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What Is a Scissor-Switch?

Alex Newth
Alex Newth

A scissor-switch is a type of switch that secures the keys to a keyboard and has a scissor shape. Unlike other keyboard switches, which hold keys a distance from the keyboard, a scissor-switch key is often closer to the keyboard itself, minimizing the distance by about half. By helping to keep the keys in place, this switch often increases the longevity of the keyboard. It makes it harder to get particles under the keys, but also more difficult to clean the area. This switch typically increases the price of a keyboard, because the keys are generally considered to be more comfortable for typing and more responsive.

Most keyboard switches are made to hold the keyboard key about 0.15 of an inch (4 millimeters) away from the keyboard itself, but a scissor-switch only holds the key about 0.07 of an inch (2 millimeters) away from the keyboard. This is a result of the shape of the switch. Regular switches are straight pieces of plastic, but a scissor-switch uses an X-shaped piece of plastic that is able to hold the key closer while still being responsive.

Apple's MacBook laptops utilize scissor-switch keys.
Apple's MacBook laptops utilize scissor-switch keys.

A majority of keyboards have keys that are able to move around slightly, because they are only being held at a point in their center. This movement places excessive wear on the keys and the switch, which can result in shorter key longevity. With the scissor-switch, the switch covers the entire area of the key. While this does not entirely get rid of movement, it drastically limits it. The keys cannot move as freely, so they often last from 5 million to 10 million more keystrokes, on average, than a standard keyboard's keys.

Particles often get under keys, even if the user does not mean for this to happen. Prolonged exposure to particles can decrease responsiveness or destroy the keys. With a scissor-switch, the chance of particles getting under the keys is reduced, but this creates its own problem. The keys are much lower and not as easy to pop off, meaning it also is more difficult to clean the area if dirt does get under them.

When comparing the different types of keyboard switches, a keyboard featuring a scissor-switch type will usually be more expensive than a basic keyboard. The keys are often more responsive, and users may find it easier to type on these keyboards because the keys pop up much faster after being depressed. Some people also favor the aesthetic of the keys as opposed to those used with other switches.

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    • Apple's MacBook laptops utilize scissor-switch keys.
      By: NOBU
      Apple's MacBook laptops utilize scissor-switch keys.