ABS Vs PBT: Let's Understand Different Keycap Materials

A Mechanical Keyboard consists of several different components. Each of which contributes to either the design and look of the keyboard or the typing experience and feel of the keystrokes from the keyboard. Mechanical Switches get the most attention in any given mechanical keyboard, why won’t they, they actually determine the typing feel and experience for the users. Everything right from the trigger speed to the actuation type, all depends on the equipped switches. But in giving all attention to the switches, people usually underestimate the Keycaps. They are not there only for designer purposes, well they contribute the most to the design and look, but with different profiles, they also contribute to typing experience and in-hand feel of the keyboard. The right choice of material and profile for Keycaps provides you with perfect comfort and greets you with a perfect in-hand feel. Today, we will be discussed the two most commonly used types of materials for Keycaps, ABS and PBT. So, without wasting any more time, let’s begin.


First off, we need to understand what are these two types of materials.

What is ABS Material for Keycaps?

Acrylonitrile butadiene Styrene (ABS) is a copolymer plastic material that is commonly used in the production of keycaps for keyboards. ABS material is generally used as it is durable and cost-effective.  These can bear millions of keystrokes before cracking or breaking. Primarily due to their cost efficiency, ABS keycaps are quite popular among keyboard enthusiasts. As users can get ABS material sets at a more affordable price point. ABS material is not only used for the keycaps, sometimes it is also used for the chassis of the keyboard. These are hard in nature and offer a lightweight form factor. Brands can easily manufacture these in different profiles.

ABS Material has a smooth finish, these keycaps are usually glossy and shiny. Usually, the ABS keycaps are thinner than the other material keycaps. Thinner and lighter to be exact. ABS material is not the most durable material for keycaps, the keycaps get oily soon enough with usage, and they also lose their color when exposed to UV rays.


Pros of ABS Keycaps:-

>Cost effective.

>Lighter and Thinner.

>Usually have a shiny finish.

>Smooth finish.

Cons of ABS Keycaps:-

>Not the most durable ones out there.

>Printing usually fades away with usage.

>Gets oily easily.

What is PBT Material for Keycaps?

PBT stands for Polybutylene Terephthalate. It is a high-quality material that I among the popular and premium material options for Keycaps. PBT is actually heavily used in manufacturing designer Keycaps as these are highly durable, wear/oil resistance, and offer a rich matte finish. Keycaps made with PBT material have a nice textured finish, they not only look premium but also have a premium in-hand feel.

PBT Keycaps have a rigid build that wears down less over time. You won’t notice your keycaps losing their color or fading off even after a long time of usage. The main drawback with PBT material keycaps is their high cost of manufacturing. It is difficult to source and mold into Keycaps. They are thicker, and have a little extra weight in comparison to standard ABS keycaps. PBT material keycaps offer a rich and premium experience with any given keyboard.


Pros of PBT Keycaps:-


>Won’t lose their print and won’t get oily easily.

>Rich matte finish.

>Textured build.

>Rigid and Brittle.

Cons of PBT Keycaps:-

>Cost is high.

Let’s discuss the differences between ABS and PBT Keycaps now.

ABS Vs PBT: The Main Battle!!

Now when we have discussed both the material types, let’s see how these two compare against each other on different criteria like Thickness, In-Hand Feel, Texture, Cost, etc.


First off, let’s get the main thing off the table, the cost of both the materials. As I stated earlier, PBT material is usually costlier than ABS material. So the PBT keycaps are usually pricier in comparison to ABS keycaps. Well, you can find premium ABS keycaps too, but a cheap PBT set is a hard find. 


ABS material keycaps are usually thinner unless they are created especially with a thicker form. PBT keycaps will have a thicker and heavier build than ABS material(Obviously this is for usual cases, exceptions are there).

Texture & In-Hand Feel:-

ABS keycaps have a smooth, glossy finish, while PBT keycaps have a richer matte finish. PBT material keycaps have a textured finish, they are not shiny at all. Colors might look dull on PBT keycaps but they are highly durable in comparison. In-Hand feel for PBT keycaps is usually better in comparison to ABS keycaps.


As we have stated earlier in this blog too, PBT material keycaps are highly-durable. They offer both wear as well as oil-resistant characteristics to the Keycaps. PBT keycaps don’t get oily easily, ABS keycaps on the other hand have lower durability. They get oily easily, and also their print gets fades earlier than PBT keycaps.


One might say how can Keycap material affect the sonic performance of any given mechanical keyboard. Well, with all our experience we have found ABS and PBT materials to have a different sonic performance. PBT keycaps being heavier sound thicker while the ABS keycaps have a thinner sound profile.


Final Words:-

Both the materials have their own benefits and cons. We tried our best to explain the difference between the ABS and PBT materials in a very simple manner so that both new guys and experienced keyboard enthusiasts. Between the ABS & PBT keycaps, we would say it becomes a personal preference Some users like shiny bright keycaps which is possible with ABS material ones while some people prefer the textured rich matte finish of PBT keycaps. The best part is for both the ABS and PBT material, there is a huge catalog of Keycaps available in the market today!!

We hope we were able to help you understand the difference between the two most commonly used materials for Keycaps. For any further questions and queries, you can write to us at support@mechkeys.com.

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