We’d be lying if we said we haven’t complained about the growing number of mechanical keyboard switches clicking their stems onto the market. Things are getting flooded, but the bright side of Razer’s light-actuated optical mechanical switches is they’re at least technologically different from traditional switches, rather than Cherry MX replicas. But that doesn’t mean every switch has been a homerun.
Razer’s Optical Clicky purple switches felt lightweight when we first tested them in our Razer Huntsman review, but the Linear Optical red switches debuted in the Razer Huntsman Tournament Edition last year left us less enthused. Razer is hoping to fix that by releasing 2nd Gen Linear Optical switches this August.
New Razer Linear Optical Switch
|Razer Linear Optical Switch (2nd Gen)||Cherry MX Red||Razer Clicky Optical||Kailh Box White||Cherry MX Blue|
|Type||Linear||Linear||Clicky||Clicky, tactile||Clicky, tactile|
|Switch Lifespan||100 million keystrokes||100 million keystrokes||100 million keystrokes||80 million keystrokes||50 million keystrokes|
Linear switches are celebrated by gamers for their smooth travel, which can help with rapid actuation and near-silent sound. Sure, clicky switches make for an awesome typing experience reminiscent of typewriters and other classic input methods, but if you’re chatting with teammates, streaming or working with anyone else, a bunch of clicking can get you muted.
A quick recap on Razer’s optical switches (opens in new tab). Introduced in 2018 with the purple Razer Clicky Optical Switch, each press sends the switch’s stem through a light beam that causes actuation. This differs from traditional mechanical switches, like Cherry MX ones, that actuate with metallic contact. It’s actuation via light that’s supposed to be quicker and smoother than what you’re used to.
The second-generation Razer Linear Optical Switches are supposed to be quieter than the original. When we tested Razer’s first optical linear switch in its 2019 Huntsman Tournament Edition keyboard, we commented on its surprisingly loud nature, especially when typing heavily. It was a soft, plastic-like ringing noise that was definitely louder than what we get from Cherry MX Red (opens in new tab) switches.
To remedy this, Razer added silicon sound dampeners to every switch and the keyboard itself for quieter typing, especially with the larger keys. I don’t have a unit on hand yet, so I can’t be sure (our Razer Huntsman Mini review unit had purple optical switches). But Razer played me a recording comparing the two new switches’ sound profile,The larger keys seemed to be roughly 50% quieter, and the H key demonstrated was barely audible.
Razer’s use of new and more quantiful lubricant is also supposed to help reduce the new switch’s noise levels. This new approach to lubing also applies to the Huntsman Mini with purple clicky switches.
Razer’s clicky optical switches are lightweight, easy on the fingers and offer a satisfying click that’s great for typing. Keen gamers also enjoy shorter travel and actuation points. But Razer’s linear approach to optical switches wasn’t as exciting.
Linear switches are great for gaming, and Razer’s debuting the 2nd Gen Linear Optical switches in a 60% keyboard particularly fit for first-person shooters and games that evoke a lot of mouse movement. This should at least get the switches in front of the right people, including die-hards who’d notice a 0.5mm difference in travel over traditional red switches. But that’s a small numerical change, and getting mainstream gamers to see it as big value is no easy task.
Sadly, the linear version of the Huntsman Mini will cost $10 more than the clicky version. It seems quiet comes at a cost. We’ll have to wait until August to see if Razer’s made it worth it.