Many of us who use keyboards on a daily basis understand the importance of having a high-quality keyboard. We care about the tactile feedback, responsiveness, and sound it produces when we press a key. How hard or soft should we press? And how easy is it to detect when a key is activated? All these factors largely depend on the keyboard’s switches – the mechanism that activates each individual key. While most switches are soldered onto the keyboard during manufacturing and can’t be easily changed, there is one important exception: hot-swappable switches and keyboards that support them.
What Are Hot-Swappable Switches?
Hot-swappable switches are specially designed keyboard switches that can be easily replaced for a different type of switch using a basic switch-puller tool. You might be thinking, “I can already remove keys from my keyboard,” and you’re right. However, that only refers to the keycap, which can be detached when cleaning the keyboard. Most switches, on the other hand, cannot be removed unless you’re willing to do some soldering work. With a hot-swappable keyboard, you can change the switch itself without disassembling the keyboard. This is why it’s called “hot-swappable” – you can swap switches on demand, choosing the ones that suit your preferences, key by key.
The Advantages of Hot-Swappable Design
One major advantage of hot-swappable switches is the ability to customize the response of each key. You can experiment with different switches for all the keys or simply swap switches for the ones you use most frequently. Furthermore, you can place different switches on important, remapped keys based on how they feel when activated. This level of customization is often offered by the best gaming keyboards, but it’s not limited to gamers. Anyone who wants to have more control over their keyboard’s feel and frequently uses specialized commands can benefit from hot-swappable switches.
The Variety of Switches You Can Swap To
Hot-swappable keyboard sockets are designed to work with standard switches, particularly those in common styles such as Cherry MX, Alps, or Topre, giving you a wide range of options. Many switches are color-coded to indicate their unique characteristics. For example, blue switches are very tactile and produce a classic, clicky sound, while red switches are smooth, speedy, and quiet. Brown switches fall somewhere in between, providing clear feedback with a tactile bump upon actuation. Switches can also be distinguished by travel distance, actuation force, and other specifications that buyers can review. Switches can either be three-pin or five-pin, referring to the number of points of contact they have with the keyboard socket. Five-pin designs offer more stability but are otherwise similar to their three-pin counterparts.
Keyboards with Hot-Swappable Switches
Not all keyboards have hot-swappable switches. Mechanical keyboards specifically designed for swappable switches offer this capability. Mainstream keyboards like Apple’s Magic Keyboard do not support this feature. You are more likely to find hot-swappable keyboards from gaming brands or manufacturers that specialize in customizable mechanical keyboards. They are also available in compact sizes.
Considerations When Buying a New Keyboard
If you are a fan of mechanical keyboards, then hot-swappable switches might be a perfect fit for you. These switches are specifically designed for mechanical keyboards, and if you are interested in customization, they provide an excellent solution. Some individuals prefer the tactile feedback of a mechanical keyboard but may want to reduce the noise level by swapping to quieter switches. Others may wish to customize certain frequently-used keys to achieve the perfect feel. In these cases, hot-swappable switches are an ideal choice.
Making the Switch
When it comes to switching keys with hot-swappable switches, you’ll need a switch puller – a convenient tool that securely grasps the switches, allowing you to remove them easily. The switches are too compact to be removed by hand alone. Once you have removed the old switch, you can insert the replacement switch, ensuring that the pins align correctly, and lock it in place. Many hot-swappable keyboards support multiple switch replacements, although keep in mind that this may cause increased wear and tear.
Brands Offering Hot-Swappable Switches and Keyboards
Several brands specializing in mechanical keyboards offer hot-swappable switches for sale, along with compatible keyboards. Examples include MK, Keycron, Camisyn, KPRepublic, Royal Kludge, and many others. Even mainstream brands like Logitech have embraced hot-swappable switches with models like the Logitech G Pro X.
The cost of keyboards with hot-swappable switches can range from $30 to $200, depending on their size and features. Additional sets of switches can cost between $20 to $50, depending on the quantity and specific features of the switches.
For more information on hot-swappable switches and keyboards, visit OnSpec Electronic, Inc..