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

POST A COMMENT

32 Comments

View All Comments

  • MooseMuffin - Thursday, August 06, 2015 - link

    I've always found the noise to be part of the appeal, where typing not only feels great but sounds cool too. I see the appeal here though, it would certainly make office use less obnoxious. Reply
  • Impulses - Thursday, August 06, 2015 - link

    Ehh, some of the noise is part of the solid mechanical feel, some isn't. AFAIK it's actually better for you not to bottom out keys when typing (less stress) and this has always been touted as an advantage of mech boards (since keys actuate halfway thru travel unlike rubber domes which require bottoming out by nature).

    Indeed, I've actually gotten used to not bottoming out while typing, even with reds which have no actuation point feedback... BUT during gaming it's pretty much impossible to avoid bottoming out constantly since everything's more frantic and you often need to hold down keys. That's where these switches would be sweet IMO, less bottom out noise without any real drawback.

    They need to crank out some Kxx Silent variants, might actually get me to upgrade my original K90.
    Reply
  • Samus - Friday, August 07, 2015 - link

    Basically what they've pulled off is the equivalent of 0.5mm orings under the keycaps. They've made the key actuation quieter by reducing the travel, which likely means they've put an insulator inside the switch. Reply
  • piiman - Saturday, August 08, 2015 - link

    "AFAIK it's actually better for you not to bottom out keys when typing (less stress) and this has always been touted as an advantage of mech boards (since keys actuate halfway thru travel unlike rubber domes which require bottoming out by nature)."

    And this is a total BS reason for mech boards, its pure marketing. I dare say there isn't a single person on the earth that feels that tiny bump and then can stop his fingers from bottoming the switch when actually typing of playing a game. Its just not humanly possible.
    Reply
  • doggghouse - Friday, August 14, 2015 - link

    "I dare say there isn't a single person on the earth that feels that tiny bump and then can stop his fingers from bottoming the switch when actually typing of playing a game."

    True, but I think it helps in other ways. For one, the tactile feedback is a little like training wheels... it helps when learning how far the keys need to be pressed to actuate. Also, when typing quickly, have you ever noticed that your brain tends to know that you've made a typing mistake even before you realize by seeing it on the screen? I think the tactile feedback helps that as well... for example, if you typed something but didn't press a key quite far enough, you'll notice almost immediately since it didn't feel right. I don't know if it's muscle memory or what...
    Reply
  • Alexvrb - Thursday, August 06, 2015 - link

    I prefer MX Brown, myself. I feel like Brown is the best balance for gaming/typing/noise. No need for o-rings or anything else, IMO. If they came out with an "MX Brown Silent" I'm not sure I'd be interested. Reply
  • piiman - Saturday, August 08, 2015 - link

    I actually put O rings on half my keyboard (got tired) and I can't tell the difference so I never finished doing the other keys. Sure I can tell if I go REAAAAAALLL slow and do one key at a time but when actually typing there is no difference in feel with or without O rings for me. Reply
  • mr_tawan - Friday, August 07, 2015 - link

    Imagine you're working with 50ppl team with mecha keyboards. That's insanely annoying. I know this is not realistic enough, but even rubber key keyboards make me feel sick sometime :-).

    BTW. I'm currently working in the team of hard, fast typers. It's kinda annoying so I have to put my headphones on sometimes.
    Reply
  • zinfamous - Thursday, August 06, 2015 - link

    This is great news for those of us that find it difficult to Raid while pretending to listen to the SO on the phone. 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

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now