Backplates provide a place to mount keyboard switches and offer some reinforcement to keep them in position. They are available in many materials, including polycarbonate, aluminum, and brass. The material used for the backplate can affect the durability of the keyboard as well as the sound it makes when the user types.
One of the main factors users look at when choosing a backplate is the sound of the material. Each type of backplate produces a different sound when users type. The sound is also informed by the specific switches on the keyboard. Many polycarbonate backplates have a lower-pitched sound, while brass alternatives have a higher-pitched sound. Aluminum keyboards sit between the two.
Since each type of keyboard backplate has its advantages and disadvantages, it can be hard to decide which one is best. There are many factors to look at when choosing the right backplate, such as price, weight, and durability.
This article looks at the characteristics of common backplate materials to help you make the best decision when choosing one to suit your needs.
Polycarbonate backplates aren’t as common as metal options in standard keyboards. One of the reasons for this is that polycarbonate isn’t as strong and can easily bend or get damaged. Many users don’t like the flexible feel of polycarbonate backplates compared to their metal counterparts.
Polycarbonate backplates flex and absorb more sound than the other two types and don’t make deep or high-pitched sounds like aluminum or brass. Clicky and tactile switches can feel more responsive because of the flex and have a more muted sound. Linear switches can have more of a spongy feel because of the flex.
Despite its disadvantages, there are still some good reasons to choose a polycarbonate backplate. They are inexpensive and cost less than metal alternatives. Some users also prefer having a degree of flex to their keyboard instead of rigidity. Some polycarbonate options create a better lighting effect by dispersing the backlighting more evenly.
- Better backlight diffusion
- Flex isn’t desirable for some users
- Doesn’t have a weighty feel like metal alternatives
Aluminum backplates are stronger and more rigid than polycarbonate plates. That said, they aren’t as rigid as brass backplates and can bend if moderate pressure is put on the plate. Another advantage of aluminum backplates is their light weight. The lighter weight can be beneficial to buyers who want something harder than plastic but lighter than brass.
Tactile and clicky switches have a louder, more high-pitched sound when paired with an aluminum backplate. On the other hand, linear switches can also feel smoother because there’s minimal flex in the backplate.
Aluminum options come in a wide range of colors and users can choose one to match their build. While aluminum backplates cost more than polycarbonate versions, they are often cheaper than brass alternatives.
- Available in different colors
- Not much flex
- Reasonable pricing
- Some plates are prone to bending
- Might be too light for some users
- Some versions can be pricey
Brass backplates are heavier and denser than polycarbonate and aluminum options. These backplates are also rigid and have no flex to them. While brass options have a more sturdy feel, they are also more expensive than the other backplate types.
Some users have described the sound made by brass backplates as harsher. This material has a high-pitched sound and amplifies the sound of tactile and clicky switches. Linear switches feel responsive because there’s no flex and give off a deeper sound.
One of the most recognizable aspects of brass backplates is their color. Brass backplates have a distinctive gold color to distinguish themselves from other backplate types. While brass looks classy when it’s new, it is prone to oxidation buildup and may need occasional cleaning.
- Solid feel
- No flex
- Only available in one color
- Prone to oxide buildup
What is the best keyboard backplate material for you? Aluminum, brass, or polycarbonate?
All three types of backplates have advantages and disadvantages that appeal to certain users. Polycarbonate backplates are inexpensive, lightweight, and bring out backlighting more vividly. Aluminum options are also lightweight, but they are stronger than polycarbonate alternatives and come in many color options. Lastly, brass backplates come in one color option and they are heavy with no flex. Choosing which of these backplate materials is best comes down to personal preferences as well as your budget and requirements.
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