If you own a mechanical keyboard, you might be interested in replacing the keycaps that come with it, which is why it’s important to know the difference between PBT keycaps and ABS keycaps before you start shopping. Both ABS and PBT keycaps can be single- or dual-shot, and are designed for unlit, backlit, and RGB keyboards. Some people prefer ABS keycaps, while others prefer PBT keycap chargers.
This article will walk you through the different ways keycaps are made, as well as the difference between the most widely used materials, ABS and PBT. This will help you understand the age-old debate between ABS keycaps vs PBT keycaps and the differences between them.
What are two-tone keycaps?
Before you start looking for the perfect set of keycaps for your mechanical keyboard, it’s important to understand the difference between standard, single-key, and two-key keycaps. Double Shot refers to the process used when two plastics are molded into one keycap. One plastic is used for the main housing unit, the other plastic is injected into the main keycaps to form the stems that connect to the switches, and is used for the color of the inscription. Where two-color keycaps are less expensive, the primary keycap can also contain a shank, and a small amount of material is injected into the keycap for the sole purpose of producing a lettering layer.
Double Shot Left Enjoy PBT with Right Double Shot Tai Hao
This process serves the dual purpose of ensuring that the legend never fades, while also making it easier for light to pass through the legend. An alternative to using a separate plastic for the legend is to print it on it, however, the problem with printing legends is that when they are produced on ABS keycaps in a process called dye sublimation or stain, they tend to fade over time . Your fingers are constantly rubbing against the inscription on the keys (unless you’re using a blank keycap set), and UV light can also speed up the fading process. Double Shot keycaps are more durable and more expensive than standard keycaps, and are available in PBT and ABS materials.
What are pudding keycaps?
Another common keycap type that is often discussed with two-tone keycaps is the pudding keycap. Pudding keycaps are a special type of two-tone keycap designed to let light through the legend as well as the sides of the keycap. Even with the translucent design of the pudding keycaps, they’re still durable. Pudding keycaps are perfect for those who want to enjoy the beauty of RGB lighting with inscriptions and create a dimmed effect on the keyboard. They can be produced in ABS or PBT, and since this design has been around for years, pudding keycap sets in PBT and ABS are quite affordable.
What are ABS keycaps?
ABS keycaps are made from acrylonitrile butadiene styrene and are the most commonly used keycap material. They are used in budget and high-end keyboards because they are cheaper and easier to produce. There are thousands of ABS keycap sets on the market, and most of them are very cheap, but there are also good and more expensive ABS keycap sets that can cost as much as a good mechanical keyboard.
ABS keycaps can be single shot, which means only one layer of plastic is used, which can make them lighter and less expensive. They can also be made into two-tone keycaps that use two layers of plastic. Both single- and dual-shot keycaps can be designed for use with RGB keyboards, designed for non-backlit keyboards, or both.
Inexpensive ABS keycap kits will almost always use less material in production, and will often use mass-produced OEM profiles. Once the tooling is created for the keycap set, it can be used in a variety of different color patterns for years to come. The advantage of a manufacturer continuing to produce keycap sets for many years is that the tools to make the keycap sets are very expensive, but if the keycap sets had been in production for a few years, the cost of developing the tooling would have been recouped long ago. This allows the manufacturer to pay only for the cost of materials , machine operating power and labor cost to produce keycap sets, resulting in thousands of very cheap ABS keycap sets.
More expensive ABS keycap sets will use more material and be heavier. When producing a super premium ABS keycap set, it usually consists of a basic kit that can include all the keys needed for a full-size keyboard, plus the keycaps needed for 60%, 65%, 75%, and TKL ( tenkeyless) keyboard. They may also include a novelty set, or this may be a separate set.
Novelty keycap set
Premium ABS keycap sets are usually produced by top manufacturers who contract with renowned keycap designers to develop fonts, color schemes and artistic key inscriptions. In some cases, keycap sets can be based on, or even collaborations with, a popular series or movie. When special-edition keycap sets are announced and pre-orders begin, actual production and shipping can take anywhere from six months to over a year, while basic sets can cost closer to $200 and sell out quickly. A small group of fans.
