ABS vs PBT Keycaps: Which One Is Best?

Keyboard keycaps enhance the user experience for all keyboard users. We thus want to make sure that we invest in a keyboard that consists of keycaps that are just right. This is of great importance for people who type, play games, or use their keyboards frequently. Keycaps come in mostly plastic, but the plastic can be of different types such as PVC, POM, ABS, PBT, etc.

This article will go over two major types of keycap plastics; ABS vs PBT keycaps. It will help you decide which of the two is better suited for you. ABS or Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene is perhaps the most easily available plastic available for keyboards. Whereas PBT or Polybutylene Terephthalate is up and coming in the world of keyboards. We will discuss each of these in-depth in this article to help you pick your preferred keycap plastic.

abs vs pbt keycaps

Direct Comparison

 

ABS Keycaps

 

PBT Keycaps

Texture Smooth Rough
Rate of wear Fast Slow
Surface feel Wet Dry
Change of color Yes No
Price $ $$$
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Breaking It Down

This section will compare ABS vs PBT Keycaps in-depth so that you can make an informed decision based on facts.

1. Weight

Weight matters a lot when it comes to keyboards, because the heavier the key is, the smoother the response. However, a lot of people prefer lighter ones so this mostly depends on your choice.

ABS keys are generally very lightweight in comparison to PBS ones. PBS keys are almost twice as heavy as their ABS counterparts. So people who prefer a smoother experience with their keys should opt for PBS keycaps instead of ABS ones.

2. Key Shine

Key shine is the result of use over the course of time which occurs in keycaps. It is the consequence of the oil produced by your fingers which smoothens the texture of the keys. It also reflects greater light as opposed to when they were new.

Shiny keys however only occur if your keycaps are made of ABS plastic. PBS keycaps in comparison do not let this happen. Most people prefer an even surface on the keys, so it would be logical that they opt for PBS keycaps rather than the ABS ones.

3. Noise

For a lot of people noise produced by the keycaps is of great importance if it can distract them. Naturally, people prefer keycaps that produce less noise.

PBT keys are sturdy whereas ABS are hollow on the inside and thus cause a hollow sound, which is more “clickier”. Therefore, PBS keys despite sounding sturdier may be louder than ABS ones but they do not click as loud as the ABS ones do on every single click.

Hence, there is no clear winner when it comes to the noise produced by the two. It depends mostly on what sound annoys you less, so make your choice.

4. Durability

Naturally, we want a longer-lasting keycap, and so durability is quite important.

Since PBT is sturdier it is more durable as well, the shape and form of the keys will remain flat. On the other hand, in the case of ABS the keys become out of shape and bent from the middle and are needed to be replaced sooner than PBT keys.

It should be noted that the more durable the plastic is, the easier it is to apply ink on the keycaps. Thus, PBT is more suitable for DIY dying.

5. Melting Point

The melting point of the keycaps helps ensure consistent and mouldable keycaps. Low melting points plastics mean they are easy to mold.

ABS is known for its low melting point of only 105 degrees, while PBT is 225 degrees. This shows that ABS keys turn out to be more consistent than PBT keys. Molding PBT is thus more difficult as well as it requires a lot of energy to reach its melting point and is also the reason why it is more expensive.

The problem arises because PBT takes greater time to cool down, which can lead to the keys warping and therefore, there is a higher chance of error with these.

Although, the high melting point makes PBT ideal for putting ink on the plastic. If you like DIY keycap inking then PBT is better for you.

6. Double Shot Keycaps

Double shot keycaps are the result of molding two plastic into one another. This results in having a legend that does not fade or lighten. Double shot keyboards do not require you print on them and so you do not even feel the legends while you type.

Double Shot Keycaps that are made of ABS just like regular ones, will tend to become shiny whereas PBT ones remain the same after prolonged use as well.

Final Recount

Out of the 6 features discussed, 4 of them show that PBT keycaps are better in terms of the weight, texture, durability and double-shot keycaps. Noise production varies according to the person’s preferences but only the melting point is lower for ABS keycaps.

Pros and Cons

PROS CONS
ABS Keycaps
  • Easily available
  • Cheap
  • Become shiny with use
  • Feel greasy to touch after prolonged wear
  • Hollow typing sound
PBT Keycaps
  • Shine resistant
  • Durable
  • Better for double shot keycaps
  • Expensive
  • Difficult to mold
  • Not easy to manufacture

Final Verdict

It can be seen that the clear winner for ABS vs PBT keycaps is the latter. PBT keycaps are not only more durable but provide a more comfortable user experience as compared to ABS ones. That being said, PBT keycaps are more expensive and are also more difficult to mold.

We understand that not all people prefer the features of the PBT keycap and so it depends a lot on the user’s preferences. Luckily, we laid them all out for you in a clear format, so you should have no problem making an informed decision.

Now that you have a better idea about the two plastics and their features, you should keep these in mind when you purchase a new keyboard or keycaps. Happy shopping!

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