The mechanical switch market can be very confusing for newfound enthusiasts, or people who just want to buy a good switch, especially when shopping from Gateron.
Gateron is a Chinese company based in Zhongshan. They’ve been in business for more than 20 years, and have amassed a reputation as one of the top brands in the industry. While they’re known for producing more affordable switches Cherry MX Clones they have more to offer.
Unfortunately, Gateron is hard to navigate. They have so many switch options, it will make you go nuts. That is why we created this guide. Enjoy!
Gateron Series Explained
A lot of the switch series by Gateron are essentially the same switch with minuscule differences. In such cases, I will group them together (and also name the differences for all OCD enthusiasts).
Firstly here are all of the significant Gateron series grouped by their compatibility:
- Gateron Cap V2 Set
- Gateron Silent Set
- Gateron KS-8 Set
- Gateron Ink Set
- Gateron Oil King Set
- Gateron North Pole Set
- Gateron CJ Series
- G Pro 2.0 Series
- Phantom Series
Now, as far as the differences between sets, most of the time this includes changes in construction, materials, or switch mechanism.
If you’re just looking for info on the “NORMAL” Gateron switches, skip over to the KS-8/KS-3 or G Pro 2.0. These are essentially the exact same switch, and people just refer to them as plain old Gateron switches.
Otherwise, continue reading for the unique design feature for each SET, their specs, and general review.
How to determine which switch is compatible with your keyboard? If you have a hot-swappable PCB, check how many holes there are in the sockets. It’s either 3 or 5. 3 means you’re limited to getting only 3-pin switches, but if there are 5 holes then you can use 3 or 5 pins whichever you get. If not, then you’re limited to 3 pin switches (you’d have to solder them to your board).
Gateron Colors Explained
Understanding what the colors mean will make it x10 easier when looking for switches.
The colors of each switch stand to differentiate the switches by:
- actuation force
- type of switch
A BLUE switch will always be a clicky switch, and have a heavy actuation, no matter what the Gateron series. The same goes for other colors.
So the only difference between different switch series is construction and unique features while the colors simply stand to differentiate the switches in each set by actuation force and type, and are generally universal across similar switch series. Though some Gateron switch series have their unique color set.
The KS-8 is referred to as just “Gateron Switches”. They are the most well-known and popular Cherry MX clones out there. This is the switch that most people think about when they hear Gateron, and the switch you’ll find in commercially sold pre-builds.
As for the unique features of this switch set, the Gateron KS-8 switches are pretty much identical clones to Cherry MX switches. They are smooth and consistent in performance, which makes them a popular choice among mechanical keyboard enthusiasts.
They also have a good level of compatibility with various keycap sets and are generally considered to be a cost-effective alternative to more expensive switches that use the same construction style (MX Switches).
They have no “special” features. They’re simply standard mechanical MX-style switches.
The Gateron KS-3 is another version of the “standard” switch. It has the exact same specs as the KS-8, with only one difference.
The difference between KS-8 and KS-3 switches is that KS-3 is a milky top / full milky housing version, while KS-8 uses a PC (polycarbonate) for the entire housing.
But what difference does this make?
Considering that the molds and parts of both switches are the same, the differences are not drastic, but they are noticeable if you try both switches. The KS-3 series is the more desirable option but comes at a slightly higher cost.
The Gateron G Pro 2 series switches are the switch you will find in commercially sold and pre-built, but typically higher-end and more expensive Gateron keyboards.
On paper, they are the exact same switch as the KS-8, but they’re also pre-lubed, which is great considering their market share.
They feature an upgraded mold with an RGB SMD condenser for dynamic lighting and a tactile typing experience. The switches are compatible with any 3-Pin/5-Pin MX mechanical keyboard with underflow SMD-LED light or RGB-SMD lights.
The G Pro 2.0 switches have reduced spring noise and less stem wobbliness, and their anti-oxidation alloy contacts ensure a longer switch lifespan. Additionally, the switches are pre-lubed to increase smoothness, and the light opening on the upper housing has a light-concentrating spot and light-guiding column to provide better backlight transmission.
Everything said in terms of features also applies to the KS-8s’.
These switches are specially designed to have a quiet operation, making them perfect for use in quiet environments. One of the unique features of the Gateron Silent Switch Set is the use of high-quality materials that help to reduce noise, such as the silicone dampeners on the stem of the switch.
