German company Cherry has been designing and producing key switches for premium mechanical keyboards since the 1980s. With most new keyboards using scissor switches or rubber domes, a mechanical keyboard with physical key switches can provide a more responsive and satisfying typing experience. If you’re at all familiar with mechanical keyboards, Cherry is a name synonymous with quality and tactility.
At CES 2018, Cherry unveiled what they claim to be their biggest breakthrough in mechanical switches in over 30 years: the Cherry MX Low Profile RGB. With the MX Low Profile RGB, Cherry’s R&D department has cut the classic MX switches’ height by over 35%, while still retaining the German quality and “Cherry MX Feel” that their customers all know and love.
Mechanical Keyboards Miniaturized
“Last year , Cherry produced more than five hundred million standard MX switches,” shares Günter Vogl, Director of Product Management & Engineering at Cherry. “The MX switches have been very successful for close to thirty years now and over that time, we’ve made hundreds of tiny improvements and new variants like the MX Speed and MX Silent. The reason we hadn’t developed a new switch was that most of our customers told us: ‘The switch is almost perfect, don’t change anything, except maybe the height. But never change the Cherry feeling.’ Because of these customers’ demands, we began to develop a new key switch that kept the classic ‘Cherry feeling’ in a new and very compact design.”
The Cherry MX Low Profile RGB switches come in at a total height of only 11.9 millimeters (without keycaps), a roughly 35% reduction from the standard MX’s 18.5 millimeters. Keeping the German quality that you would expect, the MX Low Profile RGB utilizes Cherry’s exclusive precise and durable Gold Crosspoint technology, guaranteeing over 50 million key presses with no loss of quality. The RGB backlighting is able to shine uniformly thanks to a new small trench on each key that guides the light’s dispersion. This reduction in size means that beyond mechanical keyboards getting slimmer, we could also see them beginning to find their way into premium workstation and gaming laptops. With the compact design, the MX Low Profile RGB also gains improved dust and water resistance.
Keeping the Cherry MX Feeling
With such a compact piece of engineering, some accommodations will need to be made. The total key travel distance has been reduced mildly by 0.8 mm to 3.2 mm from the standard MX’s 4.0 mm. Aside from the travel distance, the MX Low Profile RGB functions virtually identically to its full-size counterpart, keeping a nearly identical actuation force and graph. In direct comparison, the MX Low Profile RGB’s travel does feel slightly shorter. However, when actually typing, it felt nearly identical to a regular Cherry MX Red.
The MX Reds will be the first MX variant to get an MX Low Profile RGB switch, but Vogl hinted that there may be plans to expand into other designs in the future. The Cherry MX Red is a light linear mechanical key switch, meaning there’s no sensation or bump for the full duration of the key press. For typists seeking tactility, Cherry also produces non-linear switches like the MX Brown and MX Blue that provide physical and audible feedback when pressed and actuated.
Outside of Q2 2018, we don’t have any word from Cherry on exactly when the MX Low Profile RGB switches will be available, but at CES 2018, Cherry was showcasing new board designs utilizing the switches from manufacturers like Vortex and Ducky. Unlike the releases of their two latest switches: the MX Silent and MX Speed, the MX Low Profile RGB will not be exclusive to any one manufacturer at launch.