The use of ABS vs PBT in computer keyboard keycaps is an important discussion for anyone looking at premium keyboards. You might have thought to yourself “what keycaps should I get”, or “do I get ABS or PBT keycaps”.
There can be a lot of debate between the two types, but in the end which one is better ABS or PBT? PBT keycaps are commonly thought to be significantly better than ABS keycaps in almost everyway. They are much more durable to chemicals and oils, have improved wear resistance and won’t shine over time. ABS is smoother and will get “greasy”, while PBT is textured and won’t.
Today I’ll be going over the main differences between ABS vs PBT keys. In addition, I’ll explain what to look for when purchasing your next keyboard or keycap set.
- What are Keyboard Keycaps?
- ABS vs PBT: Differences
- What are Doubleshot Keycaps?
- What is Better PBT or ABS?
- Which is Better for Typing: ABS or PBT?
- Which is Better for Gaming: ABS or PBT?
- What are Pudding Keycaps?
What are Keyboard Keycaps?
Keyboard keycaps are the physical caps that go over the switch mechanism on a keyboard. They are the feature that your fingers interact with and touch the most.
When it comes to laptop vs desktop keyboards, keycaps can vary in size. They can range from low-profile to a standard desktop layout. In addition, most keycaps can be swapped from keyboard to keyboard (with the exception of laptops).
ABS vs PBT: Differences
ABS and PBT are both different types of plastics. They are commonly used for injection molding and are found in a variety of everyday objects.
In addition, both ABS and PBT are often used for keyboard keycaps for their outstanding properties. To understand the differences between ABS and PBT, you first need to know what they are.
What is ABS Plastic?
ABS or acrylonitrile butadiene styrene is a thermoplastic polymer typically used in injection molding applications (source). Additionally, it is popular due to it’s low production cost and ease of machining.
ABS’s natural properties provide excellent impact resistance, structural strength, chemical resistance, temperature resistance, and insulation. All of these properties help make ABS an outstanding barrier between human fingers and the device.
ABS Keycaps Pros & Cons
- Relatively mechanically strong
- Quieter typing
- Smooth texture
- Develop “shine” faster than other types
- Not resistant to chemical solvents
What is PBT Plastic?
PBT or Polybutylene terephthalate is a semi-crystalline thermoplastic material used for injection molding (source). It is in the polyester poly family meaning that it is unlike ABS plastics.
Furthermore, PBT has similar properties to that of ABS, but with higher tolerances. It is more solvent resistant, wear proof, mechanically stronger, and can be mixed with other polymers for unique combinations.
In addition, PBT can be mixed to create unique feels for different applications. For example, some might want a more textured keycap for grip, etc.
PBT Keycaps Pros & Cons
- Can survive extreme temperatures
- Resistant to chemical solvents
- Mechanically strong
- Do not “shine” as quickly as ABS
- Fade resistant
- Typically more expensive
- Not available in some colors
- Louder when typing (in some cases)
What are Doubleshot Keycaps?
Doubleshot or double-shot keycaps are a name given to the process in which they are made. The plastic is “shot” into two different molds during the injection molding process. In turn, this means that the legends of the keycaps are not the same piece of plastic as the actual keycap.
Most commonly, the double-shot technique is used to manufacture shine-through keycaps. These specific types let light through for RGB effects, or just simple backlighting. Additionally, there are none shine-through variants as well.
Are Double-shot Keycaps Good?
Double-shot keycaps are often known as superior over single-shot due to their durability. They won’t develop a shiny look, or wear out over time.
In addition, double-shot PBT is resistant to UV rays. So, if you have your keyboard in a room that gets consistent sunlight, you shouldn’t expect to have any deterioration.
The benefits of double-shot keys are abundantly clear when RGB backlighting is involved. Shine-through effects are very useful in lighting up a keyboard clearly and brightly.
Double-shot keycaps are available in both ABS and PBT forms, however PBT is typically more common.
What is Better PBT or ABS?
PBT keycaps are fair superior to ABS keycaps. The plastics making up PBT keys give them qualities such as higher wear resistance, better durability, and stronger mechanics.
In addition, ABS plastics are often cheaper than PBT giving them a more “budget” feel.
Finally, PBT keycaps are resistant to fading. They won’t fade overtime.
Which is Better for Typing: ABS or PBT?
PBT keycaps are recommended, especially when typing a lot due to their increased resistance to wear and fading.
Which is Better for Gaming: ABS or PBT?
For gaming, PBT keycaps are the best option because of their superior wear resistance and mechanical strength.
What are Pudding Keycaps?
Pudding keycaps have translucent sides with an opaque top on the main housing. The translucent sides allow for light to pass through creating a unique lighting effect.
My favorite pudding keycaps are the GMMK Aura Keycaps.