The switches are also factory lubed, ensuring that they offer a smooth and consistent feel right out of the box. Overall, the Gateron Silent Switch Set is an excellent choice for anyone looking for a quiet mechanical keyboard that doesn’t sacrifice performance or quality.
The Cap V2 switches are KS-’s designed with a reverse stem. Again they are the same switch as the KS-8, but with this major construction change.
The reverse stem mechanism of Gateron CAP V2 switches works by using a unique stem design that allows the switch to be activated from the top rather than the bottom.
In normal switches, the stem is inserted from the bottom of the switch housing and is held in place by two plastic pins on the sides. When the stem is pressed down, it pushes the metal contact inside the switch, which completes the electrical circuit and registers a keystroke.
However, in the Gateron CAP V2 switch, the stem is inserted from the top of the switch housing and is held in place by a set of four plastic pins arranged in a square shape around the stem. The stem itself is also square-shaped, with a small protrusion on each side that interacts with the metal contact inside the switch.
When the key is pressed down, the stem is pushed into the switch housing, and the protrusions on each side of the stem make contact with the metal contact inside the switch. This completes the electrical circuit and registers a keystroke.
The Gateron Ink switch set has several interesting features that set it apart from other switch sets.
They are by no means normal switches, and they are not budget switches. They are a flagship, premium switch. And they are exceptionally highly rated by users.
Many enthusiasts swear by them as the smoothest switch currently on the market.
The switches have a unique smokey-transparent housing made of translucent plastics, which allows for better light transmission and a much crisper sound. Gateron calls this plastic blend their “Proprietary Ink material”, but they haven’t disclosed exactly how they make it.
Either way, the Ink switches are made with higher-quality materials, which give them a lower-pitch sound and a much smoother feel. This makes them great for typing and programming. Additionally, the Gateron Ink switch set includes a silent linear switch, which is perfect for those who prefer a quieter typing experience.
The Gateron Oil King is another premium switch that made waves in the community when it came out. It is considered to be one of the smoothest switches on the market, especially if you don’t want to lube them, as the factory lubing is surprisingly very good.
The only downside to these is that they’re not the best if you want an RGB build. The whole switch set includes only 1 switch. The Gateron Oil King Black. It also features a heavier spring than most linear switches, with an actuation force of 55g and a bottom-out force of 80g.
The Gateron North Pole 2.0 is another one of Gateron’s premium switches, reserved for true enthusiasts, and also just RGB junkies. Just like the INK, CJ, and Oil King Series, the North Pole 2.0 uses higher quality and more expensive materials than regular switches.
But the materials in the North Pole are unique only to this switch and haven’t been used in any other switch series.
The Gateron North Pole 2.0 switch series offers a unique typing experience with its upgraded structure, and the fully transparent body gives itt a beautiful glistening ice-like appearance.
The obtuse angle buckle makes it easier to plug and unplug, while the gold-plated spring and gold contact assure oxidation resistance and anti-vulcanization performance, resulting in an operational lifespan of up to 80 million clicks. The completely transparent body and light-gathering structure provide extremely good backlight effects.
The Gateron CJ Linear Switch is another premium switch series. CJ is short for “China Joy” (referring to a digital entertainment expo). It has several unique features and characteristics that set them apart from normal mechanical switches, namely, the use of POM plastic not only in the stem but also for the housing base.
Overall, the Gateron CJ Linear Switch Series stands out due to its unique stem and housing materials, as well as its factory pre-lubrication and compatibility with SMD LED lighting. The gold-plated spring and clear rebound also contribute to a smooth typing experience.
The top housing is blue-transparent and made of Gaterons Propriotery INK material.
The Gateron Phantom Switch Series is a collaboration between Gateron and Keychron. These switches feature INK material covers and a POM stem, making them silky smooth and satisfying to use.
The Gateron Phantom Switches are lightly pre-lubed in the factory, providing less wobbliness, and increasing switch thickness for more stability compared to conventional Gateron switches. They also have a hollowed-out light position design, making them compatible with SMD-LED and RGB-LED lights, and with most mechanical keyboards with MX-style keycaps.
In conclusion, Gateron switches are a reliable and cost-effective alternative to other more expensive switch brands. Their switches are known for their smooth keystrokes and consistency in performance.
Gateron offers a variety of switch series, and switch types and actuation forces, providing options for both gaming and typing enthusiasts.