Cherry MX2A Review: A Revamped Classic

Mike Powers
Cherry MX2A Review: A Revamped Classic

The Cherry MX switch is, arguably, one of the most important mechanical keyboard switches of all time. Some might argue it’s one of the best mechanical switches ever. No other switch has quite the same legacy. It’s been around for decades and is one of the few switches that run the whole gamut of keyboards. You can find it in everything from point-of-sale systems, office cubicles, and police cars to gaming setups and even premium, limited-run custom keyboards.

Until recently, nearly every mechanical gaming keyboard shipped with MX Reds, Browns, or Blues. For a long time, Cherry’s switches were the best option—mechanical switch or otherwise—for building a keyboard, and they had a reputation for their outstanding typing feel and longevity when compared to their rubber dome and scissor-switch contemporaries.

I have a love for the original Cherry MX switches. They still have a personality and charm no other switch has been able to replicate. I type on them regularly, almost every day, and always find them a treat to use, despite their shortcomings. So it came as a surprise when Cherry announced a successor with the MX2A. How could one of the most beloved and long-lasting mechanical switches suddenly change so drastically? Could these changes make the MX better?

Photograph: Henri Robbins

Cherry’s Legacy

The Cherry MX Black is the mechanical switch. It’s a fairly heavy linear switch made entirely of Cherry’s proprietary blend of plastics and has been in production since 1983 with only minimal changes until now. Cherry rates its MX switches for 100 million keypresses, and it’s not unheard of for MX Blacks to be in operation even after two decades of near-constant use. They eventually became a signifier of quality: If you saw a keyboard with MX switches, you could be pretty sure that it would be both reliable and enjoyable to type on.

As the custom keyboard scene started to form in the early 2000s, people realized something interesting—the longer you used MX switches, the smoother they were to type on. This was true for all of them but most noticeably for MX Blacks. They were the most common in high-use office and point-of-sale systems and had a heavier spring that required more force to be pushed down, resulting in the plastics seeing large amounts of wear.

These “vintage” MX Blacks—which had to be desoldered from older keyboards—became incredibly sought out by enthusiasts for their smoothness, and their scarcity increased demand even further. At the time, Vintage MX Blacks were the best switches possible for a custom-built keyboard kit.

It’s worth noting that these worn-in switches are fairly scratchy by today’s standards. Modern switches, made from higher-end materials and lubed from the factory, are leagues ahead of MX switches in smoothness. However, many keyboard hobbyists today see the MX Black as having a “good” scratch compared to the scratchiness of other switches. It’s consistent, subtle, and rather charming as long as you don’t expect perfection. There are no sudden bumps or catches, but instead a consistent friction that feels more “real” and satisfying than something engineered for perfect smoothness.

Open clear plastic box with mechanical pieces from keyboard keys spilling out

Photograph: Henri Robbins

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