For the majority of gamers and streamers out there, keycaps are nothing but an afterthought. More often than not, the set that comes with a prebuilt keyboard is never changed. At most, some might add an artisan keycap or two and call it a day.
The truth is that keycaps have a huge impact on your gaming and streaming experience: aesthetics, smoothness, lower noise level, you name it. Getting the right ones won’t elevate your setup to the Ultimate status, but will definitely make it look more clean and professional.
In this article, I’ll go over the two major types of keycaps, and after determining which ones are best for streaming, I’ll talk about five great keyboards. Excited? Let’s dive in…
What is The Difference Between Keycaps?
OK, what we’re about to discuss might seem boring at first. However, trust me, this knowledge will help you out a lot. So, there are two major materials used to manufacture keycaps: ABS and PBT. You can read about the intricacies for hours, but this is what it comes down to:
ABS is the one most commonly used in prebuilt keyboards since it’s easy to work with, although it doesn’t feel premium and can deteriorate in looks over the long term. On the flip side, PBT keycaps are thicker, have a better texture, and offer long-term durability.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about some of the fundamental differences between the two.
Generally, ABS plastic is beloved by manufacturers most because it is cheap and easy to produce. However, one of the main benefits of it is that it has a smooth surface where you can glide your fingers, so it’s often preferred by users who want a smooth feel on their keyboard.
With that being said, most ABS keycaps often develop issues over long-term heavy use, like the legends on the keys fading away and the plastic starting to thin. Even worse than that, sometimes these keycaps also tend to develop a greasy shine, as you can see above.
If you ask any keyboard enthusiast one aspect that defines PBT keycaps, they’ll often pin it down to its textured, sandy feel. This translates to a crispier typing sound.
In terms of durability, PBT usually wins out over ABS since it is more rigid. Since these are generally far more expensive to source and manufacture compared to ABS keycaps, they either have to be bought and installed from a third party or incur a special premium on prebuilt keyboards.
Just in case you wanted to know what ‘ABS’ and PBT’ stand for, here you go: Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene and Polybutylene Terephthalate, respectively. Just rolls off the tongue, right? Anyway, now let’s discuss which one of them is best for streaming.
Which Mechanical Keycaps Are Best For Streaming?
If it were just gaming, I would’ve said that you can go with whatever you think suits your setup and play style the best. But if we’re talking about streaming, that makes the choice much easier: PBT. This is because these keycaps are generally superior in build quality and are also quieter and have a crispier sound compared to ABS keycaps.
As a streamer, try to step into your audience’s shoes for a minute. Would you like to hear a loud clicking sound of keys whenever there’s a gripping situation in a game? In general, using PBT keycaps along with silent switches will help you avoid that.
Now, let’s talk about some keyboards that come with great keycaps which are optimal for streaming…
Top 5 Recommended PBT Keyboards for Streamers in 2022:
1. Corsair K70 RGB Pro – Best Overall
- Layout: Full-Size
- Switches Available: Cherry MX Red, MX Blue, and MX Speed
- Keycap Material: Doubleshot PBT
- RGB Support: Corsair iCUE
- Connectivity: USB-C
If you want a full-size keyboard that’ll give you a wide range of features, the Corsair K70 RGB Pro is worth considering.
In the full-size layout with 104 keys, you get Doubleshot PBT keycaps and three types of switches to choose from: Cherry MX Red, MX Blue, and MX Speed. I’d recommend Cherry MX Red because they are relatively smooth and quiet. In addition to that, there are also dedicated media keys and an aluminum multi-function volume roller.
One of the best aspects of Corsair products is the iCUE software. It works on both PC and macOS, enabling you to manage custom macros, key remaps, and change lighting and other settings with an intuitive UI.
When it comes to build quality, you get a durable aluminum base which adds to the overall integrity of the keyboard. Besides that, it also excels in other aspects important to a streamer too.
- Impressive set of features
- Strong build quality
- Includes wrist-rest
2. Epomaker EP84 – Best on a Budget
- Layout: 75%
- Switches Available: Gateron Red, Black, Blue, Brown, and Yellow
- Keycap Material: PBT
- RGB Support: EP84 New Version
- Connectivity: USB
Epomaker might not be a brand you’ve heard of, but the EP84 is definitely worth checking out if you’re looking for a quiet and premium small form-factor keyboard. One of the main benefits of this keyboard is efficient space usage.
Without wasting any space, you get a dedicated function row, full set numbers, and arrow keys too. If you have a small desk and every inch matters, the EP84 won’t disappoint you. For software support, you can download the companion toolkit from here.
The switches I prefer with this keyboard are the Gateron Reds because of their low noise level and overall smoothness, although you get to choose from black, brown, yellow, and blue too. Don’t worry if none of those are to your liking. Since the PCB is hot-swappable, you can always just add your own!
Everything considered, this is an awesome keyboard in every aspect. If you’ve modified or built keyboards before, you’ll have fun with the high level of customizability, like hot-swappable switches, modded stabilizers, and an added foam base. With that being said, it’ll work fine for a regular user too.
- High level of customizability
- Two-toned Doubleshot PBT keycaps
- Detachable USB-C cable
- Mediocre build quality
3. Durgod Taurus K320 – Best Value for Money
- Layout: 75%
- Switches Available: Cherry Red, Blue, Silent Red, and Speed Silver
- Keycap Material: Doubleshot PBT
- Software Support: Durgod Zeus Engine
- Connectivity: USB-C
As the category indicates, the Durgod Taurus K320 should be on your list if you want the highest value for your money. It packs the features that are most sought-after, like PBT keycaps, high-quality switches, and NKRO Rollover. However, it also lets go of “extra” features like RGB lighting.
