In an effort to bring objective, scientific testing to switches, we use a machine called a texture analyzer. We discuss this process in detail here.
Reading Our Switch Testing Charts
In our keyboard reviews, we produce a series of charts showing switch data.
On each chart, we overlaid dotted light gray lines to show the switch’s manufacturer’s specifications so you can see at a glance where the switches in a given chart match up. Thus, even for certain items we can’t confidently measure, you can at least get a visual idea of where the switches lie in relation to the manufacturer’s specs.
The first chart shows the keyfeel of a given switch as well as the median force curve of all of the standard switches on a particular keyboard. The smoother, thicker red line is the median of all switches in that particular dataset, and the squiggly black line is a random switch from that set, isolated to show the smoothness or roughness of the stem, the overall keyfeel, and so on:
The second chart shows the range of a set of switches, with the median from the first chart included. The highest line represents the max force at every point in the key travel for all switches, and the lowest line shows the minimum force at every point in the key travel for all switches.
Note that we’ve omitted the rebound line for all three (median, max, and min). Mainly, this is for clarity.
The next chart shows all of the standard switches on a given keyboard:
From that chart, we can see any outliers. Then, using both the chart and the raw data, we can pull out and examine those outliers:
Separately, we also have a look at the stabilized keys. There is much interesting data there. First of all, as we mentioned, the force curve of a stabilized key is almost always different than that of a standard key. The biggest factor is how the stabilizers affect performance.
In practice, it’s all but impossible to strike a standard key off-center such that it impacts the switch performance, but people strike wider keys off center all the time. The extreme example is the spacebar - when typing or gaming, how often do you strike that key exactly on-center, right above the switch? At the very least, the answer is “not always,” even for the most accurate typers and gamers.
So then, the stabilizers actually become quite important in the performance of the wider keys. A poor stabilizer can completely wreck the switch performance relative to the standard keys.
Because of that, we perform three tests on every stabilized key: directly above the left stabilizer, directly above the switch, and directly above the right stabilizer.
By isolating those tests, we can look the performance of all of a keyboard’s stabilized keys based on the center press:
We can also look at the left, center, and right presses of the individual stabilized keys if we want. We can compare any switch in our database this way, in fact.
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