If you want your keyboard to feel buttery smooth, there’s nothing better than a “thocky” linear switch.
But it’s 2023, and there are a million linears to choose from!
Here are the best linear switches you can buy in 2023:
- NK Creams
- Gateron Ink Black V2
- Akko CS Silver – Best for Gaming
- Gateron Milky Yellows – Best Budget
- Cherry MX Silent Red – Best Quiet Linears
I’ve tested 50+ linear switches over the past few years–and while I don’t think there’s a single “best overall” linear switch, I DO want to categorize the top linear switches so that you can find one that works best for you!
How we rank linear switches:
There are a few factors you need to look for when choosing a linear switch:
|Cost||Obviously, you’ll want to stay within your budget. Most switches are between $0.30-$1.00 per switch, which can add up depending on the size of your keyboard!|
|Sound||This is half the reason we use mechanical keyboards, right? How do the linear switches sound? Thocky? Tappy? Low-end or high-end? Scratchy? Smooth?|
|Feel||This is the other half; how do the switches feel? Will they be uncomfortable for long typing sessions? Good for fast gaming?|
|Design||Sure, the switches will mostly be under the keycaps and you won’t see them anyways, but there’s still something to be said for how cool the switches look!|
|Ease of lubing & filming||Most linear switches are easy enough to lube, but some are more difficult to disassemble and assemble than others.|
|Durability||Are the switches made from decent materials? A housing that won’t feel & sound scratchy–and that will last for a long time?|
Best Linear Switches for your mechanical keyboard:
Let’s try to categorize these so you can find the perfect switch for how you use your computer 😎
Gateron Milky Yellow – Best Budget Linear Switch
- The Gateron Yellow switches are regarded among the mechanical keyboard community as the budget king of linear switches.
- Gateron yellow switch: linear feel (straight up and down) 50+15GF operating force, operating force is between the black shaft and the red shaft, the familiar strength can hit the ground with a touch...
- These switches are 5-pin and will fit on any PCB-mount board.
|Actuation Force||50g (or 55g, I’ve seen it listed both ways)|
|Sound||Pretty low-end, thocky|
|Feel||buttery smooth, medium resistance|
The Gateron Milky Yellow switches are one of the best linear switches of all time and a community favorite for a reason.
They’re smooth & medium-heavy to type on, with the best “thocky” sound of any linear switch I’ve tried. And at $0.25 or so a switch, they’re super affordable.
There are a few top-tier switches on this list, but none will even come close to matching the Gateron Milky Yellows in terms of price!
The 50g (or 55g, I’ve seen it listed both ways) of actuation force is right in the middle in terms of resistance, but rest assured–these switches offer plenty of resistance and a smooth feel.
PRO TIP: You can find several versions of the Milky Yellows. You’ll see a version with a top AND bottom milky housing, but you can also find “black bottom Gateron Milky Yellow switches,” which feature a black nylon bottom housing. These are less scratchy!
If you’re on a tight budget (or even if you’re not), the Gateron Milky Yellows are best in class.
Read our full review of the Milky Yellows here.
Akko CS Silver – Best for Gaming
- Akko CS Switch Series – Akko Custom Series (CS) switches are 3-pin custom switches made for DIY enthusiasts to obtain satisfying typing feelings with more affordable options.
- Silver 43gf Linear Switch – Akko Silver is equipped with dustproof stem for enhanced stability. With short pre-travel of 1mm, this is one of the fastest Akko CS switches and is ideal for gaming.
- Built-in LED Slot – Akko CS switches are equipped with LED slot ready for LED Mod/Assembly, and are SMD compatible (LED underneath the switch) .
|Actuation Force||43g (pretty light, also has 1.1mm pre-travel distance (short))|
|Sound||medium-to-high pitch “tappy.”|
|Feel||fast, light, yet REALLY satsifying|
Technically, the Akko CS Silver switches are “speed switches,” meaning their supposed to activate slightly faster than most other switches.
Specifically, the travel distance (till the switch activates) is only 1.1mm, compared to the 1.5mm-2mm of normal switches.
