Last Updated on November 22, 2023
When it comes to keyboard customization, one crucial decision you’ll face is choosing between two prevalent plastics for keycaps: Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) and Polybutylene Terephthalate (PBT). The nuances in the feel, sound, and appearance of these plastics play a pivotal role in crafting your typing experience. This comprehensive guide aims to delve deep into the ABS vs PBT keycaps debate, exploring their distinctions and helping you decide which one might be better suited for your needs.
Composition and Characteristics
ABS keycaps, made from the copolymer material Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, dominate the market due to their cost-effectiveness, strength, and resilience. These keycaps can endure millions of keystrokes without cracking or breaking, but they do have a notable drawback – degradation over time. Prolonged use often leads to fading legends and a shiny, greasy appearance, attributed to the plastic’s color change induced by UV exposure.
Texture and Manufacturing
ABS keycaps boast a smooth surface, providing a unique tactile feel as fingers glide across the keyboard. The majority of ABS keycaps are shaped through injection molding, with legends applied using techniques like engraving, laser marking, or pad printing. While ABS keycaps are commonly found on mechanical keyboards, premium sets such as GMK Keycaps offer sturdier plastics and personalized designs, albeit at a higher price point.
Composition and Characteristics
In the ABS vs PBT keycaps competition, PBT, or Polybutylene Terephthalate, stands out as the less frequently used but superior alternative. PBT keycaps are known for their textured, occasionally sandy feel and superior durability. Unlike ABS, PBT is more resistant to wear and tear over time, making it an excellent choice for long-term use.
Texture and Manufacturing
PBT keycaps typically have a matte finish, lacking the shine associated with ABS. The material’s rigidity and brittleness make it more challenging to work with, contributing to its higher cost. Despite this, PBT keycaps are favored for their finer textures, and some high-end sets feature exquisite designs. The keycaps are often thicker, contributing to their longevity and resilience.
ABS vs PBT Keycaps Comparison
PBT keycaps are generally more expensive than their ABS counterparts. The challenging manufacturing process and the superior quality of PBT contribute to this price difference. However, some thick and intricately designed ABS keycaps can surpass the cost of basic PBT sets.
ABS keycaps are smooth and shiny, while PBT keycaps are textured and matte. The choice between the two largely depends on personal preference, with some high-quality ABS keycaps offering a less shiny appearance.
In general, PBT keycaps are thicker than ABS keycaps. However, the thickness can vary based on the specific keycap set you choose.
PBT keycaps produce a crisper and cleaner sound while typing, though they tend to be slightly louder than ABS keycaps. The rigidity and thickness of PBT contribute to this distinctive sound.
Making Your Choice: ABS or PBT?
Aesthetics and Comfort
The choice between ABS and PBT keycaps ultimately boils down to personal preference. While PBT keycaps are generally considered superior due to their durability and lack of a shiny appearance, some individuals may prefer the smooth and shiny feel of ABS. It’s crucial to consider what feels aesthetically pleasing and comfortable for your typing experience.
Doubleshot and Pudding Keycaps
For those looking to elevate their keyboard aesthetics, doubleshot keycaps, crafted using a complex injection molding process with two different polymers, offer a unique solution. Pudding keycaps, a type of doubleshot keycap, allow light to pass through both legends and sides, creating stunning lighting effects.
Keycap profiles, determining the overall size and form of the keycaps, add another layer of customization. Experimenting with different profiles can help you find the one that feels most comfortable for your typing style.
Conclusion: ABS vs PBT Keycaps
|Feature||ABS Keycaps||PBT Keycaps|
|Cost||Usually Cheaper||More Expensive|
|Texture||Smooth and Shiny||Textured and Matte|
|Thickness||Thinner (Not always)||Thicker|
|Sound||Quieter when typing||Louder when typing|
|Wear Over Time||Wears Over Time||More Durable|
|Composition||Copolymer Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS)||Polybutylene Terephthalate (PBT)|
|Feel||Smooth||Textured, occasionally sandy|
|Manufacturing||Injection molding, various techniques for legends||More challenging due to rigidity and brittleness|
|Longevity||Prone to degradation over time, may develop a greasy gloss||More durable, less prone to wear and tear over time|
|Aesthetics||Shiny, slick appearance over time||Matte finish, maintains appearance over time|
|Keycap Sets||Common on mechanical keyboards, high-end sets available||Less common, often sold separately or at a premium|
|Customization||Available in various designs, legends can fade over time||Finer textures, matte finish, less prone to fading|
|Preference||Personal preference, some may prefer the smooth feel||Generally considered superior for durability and aesthetics|
In conclusion, the choice between ABS and PBT keycaps depends on personal preferences, with PBT often considered superior for its durability and resistance to wear over time. However, high-quality ABS keycaps and their smooth feel remain popular among users.
In the ABS vs PBT keycaps dilemma, there is no definitive answer; it’s a matter of personal preference. PBT is often viewed as superior due to its durability and resistance to the shiny appearance that plagues ABS over time. However, high-quality ABS keycaps, especially those from renowned manufacturers, can provide an excellent typing experience.
Kizaru is a fan, collector, and has a huge addiction to mechanical keyboards. Kizaru has a collection of dozens of mechanical keyboards that come in different sizes and use different switches. He also frequently contributes to various forums that discuss keyboards such as Reddit and GeekHack.