Tactile, Arc, Original, BOX
With Creams being a whole family of switches these days, I thought it might make sense to have a place to compare notes on the various iterations and spinoffs of the hobby’s first all-POM switch.
Not very long ago, the Cream was a singular experiment - and despite its mixed reaction from enthusiasts, was an instant success that never really burned-out. Creams may not be the hottest topic and POM switches are a healthily-populated category all their own these days, but the classic Cream and its now numerous brethren enjoy a continued spot on the pedestal.
Off-hand, these are all the Cream iterations I can think of:
- Original Creams
- Nolives (Original Cream recolor)
- Chocolate Creams (Original Cream recolor)
- BOX Creams
- Retooled Creams
- Launch Creams (Retooled Cream recolor, appeared alongside them)
- Nolives (Retooled; in production queue as of writing)
- Cream Tactiles
- Cream Arcs
*Blueberries don’t carry the Cream name, but did utilize a version of the original Cream housing, and were the precursors to the current Cream Tactiles. (They’re also one of the most extra tactiles ever, right up there with Moyu Blacks and the like.)
Old Creams, New Creams:
There’s already plenty of good material to read out there comparing pre and post-retool qualities, so I won’t get too deep into that myself - at least not unless I find myself with something new to contribute.
That said, it does seem like there may have been some re-formulation of the plastic, as well - the newer Creams feel sort of oily and slick to the touch to me - at least compared to the almost bony-dry feeling of the old ones. I do think this benefits the new Creams, at very least in the sound department.
The texture is different, too - and I think whether or not you like that is subjective. (It may also be texture alone that is responsible for the difference in surface-feel, and not any difference in the plastic itself.) I think where this texture difference is most apparent is in the feel of the stem travel, but looking closely at the outer surface, it has a different quality as well.
For the Cream as a switch, I think the re-tool represents mostly positive change, and that the updated version is a better product overall. On the other hand, the new stems don’t work for an old favorite franken recipe - so at least a few people are bummed about that. Cream stems used to be highly-valued for linear frankens, and I’m pretty sure those Cream-based frankens are responsible for kicking-off the whole “long-pole linear” switch category.
“Creamy Inks” - still one of my favorite linear frankens - but not possible with the latest parts.
Today you can buy any number of stock switches that bottom-out on a center pole long enough to strike the housing before the rest of the stem - but it started as a consequence of using Kailh-spec stems (like Halos and Creams) in other manufacturers’ housings, all of which have a more shallow tube compared to Kailh’s to a greater or lesser degree.
If you’re among those that prefer the old ones for whatever reason - be it their fairly unique texture, their distinctive sound, or even as a source for frankenswitch parts - there are still some places to get the original Cream experience, at least for now:
While I know a few others as well as myself have recently gotten OG Creams as “mystery switches” from NovelKeys, the most reliable source of pre-retool Creams at time of writing comes in the form of the Chocolate Creams, for sale on KBDfans among a few others. They’re made from the previous Cream tooling, but are still in-stock and being sold. I mention this because they are at least a little different, and some folks do prefer the qualities of the OG version over the retooled one. While there are a handful of places still selling them, I do believe what they have now is all they’re going to get - and that if we do see a re-stock of Chocolate Creams, they will most likely be made from the updated molds.
Not just Creams that are new, but new switches that are Creams
Skipping over the discontinued Blueberry for the time being, there are three current members of the Cream family that are functionally distinct from the “classic” Cream switch. Not just pretty re-colors, these are distinct switches with a tangible link back to the original.
First is the BOX Cream. Three factors distinguish it from the standard cream, functionally speaking:
- Lighter spring weight
- Dust resistance
- GMK/North-facing friendliness
In addition to that, however, there are other differences - a slight change in color being the least significant among them. One of the original Cream’s points of praise was its (at the time) unique bottom-out sound; a sound the BOX version does not have. On the other hand, I think the BOX version is better as a stock switch than the pre-retooled original Cream - it’s factory lubed (at least in some places), less scratchy in general, and there’s much less spring noise. I think someone could enjoy these right out of the bag, whereas I think OG Creams need tuning to be worth using.
I don’t have a whole lot to say about Cream Tactiles yet as I actually haven’t installed them in a board yet - but I can say they strike me as a good tactile if you like (or at least don’t mind) the textured feeling non-polycarb Kailh switches tend to have. They’re strong, but not quite so extra as the Blueberry. They also feature a broad-smooth crest to their tactile bump, as opposed to the flat plateu found on the Blueberry. (A somewhat similar plateau shape appears on Akko CS Jelly Blues, and with a not-too-different effect on the tactile experience.)
