Mechanical keyboards are still considered a niche market and, as such, can oftentimes be confusing for those who don't know all the ins and outs of them.
For those interested in high-quality switches and a more tactile typing experience, you'll type away on your mechanical keyboard with great enjoyment and satisfaction.
Mainly, there are two types of layout mechanical keyboards switches. And as a matter of fact, it’s difficult for novice players to differentiate between north facing and south facing switches.
Down the aisle, south facing PCB provides a competitive edge over north facing keyboards because they use a cherry profile interface to dilute proper bottoming-out.
However, we have covered some beginner-friendly characteristics of every type, making it easy to tell the difference. So, without waiting further, let’s hop to the real information.
Why Mechanical Keyboards Are Top Of The Trend?
When you’re at the top of your game, you want your keyboard to be too. Gaming-grade keyboards are built to endure heavy pressure, actuation, and movements from an expert gamer.
In fact, top brands like Corsair and Razer use high-precision mechanical switches optimized for gaming performance and tactile feedback. While using these keyboards, they give you a competitive edge over those playing on plastic keyboards which you can check over here whenever you need.
What Are North-Facing Switches?
Before we discuss what north and south facing switches are, it is important to understand what switch orientation is.
Starting off, north and south facing switches refers to the direction in which the LED's on the PCB are built (Printed Circuit Boards).
A north-facing switch is when the LED holes are on top of the switches. In contrast, a south-facing switch is when the switches have their LEDs drilled at the bottom.
Currently, more keyboard manufacturers use north-facing switches which help to illuminate your keycaps better by placing the LEDs directly under them (rather than at the bottom). However, they are becoming less miserable with time.
More so, most budget-friendly mechanical keyboards with north-facing switches are made more for typing than gaming.
In addition, some older custom keyboards with north-facing switches are great for use in both the home and workplace.
Disadvantages Of North-Facing Switches:
Despite north-facing switches illuminate keycaps more effectively, there are some drawbacks to them.
North-facing switches are not without problems. One big problem with north-facing switches is the keycap interference when using Cherry profile keycaps.
As a result of this, many keyboard enthusiasts choose to build custom mechanical keyboards with sockets that face downward aka south facing PCB. It prevents "ghosting" issues due to the switches protruding greater height and are consequently more likely to touch more than one contact on the PCB.
What Are South-Facing Switches?
“South” facing switch keys are switches that have an LED hole facing toward the bottom of the keyboard. They should be placed in your PCB so that their LED holes are visible from your point of view.
There is no reason to be turned off by the fact that south-facing switches are less common because they are both highly-efficient and most importantly cost-effective.
Another thing, south-facing switches allow you to utilize Cherry profile keycaps much more efficiently than those keyboard models equipped with other types of switches like MX. They can sometimes cause problems when it comes to registering certain keys.
You will see most of the south facing PCB in custom keyboards because they are new to the trend. However, some major brands like corsair have started putting Cherry Profile interface married with south interface in their newer models.
Disadvantages Of South-Facing Switches:
One of the benefits of south-facing switches is that they allow Cherry profile keycaps to be placed on the keyboard with ease since there is no interference.
However, there are some drawbacks as well, such as less RGB glow.
Installing keycaps for the WASD and arrow keys is interesting because either way, you will be making a footprint on the legend.
If it's north-facing, then RGB LEDs will be beneath their respective symbols. However! The arrow keys are considered south-facing as they have LEDs on their underside, which can't shine through the legends like north-facing switches. It makes it difficult to produce RGB lights and hence end up losing user’s interest.
In fact, it’s something tooo significant for users who love RGB glow and have a gaming setup. It’s also the biggest reason why most brands have kept themselves at bay from manufacturing south interface keyboards.
Is Switch Orientation On PCB Changeable?
So maybe you're trying to find that perfect keyboard or one that suits your preferences the most. If you already have a keyboard and are interested in changing the way it switches out, the question is ”whether you can switch around the keys' directions of input over time?”
