Keycaps are an essential part of a mechanical keyboard. Keycaps define keypress and the typing experience on a keyboard to a large extent.
The most important thing in keycaps is the material with which it is built. Both the PBT and ABS keycaps are types of plastic keycaps but still, they differ in many aspects in terms of durability, wear and tear, usability and many more aspects.
Let’s compare the PBT vs ABS keycaps:
PBT Keycaps vs ABS Keycaps
|PBT Keycaps||ABS Keycaps|
|Full Form||Polybutylene Terephthalate||Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene|
|Cost effectiveness||Expensive||Less Expensive|
|Wear and Tear||Less||More|
What are PBT Keycaps?
PBT stands for Polybutylene Terephthalate. PBT is a type of plastic material used to manufacture keycaps that are a bit expensive but with better durability.
The PBT keycaps are well known among gamers, and these remain intact without deformation even with prolonged use.
In this video, you would get a real review and feel of the PBT keycaps.
The downside is that the PBT type of keycaps is a bit expensive. This is why many keyboard manufacturers skip using the PBT keycaps to cut the cost.
What are ABS Keycaps?
ABS stands for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene. ABS is a type of copolymer plastic that is very commonly used in keycaps in keyboards.
The ABS is known for its durability and can withstand keystrokes in millions. Hence, it can be a preferred choice for keycaps where durability is essential.
In this video, find the detail review and feel of the ABS keycaps in real life.
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Wear and tear are expected in the case of ABS keycaps. This is because the outer layer of the keycaps turns thin on prolonged usage. Also, you would see the letters of the keycaps fading away.
Overall, ABS keycaps are an excellent cost-effective yet durable keycap choice.
ABS vs PBT for Gaming
Though both are plastic caps, the PBT keycaps are very much durable compared to the ABS ones.
For Gaming, we need keycaps that are also less prone to fade out and get thin with usage. So, due to heavy usage in Gaming, PBT keycaps are preferable.
Texture and Finish
The ABS keycaps have a shiny and smooth finish. On the other hand, the PBT keycaps are a bit grainy and rough texture.
Both the PBT and the ABS keycaps are durable for regular purposes.
However, if I compare their durability, then PBT keycaps are more durable than the ABS keycaps.
The melting point of the keycaps helps ensure consistent and moldable 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 much energy to reach its melting point and is also why it is more expensive than the ABS.
The problem arises because PBT takes more significant 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.
Does ABS sound better than PBT?
Here in this video, you will find the actual differences between PBT and ABS keycaps with sound 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 cause a hollow sound, which sounds to be clickier with a keypress.
Therefore, PBT keys, despite sounding sturdier, maybe louder than ABS ones, but they do not click as loud as the ABS ones do on every single click.
If you like a keyboard with less noise then the PBT keycaps would be a better one for your need.
Cost can be an important deciding factor to choose between one of these keycaps. In terms of cost, the PBT is much more expensive as compared to 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 on a regular basis.
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 with different types of keyboards. I really like the PBT keycaps and they are thick too.
PBT vs ABS identification Test
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 on 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.
Frequently Asked Questions on ABS vs PBT keycaps:
Why do ABS keycaps shine?
ABS keycaps worn out quickly and their surface gets shinier more quickly as compared to PBT keycaps.
Is PBT plastic?
Yes, PBT (Polybutylene Terephthalate) is a type of plastic polymer.
Here, I compared the two most common keycaps in the market, the PBT keycaps vs ABS keycaps.
Both are great and are helpful for different purposes. If you look for a cost-effective opt option, then you can choose from ABS keycaps. However, if cost is not the primary factor to consider, then PBT keycaps would be better.