But to be frank, the speed increase is hardly noticeable! Still-the Akko CS Silvers are my all-time favorite linear switch!
Why? Sound and feel.
They sound right in the middle of “low-end butter smooth” and “high-end tappy smooth.”
And the feel? SO satisfying! The higher resistance (45g) combined with the shorter travel distance (1.1mm to activation, 3mm total travel) makes these feel perfect.
They’re fast, so gamers might see a tiny competitive edge–but they’re also just amazing to type on.
Click here for our full review of the Akko Silver linear switches.
I know I didn’t recommend a “best overall” linear switch, but for me, personally, it’s the Akko Silvers! ⭐
Runner-up: The Cherry MX Speed Silver
|Granvela Cherry MX Speed Silver RGB Switches (10 Pcs) | Plate Mounted | Tactile Switch for...||$16.99||View on Amazon|
Cherry MX is the gold standard when it comes to mechanical keyboard switches. They’re not always the best, but they’re reliable.
And although they’re more expensive than the Akko CS Silvers, they offer most of the same advantages:
- 45g actuation force (light)
- 1.2mm pre-travel
- High-quality materials
They also sell the MX Speed Silvers with opaque black housing, as well as clear housings that let your RGB shine through.
NovelKeys (NK) Cream – Great sound, but with a catch
- NovelKeys Cream - Linear | 4mm travel | 2mm operating | 55g actuation | 70g bottom out
- Featuring housing and stem that is made out of self lubricating POM, this linear is a smooth and unique experience.
- The switch is also a first for Kailh, as it features MX style latching for the housing
|Sound||creamy, poppy, medium thocky|
|Feel||smooth but poppy, medium-heavy|
The NK Cream linear switches are also really popular in the mechanical keyboard communities (I think it’s mostly the name).
They’re definitely “creamy” sounding (hence the name), as well as deep and “thocky.”
However, there are two reasons why the NK Creams aren’t the best overall: You absolutely need to lube them (else they sound scratchy), and they’re also quite pricey ($0.70ish per switch).
If you don’t swap your switches often, the NK Creams are totally worth buying and lubing. They’ll be fun to type and game on, and sound fantastic.
But if you want to use them right out of the box (no lube), they’re going to sound scratchy and NOT feel as smooth!
Gateron Ink Black V2 – Smooth but hard to find
- This link only has switches，does not include other extras.
- These switches are made of a new type of plastic.
- These switches are made of a new type of plastic.
|Sound||low-end, bassy, MORE muted|
|Feel||Heavy, smooth, and buttery (but with a tiny amount of wobble)|
The Ink Black V2 linear switches are another “premium” switch from Gateron, but this time without the “low-budget” price point.
They’re not terribly expensive, but they can be hard to find! Probably because they are yet another community favorite 🔥
The Ink Black switches feel really heavy and smooth, with a deep, pleasant, “muted thocky” sound. If you like heavy resistance and smooth typing/gaming, these are the perfect switch!
Comparing black switches to silver switches (like the Akko CS Silver above) is a bit like comparing apples and oranges.
- Silver (and some red) linears = smooth, faster, higher-pitched “tappy” sounds
- Blacks (and yellow) linears = smoother, heavier, lower-pitched “thocky” sounds
The Gateron Ink Black switches are EASILY my favorite black switch, and if you’re into buttery smooth keypresses, grab the Ink Blacks.
You can read our full review of the Ink black switches here, but also check out this post: Gateron Milky Yellow vs Ink Black V2 (Comparison).
Alternative Black Switches: Akko Jelly Black and Cherry MX Black
The Akko Jelly Blacks are quite nice, and comparable to the Gateron Ink Black switches.
They won’t feel quite as smooth, but they are a “box” switch design, which features a box-shaped stem that is slightly dust-proof and water-resistant. They’re also slightly cheaper than the Ink Blacks.
Read our full review of the Akko Jelly Black linear switches here.
The Cherry MX Blacks are also a fantastic linear switch. They’re not quite as “premium” as the Milky Yellows and Ink Blacks, but I prefer them over the standard Cherry MX reds (they’re smoother & heavier).
