Most and least reliable keyboard switch?

User avatar
Hypersphere

10 Feb 2019, 23:05

What is the most and least reliable keyboard switch? (Most or least prone to missed keypresses or unintended repeated keypresses [chattering]).

Answers to this question would be highly correlated with answers to the question, "What is the most and least durable switch?" Obviously, if a given type of switch breaks down with age, use, or accumulation of dirt, it becomes unreliable.

I thought there had been threads on this topic, but I could not find one using our search function. Even if there have been historical threads on this, it might be time for a fresh assessment.

My own experience has mostly been with the following types of keyboard switches:

+ Alps SKCC linear
+ Alps SKCL linear
+ Alps SKCM tactile
+ Alps SKCM clicky
+ Alps various clones, not Matias
+ Cherry mx and clones linear
+ Cherry mx and clones tactile
+ Cherry mx and clones clicky
+ Cherry vintage mx linear
+ Foam & Foil (very limited experience)
+ Hall effect (very limited experience)
+ IBM capacitive buckling spring (Model F)
+ IBM membrane buckling spring (Model M)
+ Matias linear
+ Matias Quiet
+ Matias Click
+ Topre 30 - 55g, silenced or unsilenced
+ Various linear terminal board switches

I have not tested keyboards connected to a computer that have magetic pulse, reed, or valve switches or IBM beam spring switches.

My vote for most reliable: Topre; Cherry mx and clones.

My vote for intermediate reliability: IBM Model M and F (not due to the switch per se, but breakdown of rivets in Model M and breakdown of foam in Model F).

My vote for least reliable: Alps; Alps clones; Matias (Matias vote from reading reports -- my own Matias-switch boards work fine after 3-4 years); and foam & foil (breakdown of foam).

I enjoy using Alps switches when they are working well, but I have been frustrated by their tendency for binding, missing keypresses or chattering. This assessment might not be fair, because I am comparing old used Alps with relatively new Topre and Cherry. In addition, my experience with some types, such as Hall effect, is too limited to make an assessment.

User avatar
vvp

10 Feb 2019, 23:19

Cherry MX Brown switches in my Kinesis Advantage started to misbehave after about 11 years of daily use.

All other keyboards/switches I used did not fail but I never used them for more than about 1-2 years.

A friend had a bad luck with Gateron white (linear). Two switches failed after about 2-3 years of daily use. Other switches on the same keyboard were fine. Maybe the two pieces were faulty.

My conclusion is that Cherry MX is quite reliable and I do not have a clue about other switches.

User avatar
Moosewing

11 Feb 2019, 00:09

Omron B3G-S are notoriously unreliable. Seems like a quarter of the Cyans in my FK-555 have chattering issues, and the Amber variant has been known to die randomly as well. It's such a shame because they feel absolutely fantastic.

User avatar
cineraphael

11 Feb 2019, 02:31

Rubberdome if that count lol, they last like a million keystroke.

User avatar
swampangel

11 Feb 2019, 02:49

I feel like the SKCM whites on my Omnikey 101 never miss a beat. By comparison I often miss keystrokes on Cherry Blue or Black boards (especially when double-tapping a key). But, a person could argue that's really operator error.

I have a few other alps/clone boards and they all have one issue or another -- binding, chattering, scratchiness -- it feels like the Alps family has the highest highs and the lowest lows.

orihalcon

11 Feb 2019, 03:37

By the numbers, the most reliable in terms of continuing to work (though feel will definitely be impacted if there's industrial dust present) would be Honeywell Hall Effect. They even work underwater! Most aren't super easy to convert to USB if you are working with vintage hardware, but a lot of progress is being made to be sure. Manufacturer spec is apparently 30 Billion presses. There are other "contactless" switches such as optical ones, but I doubt the optical light source will last nearly that long.

See Chyros' video at the bottom where he discusses rated switch life and screenshot taken from it below which describes how it would take almost 5000 working years to wear out just the spacebar (as that's the most commonly used key) and assuming half the time working is spent typing and that the spacebar is being pressed 6,000 times per hour while typing:
Hall Effect Switch LIfe.png
Hall Effect Switch LIfe.png (325.55 KiB) Viewed 1175 times
Chyros' full video Here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=37tdDoC7rGA

User avatar
Elrick

11 Feb 2019, 03:59

swampangel wrote:
11 Feb 2019, 02:49
I have a few other alps/clone boards and they all have one issue or another -- binding, chattering, scratchiness -- it feels like the Alps family has the highest highs and the lowest lows.
The Glory of owning and using the Alps phenomenon ;) .

