ABS vs. PBT Plastic

Glorious HQ

April 30, 2021

DISCUSSING CUSTOM KEYCAP MATERIALS

INTRODUCTION

When looking to buy custom keycap sets for your mechanical keyboard, two acronyms repeatedly pop up: ABS and PBT. Both terms represent the type of plastic that the caps are composed of, and understanding their differences is essential when making the right buying decision. ABS and PBT have differences in sound, feeling, durability, and price.

This article will help you find the material best suited for your needs. We will be breaking down both materials, discussing their pros and cons. Some attributes discussed below are subjective, so we encourage testing both keycap materials on your mechanical keyboard before making a decision.

ABS Plastic

ABS plastic is the most common material for custom keycap sets. Typically, keycaps composed of this material are cheaper to produce, making prices for these sets lower - exclusions include sets produced by GMK. Additionally, ABS keycaps are thinner than their PBT counterparts.

GMMK PRO with ABS Keycap Set

ATTRIBUTES OF ABS CUSTOM KEYCAPS

COLOR

In regards to color, ABS material allows for more versatile custom keycap colorways. During manufacturing, individual keycaps can be double or triple-shot injected, allowing for multiple colors per cap.

Legends on ABS keycaps are more customizable than on PBT sets. Unlike PBT, legends on ABS caps can be lighter than the keycap itself. This dying process is more difficult when using other materials. For example, an ABS set can have a dark purple keycap with bright orange legends.

DURABILITY

As previously mentioned, ABS keycaps are generally thinner. Being less substantial opens up the potential for cracking if installed incorrectly or removed improperly. Additionally, the textured surface of ABS keycaps tends to wear down or shine over time.

Shining does not reduce the legibility of the keycap’s legend, but users may not want their fresh new keycaps to acquire a shiny look with reduced texture eventually.

SOUND

Being thinner, the sound of an ABS keycap lacks resonance. They may sound “cheaper” or less substantial than alternative materials. However, the sound is a subjective attribute - some owners may prefer the sound of ABS to PBT. Additionally, every mechanical keyboard produces a unique sound due to varying dimensions, materials, switches, and locations.

PBT PLASTIC

PBT plastic is the second most common material used to create custom keycap sets. PBT sets cost more to produce than ABS keycap sets due to their more substantial composition. What PBT sacrifices in versatility, it makes up for in durability and longevity.

ATTRIBUTES OF PBT CUSTOM KEYCAPS

COLOR

PBT keycap sets are produced in various colorways, similar to ABS, but their customizability is limited. In general, PBT keycap sets have a pastel-like look compared to ABS due to limitations with the material. Some owners may prefer PBT’s more muted tones, which contrast ABS’s more vibrant palette.

As mentioned previously, ABS sets can have lighter legends than the keycap’s body, which is difficult to replicate on PBT custom keycap sets. Typically, PBT keycaps are injection molded with one color compared to ABS’s possible two to three.

DURABILITY

Durability is PBT’s time to shine, or more accurately, not to shine. Unlike ABS, PBT keycap sets are not prone to becoming shiny after extended use, maintaining their textured surface far longer.

PBT keycap sets are thicker than average ABS sets, meaning they are less prone to warping and catastrophic damage when installed or removed. Users praise PBT keycap sets for their notably higher durability and longevity compared to ABS plastic sets.

SOUND

PBT keycap sets are of a thicker composition and produce a more resonant tone than ABS plastic sets. For mechanical keyboard owners looking for “thock” when typing, PBT keycaps are generally the preferred choice with their deeper sound.

GPBT

If you are interested in a high-quality PBT keycap set for your mechanical keyboard, look no further than our GPBT keycaps. Their durable PBT construction creates a resonant, satisfying tone. Offered in a wide variety of colorways, GPBT keycaps are sure to complement any setup.

WRAPPING UP

We hope that this article gave you a clearer understanding of the pros and cons of PBT and ABS plastic keycaps. Attributes like sound, durability, and color may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. We suggest testing a few keycap sets on your personal mechanical keyboard before reaching a conclusion. Plus, it is fun to swap out your custom keycaps every once and a while.

What is your favorite material? Do you have a favorite keycap set that others should check out? Let us know in the comments below.

Leave a comment!