Also, check out our review of the new Cherry MX Black Clear Top “nixie” switches. They’re SOLID.
Cherry MX Silent Red – Best Silent Switch
|Actuation Force||45g medium-light|
|Sound||pretty muted 😉|
|Feel||normal, smooth, kinda fast|
While the standard Cherry MX Red switches are great, the MX Silent Red switches are THE BEST silent switches on the market.
The silent switches feature…
- a special dampening component (attached to the switch stem)
- a low spring resistance
- a low operating force
This allows the Silent Reds to stay muted, while still feeling nice and smooth!
Sadly, the Cherry Silent Reds are somewhat difficult to find, and also more expensive (but most “silent” switches are).
Also, if you want something heavier, they also make a Cherry MX Silent Black version.
Click here to see our recommendations for the quietest mechanical keyboards!
And here’s our guide to the best silent switches!
Alpaca Linear Switches – Another Smooth & Heavy Switch
|Actuation Force||62g heavy|
|Sound||normal, medium-low pitch, thocky|
|Feel||heavy, smooth, needs switch films probably|
Alpaca switches are actually made at the JWK Durock factory (Durock also has a popular linear switch, as well as top-tier stabilizers for your keyboard, etc).
Although they’re mostly a black switch (62g of operating force is heavier than most red switches), they do have an interesting mix of materials:
- Top housing is polycarbonate (standard)
- Bottom housing is Nylon (less scratchy! The “black bottom” Gateron Milky Yellows also feature a nylon bottom housing)
- Stem is standard POM
Everybody I’ve seen typing on the Alpacas mentions having to put switch films on them, else they can have a bit of wobble (which won’t sound or feel as good).
At the time of this writing, these are hard to find in stock! Check Apex Keyboards first.
See below for more info on switch films!
|Actuation Force||62g or 67g, they sell both|
|Sound||super low and thocky|
|Feel||depends on which weight you buy|
These bright orange switches have a slightly different sound than most other linears.
“Thock” generally just means lower-pitched or “deep,” btw. The C3 tangerines definitely have a deeper thock to them, but with a sharper, faster, “poppy” sound.
They’re also expensive (roughly $1 per switch, or 4x what you can get the Gateron Milky Yellows for), and probably need to be lubed and filmed. AND they’re really hard to find in stock.
As of early 2023, thekey.company is pre-ordering now.
That’s why these can’t get a “best overall” recommendation, but they’re still smooth & pleasant linear switches, and if you enjoy the poppy sound, they’re worth a try!
Tecsee Carrot – Best unlubed linear
- ✅ TECSEE Purple Panda- Tactile | 2mm Pre-Travel | 3.0mm Total Travel | 55g Actuation | 67g Bottom Out | Long Stem
- ✅ TECSEE Carrot Switch- Linear | 2mm Pre-Travel | 3.5mm Total Travel | 55g Actuation | 67g Bottom Out | Long Stem.
- ✅ TECSEE new PME Raw material lubrication for your hot swappable mechanical gaming keyboards.
|Actuation Force||55g medium|
|Sound||normal, medium pitch, kinda like a Cherry Red|
|Feel||Surprisingly smooth, even without lube|
If you absolutely do NOT want to bother disassembling & lubing your switches, you might check out the Tecsee Carrots. They sound & feel great right out of the box!
However, the “PME” material of the housing is NOT durable and is actually difficult to work with if you DO want to lube them.
If you’re too lazy to lube them, the Carrots are for you 😉
Click here to read our full review of the Tecsee Carrot linear switches.
What Is a Linear Switch? (Vs Tactile vs Clicky)
All switches fall under 3 broad categories:
- Linear: The simplest type. The entire keypress is a straight, smooth path from the top to the bottom. There’s no tactile or auditory feedback when you press them, and they require the least amount of force to actuate.
- Tactile: These switches provide a tiny “bump” when you press them (generally around the actuation point). This “tactile feedback” helps your fingers feel when the key has actually been registered.
- Clicky: These are a sub-type of tactile switches. There’s the tiny bump, but with a small audible “click.” These are generally louder.