They come in a limestone-grey, and while I can’t say I associate that color with anything “creamy”, I do think it makes for nice looking switches.
What little fiddling I’ve done with them so far suggest the stems are good for all sorts of frankenswitching - not that I’d necessarily recommend it. Four or so years ago, one of the only ways to get that “thocky long pole” experience was to put Kailh stems into other housings - mostly in the form of Holy Pandas, and to a lesser degree Creamy Inks. These days, you can buy nearly-equivalent switches straight from the factory - and the variety in general has absolutely exploded. The immediate benefits of frankenswitching are pushed ever-deeper into the territory of diminishing returns as more and better options become available as stock switches, and this is a good thing.
Aside: I think the highest purpose frankenswitching can serve is to inform a better product that someone can just buy in the future. Holy Pandas did this, and before them Ergo Clears - both are essentially categories at this point. As an individual pursuit to find a better switch for one’s own keyboard, well - I’m not going to say it’s wholly pointless - but this is where those diminishing returns come in.
Will Cream Tactile stems be the key to your favorite franken ever, better than any switch you can buy today? Probably not. Mixed with something else you already have on hand, might they make a tactile you enjoy more than the Cream itself? Maybe.
The latest addition to the family is the Cream Arc - colored a muted warm grey somewhere between the original and Tactile colors, and named for the shape of its progressive force-curve:
For comparison, here’s one of the standard Cream:
With “progressive” springs, the idea is that the rate at which they become heavier as they compress increases further as they compress. This makes for a “bouncy” feeling, with resistance compounding more as the stem travels downwards. In the case of this particular progressive, I’d describe it as an almost “chewy” feeling (great word, @donpark).
Before the Cream Arc, I’d only tried 68g progressive springs, and these are decidedly heavier. They don’t even start moving until there’s 60g of pressure on them. They actuate somewhere around 75g; a delta of 15g - smaller than that of the stock Cream. However - the delta between actuation and bottom-out is 45g - more than twice that of the stock Cream.
I’d argue that makes them feel more “creamy” than the original, to dip my toes into the synesthetic weeds for a brief moment.
Moreso than the 68g Marshmallow spring, the Cream Arc springs actually remind me of another from Kailh: the Halo True. From what I can tell, that spring isn’t actually progressive in terms of the graph shape - the weight increases as a linear function of compression - but thanks to how quickly it increases, it ends of feeling more like a progressive spring than the average linear. I think the lingo for these would be “fast curve”, simply referring to how quickly the spring increases in resistance as it is compressed. The Halo True spring was meant for a tactile switch, but it also makes for a “bouncy” linear - starts off light, actuates reasonably normal, but bottoming-out requires above average force.
Thanks to the Cream Arc, that’s one more thing you can go out and buy in MX-compatible format now - previously relegated to workbench kit-bashing and maybe factory R&D. While I wouldn’t say the Cream Arc is the same as a linear made from a Halo True spring, that’s the closest thing I’ve tried to compare it to. IIRC the Halo True has a lower bottom-out weight @ an even 100g, but a larger delta between that and the starting weight compared with the Arc. If you find yourself liking the Cream Arc but wishing the ramping effect were more exaggerated, well, a bouncy Halo True linear franken might be worth it for you.
I’ll leave the search terms I found this with to your imagination.
I haven’t installed the Arcs in a board yet, either - I only got a single pack of 36 out of curiosity - but having tried them in-hand I think I might finish-out the set and give them a proper in-practice try. So far, I’m finding them a lot more approachable than I expected, having a listed bottom-out weight of 120g. Then again, I think part of the theory with force curves like these is to discourage bottoming-out; or at least to facilitate the effort of avoiding it. I have a feeling these could be quite enjoyable for the somewhat heavy-handed typist.
In general, heavier springs tend to smooth-over perceived roughness in a switch, and I’m sure that’s playing its part alongside the new tooling in making the stock Cream Arc feel (and sound) noticeably more smooth in-hand than a stock OG Cream.
One thing all the Creams have in common: they will make a pretty funky smell if kept in a sealed container - that’s as true now as it was in 2018.
Alright! Well, that’s about all I have to say regarding the Cream family of switches for today - this informal ramble went on a lot longer than I’d initially planned, but hey, who here doesn’t enjoy typing so long they find themselves in a different day from which they began?
How about you folks - have you tried any of the newer Cream variants? Any insights or experiences to share about the old ones?