Don't know if you'll receive something Great or something in the Cherry Sewer of filth.

User avatar
Chyros

11 Feb 2019, 07:09

I'd say Alps SKCM aren't really all that unreliable, at least along your definition, just exceptionally dust-sensitive.

Omron B3G-S is by far the worst offender I've seen so far. More and more just stop working even when you're not using them!

User avatar
Muirium
µ

11 Feb 2019, 10:26

It may not be fair, but it’s certainly the question that people buying any individual keyboard want to answer: how likely is *this* board to work perfectly? That includes age, of course. And that’s where Alps gts flkkyy.

In my experience: MX is fantastically long lived and reliable. Now, like Elrick, I don’t actually like it. But I’ll give it credit where it’s surely due. Topre is the one I love, and I’ve quite honestly not had a single missing or duplicated keystroke in the years I’ve used them, heavily. With the added bonus of enjoying the feeling all along!

At the other end of the scale are the two outliers that everyone knows, and which only emerged quite recently.
Special stinky awards go to:

Apple’s current laptop keyboards are a travesty for reliability. They break, key by key, merely in the presence of open air. They’re all still so young, too! Yet everyone of those ever more costly laptops seems to break down, ky b k ntl t trns t sless SHT!

And Matias. Sigh. They used to be half decent. They used to try. Annd nnow itss aall thiss.

When *brand new* keyboards have worse reliability than heavily used ones, decades ahead of them in wear, you’re beyond the point of shrugging it off to luck of the draw. Modern MacBooks and Matias keyboards are designed to fail, right out of the box. Unacceptable!

User avatar
Elrick

11 Feb 2019, 12:08

Muirium wrote:
11 Feb 2019, 10:26
Modern MacBooks and Matias keyboards are designed to fail, right out of the box. Unacceptable!
Macbooks are just that, expensive rubbish dressed up like something high value. The goal of selling worthless "Stink" to the naive and gullible.

Matias on the other hand is a complete punch in the groin type of purchase. He's a dirty, low level street fighter, that never relents upon crippling you, once you let down your guard.

Just simply avoid his gear at all costs or buy a stainless steel groin (wallet) protector and wear it with pride. Far better to buy second hand Omnikeys and Dells, than buy anything linked to Matias.
Last edited by Elrick on 12 Feb 2019, 00:27, edited 2 times in total.

andrewjoy

11 Feb 2019, 12:16

The apple butterfly switch is unreliable as all hell, its a joke honestly.

Most reliable have to be the contactless switches like hall effect etc, you know the ones that last 30 billion key presses and have a redundant sense mechanism in them ... just in case :P

And GOOD rubber domes/ scissor switches. I can imagine you wearing the keycap through on the older thinkpads before the switch fails. Even on the newer ones they have stepped back up again.

User avatar
Chyros

11 Feb 2019, 13:00

I've been thinking about the MOST reliable switches as well, and to be honest, I think Cherry MX is pretty high up. There are switches that I think would probably be even more reliable long-term, but I can't positively say so yet, either because they're too new to have seen a really big amount of use, or because they're SO old that they're very hard to convert and so I haven't actually used them as a driver. Some designs, like beamsprings, capacitive buckling springs etc. have, on paper, a much longer lifetime, but in practice, are so sensitive that they still run into certain issues from time to time. Even if I don't like the MX-type keyfeel all that much (especially tactile), they do have a certain ruggedness that's pretty admirable.

Findecanor

11 Feb 2019, 14:03

andrewjoy wrote:
11 Feb 2019, 12:16
I can imagine you wearing the keycap through on the older thinkpads before the switch fails.
How old? I have once worn down a small rubber dome on a Thinkpad key, the last generation keyboard before the change to chiclet. I think less than one year of use.

I have had one Cherry MX switch fail me several years ago. A vintage Cherry MX blue, pristine keyboard when I got it, after less than one year of my use. The front of the top housing had tore apart! (I probably tweaked the contrast: hence the light stem colour)
Image

ivelegacy

11 Feb 2019, 15:22

What about Cherry ML?

andrewjoy

11 Feb 2019, 15:48

ivelegacy wrote:
11 Feb 2019, 15:22
What about Cherry ML?
Get out!

:P

Not sure on the reliability of them to be fair. The ones i had where fine( and fantastic).

User avatar
Muirium
µ

11 Feb 2019, 16:31

Fantastically what, I wonder?

andrewjoy

11 Feb 2019, 16:38

Muirium wrote:
11 Feb 2019, 16:31
Fantastically what, I wonder?
I like the feel of ML, and the sound.

Better than MX brown IMO.

