ABS and PBT are commonly used in manufacturing keycaps. In this post, I will compare ABS vs PBT, so that you can decide which is right for you while choosing the keycap material for your mechanical keyboard.
Selecting a good keycap set is crucial for your keyboard as they also have a significant impact on your typing experience.
When choosing a new keycap for your mechanical keyboard, choosing the right keycap material becomes an important part to consider as it decides the quality of the keycaps. Keycaps come in two main varieties based on the Material used: ABS and PBT.
PBT and ABS keycaps are both plastics, but there are some key differences between the two types of keycap materials.
Here is the Key difference between PBT and ABS. PBT is a harder plastic polymer than ABS plastics, so it wears better and will not fade as quickly. In addition, PBT has a bit more of a coarse texture on the top that people may find preferable, as it gives them more grip.
ABS keycaps are generally cheaper than PBT keycaps, so they are more commonly used in lower-end keyboards. However, many mechanical keyboard users believe that PBT keycaps provide a better typing experience overall.
Why Should you Trust Me? Hi, I am Anirban Saha, an Engineer with a Specialization in Electronics and Communication Engineering. I have experience in Electronics circuits, and Computer peripherals.
Let’s compare both PBT and ABS keycaps!
ABS vs PBT
|PBT Keycaps||ABS Keycaps|
|Full-Form||Polybutylene Terephthalate||Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene|
|Wear and Tear||Less||More|
What are PBT Keycaps?
PBT keycaps are a type of keycap that is made from a durable plastic polymer material called polybutylene terephthalate(1).
They are often considered better quality than the ABS keycaps which are more common. PBT keycaps are less likely to shine or fade over time, and they are also less likely to develop bubbles or cracks.
The Polybutylene Terephthalate(PBT) keycaps are used in higher-end keycaps and are well known among gamers, and the keyboard community as these remain intact without deformation even with prolonged use.
The main downside of PBT keycaps is their price tag. Also, the expensive PBT keycaps are even better than the cheaper ones. They are often more expensive than ABS keycaps, so they may not be affordable for everyone.
This is why many keyboard manufacturers skip using the PBT keycaps to cut the cost.
What are ABS Keycaps?
ABS keycaps are a type of keycap made from acrylonitrile butadiene styrene(2), a type of thermoplastic. They are the most common type of keycap to use because they are available at a very reasonably low price.
ABS plastic keycaps come in various colors and can be textured or smooth.
ABS is a type of copolymer plastic that is very commonly used in keycaps in keyboards. The ABS is known for its excellent durability and can withstand keystrokes in millions.
The Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene(ABS) thermoplastic material supports easy recycling and molding, which is excellent.
The ABS keycaps are made using the Injection molding technique to form the shape of the keycaps during the manufacturing process.
After that, the legends are printed by different printing technologies that vary depending on the manufacturer of the keycaps. The printing used for ABS caps is pad printing and another with a laser marking and engraving technique.
Wear and tear are expected in the case of low-grade ABS keycaps. This is because the outer layer of the keycaps turns thin on prolonged usage which means there is surface wear and tear happens.
Also, you would see the letters on the keycaps fading away.
Overall, ABS keycaps are an excellent cost-effective yet durable keycap choice.
Texture and Finish
The ABS keycaps have a shiny and smooth finish. On the other hand, the PBT keycaps are grainy and have a rough texture.
Both the PBT and the ABS keycaps are durable for regular purposes.
However, if I compare their durability, then the impact resistance of PBT keycaps is more than that of ABS keycaps.
The melting point of the keycaps helps ensure consistent and moldable keycaps. Low melting points in plastics mean they are easy to mold. The melting point of ABS and PBT polymer keycaps depends on the polymer’s material properties.
ABS is known for its low melting point of only 105 degrees, while PBT is 225 degrees. The PBT is more resistant to heat as compared to ABS.
Molding PBT is thus more complex as well as it requires much energy to reach its melting point which is also why it is more expensive than the ABS.
The problem arises because PBT takes more time to cool down, leading to the keys warping. 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.
Here in this video, you will find the actual differences between PBT and ABS keycaps with keypress sound signatures in real life.
For many people, the noise produced by the keycaps is of great importance if it can distract them.
So, naturally, people prefer keycaps that make less noise.
PBT keys are sturdy, whereas ABS is hollow on the inside and thus causes a hollow sound, which sounds clickier with a keypress.
Therefore, PBT keys, despite sounding sturdier, maybe a louder and crisper sound than ABS ones but do not click as loud as the ABS ones do on every single click. Many mechanical keyboard owners may prefer ABS keycaps to softer sound clicks.
Cost can be an important deciding factor to choose between one of these kinds of keycaps. In terms of cost, the PBT is much more expensive than the ABS type of keycaps.
