Thursday, October 18, 2012

Why I Like Buckling Springs over Cherry MX Switches

If you're into mechanical keyboards, you almost certainly are familiar with Cherry MX Switches, they're the most popular these days. Especially MX Blues...

Personally, I prefer the buckling springs on the old IBM clicky keyboards.

Don't get me wrong, I think Cherry MX Blue switches are great, but I still think buckling springs are better.

The thing I don't like about Cherry tactile switches is that there is a noticeable "bump" on the release of a key.

This effect is nearly absent (in fact, it's slightly the opposite effect, it feels more like a springy pop) with buckling springs.

This is visible in the force diagrams.

Cherry Switches. MX Blue (and Brown) switches have a noticeable drop in force on the return, this results in a noticeable bump in the return of the keypress. It has the opposite feeling of the Buckling Springs' return path.
Buckling Springs. Notice how the return path is almost completely smooth? It actually jumps up a little near the end of the return of the key press.

As you can see from the two diagrams, the feel of the key return is completely opposite on the Cherry tactile switches versus the IBM buckling springs. The actuation is fairly similar though.

This is the main reason I don't like MX Browns, I'm not really a fan of the tactile feel of Cherry switches... I do like MX Blues, but mainly because I like the clicking (even if I can't hear it with headphones). It's been awhile since I've used Browns though, so, perhaps I wouldn't notice a huge difference between blues and browns if I can't hear the click. All I remember was that I originally thought Browns and Blues were the same, except for the noise, but I remember them feeling different when I tried them...
Also, the actuation force is too low on MX Blues for me... would love to see some keyboards with MX Greens (basically, MX Blue switches with MX Black springs), but they don't exist.

Either way, bucking springs are better.


  1. It depends for me. I have a Model M board, a black widow with MX Blues, and a tenkeyless with MX Browns.

    I use the MX browns at a rental house so I don't bug the housemates. I prefer them the best. I use the MX blues @ work though, because I type extremely fast with them and am comfortable typing on them for longer vs buckling spring. I tried to use buckling spring @ work, but they are too loud and they get very tiring after a few hours. I just can't do the type of typing speed I'd like with them.

    I use the Buckling springs on a desktop computer at a condo where I stay alone.

  2. I'm in agreement with you here, SL. I've worked with my IBM by Lexmark 104 for many years - until I nudged some coffee into the front row of keys, and now I've lost a couple of letters. Great sadness.
    With the help of Youtube I managed to take it apart, but, to my great surprise, while I certainly had a buckling-spring device, I also had a triple-membrane design. I expected that a keyboard of this quality/expense would have more sophisticated electrical switches than conductive-separator-conductive plastic layers. I understand that these are assembled in clean-rooms, so I doubt that I will have much chance of cleaning out coffee dregs - after I mill off the 20 or so belled-over melted posts holding a heavy metal plate to the membranes, should I ever go so far.
    And it had a PS/2 connector, that suited my 4-port KVM box.
    I loved using the keyboard. Nothing around today is quite the same.

    1. On the contrary, something around today is the same: Unicomp keyboards have the same switch mechanism as the Model M.

    2. They are actually original Model M's, just being manufactured in modern times. They use the original parts, down to the key molds, with the only changes being the inclusion of USB vs the old PS/2 or SDL cables. They're made in the same manufacturing facility, by the same people, using the same parts, design specifications and product molds -- and they sell for under $100 to boot. If you like buckling springs, theres no reason to ever look anywhere else.

    3. Also, the membrane was a traditional design of the times -- these weren't considered to be top quality keyboards in their day, they were considered to be dime-a-dozen with IBM desktops, hence the membrane internals. This was always the design (and isn't itself inherently bad -- see Topre switches for other places that use the membrane contact point concept in high end designs). It probably could be redesigned to be an entirely mechanical design utilizing the buckling springs -- but at this point, the design has approaching 30 years of reliable performance, why change it?

  3. Your experience is great and learning for other peoples.
    flexible circuits