Want to see our recommended switches for those categories? See these posts 👇
To sum up: Linear switches are smooth all through the keypress! The only thing your fingers feel is the switch “bottoming out” at the very bottom of the keystroke.
Who Should Use Linear Switches?
Since they can be slightly faster and “easier” to activate, linear switches are often preferred by gamers, though they work just fine for typing and general use, too!
However, since your fingers aren’t offered the “physical feedback” to let them know that the key has been pressed, like tactile & clicky switches–linear switches might lead to more discomfort for long typing sessions.
Personally, I have found heavier linear switches to be slightly uncomfortable for typing/working (like the Gateron Milky Yellows or Ink Blacks). I’ve no finger pain issues with lighter linear switches (like the Akko CS Silvers or Cherry MX Reds). But this is MY experience!
The only way to find what works for you is to try some linear switches!
Should You Lube Linear Switches?
Yes, most linear switches really improve with a bit of light lubing (sound and feel). This is because “smooth” is the general feeling that linear switches offer anyways–and applying a good lube (like Krtox 205g or G Lube) will do 2 vital things:
- make linear switches even more smooth
- lower the sound (slightly more muted and lower-pitched “thocky”)
Lubing tactile (and clicky) switches is slightly more difficult (since you’ll want to avoid lubing the tactile bump!), and a bit of higher pitch and scratchiness isn’t quite as noticeable (and is actually preferred with some tactile switches).
Check out our full guide to lubing switches here.
Should you film linear switches?
Not necessarily. Adding switch films in between the top and bottom housing is really only necessary if the switches have a bit of wobble–so you should always check the switches for wobble first.
PRO TIP: What are switch films? Switch films are tiny, thin pieces of plastic (or other materials) that you can insert in between the top and bottom housing of your switches. This will help eliminate switch wobble, which can cause your keys to sound & feel “mushy” and “scratchy.”
Conclusion: Which linear switch should you buy?
If you’re a gamer looking for a competitive speed advantage, or you simply prefer the higher-end “tappy” sound of lighter linear switches, you should check out either the Akko CS Silver switches or the Cherry MX Speed Silver switches.
If you prefer a smoother, heavier feel and a deeper “thocky” sound, you should look at the Gateron Milky Yellows or Ink Blacks!
But honestly, I’ve tested ALL of the linear switches on this list, and can sincerely recommend every single switch!
Happy “thocking,” keyboard friends!
Linear Switch F.A.Q.s
Which are the best linear switches?
This will largely depend on the sound profile you prefer! If you prefer a lighter, “tappy” sound, I recommend the Akko CS Silver or standard Cherry MX Red switches. But if you prefer a deeper, “thockier” sound, I recommend the Gateron Milky Yellow, Gateron Ink Black, or Alpaca switches. These are all favorites of the Keeb Community!
Which linear switch is the best for gaming?
While all linear switches are great for gaming (smoother and generally faster than tactile switches), you’ll probably want a linear switch that has a lighter actuation force (resistance) and shorter travel distance. We recommend the Akko CS Silver or Cherry MX Silver switches! Both of these feature a pre-travel distance of around 1.1mm, which is quite fast.
What are the most Thocky switches?
If you’re looking for a deeper, lower-pitched “thock” from your mechanical switches, we recommend either the Gateron Milky Yellow, Gateron Ink Black V2, or Alpaca switches. All of these are on the heavier and smoother end of linear switches, and are community favorites in terms of “thock.”
What are the deepest-sounding linear switches?
If you’re looking for lower-pitched linear switches, you should check out the Gateron Ink Black V2 switches (or perhaps the Cherry MX Black switches). All of these are buttery smooth and heavy (60+ actuation force), and will result in a deep “thocky” sound.
Is linear or clicky better for gaming?
In a general sense, linear switches are going to be better for gaming. This is because they’re generally faster and smoother than tactile or clicky switches (which have a physical “tactile bump” during the keypress). There are several “speed switches,” such as the Akko CS Silver and Cherry MX Silver, which are designed specifically for gaming! However, there are also speed clicky switches, such as the Kailh Speed Gold switches, which offer some of the same advantages to linear switches (but with the small bump and click, of course).