Unfortunately, that’s not possible. The holes were placed in a specific way on the PCB so that the pins on the bottom of your switches can only fit one direction. So, digging opposite holes will destroy the PCB, and you will no longer be able to use it as a cherry profile north facing interference either.
On the other hand, there are actually a few ways to handle the issue, but one of the simplest solutions is getting a new custom PCB.
You could buy one that supports a different orientation and use it in your case instead. This simple solution will work if you can find the right PCB.
Fortunately, with Google at our fingertips, it should be quite easy to research what kind of PCB is right for your job.
North-Facing VS South-Facing Switches: Which Orientation Is Better?
North-facing and south-facing switches have many differences, but they both are useful in their own way.
AND, of course, if you ask two experts which type of key switch orientation is best, they will likely both agree it’s south-facing.
With this kind of key switch, any keycap can be used with it, and there is no physical contact problem like there would be with others. As a result, good sound and typing are assured via south-facing switches.
Switches that face south do not score as many points for RGB shine as switches that face north.
Although this does not seem like a major drawback to most Cherry profile enthusiasts who typically use dye-sublimated PBT keycaps. They generally don't use keycaps with shine-through legends.
So, if you normally order your caps with no shine-through icons and dye-sub color, you might want to take the location of your LED switches into consideration. Since there won’t be a big difference between east/west and north/south facing LEDs when it comes down to maximizing your RGB experience.
Why Mechanical Keyboards Introduced North-Facing Switches?
When it comes to gaming keyboards, the most iconic elements are their backlights. It includes keyboards from companies such as Razer which have used technology such as Chroma RGB lighting in order to satisfy their customer base.
To achieve RGB backlighting found in many gaming keyboards, the LED must be positioned directly behind the scissor-switch so that the legends on the caps are illuminated.
Also, the light shines brighter through more layers of material to produce a fuller, brighter glow all around instead of just from one side or from above. That’s why, initially, north facing PCB were in trend.
North facing gaming keyboards were a trend at one point, but they have slowly waned in popularity to the point of being undesirable. While some still prefer this PCB switching due to an anti-ghosting experience or lower resistance options.
Custom keyboard enthusiasts state their preference for south facing keyboards is because of the phenomenon known as switch interference.
Why North-Facing Switches Are A Thing OF The Past?
North-Facing switches are becoming less desirable because they are diminishing in popularity in using keyboards. It’s happening because they are being replaced with the more reliable South-Facing keyboard switches.
In a South-Facing keyboard, the switch is placed vertically on the left. On the other hand, North-Facing keyboards are placed vertically on the right. The common reason behind the decline of North-Facing switch is that they wear out faster, and user’s hands get tired.
The most obvious advantage of North-facing keyboard switches is that this design definitely saves more desk space. It helps users who work in a very small office to save more space for their work.
However, this design is too far from the numberpad. Users need to reach out for numberpad too often.
As a result, the speed of typing will be significantly reduced. That is why after some time, the popularity of north-facing keyboard switches has dropped significantly.
Also, their popularity was greatly reduced when wireless and wireless optical mouse started emerging on the market. Because wireless mouse can move much more easily than its wired counterpart.
That said, users of wireless keyboards can freely move their mouse in any direction they want without sacrificing the speed of their typing.
These reasons, along with others, have led some brands and keyboard designers to switch over to south-facing switch sockets instead of their own keyboards in recent years.
Also, some mechanical keyboards are manufactured using cherry profile north-facing interference. This could lead to a few negative issues for you when it comes down to typing, including:
The possibility of hitting the top of the key switch instead of fully pressing the keycap and missing your target. And issues linked with varying spring weights due to different profiles and problems linked with key actuation.
We have covered every aspect of the battle of North Facing Vs South Facing Switches. We have looked at the trends, keycap compatibility, and a major side-by-side comparison. So, in the end, is north facing or south facing better?
I would say south-facing switches. Because they have diverse keycap orientation and compatibility but less RGB shine which is more likely not a trend these days.
Also, no one likes lightning and RGB glow so much that they end up losing every game due to key travel.