Razer's Green Switches

Razer appears quite proud of their new Green and Orange switches and that can be seen by checking the page dedicated to them into their website. They even offer to "share" their new switches with other manufacturers looking to design gaming keyboards. However, we would not really describe these switches as unique or, at the very least, Razer's own creation. Even though Razer's name is clearly printed on them, there is a logo right beneath it:

Although that tiny logo looks like it came out from Star Trek, it actually belongs to Kaihua Electronics (also known as Kailh), a Chinese manufacturer specializing in switches, so it goes without saying that they are the OEM behind Razer's Green and Orange keyboard switches. They are far from a new company; Kailh has been making switches for over two decades, including keyboard switches. However, if someone compares their products to those from Cherry, it becomes apparent that their keyboard-related products are a direct copy of Cherry's designs. This is not illegal, however, as Cherry's patent on mechanical keyboard switches dates back in the early 1980's and thus expired well over a decade ago.

There is no reason that a copy cannot be just as good as or even better than the original. Kailh's reputation however isn't the greatest. Razer claims that their switches not only are just as good as the originals, but they have extended their life expectancy by 10 million keystrokes. Unfortunately, although we do have access to equipment that could be used for durability testing, such equipment's top speed is limited to about one actuation per 0.8 seconds. This means that 60 million keystrokes necessitates a minimum of 556 days to test a single button.

Put another way, if you could type 100 WPM eight hours per day, every day, you would perform around 122 million keystrokes per year...but those would be distributed among all the keys, so perhaps six million strokes on each key. A more likely figure would be at most 5000 words per day, six days per week, which would be 10 million keystrokes per year, or about 500K per key on average. In other words, the durability rating is ludicrous to begin with, as even the original 50 million keystrokes should greatly outlast the lifespan of the user, let alone the keyboard.

If you were to examine the specifications of Razer's new switches, it becomes apparent that their Green and Orange switches are almost identical to the Blue and Brown switches from either Cherry or Kailh respectively. In terms of performance, Razer only reduced the actuation travel from 2.2mm down to 1.9mm (Blue vs Green). The difference is even smaller for the Orange switch, as the Brown switch actuates at 2.0mm. If we were to consider the tolerance ratings, we would end up with a graph like this:

As you can see, the Green switch does actuate higher and has tighter tolerance rating than the original Cherry MX Blue switch, but its operational range is almost entirely within that of the original. The operational range of the Orange switch falls entirely into the tolerance range of the original Kailh Brown switch as well. Even if we discard the tolerance and assume that the actuation distance is exactly at the advertised point, a difference of 0.3mm (about 0.0118 in) is miniscule. We can hardly see how such a difference would help gamers. Assuming a speed of eight keystrokes per second, each keystroke takes 125 ms and thus the average travel speed of a key is 3.125 ms per mm. Therefore, Razer just saved you from 9.375 milliseconds, which is not even a hundredth of a second. It would be hard to justify that this is enough to turn defeat into victory while gaming. Moreover, remember: the difference between Razer's Orange switch and the original Brown is 0.1mm, so you need to divide most of the aforementioned figures by three.

The company also claims that the have a "precision manufacturing process for tighter tolerance". Although we cannot possibly validate such a claim, it is true that the tolerance of the keys on the sample that we received was minimal; all typical keys would actuate between 1.89mm and 1.92mm from their start point, which is either an astonishing display of quality control or a remarkable stroke of luck. On the other hand, all keys also required between 57 cN and 60 cN to actuate, which is much closer to the rating of the Blue switches (58.9 cN) rather than Razer's rating of 49 cN.

We have to stress that Razer's switches are not bad or in any way inferior to their original counterparts, the Blue and Brown designs that they were derived from. It is very difficult however to justify that Razer's improvements are worthy of such intense advertising and that they can actually make any kind of difference for gamers. If we were to make an educated guess, Razer simply approached Kailh because they were fed up with Cherry, who not only is unable to cover the demand for mechanical switches but also sign exclusive deals with some of their customers over new products.

As Razer is a company that wants to stay on top of things, it was to be expected that they would seek another supplier, especially if that supplier could also manufacture unique products for them. There is nothing reprehensible about it; we are actually surprised that they did not make such a move even sooner. Whether the change is really noteworthy is an entirely different matter.

A Closer Look Final Words
Comments Locked


View All Comments

  • ahamling27 - Monday, April 7, 2014 - link

    I have one of the Monoprice Mechanical Gaming Keyboards with the red blacklight and I have to say, it's been an amazing keyboard so far! I believe it has Cherry MX Red switches, and like the keyboard in this review, all the media/volume/macro keys use a FN modifier key. It also has headphone and mic inputs as well as 2 USB outlets, but it doesn't take an extra USB plug to make them work.
    All in all, I really like my keyboard and at the time it was about the only red backlit keyboard I could find. Now there's a green one and it seems everyone and their dog does blue. My laptop has a steelseries keyboard in it that can actually do like 6 different colors, why can't mechanical keyboards do more than one color themselves?
  • SirRandall - Wednesday, April 2, 2014 - link

    "Removing it reveals the green stabilization board that the keys are secured on." HA!! the keys on my Corsair Vengeance K95 are stabilized by a sheet of aluminum, flush mounted so easy to clean, and the keys aren't a garish green. To each their own.
  • Phiro69 - Thursday, April 3, 2014 - link

    I reply yes, typing this on my Model M buckling spring mechanical keyboard from Unicomp. To each their own.
  • PEJUman - Thursday, April 3, 2014 - link

    New breed of hipster, I dub them geekster: my keyboard is older and harder to find than yours...
  • CalaverasGrande - Thursday, April 3, 2014 - link

    IBM PC keyboard, made in USA, detachable PS2 cable
    Excellent mechanical keys.
    Ugly like a stray dog with mange.
  • echoe - Sunday, April 6, 2014 - link

    well, i have a kinesis advantage, because otherwise i'd be unable to type. i'm an elitist somehow! yeah!
  • wetwareinterface - Sunday, April 6, 2014 - link

    i'll go the opposite direction and state i'm typing this on my cheaper than all of yours mechanical cherry mx blue switched thermaltake poseidon. blue backlighting with level adjust, windows key can be disabled with dedicated button and cherry mx blue switches. very weighty base and was only $89
  • Friendly0Fire - Wednesday, April 2, 2014 - link

    Pet peeve of mine: what is it with mechanical keyboards using Fn keys for multimedia? It's absurd. This isn't a bloody laptop keyboard, you've got the space.

    I had to dig for a very long time to find a mechanical keyboard which also didn't skimp on media keys and volume toggles. Those things are pricy enough already, I don't see why I'd want something gimped in that way.
  • lockdown571 - Wednesday, April 2, 2014 - link

    That is one of the reasons I love my Logitech G710+. It is one of the few mechanical keyboards I found with virtually no compromises (unless you really need a headphone port I guess).
  • Sancus - Tuesday, April 8, 2014 - link

    Yep, this is also the reason I love the G710+.

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now