Are you a mechanical keyboard nerd looking to update some switches–and wondering if you should go with the “tried and true” Cherry MX brand…
…or perhaps a “Cherry clone” switch? (like Kailh box switches?)
Here’s a breakdown of Kailh Box vs Cherry:
- Cherry is one of the oldest manufacturers of mechanical switches, while Kailh is a newer brand of switches made by a Chinese firm, Kaihua Electronics.
- Although both Cherry and Kailh switches are largely made of the same materials (which depends on the specific switch), Cherry’s manufacturing process might lead to a higher quality switch, though the differences are tiny
- The big difference of Kailh BOX switches is the shape of the stem and the internal switch mechanism (which features a box within the switch).
- Cherry MX switches come in fewer varieties and are usually more expensive than Kailh switches (including Kailh Box)
As a keyboard nerd who has DOZENS of different Cherry MX and Kailh switches, allow me to dive into the details 😎
Click here for our Cherry MX Switch Guide & Comparison.
Key Differences Between Kailh Box Switches and Cherry MX Switches
Let’s explore the differences between Kailh Box & Cherry MX switches (both of which are technically “MX style” switches btw, meaning they’ll fit MX-style keycaps that access the “cross-shaped” stem).
Shape of the Stem
First, this doesn’t really affect the sound & feel THAT much, though it could make the keypress a bit more stable and less wobbly.
- All Cherry MX-style switches have the standard “cross-shaped” stem that fit into the bottom of the keycaps
- Kailh Box switches have the cross surrounded by a box!
The boxed stem offers an additional layer of waterproofing and dust-proofing as well as improved stability! (these switches are rated IP56 water and dust resistance)
To be honest, the key presses aren’t that much smoother than Cherry MX switches. The difference is quite small!
Internal Switch Mechanism
In normal switches (including Cherry), you’d find the following components:
- The copper actuation “leaves”
- A plastic pole that the spring sits on
- Some empty space where the stem travels down
But in Kailh Box switches, there’s an extra little “box” inside the switch that the stem travels to!
This box contains the actuation leaves, and helps protect against dust and water.
The stem makes contact with that small colored (green above) piece of plastic, which makes contact with the leaves.
Kailh Box clicky switches have a different click mechanism
Normal clicky switches (including Cherry MX and clone brands like Gateron, etc) use a “click jacket” mechanism to produce the audible click noise.
However, Kailh box CLICKY switches operate totally differently than Gateron or Cherry MX switches, using a mechanism called a “click bar!”
In general, Kailh Box switches have a “crisper” and “crunchier” click than Gateron (in a good way)!
Quality of Materials
First, materials can differ between different switches (not just switch brands). Most mechanical switches are made from materials like:
- POM (stems)
- Polycarbonate or “PC” (the outer housings)
- Nylon (outer housings)
Cherry MX switches are usually thought to have better materials than most budget “clones,” such as Kailh switches, if they do, the difference is hardly noticeable! Switch manufacturing standards have risen across the board in recent years!
Both Cherry and Kailh use POM, PC, and Nylon for their plastic components, and will last for millions of keystrokes.
Price: Cherry MX vs “Cherry Clones,” including Kailh Box switches
Genuine Cherry MX switches are generally more expensive than budget brands like Kailh, Akko, Gateron, and Outemu. (between $0.50 and $1 per switch).
Kailh Box switches will generally run between $0.30 and $.0.50 per switch (depending on the model).
The Benefits of Cherry MX switches
Cherry MX switches are easily the most popular (and “recognized”) switch for mechanical keyboards, but why?
There are a few key benefits when you go with Cherry:
- Quality: In both terms of materials, AND build quality (which they’re probably the best at since they’ve been refining their manufacturing for DECADES).
- Dependability: Most Cherry switches are NOT fancy, but you can be reasonably sure that they’re going to work, and work for a long time.
I’ve ordered off-brand Cherry CLONES (looking at you, Gateron), that have had a few “dud” switches in the bunch. I’ve also used off-brand switches that started to warp and discolor when I attempted to open the switch for lubing!
Cherry MX switches are easy to lube, built to last, and will sound and feel great (ESPECIALLY the linear and tactile switches)!
But if you’re looking for clicky switches, Kailh Box clickies are the best in the world.
The Benefits of Kailh Box Switches
Here are some advantages that they offer:
- Water and dustproof – since the actuation leaves are inside a box, they’re better protected.
- Crisper and crunchier clicks – as mentioned earlier, Kailh Box CLICKY switches have a different (and IMO better) sound & feel than MX-style switches
- Cost – The premium switches are cheaper than Cherry switches
Personally, I don’t think Kailh Box switches are any “smoother” or “less wobbly” than Cherry MX switches. They’re both pretty smooth switch brands!
If you’re into clicky switches, you’ll want to stick with Kailh Box switches. They’re super crunchy and metallic, without being overly loud and obnoxious.
The linear & tactile Kailh Box switches are ok, but the clicky switches are MUCH better than Cherry MX blues or greens!
Kailh Box vs Cherry: Which switches are better?
Cherry and Kailh (Kaihua Electronics) make high-quality switches, and you can’t go wrong with either brand! Cherry is a more-established brand and their switches might cost a bit more, but Kailh “clones” are still high-quality in 2023 and will last you a long time.
If you’re looking for a linear or tactile switch, Cherry MX switches are probably the safe bet, even if they cost a bit more.
Is Kailh box better than Cherry?
Not necessarily, even though Cherry is the older and more established switch brand. Both companies make high-quality switches, and which you choose depends on the switch you’re looking for! If you’re looking for a linear or tactile switch, we recommend sticking with Cherry MX switches (like Cherry MX Red, Black, Brown, or Clear). But if you’re looking for a clicky switch, Kailh Box makes the best in the market (like the Kailh Box Jades, Pinks, or Navy).
What is the point of Kailh box switches?
The “box” in Kailh Box refers to the inner compartment located inside the switch housing. The metal actuation “leaves” are housed in this box for additional water resistance and dust-proofing. Additionally, Kailh Box switches feature a stem with an addition box shape (sometimes a circle shape) around the standard MX-style “cross” of the stem. This is supposed to lead to smoother keypresses and less wobble.