ABS vs PBT Keycaps (Which is the Right Choice for You?)

Keycap fanatics are often torn between the use of ABS or PBT keycaps when customizing their keyboards. Both PBT and ABS have advantages and disadvantages that need to be taken into consideration when selecting the ideal one. In this article we will look at the differences between these two options in terms of material, durability, feel and more so that you can make an informed decision about which is best for your setup.

What are Keycaps?

Keycaps are the component of a keyboard that covers the keyswitches. These components come in an array of shapes, sizes and colours and can be used to personalise or upgrade a keyboard’s look and performance. Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) or Polybutylene Terephthalate (PBT) plastic is typically used when manufacturing keycaps, which will be discussed in more detail later on. Keycaps come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors and can be used to customize your keyboard to make it more aesthetically pleasing or to improve its performance. Learn more about how to choose the right keycap for your keyboard here.

ABS Keycaps:

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) is a thermoplastic elastomer commonly used in keycap production. This type of plastic is lightweight yet durable and provides excellent tactile feedback when typing or gaming. ABS keycaps are often the preferred choice for hard plastic keyboards with bright colors or backlighting, because of their vivid and varied design options. With ABS, you can easily mix and match different colors for a unique look that stands out in any situation. Additionally, ABS offers way more color choices than PBT, which generally only have a few muted-color options. For a truly striking keyboard with bold colors and designs, ABS is the superior choice. Check out our ABS keycap guide for some of the best products of the year.

On the downside, ABS keycaps can have a glossy, greasy-looking appearance after prolonged use due to the gradual color change that occurs when they are exposed to UV rays. In addition, they can become brittle with age, making them prone to cracking or breaking if mishandled.

PBT Keycaps:

Polybutylene Terephthalate (PBT) is another popular choice for keycap production due to its superior durability compared to ABS plastic. It doesn’t suffer from greasy shine like ABS does and won’t become brittle with age either. PBT keycaps also have better texture than ABS ones; they have a “roughness” that gives them excellent gripping power which makes them great for gaming keyboards. For those looking for the best PBT keycaps available, this article provides a comprehensive overview of some of the top options on the market. However, if you’re looking for a keyboard with vibrant and colorful keycaps, PBT is not the best choice. While it has a few color options available, they tend to be more muted and subdued compared to the variety of bright and vivid colors you can find in ABS keycaps.

ABS vs PBT Keycaps – Which Type of Keycap Material is Right For You?

Now that we know a bit more about both types of keycap materials let us answer the question: which type should you choose? The answer depends largely on your needs and preferences; there is no one-size-fits-all solution here. If you want a brightly colored keyboard then go with an ABS keycap set as these retain colors better than PBT ones do; however if aesthetics aren’t important to you then PBT might be your best bet as it’s much more durable than ABS plastic and provides better grip for gaming sessions.


When it comes to the price of ABS vs PBT keycaps, there isn’t a clear winner. Generally speaking, both types of keycaps are relatively affordable and cost-effective, especially when compared to other keyboard components like mechanical switches. However, PBT keycaps tend to be slightly more expensive than ABS keycaps because of the additional processing involved in their production. The PBT material needs to cool down from a higher temperature than ABS does, resulting in an extra step during the manufacturing process. This extra step is reflected in the price of PBT keycaps as they require more effort and time to produce than ABS ones.

Sound difference between ABS and PBT keycaps

ABS keycaps are made from a softer plastic, which leads to a milder sound when typing. This can be preferable for some gamers who prefer a quieter keyboard. On the other hand, PBT keycaps are made from a harder plastic and produce a louder, more tactile sound. This is great for gamers looking for more feedback when playing games.

Types of ABS and PBT Keycaps

Budget Keycaps

When looking for a gaming keyboard, budget keycaps are often the go-to option for those on a tight budget. ABS and PBT keycaps are the most common types of budget keycaps, each with their own unique set of characteristics.

ABS Keycaps

For gamers on a budget, ABS keycaps are a great option. Their smooth, glossy finish is comfortable to type on and they absorb heat from your hands. Cleaning them is easy too, so you don’t have to worry about spending much time maintaining them. Unfortunately, they may be more prone to wear and tear over time compared to other materials but overall they’re an excellent choice for those who want quality at an economical price.

PBT Keycaps

PBT keycaps tend to be slightly more expensive than ABS keycaps but usually offer better durability in exchange for the added cost. They have a more textured finish that helps prevent finger slipping and is less prone to fading over time. They also tend to be louder than ABS keycaps when pressed due to their stronger material composition, which may be a consideration if you’re trying to minimize noise when gaming. In addition, PBT keycaps require more effort when cleaning because their texture tends to trap dirt and dust particles more easily than ABS keycaps do.

Premium Keycaps

If you’re willing to splurge on your gaming keyboard, premium ABS and PBT keycaps are available as well. These tend to offer superior quality compared to budget options, making them ideal for serious gamers who value performance over price.

Premium ABS Keycaps

Premium ABS keycaps provide a smoother feel than regular ABS ones thanks to their higher-grade plastic material used in manufacturing. They also usually have a longer lifespan since they don’t suffer from wear and tear as quickly as regular ABS key caps do. However, they tend to be quite expensive compared to regular ABS ones so it’s important to determine if it’s worth spending extra money on them based on your individual needs before making a purchase.

Premium PBT Keycaps

In addition, premium PBT key caps also offer superior performance compared with regular PBT ones due to their higher-grade construction materials used in manufacturing process. They provide better resistance against fading over time as well as improved sound dampening capabilities when pressed down compared with regular PBT ones. Similarly though, these tend to be pricier than regular PBT options so it’s important for gamers to consider whether the additional cost is worth it in terms of performance before making a purchase decision.


Installing a set of keycaps is relatively simple; all you have to do is remove the existing keycaps from your keyboard and replace them with the new ones. However, certain types of keyboards—namely those with non-standard layouts or custom switches—may require more complicated installation processes. Additionally, some keyboards come with stabilizers that can make it difficult to install aftermarket keycaps.


Maintaining your keycaps is essential for keeping them in good condition; if you don’t take care of them then they can become worn down and/or discolored over time. ABS keycaps are relatively easy to maintain as all you need to do is clean them with a soft cloth periodically to remove any oils or debris that may have accumulated on them. PBT keycaps aren’t as easy to maintain due to their rough texture; they are more prone to attracting dirt and dust which can be difficult to remove without damaging the material. As such, we recommend avoiding abrasive cleaners when cleaning PBT keycaps as they can damage the surface of the plastic.


ABS vs PBT keycaps is an age-old debate that has raged on for years in the gaming community. Both materials have their own pros and cons so it ultimately comes down to personal preference when choosing which type is right for you. ABS offers superior color retention while PBT provides better durability and texture, so take some time to research both options before making your decision! If you’re looking for even more customization options, you may want to consider double shot keycaps. Double shot keycaps are made from two layers of plastic, making them extremely durable and allowing for intricate detail and color combinations.