After languishing in relative obscurity for a few decades, mechanical keyboards have exploded in popularity in recent years. Almost every maker of input devices for computers has joined the trend with at least one or two mechanical keyboards, several new suppliers have introduced their own brands of key switches, and the existing players have updated their products to suit the needs of their new customers.

The leading supplier of mechanical keyboard switches is Cherry, whose MX switches have been on the market since 1983. The different variants of MX switches offer differences in stiffness, tactile response, and audible clicking. All the switches share common interfaces for mounting the switches to the keyboard and attaching the keys themselves to the switches, so a keyboard manufacturer can easily produce several similar products to suit different tastes. The switch variants are identified by the color of the plastic stem that key caps attach to; blue, brown, black, and red are the most common.

This week Cherry is introducing quieter versions of some of their switches. In these quieter switches the colored plastic slide at the heart of the switch will now be made with a double-shot injection molding process to integrate a shock absorber made from a rubbery thermoplastic elastomer. This will soften the impact and dampen the noise produced when the key stroke bottoms out or springs back to the top. Previously, users bothered by the noise of bottoming out could add rubber O-rings or foam pads around the key stem to catch the key on its way down, but installing them as an aftermarket modification is tedious and it slightly reduces the key's range of travel.

Cherry MX Switches
  MX Black MX Black Silent MX Red MX Red Silent
Activation Force 60cN 60cN 45cN 45cN
Key Travel 4mm 3.7mm 4mm 3.7mm
Actuation Rating 50M 50M 50M 50M

The Cherry MX Silent switches will reduce or eliminate the need for O-rings and also provide the first effective way to reduce the click that can occur when a key is released. Cherry will initially be making Silent versions of the MX Black and MX Red switches, both of which feature a linear actuation force, with activation thresholds of 60 cN and 45 cN respectively. The Silent switches will be available with both the traditional opaque plastic housing and the newer translucent housing designed to allow surface-mounted LEDs to shine through on boards that offer customizable RGB backlighting. Key travel is reduced from 4mm to 3.7mm, but the other specs are unchanged, including the rating for 50 million actuations.

Corsair was Cherry's exclusive partner for the introduction of the Cherry MX RGB switches in 2014, and for this launch Corsair gets six months of exclusive access to the Silent switches. The first product using the new MX Silent switches will be the Corsair STRAFE RGB Silent, which will be available for pre-order this month with a MSRP of $159.99 and will ship in October.

Source: Corsair

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  • WorldWithoutMadness - Thursday, August 6, 2015 - link

    Red is linear whilst brown(blue) is tactile
    Even the quiet version still got noise from bottoming out. This is usually a habit from those who are used to rubber dome due to excessive force.
  • piiman - Saturday, August 8, 2015 - link

    "This is usually a habit from those who are used to rubber dome due to excessive force."

    No its a habit of typing and you will do the same with mech keyboards. No one feels that little bump and stops instantly, they stop when they reach the bottom. The only difference is you don't have to go to the bottom to get the key to register, but you will still bottom the key.
  • WorldWithoutMadness - Monday, August 10, 2015 - link

    That's a habit of rubber dome or scissors if you want to stretch it. Done

    What craziness are you spouting? You stated it yourself that you don't need to bottom the key for it to register so you don't need to bottom that. If you do bottom that, what's the reason? God? Obama? No, it's your habit from before mechanical. Done.

    I've trained not to bottom up with red and I'm shifting to gateron clear so what's your excuse, cherry boy?
  • Impulses - Thursday, August 6, 2015 - link

    There's two or three different kinds of noise a mechanical key stroke makes and the click isn't the only one, or even necessarily the loudest (tho probably the sharpest or higher pitched)...

    Without dampening keys will also make more of a clank noise when or if you bottom out (tho some train themselves not to since it's healthier, unavoidable while gaming tho).

    Keys snapping back up will also make some more subdued noise, and sometimes there's rattles or slight reverbs...
  • SodaAnt - Thursday, August 6, 2015 - link

    I really did wish that they would make these for MX Blues, which are the ones that really need it. It feels funny to take the quietest switches to give this treatment to.
  • Billy Tallis - Thursday, August 6, 2015 - link

    The MX Blues already have an extra component for the purpose of creating a click sound. It's the brown and clear versions that are designed to offer similar tactile response to the blue but without gratuitous noise, so I expect an MX Silent Brown to be the next switch.
  • Impulses - Thursday, August 6, 2015 - link

    It's not gonna do anything to the inherent click noise tho, so you could argue it's a bit more of a waste on blues, specially since you can more easily train yourself not to bottom out with the very sharp feedback of blues. If you game with blues that's another story, gonna be a clickity racket with or without the second clank tho.
  • Blahman - Thursday, August 6, 2015 - link

    Will I buy able to buy just the switches and install them myself into my Corsair Gaming K70?
  • BrokenCrayons - Friday, August 7, 2015 - link

    Disclaimer: I understand keyboard preferences are very much a matter of personal taste.

    With that out of the way, my first mechanical keyboard was an IBM PS/2 backed by metal that you could use for data entry and as a deadly weapon. It lasted forever, but it was so loud that I switched to membrane keyboards. While I can see the point of making the switches quieter, the truth is that I think most mechanical keyboards on the market today are priced far higher than their actual value. If you want something quiet, why not just save the cash and buy a bottom feeder USB membrane keyboard from your nearest office supply store? At least then your hubby (or wife) won't wake up at around midnight and complain about the keyboard noise of you trying to double tap to sideways jump in Unreal Tournament.
  • Oxford Guy - Saturday, August 8, 2015 - link

    All I can say is don't cheap out on your mouse. I have been using a Dell optical mouse since my Logitech Wheel Mouse finally gave up the ghost and that Dell POS is not only unpleasant to use it is causing pain in my wrist.

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