Now, let’s talk about the switches. You can choose between Cherry Red, Blue, Silent Red, and Speed Silver. Although all of these are excellent options, the Cherry Silent Red switches are optimal for streaming. These are designed with silence in mind and can lead to over a 78% decrease in the total sound output of the K320.
The Durgod Zeus Engine software allows you to set up macros or rebind keys with independent profiles and also offers other features like Windows key lock and anti-ghosting n-key rollover. It’s also compatible with both PC and macOS, even allowing for remapping in the latter. This, combined with its lack of RGB and minimalistic design, makes it the perfect keyboard to use both in your office and your gaming setup.
- Available in several color options
- Two adjustable feet at the bottom for better comfort
- Comes with two cables: USB-C to USB-C and USB-C to USB-A
- Lack of RGB lighting might be a deal-breaker for some streamers
4. Anne Pro 2 – Best All-White Keyboard
- Layout: 60%
- Switches Available: (Gateron: Brown, Blue, Red) and (Kailh: Brown, Red, and White)
- Keycap Material: Doubleshot PBT
- RGB Support: ObinsKit
- Connectivity: Bluetooth 4.0 and USB Type-C
If you have an all-white setup, the Anne Pro 2 can not only match your theme and fit into it smoothly, but also offer all the features you need in a great keyboard.
The Doubleshot PBT keycaps in combination with the Gateron Red switches, which are popular for gaming and offer a smooth feel with an activation force of just 45g, will make your typing experience quiet and satisfying. If the Reds aren’t your preferred choice, you can also get one with Gateron brown or blue or with Kailh brown, red, or white.
One standout feature of this keyboard is the wireless connectivity, which can often come in handy. Of course, this raises the question of battery life. In that aspect too the Anne Pro 2 doesn’t disappoint, since it packs a 1900 mAh battery.
To set up key layout, colors, and create macros, there’s the ObinsKit starter pack available. All in all, if you’re looking for a great keyboard that matches your all-white setup, go for the Anne Pro 2.
- Wireless connectivity
- 60% layout great for gaming on the go
- Solid software support
- Lacks height adjustable feet
5. iQunix A80 – Best Wireless
- Layout: 80%
- Switches Available: (Cherry MX: Blue, Brown, Red) and (Gateron: Blue, Brown, Red)
- Keycap Material: PBT
- RGB Support: No
- Connectivity: 2.4GHz Wireless, Bluetooth 5.0, and USB Type-C
The iQunix A80 is yet another valuable and premium keyboard on the market. There are three things I love about this keyboard: the smooth typing experience, the impressive battery life, and attention to detail.
First, about the keycaps and switches. It features high-quality and durable PBT keycaps. It also has a stepped structure which is good for your wrists. When it comes to the switches, you get to choose from three options (blue, brown, and red) from both Cherry MX and Gateron. However, if you’re really particular about which switches you want, you can always just install your own.
Since the A80 is wireless, battery life becomes a consideration. Fortunately, it has a 4000mAh battery, a huge step up from Anne Pro 2’s 1900mAh one. If you’re willing to switch off the RGB lighting, it’ll last you a solid 300 hours!
Now, about the ‘attention to detail’ part that I mentioned before. What I was referring to was the matching braided cable that comes with the keyboard, the quirky design, and rattle-free stabilizers. Put all of that together, and you get an enjoyable typing experience.
With all of this being said, the iQunix A80 is definitely on the pricer side. However, if you’re not into RGB, you can also get a non-backlit version and save a bit of money that way. Overall, if you want an easily portable wireless keyboard that is versatile and good-looking, the iQunix A80 ticks all the boxes.
- Wide range of switches to choose from
- Hot-swappable PCB
- High-capacity battery
- Lacks software support
What Factors to Look For When Buying a Keyboard For Streaming?
So far in this article, we’ve only talked about one important factor when choosing a keyboard: keycaps. But that’s not the only factor you need to consider when searching for your next keyboard. With a broad scope, you need to look out for durability, warranty, and premium build quality. As a streamer, a wrist rest, programmable macro keys, and a user-friendly RGB utility would help too. For more info, read this article.
What About Novelty or Artisan Keycaps?
If you’ve had enough of the tried-and-tested look of most keycaps, adding a novelty or artisan keycap is an easy way to change things up a bit.
Of course, when it comes to these types of keycaps, the sky’s the limit. They can be made of all kinds of materials, like resin, metal, wood, rubber, clay, and more. Some creators to keep an eye on for cool artisan keycaps are Dwarf Factory, Hot Keys Project, and Tinymakesthings.
What are The Best Brands that Sell PBT Keycap Sets?
If you want to add a new set of keycaps to your existing keyboard, some great brands you can look into are Razer, HyperX, and NovelKeys. You can also keep an eye on r/mechanicalkeyboards and follow relevant brands and artists on social media to stay on top of any new releases and group buys for limited-edition keycaps.
In conclusion, PBT keycaps are optimal for use by streamers thanks to their premium quality and overall better typing experience. The five keyboards I talked about in this article feature durable PBT keycaps and also excel in many other important areas. I hope you found what you were looking for! Here is a quick recap of the list:
- Corsair K70 RGB PRO is Best Overall
- Epomaker EP84 is Best on a Budget
- Durgod Taurus K320 is Best Value for Money
- Anne Pro 2 is Best All-White Keyboard
- iQunix A80 is Best Wireless
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