ABS vs. PBT Keycaps: What’s The Difference?

By Rob Orr / Last updated: Nov 29, 2023

abs vs pbt keycaps - what's the difference?

The two most common materials that keycaps for mechanical keyboards are made from are ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) and PBT (polybutylene terephthalate) plastics.

So what’s the difference?

PBT keycaps are the preferred choice of most gamers and commonly thought of as a much higher quality plastic that is a harder material that maintains its textured feel over time. Comparatively, ABS keycaps are a softer material, less expensive and more commonly used on mass market keyboards and toys like Lego blocks. ABS keycaps are known to develop a glossy sheen over time due to use and aren’t quite as durable as PBT keycaps.

So which one is right for you?

Keep reading to learn the differences and the pros and cons of both PBT and ABS keycaps.

By the way – before we get too far along here, if you want to get more great ideas for your gaming room or home office and connect with other home office hackers to make your space the best join my free private Facebook group, Battle Station Setup here.

What are ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) keycaps?

What are ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) keycaps?

What are ABS keycaps? ABS is a type of thermoplastic polymer made from acrylonitrile, butadiene and styrene.

ABS was first developed in the 1940s for use in making molded plastics.

The first ABS products were car bumpers, then it found uses in other applications such as medical devices, electrical components, household appliances, and toys, in addition to being used for mechanical keyboard keycaps. Legos blocks are a great example of toys that are build using ABS plastic. Buy Xanax online http://www.pharmacynewbritain.com/xanax/

In recent years, it has been used in many types of consumer goods including clothing, shoes, furniture, kitchen utensils, sporting equipment, and more.

By nature, ABS keycaps are smooth to the touch which makes it a little easier to feel like your fingertips are just gliding across your keyboard.

It’s a lot cheaper to produce ABS than PBT because it’s much easier and malleable to work with in the injection-molding process.

It’s a tough plastic that’s resistant to breakage, however, it’s much more prone wear which leaves mechanical keyboard enthusiasts and gamers frustrated due to the characteristic slick and shiny result of consistent usage over time.

Many of the more cost-conscious mechanical keyboards will come with ABS keycaps already installed as a basic set.

There are however, some high-end, high-performance upgraded ABS keycap sets available, like the Drop + Matt3o Susuwatari ABS set, for discriminating users at a higher price point in the premium aftermarket space. Generic Levitra online http://kendallpharmacy.com/levitra.html

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  • Flexible
  • Affordable
  • Quieter typing experience


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

What are PBT (polybutylene terephthalate) keycaps?

The first thing you need to know about PBT keycaps is that they’re made from polybutylene terephthalate or PBT for short, which was developed in Britain, and has lots of industrial applications in addition to being used for mechanical keyboard keycaps.

PBT keycaps are a premium upgrade for most mechanical keyboard users because of its superior properties that enthusiasts find attractive.

Mechanical keyboard users love the feel and texture of PBT keycaps and their ability to stand up to lots of wear and tear over time.

PBT keycaps are widely known to retain their texture over time which is appealing to gamers because their gritty, sandpaper-like texture means slippage and accurate keypresses during times of intense gaming.

These keycaps are usually produced to be thicker which makes for a distinct thicker heavier sound while typing.

As always you can upgrade your existing mechanical keyboard with a premium keycap set set like the Epomaker Akko Mindight PBT keycaps for a premium typing experience.

If you’re looking for a high-quality mechanical gaming keyboard then you should definitely consider upgrading to PBT keycaps – the extra money will be worth it in the long run.


  • Great gritty texture
  • Very resilient & durable
  • Great thick sound while operating


  • Can become brittle with age
  • More expensive
  • Less commonly available than ABS keycaps

PBT vs. ABS Keycaps Comparison

Here’s a quick side-by-side comparison of PBS keycaps vs. ABS keycaps:

ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) keycaps PBT (polybutylene terephthalate) keycaps
Cost Less expensive More expensive
Durability More prone to wear More durable
Texture Smooth finish Gritty matte feel
Thickness Tends to be thinner Tends to be thicker
Material More flexible More rigid but more brittle
Sound Tends to sound more hollow Tends to sound thicker
Feel Slick Sandpaper-like

What type of keycaps are best?

