boba U4T switches are designed by Gazzew and are manufactured by Outemu— one of the main players in the mechanical keyboard space. These switches are all the craze now, and that makes them quite elusive online.
The switches are offered in both clear and opaque (RGB) housings at around $0.60 per switch, which is pretty middle-of-the-road pricing for a tactile switch.
One of the trademark features of the Boba U4T is its long stem which acts as a bottom-out point. This means that you get a fuller and much more satisfying and thocky bottom out. The longer stem also means that it has a draggier tactile bump that seems to last for the entire down stroke. The entire switch is built well with almost no rattle, with great stem tolerances.
So, if you’re into a long and well-rounded tactile bump, the Boba U4T will be just right for you. If not, you’ll be better off with a switch that has a shorter bump.
Here’s a list of verified vendors for Boba U4T. You can also order from the creator of the switch directly through reddit.
2. Zealios V2
The Zealios V2 switches are one of the most popular among tactile switch fans—and for good reason.
These switches are on the heavy side, and offer various bottom-out forces for you to choose from (62g, 65g, 67g, and 78g). The Zealios V2 has a deep, clear tactile bump that’s audible without being too loud. The smooth and satisfying tactical feedback provides just the right amount for uninterrupted typing.
The Zealios V2 is a great tactile switch that checks all the boxes in terms of design, feel, and performance. But it’s on the expensive side at $1 per switch, so you might need to consider this if you’re aiming for a more budget build.
You can get Zealios v2 directly from ZealPC
3. Glorious Pandas
The Glorious Holy Panda switches were revealed in 2020 to much fanfare. Glorious called these “the most tactile switches ever created”. While much of it is marketing hyperbole, you can’t deny that these are some of the best tactile switches out right now.
The bright yellow stems and the milky housing gives this switch a distinct look. Its tactile bump is crispy, snappy, and can be felt almost instantly when pressed. The stroke can be described as slightly scratchy, but it shouldn’t be any problem in day-to-day use.
At $0.69 per switch, the Glorious Pandas are quite affordable compared to some of the more expensive offerings out there. Glorious offers both lubed and un-lubed versions of the Pandas, and I suggest you buy them un-lubed and do it yourself.
You can buy Glorious Pandas directly from PCGR
4. Drop + Invyr Pandas
The Drop (Invyr) Holy Pandas are quite similar to the Glorious Holy Pandas, with a few differences. They still offer the same satisfying and thocky tactile bump, but with a bottom-out sound that is much louder.
At around $1.2 per switch, the Drop + Invyr Pandas are definitely premium switches, and they sound and feel so. But in my opinion, these are hard to recommend to beginners—especially in a world with Glorious Pandas.
Buy Drop + Invyr Pandas directly from Drop
5. Durock T1
The Durock T1s offer a super well-rounded tactile bump almost immediately as the key starts to travel. The tactile feedback is strong enough that it won’t be diminished by lubing the switches.
The Durock T1s can be compared to the Zealios in terms of performance. Plus, at around $0.60 per switch, they’re much less expensive than Zealios.
The stock configuration that the Durock T1s come in is pretty good, but I recommend modding them slightly if you can. Lubing and filming these will greatly benefit them and you’ll be glad you did.
The Durock T1s are a great budget-friendly tactile switch option and are great if you’re a fan of the clacky sound of the tactile bump.
You can get Durock from Divinikey or Amazon
6. Halo Clear
The Halo Clear switches are made by Kaihua and are designed to have a similar spring weight and actuation force to the Cherry MX clears. The switches get their name from the clear housing that allows RGB lighting.
The Halo Clears have a distinct tactile feel compared to their Halo True counterparts, with around 65gf of maximum tactile force. The force at the actuation can bump up to 60gf from around 47gf. This means that the Halo Clears have quite a high tactile bump when compared to others in this list.
At a price of around $0.6 per switch, the Halo Clears are pretty affordable if you’re looking for an RGB-friendly tactile switch option.
7. Boba U4
In its essence, the Boba U4 is the silent version of Gazzew’s Boba U4T. The U4 has a distinct and firm tactile bump that can be described as being “D-shaped”. While it does offer satisfying tactile feedback, it stays very silent—something fans of silent tactile switches can rejoice about.
If you were to compare the Boba U4 switches to some of the tactile switches on this list, they definitely feel stronger and more well-rounded than Glorious Holy Pandas and the Durock T1s.
In their stock form, the Boba U4s tend to be quite scratchy, and lubing them will go a long way in terms of feel. But at $0.6 per switch, these are an excellent value for anyone looking for a silent switch with excellent tactile feedback.
Here’s a list of verified vendors for Boba U4
8. Zilent V2
This is the silent version of the ever-popular Zealios V2. Just like its brother, the Zilents V2 is a damn good tactile switch. The Zealios and Zilents V2 share a lot of features, but you’ll find that the Zilents have slightly less tactility. This can be chalked up to the fact that it has a shorter travel.
The sound dampeners on the Zilents do an excellent job at canceling out any audible sounds you might hear from the tactile bump without adding any mushiness.
Just like the Zealios, the Zilents are priced at a premium, and you’ll be expected to pay around $1.3 per switch.
You can get Zilent V2 directly from ZealPC
We are spoiled for choice with tactile switches.
Each of these switches offers a great tactile experience with a satisfying bump without excessive noise or key rattle.
If you’re dead-set on getting a set of tactile switches for your new mechanical keyboard, be sure to test out as many switches as you can before pulling the trigger.