Gateron Clears, Gchocs, Matias Silent Linears, or even Akko Clears. Which switch is best for steno?
There are a variety of factors to be considered. The most important include:
- Spring weight: The springs of a switch should be moderately light enough so that it doesn't strain your hands to press multiple keys at once.
- Price: The switch should give the most "bang for your buck"
- My opinion: I need to like it, and I will provide my reasons.
Gateron Clears are MX style switches that are economical, light, and customizable. It's the Holy Grail of steno switches. Great for both beginners and advanced people.
- Weight: 35 grams. A very healthy weight for all levels. It's not too light but it's also not too heavy. Some more advanced people say it's a little heavy, but I think it's great.
- Price: Cheap. About $0.20 to $0.25 per switch, this is one of the cheapest option on the list.
Save yourself the effort of spending hours and hours researching about the best switch and just get Gateron Clears, or a board with Gateron Clears. You can't go wrong with these.
Keycaps like the OEM R3 (the best keycap I have tried thus far), F10, G20, and even 3D printed keycaps all fit on Gateron Clears. You also have lots of option for hotswap keyboards like the Preonic because most keyboards out there support MX style switches like the Gateron Clears.
gChocs are Choc style switches and it's blue. gChocs are probably the best contender to Gateron Clears if money or keyboard and keycap compatibility is not an issue.
- Weight: 20 grams. Very light but not too light. It also has a very shallow travel distance. Some advanced people say that this is still too heavy. I think 20 grams is good. I would actually love it if Gateron Clears came with 20 gram springs.
- Price: Expensive. About $0.70 a switch, but at the time of this writing it's out of stock everywhere, you can barely buy it.
In my opinion, gChocs aren't worth it. They are not 3x better than Gateron Clears even though they are about 3x the cost. Modifying it is pretty easy, almost as easy as Gateron Clears, but you have to be a little bit more careful. It's also only supported by a very select number of keyboards that support choc switches.
You're also limited to keycaps MBK or regular choc keycaps. 3d printed choc keycaps can work, but if the leg breaks inside the hole, you can't get it out easily (I know this from experience).
Matias Silent Linears
I haven't personally tried them, but I've heard that they're not that great. Good, but not great.
- Weight: 35 grams. It's the same as Gateron Clears, but some people say it feels slightly heavier than Gateron Clears.
- Price: Cheap. About $0.20 per switch but you have to buy 200 pieces at a time, so technically not cheap.
A great perk about this switch is that it's silent. I really thought about using this switch in the Uni because it was almost as cheap as Gateron Clears. But it's really complicated to modify it (swap springs, lube, etc.) and it's a plate mount switch. The Uni's design requires PCB mount switches which have two extra plastic legs for stability.
There's also barely any keycaps made for this type of switch. There is close to none out there that would work. Please let me know if you find something that works for Alps style switches and is good for steno. I'd really appreciate it!
Akko Vintage Whites
These switches are quite new to the scene. This is pretty much the same as a Gateron Clear (same price, weight, even color) but with a Kailh style top housing.
This means that it has everything great about Gateron Clears except for when it comes to customizability. To open a Kailh style switch, you need to desolder your switches and use a switch opener or a sharp knife to disassemble it.
Maybe I'm the only one who finds it hard to open up Kailh style switches, but MX housings are a lot easier, in my opinion, because you can open it without desoldering it on a plateless keyboard like the Uni.
Gateron Clears are the winner. It's cheap, reliable, and easy to lube/spring-swap. It's also compatible with all the MX keyboards and keycaps out there. If you want to try something new, go with Akko Clears. If you want something expensive, get the gChocs. Don't get Matias Silent Linears unless you know your keyboard supports it and you have the right keycaps.