The best kind of keycaps for you to use depends on how you plan on using your mechanical keyboard.

If you’re a gamer then you may prefer PBT keycaps because of their great grit and durability.

However, if you’re a typist who prefers a quieter typing experience, then you may want to go with an ABS keycap set.

ABS keycaps have a smoother surface finish and are less noisy compared to PBT keycaps.

“Best” is always a subjective term, but once you understand the qualities that you’re looking for in your keycaps, based on what we’ve discussed here, you should easily be able to know what is going to work best for you in your situation.

How do I know if I have PBT or ABS keycaps?

programming mechanical keyboard

Most mechanical keyboards will tell you what kind of keycaps and switches are included in the specs when you buy it, so it will be easy to know.

If you’ve already bought a mechanical keyboard, but still don’t know what kind of keycaps you have, you can always consult the descriptive materials on the manufacturer’s website.

If you still don’t know, there’s a test you can run yourself, but be warned: this is only if you’re willing to run the risk of damaging your keycap.

You can put a drop of acetone on something small like a toothpick or a small brush – something relatively insignificant in quantity, but enough to get a result – and brush it onto the inside or underside of a keycap you’ve removed so that any tested area is non-visible and won’t get in your way in the future.

If by doing this you notice that the place where the acetone was placed now has been marked or etched you can rest assured that your keycaps are made from ABS. If no mark is left, then your keycap is made from PBT.

Keep in mind that most keyboards included with the computer you buy are made from ABS plastic, and in virtually all instances of keyboards shipped with computers, keycaps are not interchangeable.

Only mechanical keyboards that are clearly indicated as interchangeable have removable keycaps so be careful not to pull off a keycap that’s not supposed to be removed and thereby destroy your keyboard!

Are ABS keycaps worth it?

ABS keycaps are most definitely worth it.

They’re affordable, flexible and many users rave about how they love their upgraded set of keycaps.

The development of ABS keycaps has come a long way and there are some really high-quality options available to you.

As with just about anything, parts and pieces wear out, so this should come as no surprise that ABS keycaps will wear down in time.

The only thing that really matters is how this affects you.

If the wear of your ABS plastic keycaps becomes unsightly, or you find your performance degraded due to slippage, or inaccurate keypresses, then it could be time to look at a set of PBT keycaps.

What are double shot keycaps?

ManyPBT keycaps are molded double-shot keycaps which means they have two layers of polymer material.

Keycaps made using double shot technology allows legends to be printed directly onto the inner layer of plastic without having to print them separately from the outer layer.

This is a completely different look than keycaps that have their legends screen-printed or etched onto the exterior surface during the manufacturing process, which results in much longer lasting and better-looking keycaps.

What else do I need to know about ABS vs. PBT keycaps?

Did you know these are NOT the only two materials from which keycaps are made?

That’s right.

There are rubber keycaps, stainless steel keycaps, and even wooden keycaps.

In addition, there are what’s called pudding keycaps which create a really cool illumination effect due to most of the body of the keycap being translucent with the exception of the cap like this SteelSeries set that are constructed from PBT plastic.

Next Steps

Want to join others who are creating the most amazing home offices and get more tips, tricks and hacks on how to make your home office the best it can be?

Join my brand new free private Facebook group,Battle Station Setup to connect with other home office hackers to make your space the best!

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Rob Orr

Rob is a graduate of Florida State University and the founder and Senior Editor of HomeOfficeHacks.com, a website dedicated to helping people navigate the unique challenges of working from home. As a remote working veteran with over 10 years of experience, Rob has developed a deep understanding of the strategies and solutions that can help people thrive in this environment. He is a respected expert in the field, renowned for his clear, engaging, and informative content. An award-winning web designer, developer, and digital marketer, Rob is also the owner of a digital media company that publishes a variety of web properties. His dedication, resourcefulness, and creativity have earned him a reputation as a respected leader in the remote work and digital media communities, inspiring others through his work and passion for lifelong learning.

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