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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  • JeffFlanagan - Thursday, August 06, 2015 - link

    I award you 100 Geek Points for modding your keyboard for comfort. That's brilliant. Reply
  • Impulses - Thursday, August 06, 2015 - link

    It's been a pretty common mod for mech boards for a while, tedious as it is to implement. I'm curious how these Cherry switches will feel, I liked O rings the one time I tried them at a friend's, but didn't care at all for the dampened switches Logitech has used on several of their mech boards. Reply
  • Impulses - Thursday, August 06, 2015 - link

    Fn is probably for the media key modifiers on the F keys, not exactly an uncommon site on mechanical keyboard without discrete media keys... I rather loathe using a Fn combo myself but there must be people that don't given how often I see this. Reply
  • Aikouka - Thursday, August 06, 2015 - link

    Yeah, I saw the media key symbols on the function keys, which I'm used to seeing on my laptops. I own a Corsair K95, and I actually use the media keys from time to time (mostly for pause/play). I'd probably never use them if they weren't dedicated. Also, probably the worst aspect is that the inclusion of the Fn key means they removed the right Windows key. That may not seem like a big deal, but I use it quite often for one specific shortcut: Windows + L. That shortcut is used for locking your computer, which is especially useful in a work environment. Albeit, your work probably won't splurge for a Corsair mechanical keyboard. Reply
  • khanikun - Friday, August 07, 2015 - link

    I preferred Razer's old implementation of media keys on their Lycosa keyboard. Where the numlock/capslock/scroll lock lights were, they put a touchpanel. Play, stop, fwd, backward, volume up, volume down, and lights on/off.

    I don't like media keys on my keyboard, so it was a nice change. It didn't steal any real estate of the keyboard, nor did it require the keyboard to be made larger to accommodate extra media keys.
    Reply
  • Aikouka - Thursday, August 06, 2015 - link

    As someone that has experienced the great joy of putting rubber o-rings beneath each key, this is quite interesting. Although, the STRAFE RGB Silent is just too awkward of a keyboard to even consider. I know that it's not a gaming keyboard given it's not under the Corsair Gaming brand, but why does a full-fledged desktop keyboard need a function key? Why not just give us actual media keys? Does Corsair think that desktop users miss the fun of function keys when they go from their laptop to their desktop? Reply
  • Flunk - Thursday, August 06, 2015 - link

    I don't think that many games use the function keys anymore either. The last one I played that did was Ragnarok Online and that came out in 1999, I think they even patched it to support other keys years ago as well. Reply
  • Aikouka - Thursday, August 06, 2015 - link

    World of WarCraft does for their default binding. I had to remove those binds so I could use FRAPS without it opening one of my bags, which in turn opened the entire bag add-on.

    Also, just to be clear, When I said "function keys" I mean the Fn key that's on the Corsair keyboard and most laptops. I completely forgot about F1-F12 being the function keys, so I didn't realize it would be so confusing. Oops!
    Reply
  • desolation0 - Thursday, August 06, 2015 - link

    Relative peace and quiet is one of the things I didn't want to have to sacrifice going back to a mechanical keyboard from my squishy rubber board. For the premium price, and with my lack of a must-have use case for mechanical, taking a significant step back in that area isn't something that appealed to me. Reply
  • Ken_g6 - Thursday, August 06, 2015 - link

    As someone who's researched but never used a mechanical keyboard, what's the difference between a Cherry MX Red Silent and a Cherry MX Brown? I thought the point of the Brown was no audible click? Reply

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