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Cherry’s new keyboard switch is inspired by the rare 1980s ‘Nixie’

Cherry’s new keyboard switch is inspired by the rare 1980s ‘Nixie’


Prized for their sound and smoothness, the original switches now sell for exorbitant prices.

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A small pile of keyboard switches.
Cherry’s new MX Black Clear-Top switches.
Image: Cherry

Cherry’s latest mechanical keyboard switch is the MX Black Clear-Top. It’s a design that’s based on a rare linear switch that was produced briefly during the 1980s for Nixdorf keyboards, leading to them being nicknamed “Nixies” by enthusiasts. The retro switches, which are effectively a variant of the linear Cherry MX Black that use a heavier spring and clear, rather than black, plastic case, have since become a highly sought after collector’s item, prized for their supposed smoothness and rich sound. 

How highly sought after? Well this review of the Nixie switch from ThereminGoat notes that they’ve been known to sell for $7 a switch. Considering the average keyboard has around 100 keys, that means a full set of Nixie switches could set you back around $700. For contrast, one retailer is currently selling standard MX Black switches for roughly 40 cents a switch. Nixies are so rare that retro keyboard reviewer Chyrosran22 was only able to get his hands on a Nixdorf keyboard with the vast majority of the rare switches removed.

The modern take on the Nixie uses a similar design to its retro equivalent, although the company says its manufacturing will benefit from “modern production optimizations.” Its operating force is rated at 63.5cN, which should make it a touch stiffer than the standard 60cN Cherry MX Black, but it’s still linear, with the same 2mm of pre-travel, and 4mm of total travel when pressed. Its design also draws inspiration from the classic Nixie, and uses clear-ish plastic for the top half of its housing rather than black. 

The German switch manufacturer is producing two variants of the Clear-Top: one with pre-applied lubrication and one without. Interestingly, Cherry intends the non-lubed version to be for enthusiasts, because they’re the kind of customers who want to go through the process themselves to get the exact feel they’re after. Meanwhile, the lubed version of the switch uses Krytox GPL 205 Grade 0 lube. There’s no 3-pin version of the switch, only 5-pin, which means you’ll have to snip off the extra legs to get it to fit in some boards.

Close up of MX Black Clear-Top in a keyboard.
The MX Black Clear-Top installed in a keyboard.
Image: Cherry

Between these new Cherry MX Black Clear-Tops, and the recently announced MX Ergo Clear, Cherry appears to be becoming far more willing to respond to the demands of the enthusiast keyboard community. Rather than sitting back and letting competing switch manufacturers like Gateron swoop in to capitalize on pent up demand, Cherry is now producing its own options. 

Cherry says the new MX Black Clear-Top switches will be available early next year. As of this writing, retailer NovelKeys already has them up for preorder, retailing for $21.60 for a pack of 36, or around 60 cents per switch.