Topre switches with exposed stems.

Topre Switches: Hybrid Design with Premium Feel (and Price)

Mechanical or rubber dome? They’re actually a little of both. Topre produces a electrostatic capacitive switch (key actuation is signaled electrically) that many users consider a hybrid between rubber dome and mechanical switches. Others simply aren’t willing to label them as mechanical because they make use of a rubber dome. Let’s discuss a few key facts about Topre switches and you can form your own opinion.

Topre Design, Construction and Functionality

They’re mounted over the PCB with a cone shaped coil spring under a rubber dome. Above the rubber dome rests a plastic enclosure where a circular shaped slider is housed, similar to that of Cherry MX and ALPS switches.

The coil spring is primarily used as a signal activator for the capacitive element when a key is pressed pass the actuation point, while the rubber dome provides most of the tactile feedback and key resistance. The coil spring itself requires little force to compress. It only adds a small amount of resistance (about 5 cN) to the key press.

Topre switches are soft, buttery smooth and produce a deep “thock” sound when bottoming out that fans of the switch find pleasant and satisfying.

The Facts Speak for Themselves

Amid the confusion and controversy, three things about Topre are certain:

  1. Keyboards that use Topre switches offer a unique typing experience (both in feel and sound) that can’t be found with any of the true mechanical switches.
  2. They don’t use membranes. The capacitive mechanism that creates a signal upon actuation leads to more accurate and responsive key registration than the membrane method.
  3. Topre based keyboards are exorbitantly expensive.

Maybe it’s because Topre is targeted to an even more niche enthusiast market with extremely limited demand. Or could the physical construction, design and build materials be to blame? Either way, a basic keyboard with genuine Topre switches will generally set you back a minimal of $150. More popular models, such as the HHKB Pro 2, routinely sell for $200+. Even boards with cheaply manufactured Topre clone switches (for example, the Plum 84) start around $90. Better start saving!

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