One of the most important decisions you’ll have to make is choosing between linear and tactile switches.
In this post, we’ll compare the two switch types and help you decide which one is right for you based on your typing and gaming preferences.
We’ll also recommend some of the best linear and tactile switches on the market to help you get started.
Quick comparison: What is the difference between linear and tactile?
What are Linear Switches?
A linear is a type of switch that has a smooth keystroke from top to bottom.
You won’t feel any types of bumps or clicks which makes these ideal for gaming with their quicker actuations.
Linears usually have a quieter sound profile and less distracting typing experience compared to other types of switches.
For these reasons, they’re often a good choice for office spaces or quiet areas and won’t drive your coworkers up the walls.
What are Tactile switches?
A tactile switch has a satisfying bump during the keystroke.
Many people enjoy the feedback they get while using tactile switches and often say it’s the most preferred switch to type on.
Not only are they good for typing but can used for gaming as well, making tactiles a great all-rounder.
Generally, tactiles will be slightly louder when compared to linears. By no means is this distracting at all but is a worthy consideration if you work in quieter places.
If you’re looking for an all-purpose switch that gives you both great gaming and typing experience, tactiles can be a good fit.
Why use Linear Switches?
Linear switches feel the most consistent to use. While gaming, linears are often seen as the best choice since your inputs will always have a smooth and lighter feeling.
Linear switch pros
- Smooth keystrokes
- Less noise
- Quicker inputs
- Best for gaming
Recommended linear switches
- Gateron Milky Yellow Pro
- Zaku Linears
- Gateron CJs
- C3Equalz X TKC Tangerine
- Alpaca V2
- Gateron Ink Black
- NovelKeys Cream
- See our full best linear switch post
Why use Tactile Switches?
For those who love significant feedback when typing and playing games, tactiles will be your winner. The bump adds a type of depth that you won’t get with any other switch. However, some people say this can become distracting with gaming and have a less spammable feeling to them.
Tactile switch pros
- Great feedback with bump
- All-rounder switch
Recommended tactile switches
- Boba U4T
- Glorious Panda Switches
- Zealios V2
- Boba U4
- Durock T1
- See our full best tactile switch post
Are linear switches better for gaming?
People often prefer linear switches for gaming given that they are smooth and feel more consistent.
For games where inputs are spammed consistently, linears will be the better option for those types of repetitions.
Linears are considered to have quicker inputs and response times due to the lack of bump but these latencies can be within fractions of milliseconds in comparison to tactiles. In other words, you won’t notice it.
However, there are linears out there made for gaming purposes. Some of the changes they made with these switches include shorter stem lengths, reduced actuation distances, and lower actuation force.
At the end of the day, it comes down to your preferences and which switch you find more comfortable to use.
Are tactile switches better for typing?
Again, this all comes down to preference. But, the bump and feedback from tactile switches give a very satisfying feeling with every keystroke.
What’s great about these is that you’ll know when the switch is actuated from the bump, potentially giving a more accurate typing experience.
The tactile bump can sometimes feel tiring to type on. Too much feedback can almost feel like an obstacle to get through while typing.
Overall, tactiles can be used for multiple purposes, but really does shine during typing.
Are linears lighter than tactile switches?
Since tactile switches have a bump, that means they have more resistance right? Wrong.
Linear and tactile refer to the actuation types of the switch and not their force required to initiate. It all really depends on the model of linear and tactile and what their resistance is.
Two of the most popular switches from each category are Cherry MX Reds (linear) and Cherry MX Browns (tactile).
A Red has an actuation force of 45g while a Brown has a rating of 55g. In this case, the linear is lighter. If we took a Cherry MX Black, these have an actuation of 60g, making it heavier than the Brown.
So no, linears are not lighter than tactiles. It all depends on what kind of switch it is and the type of spring is implemented into each model.
Do linears have shorter travel than tactile switches?
Standard switches usually have a 2mm actuation distance and a 4mm bottom out distance. These distances include many of the linear and tactile switches that are currently on the market.
However, there are exceptions. Both linear and tactile switches have models where actuation and bottom out distances are shortened in attempts to lessen input times.
So to answer this, linears don’t have shorter travel distances, it just depends on the switch model.
Some good examples of both are low profile switches. Cherry has low profile versions of their Red and Brown switches. These types of switches reduce the actuation distance to 1.2mm and total travel distance to 3.2mm.
If you’re still not sure about which switch type is best for you, don’t worry, people often go back and forth between the linear and tactile switches.
Overall, if you have no experience with mechanical keyboards and want to make sure you’re going to get usage out of it, go with a tactile, linear switches can often have a bit of a learning curve.
However, if you know you’re going to be playing a lot of shooters and want to maximize your movement, go with a linear and frag away.
I’d recommend getting a switch tester, or better yet, a hot swappable keyboard so you can go back and forth.