KBDfans recently launched a brand-new keycap manufacturing company called PBTfans. Their aim is to eliminate the long wait times of keycap group-buys, yet still provide quality keycaps. These new keycaps compete head-to-head with popular keycap manufacturers such as GMK, ePBT, and Drop.
Coming in at a price of $75 to $90, are these keycaps the best in-stock keycap option? Let’s find out.
In the Box
There are 156 keycaps that come in the base kit of a PBTfans keycap set. However, extra keycaps such as spacebar/MOD kits are also available to purchase separately. The keycaps come neatly packaged in a smokey-gray plastic pallet. This is a nice addition most keycap manufacturers won’t provide. The box itself is shrink-wrapped in a thin sheet of plastic.
Designed by BIIP, PBTfans keycaps are made of a Cherry profile PBT plastic. Some of their sets are made from tripleshot PBT, however, the majority are produced with doubleshot tooling. On the contrary, the majority of the PBT keycap market is manufactured using dye-sublimation to print the legends onto the plastic. Doubleshot molding is known for its higher durability, making it more desirable. PBT plastic is known for warping issues although the set I received was completely fine.
This entire article was typed using a set of PBTfans Spark keycaps. And with absolute confidence, I can say these are the most comfortable keycaps I’ve ever used. I don’t see myself switching sets anytime soon. The combination of Cherry profile and doubleshot ABS plastic makes for an enjoyable typing experience. Additionally, the keycaps feel smooth to the touch. Previously, I had a set of EnjoyPBT keycaps that had a prominent texture. While PBTfans keycaps do have some texture, it’s hard to notice at first. The keycaps are strikingly smoother when compared to EnjoyPBT and presumably GMK.
There are many factors that can determine the sound profile of a keycap set. Things such as keycap profile, plastic material, switches, and even the keyboard itself have to be taken into account. After testing the keycaps with multiple configurations, it’s safe to say the keycaps offer a slightly deeper sound profile than ABS. However, this is not too surprising given the fact that PBT keycaps are known for their deeper sound signature. If you’re thinking about switching from an ABS keycap set, I would highly recommend purchasing a keycap set made by PBTfans. The sound signature isn’t too far off from doubleshot ABS and won’t cause any discomfort.
The legend quality of a keycap set is one of the most important things to look out for. Wonky legends are a keyboard enthusiast’s worst nightmare. Imagine waiting years for your keycaps to ship, just for them to arrive with crooked legending. However, you don’t have to worry about this issue with a PBTfans set. Across every keycap, the legends remain consistent and crisp. The PBTfans set I received has perfect legends. The legends look like they came straight out of the render. The font is a bit thinner than what GMK utilizes. When compared side by side, it’s almost as if GMK uses a “bolded” font. This isn’t an issue though, the aesthetic of the font is purely subjective and up to your preference.
On the other hand, the plastic quality of PBTfans keycaps is standard. Nothing about the quality of the plastic stands out. The stems allow most switches to latch on with ease. Albeit, they are a bit lose with switches that have long pole stems. The bottom of PBTfans keycaps shows a mark from manufacturing. But a “defect” on the bottom of a keycap is prevalent on almost any set. This isn’t an issue though since the mark isn’t visible while using the keycaps. However, there is a more noticeable indentation on the south side of each keycap. Again, this is probably a result of manufacturing the keycaps. My prediction is that the marking was caused by equipment to eliminate the warpage of PBT material. For context, PBT plastic shrinks when cooling down and this shrinkage often causes keycaps to warp.
Another issue with keyboard group buys is receiving a product that doesn’t look anything like the render. Nonetheless, the renders KBDfans provided are fairly accurate. The keycaps around the alphas are a tad bit lighter than I expected, so keep this in mind. As for the darker shade of blue, I think it’s spot on. All around, the colors of the set are impressive considering they are made from PBT plastic. ABS plastic is generally known to produce more vibrant colors, but now, PBTfans keycaps are able to replicate similar color vibrancy.
PBTfans keycaps have substantially shorter group-buy times than any other keycap sets on the market. GMK keycaps take up to two years to ship after the group buy has ended. However, PBTfans group buys last four months from start to finish. Their group buys last one month, and the keycaps themselves ship approximately three months after the group-buy ends.
Overall, the performance PBTfans keycaps deliver is outstanding. Their standard WoB/BoW sets start at $75 and still retain the quality their higher-priced sets bring. I’m pleased to see more affordable quality keycap sets brought to the market. As you’re reading this article, there are many different colorways in production. Currently, PBTfans has limited colors, however, it may be worth the wait as PBTfans will likely add more color choices. PBTfans offer the best possible keycaps you can find at their price point.