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Corsair PBT Keycap Set: Making a Great Keyboard Even Better

Hardware Reviews By Christopher Coke on March 25, 2018

Corsair PBT Keycap Set: Making a Great Keyboard Even Better

So, you’ve bought yourself a nice Corsair mechanical keyboard. Life is good, right? What if I told you there was a way to make that keyboard even better? Well, there is with Corsair’s own PBT keycap set. $50 might seem expensive for a replacement set of caps, so we took a close look to see just what this DIY mod has to offer.

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Here’s the thing, keycaps are kind of a niche thing to care about. For most of us, it’s not something you really think of. Corsair knows this and with this PBT set, they’re hoping to open your eyes. See, even though keycaps are one of those things gamers usually don’t think about, it’s something the mechanical keyboard cared deeply about for years: quality keycaps can make a big difference in how good your keyboard feels to use. Once you use a high-end set of caps, suddenly it’s something you do think about.

This is never more true than going back to a standard gaming keyboard. Most gaming boards use thin-walled ABS keycaps - that is Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene plastic. This is the same kind of plastic you see in Lego pieces for example. As a material, there’s nothing wrong with it, but in keycaps it’s often used as a cost-saving measure, leading to thin, 1mm walls and the inevitable shine that happens over time.

PBT, or Polybutylene terephthalate, on the other hand is a higher quality plastic with greater density. It doesn’t shine over time and, typically, because people buying PBT caps are usually enthusiasts who care about these things, they usually have thicknesses of 1.5mm to 2mm. As a result, PBT keycaps are likely to outlast the keyboard itself and feel much better to type on.

Corsair’s set has also been in much demand since they became the major player in the world of gaming keyboards. Their slates feature a non-standard bottom row, which is to say that the keys surrounding the space bar are custom size, making it very difficult to find custom keycaps anywhere else. Fans finally have a way to take their keyboards to the next level without having to pay an arm and a leg for custom keys.

Corsair pulled out all the stops with their own set. The keycaps feature double-thick walls at a full 2mm. You can feel it with every key press as the plastic meets the top plate. They’re also doubleshot with bright, translucent legends. On the top, the plastic has been lightly to textured to have more grip under the finger, addressing some of the criticism they’ve received for having “slippery” keycaps (which, yes, is a bit silly).

The kit that we were sent was white but it’s also available in black. Each set features slightly reworked legends. The number row now has primary and secondary characters top mounted for even illumination. The center navigation area has also had its legends shortened for more shine-through. Delete has become DEL and Page Up, PGU for example. 

The kit that we were sent was white but it’s also available in black. At first, I was a little dismayed at the contrast between the black board and white keycaps. Most other parts of my setup are black too, so when the lights are turned off, it takes some getting used to. When it’s lit up in the dark, however, wow do those white ‘caps look great.

Even in low light (not just darkness), they look great. The white color reflects the light from the LEDs and naturally enhances the illumination. An effect, I suspect, which would not be true of the black color.

The downside is that white keycaps have a tendency to show grime more over time. Compressed air won’t do the trick either. You’ll need to give your keyboard a wipe down every couple of weeks to keep your it looking its best.

Final Thoughts

Fifty dollars for a set of keycaps might seem expensive, but it’s not uncommon to see PBT sets go for over $100 all on their own. In light of the market for a set like this and the expense of the competition, we think this is a fair price. Corsair’s offering has been a long time coming, and it’s great to see them use this opportunity to enhance not just the feel and durability but also the lighting of the keyboard.

Pros

  • Thick, durable walls
  • Feel and sound great to type on
  • Doubleshot so legends will never fade
  • Greatly enhance lighting in the dark

Cons

  • Affordable compared to the competition but still expensive overall

Christopher Coke / Chris has been a fan of MMOs since the mid-1990s when he cut his teeth on MUDs. These days he scours the internet for the latest and greatest multiplayer gaming experiences.