Advantages of ABS keycaps
ABS keycaps are made of very durable plastic, although quite flexible. ABS keycaps are impact resistant, so they require a lot of use or a lot of force to crack. ABS is easier to work with than PBT when making keycaps, so the colors and legends are almost always very crisp and crisp. They also complement RGB keyboards better than PBT because it’s easier to make ABS keycaps that glow through RGB colors. Some people like the sheen, and smooth feel of the ABS keycaps. ABS keycaps can also affect the sound of the keyboard, some people prefer the sound of ABS keycaps over other materials.
Disadvantages of ABS keycaps
The main disadvantage of ABS keycaps is that they will wear out and become shiny, and the lettering will start to fade after a while. They can even wear out completely if the inscriptions are printed using dye sublimation (dye-sub). ABS keycaps are generally lighter and made with less material, so they feel thin and cheap when typing. There are very good quality ABS keycaps that feel very different, but again, these keycap sets can cost upwards of $150, which is why such ABS keycap sets are rarely included on new keyboards.
What are PBT keycaps?
PBT keycaps are made of polybutylene terephthalate, which is known to be one of the strongest and highest quality plastics used to make keycaps. PBT is a rigid thermoplastic engineering polymer that can handle years of heavy abuse. Since this thermoplastic is in high demand in the automotive industry, its supply is not inexhaustible, driving up costs so high that it cannot be sold with keyboards. PBT is brittle, so molding it into keycaps is complicated and requires very expensive tooling and can only be used for one keycap set design. This means that if you want to produce a PBT keycap set for the US layout, you will need to spend the same amount of money developing a whole new tool for the UK, German or French layout.
One of the remarkable properties of PBT is its ability to withstand matte finishes. PBT keycaps can also have a grainy or smooth texture. Some people like the graininess because it creates more touch, while others prefer a smoother texture.
PBT keycaps can also be single or dual keys, although new designs of PBT keycaps for RGB and backlit keyboards are hard to find on the current market. Like ABS keycap sets, PBT keycaps come in a wide range of prices. Generally speaking, PBT keycaps are more expensive than ABS keycaps, but there are still more affordable options for PBT keycaps that will use less material and provide a unique PBT feel, but probably not a super premium feel.
Advantages of PBT keycaps
PBT is one of the most durable plastics and is widely used in keycap kits. The inscription will not wear out over time, even under extreme use. PBT also has a unique feel, which can be described as silky or smooth, but not slippery, giving the typist an extra feel and connection to the keyboard. PBT keycap sets typically use more material than ABS keycap sets and are generally heavier. While it depends on the manufacturer, PBTs tend to have a deeper, crisper, and less harsh sound when typing than typical ABS keycap sets. PBT keycaps are generally louder and clearer than ABS keycaps, and many people like it because it enhances their acoustic fun and may be better for activating ASMR, an autonomous sensory meridian response that can bring a sense of well-being while typing.
Disadvantages of PBT keycaps
PBT keycaps are generally more expensive than ABS keycaps. When comparing a mid-range PBT keycap set to a mid-range ABS keycap set, PBT can be nearly twice as expensive. Producing new high-quality two-tone PBT keycap sets is difficult and expensive, so there are fewer options for these types of new keycap sets. The selection of two-color PBT keycap sets that can accommodate RGB and backlit keyboards is also very limited. There are cheaper two-color keycap sets, but the second-color plastic can be very thin, using a minimal amount of material. Some people may not like the sound from PBT keycaps, as the plastic is thicker and they tend to have a deeper sound.
Despite the overwhelming selection of ABS keycaps and all their aesthetic benefits, ABS keycaps cannot compete with PBT keycaps in terms of longevity. Vibrant colors on ABS keycaps will eventually fade under UV light, and letters may fade from wear. Those unhappy with the stock ABS keycaps may find it too thin. In this case, thicker or two-tone ABS keycaps may be the best solution, although these keycap sets can also be quite expensive.
PBT keycaps are rarely sold with keyboards and are usually only included in high-end keyboards. If you plan to use the same keyboard for years to come, it might make more sense to add a set of PBT keycaps that will surely last the life of the keyboard and beyond. For those planning to make a bigger investment in keyboard keycaps, check out the latest releases of ABS keycaps in collaboration with renowned keycap designers, or the latest releases based on a series or movie theme that will bring you more pleasure. work or play.