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Gateron, a top-tier manufacturer of mechanical switches for keyboards, announced their newest and greatest products for 2020: a range of colored switches which include magnetic, low-profile, waterproof, tactile, linear, and clicky options. Most are simply upgrades of their 2019 models but a handful are entirely new technologies.
Gateron provided me with a grab-bag of their old and new switch options. This very brief wrap up will cover Gateron’s new switch options and how they compare to already existing switch options from their competitors at Cherry.
The 2020 Gateron Lineup
The current Gateron lineup includes magnetic, waterproof, and low-profile switches, which require special PCBs in order to work. In other words, magnetic, waterproof, and low-profile switch technologies are not compatible with the Cherry-MX standard which dominates today’s keyboard market. However, the magnetic and waterproof switches will work with Cherry-MX key-cap stems.
Gateron Low-Profile KS-12 Switches
Gateron’s newest switches include three special low-profile switches which come in Blue, Brown, and Red. As with Cherry’s color-nomenclature, they are as follows:
- Brown: tactile, 2.5mm travel, 1.5mm actuation, 50g force
- Blue: clicky, 2.5mm travel, 1.5mm actuation, 52g force
- Red: linear, 2.5mm travel, 1.5mm actuation, 45g force
The new switches will compete against Kalih’s Chocolate line of low-profile switch and Cherry’s similarly slender competitors. To be honest, I cannot tell the difference between Kalih and Gateron’s options. While Gateron’s Cherry-clones generally feel smoother and less scratchy than products from Cherry and Kalih, its low profile options seem virtually identical to its competitors. But that’s not bad. The low-profile keys are rattle-free designs as they incorporate box housing for their key caps.
Gateron Magnetic KS-20 Switches
Gateron’s magnetic switches (model number KS-20) will bring with them the deep 4mm of travel expected of desktop class mechanical switches along with extreme lightweight actuation force of 30 grams of weight. The magnetic switches also have less variation in their actuation force (+/- 10 grams instead of 15 grams).
Their key selling point is their massively enhanced durability versus standard mechanical switches: they last for double the amount of time of regular Cherry switches. Instead of 50 million presses, the KS-20 is rated for 100 million. However, I doubt anyone in history has reached the mechanical durability limits of 50 million key actuations so 100 million is superfluous.
Unfortunately, the KS-20 will require its own custom PCB. So you cannot retrofit older boards with the newer switch technology.
Gateron KS-12 Waterproof Switches
Unfortunately, Gateron did not show me their waterproof switch, which unfortunately requires its own specialized PCB. The switch contains four plastic stabilizers on its base, though, which means you cannot simply stick one on a random Cherry-MX compatible PCB. So if you wanted to spray a waterproof coating on your favorite PCB and throw some KS-12 switches on it, you’re out of luck.
Gateron 2019 Vs. Gateron 2020
Gateron’s first line of keyboard switches included more or less copies of Cherry’s color scheme with their own unique take. These models (KS-3, KS-8, and KS-9) included the following colors:
- Blue: midweight, 55g actuation, clicky
- Brown: lightweight: 45g actuation, tactile
- Black: midweight, 50g actuation, tactile
- Red: lightweight, 45g actuation, linear
- Green: heavy, 80g actuation, clicky
- Clear: lightweight, 35g actuation, linear
In 2019, Gateron offered an infrared switch, known as the KS-15. And it eventually added its Ink series, which was more or less colored, clear-bodied switch housings with slightly deeper actuation points. Overall, its 2020 lineup represents a more radical departure from its competitors and its 2019 offerings.