Pbt Vs Abs Keycaps: Which Material Is Best For Your Keyboard?

Are you in the market for new keycaps for your keyboard, but unsure which material to choose? ABS and PBT are two popular options, each with their own unique advantages and disadvantages. Understanding the differences between the two can help you make an informed decision and ensure that you get the best keycaps for your needs.

ABS keycaps are made from acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, a type of thermoplastic polymer. They are known for their affordability and flexibility, making them a popular choice for manufacturers. However, they can also be prone to wear and tear over time, and may become shiny or develop a greasy texture with extended use.

On the other hand, PBT keycaps are made from a more durable and heat-resistant thermoplastic known as polybutylene terephthalate. While they may be more expensive than ABS keycaps, they also tend to be more resistant to wear and tear, and are less likely to become shiny or develop a greasy texture.

Overview of Keycap Materials

Let’s take a look at the different materials used in keycaps, shall we? The two most popular materials for keycaps are PBT (polybutylene terephthalate) and ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene).

PBT is known for its durability, resistance to shine and yellowing, and ability to hold dye well. ABS, on the other hand, is cheaper, easier to produce, and has a smooth surface that some people prefer.

PBT keycaps are thicker and have a more textured surface compared to ABS keycaps. This texture provides a more satisfying tactile feedback when typing and prevents fingers from slipping off the keys. Additionally, PBT keycaps are less prone to wear and tear, which means they can last longer than ABS keycaps. However, PBT keycaps are more expensive and not as widely available compared to ABS keycaps.

ABS keycaps are the most common type of keycaps found on keyboards. They have a smooth surface that some people prefer and are less expensive compared to PBT keycaps. However, ABS keycaps are prone to developing shine and yellowing over time, which can affect the appearance of your keyboard. Additionally, ABS keycaps may wear out faster compared to PBT keycaps due to their thinness.

Pros and Cons of ABS Keycaps

So you’re considering ABS keycaps for your keyboard? Here are some things to keep in mind.

ABS keycaps have a smooth texture that some prefer over the textured feel of PBT keycaps. They also have the ability to be molded into intricate shapes, making them popular among custom keycap enthusiasts.

However, ABS keycaps are vulnerable to shine and yellowing over time, which may impact their longevity and appearance.

Smooth Texture

If you’re someone who values a smooth texture when typing, you’ll likely prefer ABS keycaps over PBT ones due to their slightly more polished feel. ABS keycaps tend to have a smoother surface, which can make them more comfortable to type on for extended periods.

Additionally, the smooth texture of ABS keycaps can make them easier to clean and maintain, as dirt and grime are less likely to stick to the surface. To further enhance the smooth texture of ABS keycaps, some manufacturers may apply a thin layer of coating onto the surface. This coating can help to reduce finger oils and sweat from accumulating on the keycaps, making them less slippery and more pleasant to type on.

However, it’s important to note that this coating may wear off over time with heavy use, leading to a loss of the smooth texture.

Ability to Mold Intricate Shapes

You’ll love how manufacturers can mold intricate shapes onto keycaps with certain materials. ABS keycaps, for instance, are easier to mold into intricate shapes due to their lower melting point. This means that manufacturers can create more detailed designs and textures on ABS keycaps, resulting in a more visually appealing keyboard. Moreover, the process of molding intricate shapes onto ABS keycaps is less time-consuming, making it a more cost-effective option for manufacturers.

On the other hand, PBT keycaps may not be as easy to mold into intricate shapes due to their higher melting point. However, PBT keycaps are still able to offer some level of customization and design options. In fact, some PBT keycaps are laser-etched or dye-sublimated, which allows for precise and detailed designs. While PBT keycaps may not be as versatile as ABS keycaps in terms of molding intricate shapes, they still offer a unique and durable option for keyboard enthusiasts.

Material Ability to Mold Intricate Shapes Cost-effectiveness
ABS Easier to mold More cost-effective
PBT Not as easy to mold Can be laser-etched or dye-sublimated

Vulnerability to Shine and Yellowing Over Time

Over time, keycaps may become vulnerable to shine and yellowing, affecting the overall aesthetic of your keyboard. This is especially true for ABS keycaps, which are more prone to degradation due to their lower melting point and weaker chemical structure.

With frequent use, ABS keycaps can develop a noticeable shine on their surface, caused by the oils and sweat from your fingers. This shine can make your keyboard appear dirty and worn out, even if it’s relatively new.

Furthermore, ABS keycaps are more likely to yellow over time, particularly when exposed to sunlight or UV radiation. This yellowing can be unsightly and may even affect the legibility of your key legends, making it harder to type accurately.

On the other hand, PBT keycaps are much less vulnerable to shine and yellowing. PBT is a more durable and heat-resistant plastic, which means that it can withstand the wear and tear of everyday use without losing its original color or texture.

PBT keycaps also have a matte finish, which helps to hide any minor scratches or scuffs that may occur over time. Additionally, PBT keycaps are less likely to accumulate dirt or grime, thanks to their non-glossy surface.

Overall, PBT keycaps are a better long-term investment for keyboard enthusiasts who want a keyboard that looks and feels great for years to come.

