For the happily obsessed mechanical keyboard enthusiast, there’s no detail too minor on the journey to the perfect switch. Perfect key feel is worth poring over switch specs or even splicing parts from one mechanical switch with another to create the ideal Frankenswitch, as they’ve been named. One particular mod has attracted so much attention since being shared on a forum 11 years ago that Cherry turned it into a real product.
Cherry, the inventor of mechanical switches, announced the Cherry MX Ergo Clear this week, describing it as landing between tactile Brown and Clear switches. All three switches have 4 mm total travel and actuate at 2 mm, but the Ergo Clears require about 55 g of force to actuate, with that required force dropping to about 40 g at the switch’s operating point. Clears, on the other hand, require 65 g before dropping to 55 g, while Browns require about 55 g and 45 g, respectively.
The idea for the Ergo Clear came from a post on the mechanical keyboard forum Geekhack. A user named “mtl” said Clears felt too heavy for him, “especially on the outer perimeter keys” of the keyboard. Mtl decided to concoct their own switch by combining the spring of a lighter (60 g actuation force) linear switch, the Cherry MX Black, with the stem of a Clear one, creating a “switch that’s easier to press than a Cherry Clear, and more tactile than a Cherry Brown,” mtl said at the time.
A spokesperson for Cherry told Ars Technica that the spring in the MX Ergo Clears is “similar” the MX Black switch’s spring but has “an updated design.”
Cherry’s announcement didn’t say whether the MX Ergo Clear uses the same switch as Cherry’s Black switch (we reached out for comment and will let you know if we hear back). However, the end result is supposed to be of the same spirit.
Cherry even pre-lubricated the MX Ergo Clear switches in reference to the spray-on, PTFE dry lube that mtl said they dipped the springs and switches of their Frankenswitches into to reduce scratchiness.
Cherry, however, opted for a general-purpose lubricant from Krytox called GPL 205 GRADE 0 Grease, a common mechanical-switch lubricant, especially for linear switches. Cherry’s so-called “high-precision automated process” is likely more efficient than the dipping process mtl used 11 years ago. Further, Cherry claims the process helps ensure the switch’s durability claim of 50 million presses. Self-hacked Frankenswitches don’t have such durability claims.
Cherry announced RGB and non-RGB versions of 3- and 5-pin MX Ergo Clears (four versions total).
Power of the enthusiast community
Cherry said it launched the MX Ergo Clear primarily “to address the DIY community.” The German company called the new switches the “first special edition of a community switch from Cherry MX,” leaving the door open for new designs born from the creative minds of the mechanical keyboard community.
As with products like the Holy Panda, (a Frankenswitch invented by an enthusiast known as Quakemz that Drop now sells as a product and inspired Glorious’ Panda switches), the launch of MX Ergo Clears underscores the power of the community when it comes to enthusiast-level product launches. One post from years ago claims almost 6,000 reads and spawned other Geekhack threads with thousands of engagements, plus countless conversations throughout the mechanical keyboard community and, as of this week, an offering from the original mechanical switch maker.
Cherry isn’t the first vendor to make an “official” switch inspired by mtl’s design. As pointed out by The Verge, Zeal PC, which says it “originated from Geekhack,” originally sold the design as the Zealio V1 and, now, as the Zealio V1 Redux. And there are plenty of hobbyists who have Frankensteined their way to the Ergo Clear without the help of a corporation.
But with Cherry introducing the switch as an official design, we can reportedly expect to see it in prebuilt keyboards (Cherry didn’t specify models or brands) and at official distributors backed by Cherry-level build quality and durability.