PBT vs ABS: Comprehensive Guide To Understand Two Types of Keycaps

PBT vs ABS? Both are types of plastic keycaps that are used to manufacture keycaps for mechanical keyboards. Also, they have several qualities – feel different when touching; sounds/noise, cost and looks.


In contrast to ABS, PBT keycaps are of higher quality. However, ABS is more affordable and comes in various thicknesses.

Keep reading for more!

Comparison Table

Features PBT Keycaps ABS Keycaps
Cost Expensive in price Cheap in price
Texture Matte Greasy and shiny
Appearance  Textured Smooth
Thickness Thicker Thin (it can vary)
Noise/ sound factor Loud noise when typing Quieter when in use
Lifespan More durable  Wears over a certain time period

What Are the Differences Between PBT vs ABS Keycaps?

The main difference between PBT vs ABS is their surface size. In contrast to ABS insulators, PBT insulators are thick in texture and surface size. Due to this reason, they last for a longer time period. Moreover, they are considered to be more durable than ABS plastic insulators.

What Is PBT Plastic Keycap Used For?

PBT plastic keycaps are used as an insulator on the keyboard. It prevents the keys from heating up when the keyboard is attached to the device. PBT is very rigid and brittle, making it difficult to shape and produce.

– Additional Features, Advantages and Disadvantages

To make a final decision, you need to understand the distinguishing features of this product:

  • Tensile strength is 8690 MPa.
  • The flexural Modulus of Elasticity is 330,000 MPa.
  • Heat Deflection Temperature in Fahrenheit ranges from 310° F to 130° F.
  • It can absorb water up to 0.08% in 24 hours.
  • It has a dielectric strength of 400 V/mil.

The advantages are listed below

  • It has excellent stain resistance capabilities.
  • Excellent machining characteristics.
  • It has high strength and is more durable.
  • Due to its thickness, it has a high level of toughness.
  • Great stiffness and weight ratio.
  • Resistance to environmental changes.
  • Excellent machining characteristics.
  • Better impact resistance than PET.
  • Excellent dimensional stability.
  • Blocks UV radiation.
  • High electrical insulation properties.
  • Good variety of grades available.

And check the cons to better understand this keycap: 

  • Strength and rigidity decrease more than in PET.
  • It has a lower glass transition temperature than PET.
  • It is prone to warp when glass is used as a filler.
  • It does not present satisfactory resistance to acids, bases, and hydrocarbons.

– Thickness

PBT keycaps are thicker than all versions of ABS keycaps. These are made of durable PBT material with a thickness of about 1.5 mm. Thicker keycap walls often feel more solid when in use. The typing sound is affected due to the thickness of the keycaps.

– Texture and Appearance

ABS keycaps are shiny and smooth, whereas PBT keycaps are textured and matte. The texture differs because different plastic materials and compounds are used in each of them. PBT keycaps usually have a sandy texture. Depending on the manufacturer, the texture can vary from expensive and pleasant to touch to cheap and extremely rough to touch.

Texture and Appearance Of PBT

In contrast to ABS keycaps, PBT keycaps’ surface texture has a higher resistance to wear and tear. However, it has only higher resistance; it is not hundred percent immune to it. Thus, using the keycaps a lot can make the surface wear off.

– Used Materials

The material used in keycaps manufacturing is the significant reason why the keyboards have different noise levels. Some keyboards are extremely quiet, while others have a loud click noise when using the keyboards. This is because the plastic insulator used in these keycaps have different thicknesses. PBT keycaps are made from different plastic types. That is why it is more brittle, durable, and textured than ABS keycaps.

– Double Shot Keycaps

Double shot keycaps are available for both PBT and ABS models. They have an extremely complicated manufacturing process; two different plastics are injected into each other to make the keycaps.

These keycaps are made in a way that lighting can shine underneath the keys and keep the letters on the keys visible. Mechanical keyboards with RGB lighting installed in them use these keycaps so the backlight can illuminate and make it easier to read the keys.

– The Grip on the Keycap and Typing Speed

Although both keycaps are best and fantastic to use, it actually depends on the user’s preference for the mechanical keyboard. For example, PBT keycaps are not an ideal choice for typists, whereas it is a perfect option for gamers. Gamers mostly prefer to purchase PBT keycaps because of their excellent grip and durability.

What Is the ABS Keycap Best For?

ABS plastic is best to use because it is cheap to produce with high resistance and durability. Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene(ABS) is a copolymer plastic commonly used to produce keycaps for keyboards. Since they are “impact resistant”, they can last millions of keystrokes before they crack or break.