Pros and Cons of PBT Keycaps

You can’t go wrong with PBT keycaps – they’re durable, resistant to shine, and provide a satisfying typing experience. Here are some pros and cons to help you decide if PBT keycaps are the best choice for your keyboard:

  • Pros:

  • Durability: PBT keycaps are made from high-quality plastic that is resistant to wear and tear. They won’t develop shine or yellow over time, so they’ll look great for years to come.

  • Texture: PBT keycaps have a slightly rough texture that provides a comfortable and tactile typing experience. They’re less slippery than ABS keycaps and won’t attract fingerprints.

  • Sound: PBT keycaps produce a deeper and more satisfying sound when typing. This is because their thicker plastic absorbs sound better than ABS keycaps.

  • Cons:

  • Availability: PBT keycaps are less common than ABS keycaps, so it might be harder to find the exact set you want for your keyboard.

  • Cost: PBT keycaps are typically more expensive than ABS keycaps. This is because of their higher quality and durability.

  • Compatibility: Some PBT keycaps may not be compatible with certain keyboard layouts or switches. Make sure to check compatibility before purchasing.

Overall, PBT keycaps are a great choice for anyone who wants a durable and satisfying typing experience. While they may be a bit more expensive and harder to find, their quality and texture make them worth the investment. Just make sure to check compatibility before purchasing to avoid any headaches down the line.

Keycap Sound and Feel

Feeling and hearing the unique sound of each keycap can greatly enhance your typing experience. The sound and feel of a keycap is a personal preference and can vary based on the material it’s made of.

PBT keycaps are known for having a more textured and matte finish, which can provide a more satisfying tactile feedback when typing. On the other hand, ABS keycaps have a smoother and shinier finish, which can feel slippery to some typists.

When it comes to sound, PBT keycaps tend to produce a deeper and more muted sound compared to ABS keycaps. This is due to the denser and harder material of PBT, which absorbs more sound and reduces the resonance of the keycap.

ABS keycaps, on the other hand, produce a higher-pitched and louder sound, which can be more pleasing to some typists. Ultimately, the sound and feel of keycaps is a matter of personal preference and can depend on the typing style and environment.

Some typists may prefer the quiet and tactile feel of PBT keycaps, while others may enjoy the smooth and clicky sound of ABS keycaps. It’s important to try out both materials to see which one suits your typing needs and preferences best.

Compatibility with Keyboard Switches

Ensuring that your desired keycaps are compatible with the switches on your keyboard is crucial for optimizing your typing experience. The compatibility between the keycaps and switches is determined by the stem type, and the two most common stem types are Cherry MX and Alps. Cherry MX switches are more commonly used nowadays, and they come in different colors that indicate their tactile feedback and actuation force. On the other hand, Alps switches are older and less common, but they still have a strong following due to their unique feel.

When choosing between PBT and ABS keycaps, it’s important to consider which material is compatible with your keyboard switches. The table below shows the compatibility between the two materials and the two most common stem types. As you can see, both PBT and ABS keycaps are compatible with Cherry MX switches, but only ABS keycaps are compatible with Alps switches. This means that if you have an Alps keyboard, you won’t be able to use PBT keycaps unless you modify them to fit.

Material Cherry MX Alps

Compatibility with keyboard switches is an important factor to consider when choosing between PBT and ABS keycaps. If you have a Cherry MX keyboard, both materials are compatible, so you can choose based on your personal preference for sound and feel. However, if you have an Alps keyboard, you’ll need to stick to ABS keycaps unless you’re willing to modify PBT keycaps to fit. By taking the time to ensure compatibility, you can optimize your typing experience and get the most out of your keyboard.

Aesthetics and Customization

If you want your keyboard to reflect your personal style and stand out, customizing your keycaps is a great way to do so. When it comes to aesthetics and customization, both PBT and ABS keycaps have their advantages and disadvantages. Here are some things to consider:

  • PBT keycaps have a more textured surface that feels nice to the touch. They also have a more matte finish that doesn’t show fingerprints as easily as ABS keycaps. If you’re looking for a keycap set that will look great even after months of use, PBT keycaps might be the way to go.

  • ABS keycaps, on the other hand, have a smoother surface that allows for more vibrant colors and designs. They are also easier to dye, which means you can create your own custom color schemes. If you’re looking for a keycap set that will really pop and show off your personality, ABS keycaps might be the better choice.

  • Regardless of which material you choose, there are endless customization options available. You can choose from a wide variety of colors, designs, and even different profiles to make your keyboard truly unique. Some popular customization options include adding novelty keycaps, changing the color of the keycap legends, or even creating your own custom keycaps using a 3D printer.

Ultimately, the choice between PBT and ABS keycaps for aesthetics and customization comes down to personal preference. Consider what you’re looking for in a keycap set and choose the material that best fits your needs. With so many options available, you’re sure to find the perfect keycap set to make your keyboard truly your own.


Congratulations! You’ve now gained a deeper understanding of the differences between ABS and PBT keycaps.

Both materials have their own unique advantages and drawbacks, and choosing the right one for your keyboard ultimately depends on your personal preferences and needs.

ABS keycaps are generally more affordable and offer a wider range of customization options. However, they tend to wear out faster and can develop shiny or greasy spots.

PBT keycaps, on the other hand, are more durable and resistant to shine, but can be more expensive and limit customization options.

Ultimately, the keycap material you choose will affect the sound and feel of your keyboard, as well as its compatibility with certain switch types.

So take the time to consider all the factors and choose wisely. Happy typing!