All in all, ABS keycaps are the more budget-friendly option, as they are easier to manufacture and so cost less to make, making them less expensive.
However, as we have already discussed, this often means that ABS keycaps are of lower quality; you get what you pay for.
PBT keycaps are costlier because it is a challenging task to manufacture them. However, the PBT keycaps are even better in terms of durability and usability regularly.
As mentioned previously, ABS keycaps tend to be thinner than PBT keycaps, giving them a different feel and sound, and extra durability.
However, the thickness is relative to different types of keyboards. I like the PBT keycaps due to their thicker plastic.
ABS vs PBT for Gaming
Though both are plastic polymer material keycaps, the PBT keycap sets are more durable than the ABS ones.
For Gaming, we need keycaps that are less prone to fade out and get thin with usage. So, due to heavy use in Gaming, PBT keycaps are preferable.
How to tell if keycaps are PBT or ABS?
You can quickly identify if your mechanical keyboard keycaps are of PBT type or ABS type.
You can put a drop of Nail Polish Remover(Acetone) on a toothpick and move it to the underside of the keycap.
If the Acetone etches the keycaps, then the keycaps are of ABS type.
Otherwise, they are of PBT, which has an impervious surface.
Also, PBT keycaps have a nicer texture and the surface is much different from the ABS keycaps. You will clearly notice the texture in PBT keycaps.
Which is better between PBT and ABS?
If you’re looking for a keycap that is durable and has a unique feel, you should consider purchasing a PBT keycap as the other one has ABS polymer material, which is cheap and not much durable.
PBT keycaps are made from a type of plastic called polybutylene terephthalate, which gives them a unique texture and feel.
They also have a longer lifespan than other types of keycaps, making them an excellent choice for those who are looking for something that will last.
Finally, it’s up to user preference which one you would go with, whether a cost-effective one or a long-lasting but expensive one.
What are Double Shot Keycaps?
Double Shot keycaps are a type of keycap made from two different colors of plastic, and it is a very popular printing method for keycaps.
This creates a two-toned or “Double Shot” look on the keycap. Double Shot keycaps are popular among keyboard enthusiasts because they offer a unique look and feel.
They are also more durable than standard single-shot keycaps because the two colors make them less prone to fading or chipping.
This is done by injecting plastic into two molds, one for each color during the molding process. The most common way to do this is by using a two-colored plastic filament. This type of keycap is usually more expensive than a single-colored keycap.
Double Shot printing ensures that your keycap legend will remain intact and not eventually fade away and make the keycap shine. You would commonly find Double Shot PBT keycaps available online.
Double Shot keycaps have an excellent backlit illumination output from their legends.
So, if you use a keyboard that supports backlit, your legends on the keyboard would be illuminated well and would be visible. You can have both ABS and PBT keycaps made through the Double Shot process.
What are Pudding Keycaps?
Pudding keycaps are a type of keycap that has a transparent bottom design. This allows more lighting to shine through the keycaps sides, creating an effect that is often called “pudding.” Pudding keycaps are an excellent choice for backlit keycaps.
The popularity of pudding keycaps has grown in recent years, as more and more people become interested in modding their keyboards. There are various pudding keycap designs available, and they can be used to add color and personality to any keyboard.
Pudding keycaps come in various color options, and they can add a bit of flair to your keyboard setup. They are also relatively affordable, which is another plus.
If you’re looking for something different and want to try out some pudding keycaps, be sure to check out the offerings on Amazon or eBay. You won’t be disappointed!
When choosing keycaps for your mechanical keyboard, another crucial aspect you need to look into is their keycap profile.
The profile of a keycap is its outline or shape. Keycaps come in different profiles, and their height and shape can categorize them. Tall keycaps have a high profile, while low keycaps have a low profile.
There are also several types of keycap profiles that you need to know. The most common type is the OEM profile, which is used on most laptop and desktop keyboards. Another popular profile is the DSA profile, designed for use on mechanical keyboards.
ABS vs PBT FAQs
Q. Why do ABS keycaps shine?
ABS keycaps wear out quickly, and their surface gets shinier more rapidly than PBT keycaps.
Q. Is PBT plastic?
Yes, PBT keycaps are made of a plastic polymer known as Polybutylene Terephthalate.
Q. Is PBT better than ABS?
PBT is stronger and more durable than ABS. Also, PBT keycaps have a longer lifespan which makes them better than ABS.
Let’s conclude the post!
Here, I compared the two most common keycaps in the market, the ABS vs PBT keycaps.
Both are great and are helpful for different purposes. If you look for a cost-effective opt option, you can choose from ABS keycaps.
However, if cost is not the primary factor to consider, then PBT keycaps would be better for your mechanical keyboard’s keycap set.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post.