In recent months, Kaihua (maker of Kailh mechanical keyboard switches) has developed no fewer than eight new switches. Four of them are “speed” switches, and four are designed to be waterproof and dustproof--handy for sloppy gamers, sure, but ideal for industrial environments.
Speed Switches: Silver, Copper, Gold, And Thick Gold (Or is it Platinum?)
It seems that Kaihua doesn’t want to miss out on the speed switch phenomenon; there's a handful of switches out there designed with shorter actuation and travel than standard Cherry switches, and they're all fairly new.
For example, there’s Cherry’s own linear Speed switch and Razer’s new linear Yellow switch. Both follow Logitech’s lead with its Romer-G switches. Whereas standard Cherry and Kailh switches have actuation around 2mm and full travel of 4mm, all of the above actuate earlier in the key travel (1.2 to 1.5mm) and have a shallower overall travel (3 to 3.5mm).
Kaihua, though, saw fit to create four "speed" switches: Gold, Silver, Copper, and--well the name of the last one is actually debatable. In a document we acquired, the fourth switch is referred to as “Platinum,” but the online listing calls it “Thick Gold.” We’re going to operate under the assumption that the published listing is probably correct, but it is interesting to see that Kaihua was likely fiddling with the name up until the last minute. (Of note: There’s nothing extra thick about the Thick Gold switch.)
One could argue that the final decision (Thick Gold) and the penultimate option (Platinum) are equally problematic. The colors of platinum and silver are too similar, as are the colors of gold and, er, gold. However, the Thick Gold is actually not quite gold; it’s more of a light brown--bronze, perhaps. In fact, our friends at the Input Club skipped Kaihua’s confusing nomenclature altogether and called the Platinum/Thick Gold switch “Bronze.” (Ack, that’s awfully close to Copper though, isn’t it?)
We digress. Two of Kaihua’s new switches are tactile and clicky, one is linear, and one is tactile. All of the switches have a total travel of 3.5mm.
A quick glance at the table below makes it seem as though these switches are all more or less the same, but upon closer inspection, there are key differences.
|Operating Force||60gf (+/-10gf)||50gf (+/-10gf)||40gf (+/-10gf)||40gf (+/-10gf)|
|Pretravel||1.4mm (+/-0.3mm)||1.1mm (+/-0.3mm)||1.1mm (+/-0.3mm)||1.1mm (+/-0.3mm)|
|Pressure Point||1.0mm||1.1mm (+/-0.3mm)||--||1.4mm (+/-0.3mm)|
|Total Travel||3.5mm (+/-0.3mm)||3.5mm (+/-0.3mm)||3.5mm (+/-0.3mm)||3.5mm (+/-0.3mm)|
First, note the differences between pretravel and pressure point. Pretravel is simply the distance from the beginning of the key press to the actuation point. On the tactile and clicky switches, though, there is also a pressure point, which is where you feel the bump.
On the Gold switch, the pressure point is right at 1mm, but the switch doesn’t actuate until 1.4mm. The Copper switch is the reverse of the Gold switch: It actuates early in the travel (1.1mm), but the tactile bump doesn’t come until 1.4mm. By contrast, the Thick Gold switch’s actuation point and pressure point are at the exact same spot in the travel--1.1mm.
Further note how light the Silver and Copper switches are--both require just 40gf to actuate, which is a hair lighter than other popular linear switches that actuate at 45gf.
To understand where the Kailh speed switches fit in with others on the market, here’s a concise, handy comparison:
|Switch||Kailh Gold||Kailh Thick Gold||Kailh Silver||Kailh Copper||Cherry MX Speed||Logitech Romer-G||Razer Yellow|
The other four new Kailh switches all bear the “BOX” moniker. Whereas the Kailh speed switches are meant to compete directly with other “speedy” switches, and maintain the cross stem design to ensure compatibility with aftermarket key caps, the BOX switches are a different animal entirely.
Primarily, the difference is the “box” design. Instead of the cross stem just sticking up, there’s--well, a box--around it. The box extends to the contact plate and leaf, and the whole thing is designed to keep out dust and avoid corrosion-causing moisture. It’s rated for IP56 protection.
It also has a transparent top and what looks like room for an LED on each one.
|BOX Red||BOX Brown||BOX White||BOX Black|
|Operating Force||45gf (+/-10gf)||50gf (+/-10gf)||50gf (+/-10gf)||60gf (+/-10gf)|
|Tactile Force||--||60gf (+/-10gf)||55gf (+/-10gf)||--|
|Pretravel||1.8mm (+/-0.3mm)||1.8mm (+/-0.3mm)||1.8mm (+/-0.3mm)||1.8mm (+/-0.3mm)|
|Total Travel||3.6mm (+/-0.3mm)||3.6mm (+/-0.3mm)||3.6mm (+/-0.3mm)||3.6mm (+/-0.3mm)|
The weights are nothing new--this is what you would normally expect from a Red, Brown, Blue (in this case, White), and Black switch--but the slightly shallow pretravel of 1.8mm and total travel of 3.6mm make these speed-ish switches. Further, their reset points are all right at the actuation points, so they’re made for rapid key presses.
To borrow the metaphor, if a manufacturer makes a switch, but no keyboard makers use it, does it truly exist? These are rather new switches, so it’s not surprising that we haven’t seen a raft of keyboard announcements with these switches in tow. However, we do know that the speed switches are coming to at least one keyboard manufacturer--a Korean brand called Hansung. The BOX switches (or at least the BOX White switches) are currently available on a keyboard from China’s DareU called the EK835.
There’s no word on when keyboards packing the new Kailh switches might find their way to North America.