What are Optical Switches | Optical vs Mechanical - Goblintechkeys

What are Optical Switches | Optical vs Mechanical 

Ever wondered how your keyboard clicks and clacks when you type? Well, there's more to it than just the sound. Imagine pressing a key, and instead of a physical mechanism making it work, it's all about light doing the trick. That's the magic of optical keyboard switches, shaking things up in the world of keyboards dominated by the familiar clicks of mechanical switches.

But why does it matter? Because the selection between optical vs mechanical switches is like choosing the vibe of your typing experience. 

In this article, you will explore optical vs mechanical switches in detail. Whether it's about your preferences or switching features, knowing the differentiating factors helps you make the right choice.

But first, let's have a quick overview of the advanced switch type.

What are Optical Switches?

Optical switches are a robust keyboard technology that relies on infrared light to register key presses. They represent a revolutionary departure from traditional mechanical keyboard technology, introducing a sleek and responsive alternative that depends on the manipulation of light signals rather than physical contact.

optical switch

Optical vs Mechanical Switches: A Comparative Analysis

Choosing between optical and mechanical switches is like deciding between a modern and traditional clicking journey with varied critical aspects. But you don't have to worry anymore. If you are looking to change the switch of your keyboard and are stuck between these two options, we have made it easier for you. Let’s discuss them side by side:

Optical vs Mechanical Switches: How They Work?

Optical switches revolutionize the traditional keyboard mechanism by harnessing the power of light. They utilize infrared light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and sensors. When a key is pressed, the interruption of this light signal triggers the switch to register the keystroke. 

Well, considering mechanical switches, the interaction is grounded in physicality. Each key is supported by a complex system of moving parts, including a plastic 'stem' and metal contacts. When a key is pressed, these components engage in a tactile movement, with the stem pushing metal contacts together to complete the circuit and register the keystroke. 

mechnical switch

Optical vs Mechanical: Speed and Responsiveness

Regarding speed and responsiveness, optical switches take the lead with their swift, light-driven operation. The absence of physical contact means that the moment a key is pressed, the interruption of light signals results in an almost instantaneous registration. This feature proves invaluable, especially in fast-paced gaming scenarios where split-second reactions can determine success or failure.

Comparatively, mechanical switches, while providing a distinct actuation point, introduce a slightly longer response time than their optical counterparts. For users who value the tactile experience and customizable actuation points, the nuanced delay may be a worthwhile tradeoff. 

Optical vs Mechanical: Durability and Longevity

Optical switches, with their absence of physical contact during keypresses, boast an inherent advantage in terms of longevity. The lack of components rubbing against each other translates to minimal wear and tear, promising a significantly extended lifespan. The average life span of optical switches is 100 million keystrokes.

In contrast, mechanical switches involve physical contact and mechanical components interacting with each keystroke. It can lead to higher wear, especially in heavy usage scenarios. Also, they have half the number of keystrokes than optical switches. However, the robust design of mechanical switches often compensates for this by allowing for individual key replacement, extending the overall lifespan of the keyboard.

Optical vs Mechanical Switches: Noise

In the world of keyboard switches, noise becomes a defining factor, shaping the atmosphere of your typing or gaming experience. Considering the noise effect, the optical switches use light instead of physical contact, which makes them quieter. This is why these switches are preferred by those who want a peaceful typing or gaming experience. This calmness is excellent for shared spaces and adds a classy touch to the overall feel.

However, mechanical switches, famous for their satisfying feel, come with a sound: a mix of clicks and clacks. Some people love this rhythmic noise because it feels nostalgic and satisfying. But, it might not be the best choice in places where noise is a concern.

Optical vs Mechanical Switches: Accessibility

Wondering which keyboard switch is easier to find? Mechanical switches take the lead in terms of accessibility. The widespread presence of mechanical switches gives them a notable advantage over their optical counterparts. Whether in offices, gaming setups, or casual home use, the familiarity and prevalence of mechanical switches ensure that you can find them almost everywhere.

In contrast to the ubiquitous presence of mechanical switches, optical switches exhibit a more limited accessibility, posing challenges for those seeking to adopt this modern technology. This makes them less common in everyday usage scenarios. 

Furthermore, their integration often requires a specialized Printed Circuit Board (PCB) for installation, adding an extra layer of complexity. This requirement can limit the ease of upgrading or modifying existing keyboards with optical switches, making the transition less straightforward.

Mechanical vs Optical Switches: Price Point

While discussing the cost, the distinction between optical and mechanical switches brings forth a nuanced financial landscape. Generally, mechanical switches have been more cost-effective for users seeking a reliable and tactile typing experience. 

The widespread adoption and manufacturing efficiency of mechanical switches contributes to their affordability. Additionally, keyboards featuring mechanical switches can be found at various price ranges. It makes them suitable for a broad audience, including budget-conscious consumers.

On the other hand, optical switches are a newer and innovative technology, often with a premium price tag. The intricate components and technology involved in producing optical switches contribute to their higher manufacturing costs. 

Optical Switches vs Mechanical Switches: Which is Better?

Determining whether optical or mechanical switches are superior depends on personal preferences and the intended use. Optical switches, leveraging light signals, excel in providing swift, frictionless keystrokes with minimal noise. It is the perfect fit for gamers due to its smooth and durable typing experience.

Conversely, mechanical switches hold steadfast to a tried-and-true, classic feel, offering a tactile and audible typing experience. It primarily serves everyday tasks and individuals who appreciate the classic sensation of keys making that familiar clicking sound.


Our above-mentioned guide on optical vs mechanical switches must have clarified both options. However, if you are skeptical about the place to find the best keycaps, Goblin Techkeys is the perfect spot for you. We offer creative and unique keycaps, keyboards, and mats tailored to your preferences.

So why wait? Contact us now and elevate your typing experience with us.

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