Low-Profile vs Normal Profile Mechanical Switches: Things You Should Know!
When choosing a mechanical keyboard, typing feel and sound are key factors in deciding whether or not to buy. Both the feeling and sound of a mechanical keyboard are largely dependent on the type of switches it has. Although they’re not as mentioned as often as Linear, Tactile, and Clicky, the switch profile can make a significant difference in the way it looks, feels, and sounds. Even though mechanical keyboard switches are available in normal profile and low-profile, they provide entirely different typing experiences.
For those who are shopping for their first mechanical switch, all of these choices can be confusing for new buyers who have not learned their preferences. This article will help you understand the differences between low-profile and normal profile mechanical switches more and hopefully help you decide the type of switch you want.
Table of Contents
- What are Low-Profile Switches?
- What are Normal Profile Switches?
- What are the benefits of Low-Profile mechanical switches?
- Low-Profile vs Normal Profile Mechanical Switches: What’s the difference?
- Low-Profile vs Normal Profile switches: Which Type of Switch Should You Get?
What are Low-Profile Switches?
In simple terms, low-profile switches are slimmer and a modified version of the standard switch. They are 30%-40% shorter than normal profile mechanical switches and deliver a unique typing experience with shorter pre-travel and total travel than normal profile switches and can be triggered in half the time. For example, the Gateron low-profile switch has a thickness of only 12.2 mm, which is 31% thinner than the 17.9 mm traditional normal profile switch.
A low-profile switch is a comparatively new keyboard switch, so there are relatively fewer low-profile keyboards than normal profile keyboards on the market. Even so, their reduced height offers many benefits and is welcomed by many keyboard enthusiasts.
What are Normal Profile Switches?
The normal profile switch is a standard switch used on Normal Profile keyboards. It has a relatively thick switch body and keycap height and is beloved by many keyboard fans.
What are the benefits of Low-Profile mechanical switches?
The low-profile mechanical switch is more ergonomically friendly due to its shorter height. You don’t need to position your hands as high to type on a keyboard with low-profile switches, leading to less strain on your wrists since the angle is flatter than it would be if you use normal switches. With this advantage, the low-profile switch is better for typing or gaming longer.
The low-profile switch has a smaller switch body (more specs below) than the normal profile switch, meaning a smaller board and shorter keycaps are needed. As a result, low-profile switch keyboards are usually more compact and portable to take with you anywhere. They can easily fit in your bag and are great for someone who constantly changes their work location or frequently travels as they take up less space and weigh less.
Improve Typing Speed
The reduced height helps to reduce overall travel. A normal profile switch’s pre-travel distance is usually 2.0 mm, while a low-profile switch is only 1.5-1.7 mm. Low-profile switches with a 2.5-3.0 mm total travel have actuation points that are reduced by half, which can give the players a competitive edge by allowing them to respond to situations rapidly. Additionally, Low-profile switches are also helpful for typing. Their quick actuation speed can enhance your typing speed.
Low-Profile vs Normal Profile Mechanical Switches: What’s the difference?
Difference: Switch Height
One of the main differences between low-profile switches and normal profile switches is height. low-profile switches generally are about 2/3 the height of normal profile switches, which causes the low-profile keyboard to have a shorter lower profile than the normal profile keyboard. This is also the reason why the low-profile switch has a shorter travel distance than the normal profile switch.
Photo source: keychron.com
Difference: Spring Length
A key component of the switch, the spring, can be used to distinguish the low-profile switch from the normal profile switch. Compared to the normal profile switch, the low-profile switch is built with a relatively smaller spring and has a smaller selection of spring weights to choose from.
From left to right: Kailh Choc V2 Switch Spring, Gateron Low Profile 2.0 Switch Spring, and other Normal Profile Switch Spring.
The Low Profile Switch Spring is slightly slimmer and shorter than the Normal Profile Switch Spring
Difference: Switch Housing
The low-profile switch’s redesigned housing is much more compact compared to a normal profile switch. The low-profile switch’s smaller internal structure needs smaller housing. For example, the Gateron normal profile switch is 15.8mm in length and 15.6mm in width, while the low-profile switch of the same brand is 15mm in length and 15mm in width. That being said, the low-profile switches’ housing is essentially just mini versions of normal profile switches. This is what helps to make the low-profile keyboard more compact than the normal profile keyboard, which tends to be a lot bigger and heavier.
Gateron Normal Profile switch and Gateron Low Profile 2.0 switch
For the sake of convenience, I have created a comparison table of the Keychron K2 and Keychron K3 with the same 75% layout. With their spec data, we can see the Keychron K3 (low-profile) is smaller and lighter than Keychron K2 (normal profile).
|Features||Keychron K2 Wireless Mechanical Keyboard (Version 2)||Keychron K3 Ultra-slim Wireless Mechanical Keyboard (Version 2)|
|Switches||G Pro Switches (17.9 mm)||Gateron Low Profile Switches (12.2 mm)/Keychron Low Profile Optical Switches (11.2 mm)|
|Keycaps||Taller keycaps with standard height||Shorter keycaps|
|Dimension||313 x 123 mm||306 x 116 mm|
|Height||Height with keycap (front): 30 mm|
Height with keycap (rear): 40 mm
|Height with keycap (front): 17 mm|
Height with keycap (rear): 22 mm
Data Source: Keychron Official Store
Difference: Switch Pins
The low-profile switch’s pins structure the normal profile switch. It is not a universal standard design, so it is essential to make sure that your PCB board and socket are compatible with the low-profile switch before making any decisions.
Gateron Normal Profile switch and Gateron Low Profile 2.0 switch
Difference: Compatible Keycaps And Stabilizers
The keycaps and stabilizers that are compatible with the normal profile switch and the low-profile switch are different since the switch body structures are different. It only makes sense that the low-profile switches’ shorter height only allows for shorter keycaps and stabilizers so that it does not touch the plate when triggered. Therefore, there are not a lot of keycaps suitable for low-profile switches. If you are looking for keycaps that fit the Gateron low-profile switches, check out the Low Profile ABS LSA Full Set Keycap Set and Low Profile Double Shot PBT LSA Keycap Set from Keychron. They are great keycaps for MX low-profile switches.
In contrast, a normal profile offers hundreds of keycap options, which is great for those who like to experiment with a variety of keycaps.
Difference: Customization Options
If you're looking for low-profile switches, you'll find far fewer options available than normal profile switches. Although low-profile switches have taken their place in the market, the normal profile switch is still more popular with keyboard enthusiasts since there are a lot more options.
In the custom market, the low-profile switch is also far less common than the normal switch. The majority of switches available to keyboard fans are normal profile switches.
Low-Profile vs Normal Profile switches: Which Type of Switch Should You Get?
The answer to this question relies entirely on your needs and taste.
If you want a more ergonomic feeling or compact design, low-profile switches are a wonderful option.
If you travel frequently and want to use a portable keyboard, a keyboard with a low-profile switch will be better.
If you are a gamer and want the keys to activate more quickly, the low-profile switch is your best-suited option.
If you want to try different keycaps, the normal profile switch will be better for you.
If you're looking for switches with a more pronounced tactile bump or longer travel distance, then we recommend the normal profile switch.