User avatar
Myoth

11 Feb 2019, 16:58

LOL

User avatar
JP!

11 Feb 2019, 20:43

Chyros wrote:
11 Feb 2019, 07:09
I'd say Alps SKCM aren't really all that unreliable, at least along your definition, just exceptionally dust-sensitive.

Omron B3G-S is by far the worst offender I've seen so far. More and more just stop working even when you're not using them!
Weird, I found the opposite to be true. My keyboard with Amber Omron switches works better after use. When I acquired mine it likely hadn't seen use in decades and found some of the switches did not work. Out of frustration I decided to press a non-functioning key a couple dozen times or so and magically it began to come back to life. I repeated this procedure on the others that didn't work. One key even took like 100 key presses to come back to life. Eventually all keys seemed to be quite reliable. A month later I dug it out and tested again and all the keys still worked. My example was quite clean and seems to had had little use though.

I think some of the cheap KPT clones are far worse and the Amber Omrons at least have a very satisfying click although they are on the loud side.

Kurplop

11 Feb 2019, 22:45

andrewjoy wrote:
11 Feb 2019, 16:38
Muirium wrote:
11 Feb 2019, 16:31
Fantastically what, I wonder?
I like the feel of ML, and the sound.

Better than MX brown IMO.
I'm with andrewjoy. I like the sound and feel of the ML switches more than most I've used. The MX seems slow to me and has too much travel after using the ML's. I also like the 0.70 spacing more than the standard 0.75. I should qualify these comments by saying that I've been using switches that are well worn in and they have little scratchiness. On rare occasions one will stick if I hit it off-center but the pluses greatly outweigh that.

User avatar
Hypersphere

11 Feb 2019, 23:50

I agree with what several of you have said about Cherry mx -- they seem very reliable, but at the same time, far from your favorite type of switch.

I have been amazed at how well old vintage Cherry black switches endure. Every old Wyse I've found has incredibly smooth black Cherry switches that are still registereing just fine, even when the keyboard has been very dirty. Alps boards in similar condition would usually have several chattering or unregistering switches.

Unfortunately, I find vintage Cherry mx black switches to be a tad too heavy and boring to use, but I generally prefer tactile or tactile/clicky switches to linear switches.

I also agree about Topre -- seems highly reliable, although who has a Topre-switch keyboard old enough to assess long-term durability? However, I have some Topre boards that are now entering their 6th year after purchase, and they are still working error-free.

For what it's worth, here is the Topre description from the Elitekeyboards site --their business would appear to be defunct, but the keyboards they used to sell that are now available through other channels are still very much alive and well:

"Topre capacitive key switches are a patented hybrid between a mechanical spring based switch, a rubber dome switch, and a capacitive sensor which, combined, provide tactility, comfort, and excellent durability. The unique electrostatic design of Topre switches requires no physical mechanical coupling and therefore key switch bounce/chatter is eliminated."

"Topre, (formerly named Tokyo Press Kogyo), is an electrical, plastics, and metal materials manufacturer based in Japan. A leader in industrial credit card readers, touch sensors, and touch panels; Topre's key switches are used in critical data-entry applications that require the utmost reliability."

andrewjoy

12 Feb 2019, 00:16

Old and vintage blacks are the black sheep of the MX world..... they are good, very good in fact if cleaned lubed and treated well.

User avatar
Muirium
µ

14 Feb 2019, 17:08

Gah! The bloody Q key in my ‘lil 110 is unresponsive. The SMK switch still clicks but I just checked it with a meter and there’s no continuity any more. Cursed Montereys! It’s still so pristine, too. Got it NIB and kept it good and clean.

Now, as it happens, the identical pale blue SMK switch in my Mr. Interface switch sampler still functions. So I’m tempted to swap them over. Just desolder two pins, right? I’m wary of my desoldering skills, but then I can’t get by without Q.

User avatar
swampangel

14 Feb 2019, 17:27

Muirium wrote:
14 Feb 2019, 17:08
Now, as it happens, the identical pale blue SMK switch in my Mr. Interface switch sampler still functions. So I’m tempted to swap them over. Just desolder two pins, right? I’m wary of my desoldering skills, but then I can’t get by without Q.
I do it the amateur way with desoldering wick and a little bit of flux, and I haven't killed anything yet.

My only pro tip is to mark the target pins with sharpie before you start so you don't end up off-by-1.

davkol

14 Feb 2019, 19:19

Weren't the keyboards on some cheap computers like ZX Spectrum complete and utter garbage? Those were membrane right? Before membranes got actually somewhat decent anyway.

Post Reply

Return to “Keyboards”