– Additional Features, Advantages and Disadvantages

Check the extra features of this product:

  • Flexible.
  • High melting point.

Below we listed the advantages of this keycap:

  • Affordable
  • availability in various thickness sizes.
  • Quieter typing experiences.
  • Long lifespan.

And the cons are:

  • Smooth texture/key shine
  • Subject to degradation over time
  • Hollow sound
  • difficult to print.

– Texture

ABS plastic keycaps are known for their smooth texture. The fingers can glide effortlessly across the keyboard. However, it becomes greasy and shiny quite fast. This happens due to the keycaps’ color change from UV rays. ABS insulators are thin compared to PBT.

– ABS Molding Process and Shape

Many ABS insulators are manufactured in the shape of a keycap through an injection molding process. After the molding is complete, the letters are printed on the keycaps using various processes.

Although the processes used depend on the manufacturer, some common ways are; laser marking, pad printing, and engraving. Furthermore, the same method is used to create doubleshot-keycaps as well.

– Type of Expensive ABS Plastic

Usually, mechanical keyboards have cheap ABS keycaps installed on them, but they can be modified to a thicker and more expensive set of ABS that are available online. A well-known thick and expensive ABS insulator is GMK Samurai, found on Amazon.

Type of Expensive ABS Plastic

These keycaps have thicker plastic and come with custom designs on them.

– Prices

Usually, as mentioned above, ABS keycaps are inexpensive and thinner than PBT keycaps. This is because these keycaps are easily produced and formed into a keycap shape. In contrast, their hard material makes it challenging to produce PBT keycaps. Therefore, due to low manufacturing costs, ABS prices are low.

– Working Sound

ABS produces a “softer” sound. In comparison, PBT produces a “crisper” sound. ABS plastic is soft and thin; that is why it produces a milder and softer sound. Furthermore, the decision to use ABS or PBT plastic keycaps entirely depends on the user’s demands and needs. For people who do not prefer noisy and clicky sounds while typing, ABS is best for them.

-Material of Keycap

ABS plastic is an emulsion, where different materials that do not typically mix are stabilized together due to heat, friction, and mixing. ABS plastic is a thermoplastic, and it can be melted down and remolded easily, making it highly recyclable plastic.

– The Grip on the Keys

Compared to PBT, ABS plastic keycaps do not provide an excellent grip on them. This is because the keycaps become greasy. This makes it challenging to use them as fingers keep sliding over the keys. Since it becomes greasy when used for a long time, it is best for typists and not gamers.

– Painted Laser Etching

For durability, the color-painted ABS keycaps use laser-etched legends with a varnish-type finishing with a UV light. This method is mostly used for ABS backlit keycaps and is usually found on RGB backlit keyboards.


1. What Is Known by Pudding Keycaps?

Pudding keycaps are known for their lighting. They are also available in doubleshot keycaps. However, instead of illuminating the legends, the light also shines through the sides of the keys. This makes the keyboard setup look incredible, especially in the dark.

What Is Known by Pudding Keycaps

Well-known pudding keyboards in the market are by HyperX. They are affordable and a suitable replacement for simple mechanical keyboards.

2. What Is the Process of Doubleshot-keycaps and How Does It Affect ABS and PBT Plastic Keycaps?

The process of doubleshot-keycaps is to combine two plastic injections into one keycap. The first injection is used for the keycap legend, whereas the second injection is for the keycap housing.

Regardless of any method or process used to manufacture these keycaps, they always result in enduring legends. Doubleshot keycaps are used to make ABS and PBT plastic keycaps. This method supports backlit keys if the legend plastic is a transparent or opaque milky material.

3. What Is the Dye-sublimation Process in PBT Plastic Keycaps?

The keycap legend is actually a dye that is submerged into the plastic keycap with the help of heat. Moreover, there is an inverse dye-sublimation process similar to the dye-sub process.

However, the keycap is dyed around the legend instead of dyeing the legend. Additionally, the dye-sub process is used on the PBT keycaps since ABS keycaps cannot withstand the heat used in the process. The keyboards made from this process do not support backlit keys.

4. Does PBT Yellow Over Time?

PBT plastic keycaps do not turn yellow from UV exposure like ABS. Because PBT is very thick and can withstand heat, it does not turn yellow. Not only that, they can be put in a hot dye color to dye the legends, and yet the keycaps will not deform because PBT insulators can withstand heat of up to 150 °C or 200 °C.


After reading this guide, you should be able to choose the best keycap for the computer. Be mindful that both keyboards are great, but it is a different scenario when using them for gaming or typing. PBT keycaps are very expensive due to their 1.5mm thickness and manufacturing cost. 

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