What are PBT keycaps?

PBT over ABS in most cases.

Image via Razer

PBT keycaps are a popular option for aftermarket keycaps. They are made from quality material and hold up well over time. Some users prefer other materials, but PBT is an excellent choice for most gaming setups. 

PBT stands for Polybutylene Terephthalate and is the most durable material used in keycap manufacturing. However, this material is more challenging to work with, which often raises the price of PBT keycaps. 

Not all PBT keycap sets are expensive, and causal typists can usually find an inexpensive set from online vendors like Mechanicalkeyboards.com

Some keyboards come with PBT keycaps, while others come with ABS keycaps. ABS stands for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene. These keycaps are a cheaper alternative to PBT keycaps and tend to wear down faster over time. ABS offers a shinier and smoother appearance, while PBT caps are traditionally matte and evenly textured. ABS keycaps are also oil magnets that become much shinier in the long run.

Cheap PBT keycaps can have a rough texture, but quality keycaps will maintain a pleasant textured feel. Some sets of PBT keycaps are also thicker than ABS keycaps, but this is not always the case. 

PBT keycaps typically produce a deeper sound when typing. Key switches are another important factor in noise production. Near-silent switch options can help soften the deep noise produced by thicker PBT keycaps when bottoming out against the keyboard. 

Interior double-shot PBT BoW keycap – Photo via Colton Deck

There are also double-shot PBT keycaps, which means two plastics are molded together when creating the keycap. This process is commonly used when making keycaps for RGB backlit keyboards and high-quality keycaps without backlight support. HyperX’s Pudding keycaps are a popular version of double-shot keycaps. 

PBT keycaps are a reliable and durable choice for keycaps. Some users might not like PBT keycaps’ look or sound, but many gamers consider them the best option when purchasing a new keycap set.