Has the sight of your fancy keyboard gotten dull over time? Do you feel like sprucing it up with some new style, but don’t want to invest in an entirely new model? Getting a new set of keycaps can do wonders for your desktop, while costing way less than completely replacing your trusted products. Allow us to spark your interest with some fashionable keycap sets…
First and foremost, we have to talk about stems. When browsing for new keycaps, it is rather crucial to know what fits, and what does not. Usually, the actual fit comes down to the mechanical switches that lay under your current sets of plastic buttons. The stems of these switches — usually the plus-shaped bits of plastic on top — define what kind of keycaps are compatible with your board.
Not to worry: these days, stems and keycaps have been all but standardized. As Cherry MX switches had their run as de facto switches for gamers at large, other keycap and switch manufacturers mirror the tried and true MX shape. Be it Gateron, Khail, or collaborative switches from keyboard brands: most modern switches are compatible with keycaps ‘made for Cherry MX’.
Small variations, like having boxed stems or low-profile switches, can turn out more fiddly. If you want to be completely sure when buying keycaps, it might be helpful to ask manufacturers themselves if your switches are compatible with their keycaps. A quick inquiry never hurt nobody.
It’s still up to taste, but custom keycaps have been on the rise, as of late. Over the past few years, PBT plastic has been adorned with praise for its sturdy feel, while pudding keycaps flooded many a Instagram feed.
Not every color, finish, or shape might be your thing. That’s okay. There are undoubtedly some keycaps (or full sets) out there that you might fancy more. Should you still be in the market for some solid suggestions, please consider our following picks.
If it’s additional grip you are looking for, Tai-Hao has got you covered with their rubberized keycaps. The texturized top makes sure your fingers stay locked on important keys for gaming, while the keycaps still feature clear, backlit legends. Colorways and availability can differ from month to month, but Tai-Hao keeps churning out more rubber over time.
A set features 22 keycaps, covering most of your important gaming buttons, but never an entire keyboard. They fit on any Cherry MX-like mechanical switch, and usually stick to the OEM profile. As long as your other keycaps aren’t unusually short or tall, these rubber variations fit nicely on most gaming keyboards. Visually, they do ‘pop’ a bit, as most color options are rather bright, almost to a neon-like vibrancy.
As rubber is more prone to wear-and-tear than hard plastic, the Tai-Hao keycaps might degrade over time. They are sturdy as can be, but soft plastics just can’t last forever. After prolonged use, the texture on the top could start to fade away. If you think this key feel might be just what you need, buying sets in bigger batches might help you out in the long run.
Pudding keycaps are what you need if you can’t get enough of your keyboard’s RGB, and HyperX offers a solid set of PBT puddings. By granting two thirds of the cap a translucent shine-through effect, practically the entire key can be lit up by the underlying LED. Of course, the top part stays opaque, making sure legends are still clearly readable.
As is the case with PBT keycaps, this replacement set is sturdier than most default buttons on a keyboard. PBT is more durable than ‘regular’ ABS plastic, while also being less prone to smudges and dirt. Most, but not all, gamers prefer the somewhat more coarse texture of PBT, as it offers slight benefits in grip. By carefully ‘double-shotting’ the PBT, the legends on top are translucent and clearly lit as well.
HyperX offers their complete set of PBT puddings in black and white, fitting most full-sized gaming keyboards with ease. Small side-note: as not all keyboards have their LED placement and brightness standardized, some keycaps might turn out dimmer than others. On other keyboards, select keycaps might not fit at all. Make sure to check if your current lay-out is compatible with the set that you’re getting.
Following HyperX, as well as the mechanical keyboard market in general, Razer’s dipping their toes into PBT plastics too. While the higher-end keyboards are being fitted with sturdier keycaps by default, Razer offers full keycaps sets for manual customization. Besides Razer’s own line-up, they fit neatly onto any Cherry MX-like switch.
Color-wise, they feature Razer’s most popular themes. Classic Black, Mercury White, Quartz Pink and of course the neon-like Razer Green. Depending on your board, RGB profiles, and taste, there’s probably something that befits your keys. The font itself doesn’t scream ‘gaming’ like Razer’s style did years ago, but instead opts for a somewhat toned-down typeface.
In contrast to Razer’s focus on its Chroma RGB features, these keycaps do let less light shine through than most of their older ABS keycaps. Yet again, double-shotted PBT offers more durability, at the cost of translucency. As an end user, it’s mostly up to your own choice: do you want a more durable build, or brighter legends?
Going even tougher than PBT plastics, we have stainless steel keycaps. It might be heavier and even colder to the touch, but it makes for an interesting look to your gaming lay-out. As always, these fit most Cherry MX-like switches, but usually come in smaller sets. Fitlink, for example, offers an affordable package for your hotkeys in most MOBA and FPS games.
Color and availability might change from time to time, but silver and gold hues are almost constantly in rotation. As they feature physical holes in their design, RGB light can shine through the legends on top. In turn, the texture of the cut out symbol might irritate the fingers of some gamers.
Although they are sturdy and neatly brushed, some have reported small inconsistencies. Legends can be a tad bit imprecise, and the metal itself is thinner than most plastic keycaps. This might alter the sound and feel of your typing experience as well, though most users aren’t that into their keyboard to let that bother them.
If hardened materials and harsh colours aren’t necessarily your thing, the rising popularity of pastel might be more up to your speed. YMDK, among other Chinese brands, offer some spiffy colorized PBT keycap sets, ranging from rainbow gradients to more specific colourways. Most of their options cover a full-sized keyboard easily, while still being competitively priced.
While being advertised as double-shot and shine-through keycaps, these sets feature smudgier legends. The font itself is rather neutral, but YMDK wasn’t able to ‘close’ some of the legends, leaving some awkwards gaps in your P’, Q’s, and many other symbols. Some newer and bigger brands, like HyperX, have overcome that obstacle, but the stencilling of legends is still common on many PBT sets.
Looking for a vintage aesthetic? Do we have some good news for you: those are on the rise. Renowned keycap manufacturer Tai-Hao offers some tough PBT sets, adorned in retro colorways and legends. They also feature a somewhat more cubic design, further driving home the retro feel.
A full set can go up to 128 different keys, ensuring it will fit a full-sized keyboard, as well as lesser common key sizes and spacing. It doesn’t matter if your layout reads ANSI or ISO, Tai-Hao usually covers enough different keys for both lay-outs.
As is the standard for more nostalgic keycaps, these don’t let light through. Any RGB you might already have, could ‘bleed’ from under the keycap, but the actual legends will not be illuminated in the dark.
Not to worry: the harder contrasts of years past, ensures you can read legends in the dark as well. By having the symbols dye-sublimated into the PBT as well (as opposed to flimsy lasering), Tai-Hao makes sure legends will still be readable after prolonged use. They definitely prove sturdier than cheap keycaps from the eighties.
And thus concludes our list of suggestions, should you feel the need to spice up your keyboards. If these keycaps don’t catch your fancy, it’s probably a matter of time before another set will. Tweaking your trusty old board is on the rise, as more manufacturers try out new themes and different ways of shooting plastics together.
Is there any sort of keycap set you missed, or do you have questions on availability or quality? Be sure to let yourself be heard. We would love to hear from you, in the comment section down below.
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