Thoughts on the Keychron Banana and Silver mechanical key switches

[ I am not affiliated with any of the entities mentioned herein, so I am not providing any links to them. These are just my opinions as a consumer. ]

In early spring 2024 Keychron was running a sale on all of their products. They have a line of switches called “Keychron K Pro” (not to be confused with the “K Pro” keyboards). The regular price of those switches is 16 USD for a tube of 110 items. For comparison, other models from manufacturers like Gateron and Kailh are priced above 20 USD, some even reaching closer to a 100 dollars. I decided to buy a set of Banana switches and another of the Silver ones for less than 20 dollars with the discount. This was such a great value for money and taught me a lot along the way.

The switches I was using before

The Iris keyboard I got from Keebio (thanks to “Andreas” for the donation) shipped with the Durock Shrimp switches. These have a tactile behaviour that is marketed as “silent”. Indeed, they are on the quiet side and I was originally impressed with their performance. Though after some weeks of daily usage, I started noticing metallic noises coming from some of the most heavily used switches. There was an unmistakable pinging and clicking.

I did not like this development, because it ran contrary to the idea of using a silent switch. I learnt about lubricants and did lube a few of the worst offenders. The results were not much better, so I decided to abandon that project. There probably is value to be had in lubing and also in filming switches, though I am not prepared to go to that end unless it is a game changer. My small sample size suggests this is more about marginal gains, to perfect an already outstanding build.

The extra noise coming from the Durock switches is not an annoyance per se. I do not mind using loud switches. Though if I really wanted something clicky, I would opt for something like the Kailh Box Jade/Navy and enjoy both the unapologetic clicks and the authoritative tactility.

The Keychron Silver switch

Those are light linear switches with an early pre-travel and short total travel for an MX style design. As with most (all?) linear switches of this sort, these are marketed for office and gaming. I am not a gamer, so my experience is limited to typing prose and code.

According to the manufacturer, these are the specifications, which I compare with the Red variant (the de facto standard linear switch):

Keychron K Pro Switch Operating force Pre-travel Travel distance
Silver 42±8gf 1.3±0.3mm 3.3±0.2mm
Red 45±10gf 2±0.4mm 4±0.4mm

My first impression with the Silver switches was that they were super light, perhaps “too light”. Coming from the heavier and tactile Durock Shrimps (50g actuation force at 2mm), the Keychron Silvers felt like typing in a vacuum. There was no perceptible resistance and I would frequently actuate the keys just by resting my fingers on them. The first days with this setup were really awkward, as I kept misfiring keys. Though I wanted to give the switches a fair chance, so I powered through.

Once I got used to the Silvers, I found their lightness to not be a hindrance anymore. It was the impetus I needed to improve my accuracy and technique. I learnt how to rest my fingers on the home row without accidentally typing the corresponding characters. As for the change from a tactile to a linear behaviour, I found this to not be a big issue either. I am perfectly happy working with linear switches, especially those super light ones, because I know that every minor motion counts as a key press: the tactile or audible feedback is not necessary once you get used to this workflow.

One downside of such light switches is that it is easy to bottom out with them, especially while you are getting used to their force/travel curve. During my “awkward phase” with them, I was bottoming out hard and ultimately had to slow down to avoid harming my RSI-ridden left arm and wrist. Perhaps it is this deliberate slowdown that allowed me to work on my technique. I still make the occasional mistake, though I find I am more accurate with my key presses and can touch type effectively (only on the columnar stagger of my Iris though, as the standard row stagger still is hard for me).

I could keep using the Silver switches and I would be a happy customer. Though I still had another set I needed to try…

The Keychron Banana switch

When I first got the package from Keychron, I tested the Silver and Banana switches without installing them on my keyboard. The Silver one was clearly different from what I was used to and is why I opted to try it first. While the Bananas felt strange. They had the expected tactile feedback (more on that below), but their behaviour was still a departure from the Durock Shrimps, as well as the Brown/Blue switches I have on my Keychron K5 Pro keyboard (thanks to Arialdo Martini for this gift).

Again, here is a table comparing the various switches. Note that the Durock Shrimps are, in my experience, closer to the Brown ones though the tactile bump is probably a bit more noticeable.

Keychron K Pro Switch Operating force Pre-travel Travel distance Behaviour
Silver 42±8gf 1.3±0.3mm 3.3±0.2mm Linear
Red 45±10gf 2±0.4mm 4±0.4mm Linear
Brown 50±10gf 2±0.4mm 4±0.4mm Tactile
Blue 60±10gf 2±0.4mm 4±0.4mm Clicky
Banana 57±8gf 2.2±0.4mm 3.3±0.2mm Early Tactile

The tactility of the Banana switches is unique among all the switches I have tried. This is because of the distribution of force and travel required to actuate a key press. In common switch types like the Brown and Blue, the tactile bump is placed somewhere in the middle. You first press down a bit, then experience the bump where the resistance increases, and then you continue pressing down linearly again. Whereas in the Banana switch there is practically no pre-travel: it starts with the tactile bump and bottoms out early after that.

Before trying out the Bananas, my initial impression of them was negative. I thought they were too squishy for a tactile switch. But I know not to hold on to incomplete thoughts, so I was committed to try them out in earnest after forming an informed opinion about their Silver counterparts.

Moving from the Silvers to the Bananas was a revelation. The two switches share attributes of an early actuation and short total travel, so I was already used to typing in the optimal way for them without bottoming out.

What I like about the Bananas as opposed to the Silvers is the addition of the early tactility. Like the Silvers, they let me type by pressing at the tip of the key, though the Bananas also empower me to sense the “pulse” of the keyboard along the way. As a bonus, the added weight on the Bananas when compared to the Silvers reduces potential errors at higher typing speeds. It is an upgrade to my mechanical keyboard experience overall.

Keep an open mind

Both the Silver and Banana switches failed to capture my imagination at the outset. I know not to commit to early thoughts and was determined to give both of them a fair chance. I think they are high quality products. Once we factor in their comparatively low price point, they are extra good.

My appreciation for those switches was developed as that of an acquired taste rather than love at first sight. There is so much to learn about our own preferences while using mechanical keyboards. We continue to develop new ones as we go and we continuously adapt to evolving states of affairs. Right now, I am settled with the Banana switches, though I remain open to the possibility of experiencing something different. I will not write “better” because I cannot provide a reliable scoring system. This includes the Durock Shrimps as well: I think I dislike their added noise because of my expectation for them to be silent, but otherwise would not mind having extra audible feedback while typing, provided it was consistent.

I now expect this same kind of gradual appreciation to be made manifest as I revisit my MT3 ortholinear keycap set. What I wrote before about MT3 is that it is of high quality but I could not get used to the keycap profile itself. Perhaps I will change my opinion after trying it for a while with the Banana switches. My technique is different now, so there is a chance I will like the height and shape of MT3 this time (I always recognised its premium build quality). What matters though is that this deep dive into mechanical keyboards has helped me cope with my RSI as well as to fine-tune my sense for the little things involved in a typist’s everyday experience.