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ABS Vs PBT Keycaps {Which One to Choose?}

The most important part of a mechanical keyboard is its switch. The switch determines the performance and standard of the keyboards. However, in addition to the switches used in the keys, the keycaps also play a very major role in the functionality and efficiency of the mechanical keyboard you pick. This is an area that has frequently been at war and the battle between the ABS and PBT keyboards has indeed been something worthy of consideration. 

Let’s first have a look at the comparison between these two and then we will discuss a lot of things about these as well.

ABS keycap (left), PBT keycap (right) | Photo Source: dygma.com

The Comparison Between the ABS and PBT keycaps


Having checked out the prime features offered by ABS and PBT keycaps, we will check out the best options offered by each of the keycap types. 

Features  ABS Keycaps  PBT Keycaps 
Cost  Affordable  Expensive 
Durability  It May not last longer  Offers years of trouble-free service 
Noise  Produces much noise  Produces lower noise 
Comfort levels  Can wear after prolonged use  Comfortable to type with 
Melting point  105 degrees  225 degrees 
Double shot keycaps  Can work, but not a great option  Works great for Doubleshot keycaps 
Weight Lower weight  Weighs twice as the PBT keycap 
Key shine  Prone to severe key shine  No key shine observed 
Moldability  Easy to mold  Hard to mold 
Fading  Letter and key legend fades away over use  Legends and letters do not fade 
Look and feel  Smoother  Textured 

What is ABS Keycap?


ABS is an acronym for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene. It is one of the most common polymers that has widely been used in every kind of consumer product. It has been considered to be one of the most lightweight and durable polymers. It also introduces affordability as one of the prime aspects when it comes to the costing of the keycaps

Wider availability and lesser cost are a few factors that make it one of the prime choices for the ABS. That would explain why we come across a huge range of mechanical keyboards are equipped with the ABS keycaps. 


What is PBT?


PBT stands for Polybutylene Terephthalate. The PBT is yet another polymer that further introduces a better degree of dimensional stability. Of course, it does cost you more than ABS. It is a heavier polymer than ABS and thus helps you get access to a better ability to hold to the shape. 

If you are into a heavy hammering into the keys while gaming, it can be one of the excellent options you would find impressive. PBT has been one of the perfect options for use with the custom keycaps. PBT keycaps tend to be quite thicker and can prove to be helpful in better durability.


ABS vs PBT Keycaps – How Do they differ?


We will compare the ABS and PBT keycaps and their features based n a few key parameters. This will help us analyses the key area that ABS and PBT keycaps excel in. 

Noise

If you are someone who does not like a noisy keyboard, or keycap, you should stay away from ABS keycaps. The ABS keycaps make your keys make a more clicky sound. If you are working in offices or quieter environments, this can lead to embarrassment. 


Of course, that should not mean PBT keycaps do not produce any noise. But, PBT keycaps produce less noise than the ABS keycaps. The PBT keycaps make a deeper and chunkier sound than the ABS keycaps. The ABS keys come with a lighter and more hollow sound. 

Weight

In terms of weight, PBT keys weigh considerably more than the ABS keys. You will find it weighing almost two times than the ABS keys. However, since a heavier key can provide you with a smoother experience and thus you will have a better feel when playing your game. 

If you are checking out the best options for the lighter touch, you will definitely want to go with ABS keys. In any case, it would be a matter of your convenience and what you are using the keyboard for. 

Shine

The key shine is a phenomenon that you would notice when a keyboard is used for a prolonged period of time. The key shine can result due to the oil on your fingers collects on the tiny indents on the key texture. This can make the key surface completely smoother over time. 

You would most possibly find this phenomenon on the ABS keycaps. You may not notice the issue on your PBT keycap. This is actually a cosmetic issue and does not affect your performance. However, in certain cases – this can lead to slippery fingers. 

Durability

The PBT keycaps have a better dimensional stability and offer you access to a lesser probability of deforming it quickly. Of course, this will not necessitate the need for replacing the keycaps. However, it is worthy of mentioning. 

If you do not want to spend money on replacing the keycaps frequently, you would find the PBT keycaps a great option for almost all your requirements. The PBT keycaps provide you access to a more reliable material. The PBT keycap provides you access to a sturdier performance that lasts longer. 

Melting point

If you are into making your own keycaps, the melting point should be a prime factor that needs attention. The ABS keycaps have a melting point of about 105 degrees. The PBT melts at 225 degrees. 

The ABS keycaps tend to mold rather easily. Molding your own PBT keycaps can be one of the toughest tasks. While PBT keycaps are preferred for the high-end durability that they offer, ABS can be a better choice if you look at the ease of sculpting the keycaps. 

Look and Feel

ABS Keycaps come with a smooth texture to them. They are likely to become quite greasy and produce key shine over the years. 

In sharp contrast, the PBT keycaps can produce a matte look. They are ideally textured and do not have a smooth surface. You will most likely have a feeling of touching a low grain sandpaper. 


The Pros and Cons of Each of the Keycap Types


Having checked out the prime factors offered by the different keycaps among ABS and PBT keycaps. We will check out the Pros and Cons offered by both ABS and PBT keycaps. 

ABS Keycaps

Pros
  • They offer a wider availability
  • The ABS keys are less expensive
  • An easier option to mold 
Cons
  • May produce a greasy feeling. 
  • The sound may be unpleasant. 

PBT Keycaps

Pros
  • Resistant to key shine 
  • A more durable design and functionality
  • Has been widely used in doubleshot keycap
Cons
  • Expensive

What are POM Keycaps?



Apart from the widely used ABS and PBT keycaps, you would also find another type of keycap referred to as POM keycaps. They are not quite common, but you would find them offering a decent performance and used in some proprietary keyboards. 

(Photo Credit: Pinterest)

POM stands for Polyoxymethylene. The chemical is also known by the name acetal, polyacetal, and polyformaldehyde. POM is actually an engineering thermoplastic that is widely used in the manufacturing of precision parts. The material is known to have a high stiffness, low friction, and excellent dimensional stability. 

POM is denser than the ABS and thus can provide you access to a different typing experience. You will find them noticeably thinner when you compare them to the ABS and PBT keycaps. It can be one of the excellent options for the keyboards that use RGB lighting. 


What Are Doubleshot Keycaps?


Doubleshot keycaps involve the use of different materials for molding the keycaps. The Doubleshot keycaps are ideally made from two layers of plastic. The most commonly found variants include Doubleshot ABS keycaps. 

The first layer of the keycap is used for the legend or marking on the keycap. The second layer is used for the hull of the keycap. Since the keycap makes use of the two layers, the construction method is referred to as the Doubleshot method and these keycaps are called Doubleshot keycaps or at times, Doubleshot ABS keycaps. 

You can find both Doubleshot ABS keycaps and Doubleshot PBT keycaps. Doubleshot ABS keycaps come with the advantage where the legend does not wear off even when the keycap suffers the shine. The Doubleshot PBT keycaps provide a protected legend and a consistent surface finish. 

Conclusion

Well, that was a complete companion between the ABS keycaps and PBT keycaps. The complete and detailed ABS Vs PBT Keycaps discussion here can prove to be one of the excellent options you would find rather impressive. 

Ideally, PBT keycaps have been observed to be better than the ABS keycaps. While the PBT keycaps do provide access to strength, texture, durability, and performance enhancement. You would also find it offering resilience towards the UV lights which further improves its functionality. 

About the author

Atish Ranjan

Atish Ranjan is a blogger who has been publishing on the web for more than a decade. He shares his knowledge and expertise in the form of Text and Video Content.

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