A Simple Rule of Thumb for Picking the Best Keycap Material & Manufacturer

Choosing the right keycap material significantly enhances your typing experience, whether it's ABS, PBT, or a blend.

Consider Durability and Shine: ABS keycaps are lightweight and cost-effective but prone to developing a shine over time due to wear. This can be a downside if you prefer a consistently matte finish. PBT keycaps, in contrast, are more resistant to shine and wear, making them a favorite for heavy users who value longevity and texture.

Evaluate Feel and Sound: PBT keycaps are typically rougher and have a textured feel, which many typists may prefer. Depending on how thick the keycap is, it tends to produce a lower-pitched sound. ABS keycaps, on the other hand, usually have a smoother feel and provide a higher-pitched clack.

Consider Aesthetics and Availability: ABS keycaps are often available in a broader range of colors and designs due to their easier molding process. This makes them an excellent choice for specific colorway needs. Although PBT keycaps offer less variety, they have a longer lifespan and are less prone to shine.

When selecting keycap materials, it's also essential to consider the manufacturers, as their reputation and quality standards can greatly impact your overall experience. Here’s a look at popular manufacturers for both ABS and PBT keycaps:

Popular ABS Keycap Manufacturers:

  • GMK: Renowned for high-quality, thick ABS keycaps with vibrant colors and intricate designs. They are particularly famous for their double-shot molding process, ensuring the legends never fade. But are prone to shine. Oily fingers, beware.
  • Key Kobo is an upcoming ABS manufacturer that offers a wide variety of ABS keycaps, known for their durability and creative color schemes.
  • DCS: Known for their thin, proprietary profile keycaps, DCS offers both affordability and a wide range of colors and styles.
  • JTK is gaining popularity for offering double-shot ABS keycaps that are more affordable than GMK yet maintain high quality and sharp legends.

Popular PBT Keycap Manufacturers:

  • PBTFans offers a diverse range of PBT keycaps, known for their durability and dense texture that resists shine over time.
  • MW: MW (Melgeek) produces highly durable PBT keycaps with creative and often unique designs that appeal to those looking for both performance and aesthetics.
  • EPBT: Also known as EnjoyPBT, they are well-regarded for their thick, dye-sublimated PBT keycaps that offer excellent wear resistance and deep, crisp legends.
  • JC: A lesser-known but rising brand that provides quality PBT keycaps with reliable durability and comfort.

Additional Tips:

  • Research each brand's specific styles and offerings to find the best match for your aesthetic and functional needs.
  • Consider joining forums and communities to read reviews and see photos of these keycaps in action. Sometimes, the renders differ from the actual product. 
  • Stay on the lookout for group buys and limited releases, especially from brands like GMK and EPBT, which can offer unique designs not regularly available.
  • You can compare keycaps from different manufacturers in person at meetups or through samples to get a real feel for their quality and finish.
  • Choose PBT for durability and a consistent feel.
  • Opt for ABS if customization and color variety are your priority.
  • Consider blended materials for a balance of feel and aesthetic options.
  • Prioritize keycap material based on your most valued attribute: durability, feel, or appearance.

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