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Switch Weight

What is the best type of switch for speed typing?  How much does switch weight matter?

Here are my thoughts on switch weight.

Lighter switches require less work to actuate, are less fatiguing to type on over extended periods of time, and are more nimble and easier to use.  Stenographers use the lightest spring weights possible for their switches.  While they are pressing more keys at a time than QWERTY typists, I imagine the lighter spring weight must also be for speed and ease of use.

Honestly, while I can share with you my personal preferences, this is something you have to figure out for yourself.  Experiment and find out what kind of switch you are most comfortable speedtyping on.

For me, these are the main switches I’ve used and how I’ve felt typing on them.

MX Blues-  the first board I raced with.  A fairly light switch with a little click that is heard, but not really felt while speed typing.  Basically a linear switch with a click in the middle of it.  My fingers were able to fly on these switches, I think because of the basically non-existent weight while typing fast.

67g Zealios-  When I fell in love with 67g Zealios, I got myself a board of them and pretty much shelved my MX Blues.  I found I could type equally quickly on these Zealios switches.

Topre 55g-  I noticed I couldn’t type as quickly on these-  about a 15% speed decrease.  I think there’s something about the force curve that throws me off while typing for speed.  It’s not necessarily a mechanical limitation, but it feels like there’s a greater disconnect between the action of the switch and the registration of the keystroke.

Topre 45g-  These are easier than the 55g to speed type on, but that strange feeling of disconnect is still there.  Don’t get me wrong, apart from typing for speed, these two Topre domes are two of my favorite switches to type on.  They’re a favorite leisure typing switch, just not a speed typing switch. 😀

Holy Pandas-  When I first started using these, their very tactile nature reminded me of Topre domes in a sense, with their early action and steep dropoff, so I didn’t expect to be able to type quickly on them.  However, typing more on them proved otherwise. They’ve become my favorite switch for leisure, and for speed.  Something about their snappiness, particularly the snappy return, makes the fingers feel so alive and engaged, while retaining that feeling of flitting around that I talked about in my earlier post about minimizing travel distance and having a light touch.

I haven’t used linears in any of my boards yet, but it’s going to happen soon!  I’ll report about those when I get to use them.

Update (March 1st, 2019): I have been using linears for the past half year, and boy do I have some news to report.  First, what linears am I using?  I modded some Retooled MX Black switches with 60g springs, polycarb switch films, and lubed them with 3204.  I used them first in my X60, and now they’re in my Reborn 60.  Let me tell you, these linears have brought me to new levels of pure typing enjoyment.  The sound, the feel, the comfort, everything about it is phenomenal.  From the perfect weight, to the smooth travel, capped off with the wonderful bottom-out sound, they are hands-down my new favorite switch to type on.  And though I am a believer in having multiple favorites, I already know these will be a forever favorite.

And what we’re all here for: How do I like them for speed typing?

MX Blacks (Retooled, 60g, switch filmed, 3204)- I find these top notch for speed typing.   Linears allow my fingers to actuate switches in a way no other switches have allowed.  I understand now why MX Red/Black switches were advertised as the best for gamers, who needed quick actuation and spammable keypresses.  These keys being light, with no tactile bump/resistance, enhances the ease of speed typing in a way that I haven’t felt with any other switches.  The best way I can explain it is that my fingers can fly freely, without needing to exert any particular extra effort in pushing past any tactile bumps, which allows my hands to stay stationary, and just the fingers to move, improving speed and accuracy.  (More on this later.)  I have gotten my highest speed records on linears (mid-170 on 10FF, more recently), compared to my previous highest on Holy Pandas (mid-160 on 10FF, before linears).  Note that this could be due to using linears, but could also be due to having improved as a typist and not having gone back to other switch types after switching to linears, haha.

With all this good stuff to say about linears, I will share my one caveat to speed typing on linears.  I’m finding that to achieve maximum speed, a certain level of precision is required.  This precision is found in keeping the entire ‘typing system’ (arm, wrist, hand, big knuckles) in a nearly-stationary position, which allows the fingers to move independently, quickly and lightly across the keys.  When I’ve competed in typing competitions, such as at meetups, or TCC1 (which I streamed), my fingers get jittery, and that level of precision is harder to achieve.  I find myself hitting the switches harder, and in general having less ‘feel’ for the keys.  While I still have some races where I get that level of precision down and I’m flying through the text, in general, errors come up more often.  I think this would be a case when typing on a tactile switch might be more advantageous, to make use of the tactile feedback that subconsciously gives my hand/mind a better feel for the keys as I’m typing on them.  If you’re the type to get nervous in competitions as I am, it’s something to consider.  I would switch over to a board with Holy Pandas, because I find those to have just the right amount of tactility to be noticeable without being overly difficult or jarring to actuate.

More on typing form, continued from above: My typing form used to be that I lightly rested both wrists while speed typing.  Since switching to linears, I have switched to a posture of floating both wrists.  I find that floating both wrists at a stationary place in the air allows my fingers to move most freely to ‘flit around’ from key to key.  I find this particularly effective with linears, and now also employ this when speed typing on other switch types.  This has led me to find a new ‘technique’ that is basically hovering my wrists/hands, minimizing movement of the palm part of the hand, and moving only the fingers.  I think I’ll make a post about this later to explain further.

With all this talk about switches, I think the most important thing is that you are in tune with the switch you are using.  Know it inside and out.  Know how much force is required to actuate it, and type accordingly.  Don’t waste time and energy being heavy-handed (heavy-fingered?) and slamming down on the keys.  Type quickly and gently- think more like tapping and less like punching.

What about you guys?  What switches do you type fastest on?