The 8 Best Keycaps to Take Your Mechanical Keyboard to the Next Level
Keys are the first thing you see on a keyboard (custom USB cables second). They define the board and, more often than not, your entire desktop. And along with that, they are also the first impression anyone gets while typing on your keyboard. Even before you begin to experience the switches of a keyboard, the texture and appearance of the keys above them have already made an impression. So why not make a good impression?
There are countless keycaps out there, ranging from Cherry, DSA profile, ABS, PBT, ceramic, metal, and monochromatic whites to sets with more than a handful of colors at a time. Looking at them all can be overwhelming, especially when countless sites claim to have similar products at vastly different prices.
To help you sort it all out, we’ve rounded up the eight best keycap sets for your mechanical keyboard, starting at just $42.
Entry may receive a portion of sales if you purchase a product through a link in this article. We only include products that have been independently selected by Input’s editorial team.
Best of the best
According to countless keyboard enthusiasts, the best sets of keys you can get are all produced by German manufacturer GMK. These dual-grip keys have crisp legends, thick ABS plastic, and some of the best colors available today. The only downside to ABS keys is that they can start to shine after less than a year. While most GMK sets involve expensive bulk buying and long wait times (sometimes even nearly two years to ship), Drop has several sets – like Sparta, Laser, Hennessey, and WoB – that are in stock and ready to ship. Additionally, sites like Novelkeys routinely list extras from GMK Group purchases for sale after the master sets have been shipped to buyers.
Alternatives to GMK
If GMK keycap sets are out of your price range, or don’t have the colors you’re looking for, EnjoyPBT offers a comparable range of double shot ABS keycaps. Although these keys are slightly thinner, this only affects the keystroke sound, and the change can be good if you want a sharper keyboard. ePBT has colorways like Miami Nights, Dolch, and their own Orange Creamsicle readily available for around half the price of comparable GMK sets, and all can be found in stock fairly regularly from at least one of their vendors.
If you like ABS, GMK’s Cherry-profile styling and ePBT, but want a little more color, Domikey’s offerings can do just that. These keycaps offer similar fonts, legends, and general quality to GMK and ePBT, but also offer something unique: three-shot keycaps. For this reason, these keys can have separate colors for their English and Japanese characters without having to use UV printing (as GMK does with sets like Cyrillic). Although Domikey doesn’t offer the widest selection possible, sets like Semiconductor and Vintage, as well as their own versions of Miami Nights and GMK Laser (called Pumper Cyber Punk), offer a similar range to their own ePBT sets and GMK.
Although all entries so far have focused on Cherry profile keycaps, there are countless other very popular profiles. One of the better known alternative profiles is SA, which has a much larger, rounded key profile and a deeper keystroke sound. Although SA ABS kits can be difficult to find in stock, some are readily available, such as the Black and White and Berserk sets from Maxkey, and SA Handarbeit and SA Godspeed from Drop.
For a durable, crisp keycap that won’t shine over time, dye-sublimated PBT is your best bet. PBT is the main alternative to ABS, offering a deeper sound signature and a much more durable finish, but not suitable for double-shot legends. Instead, PBT uses dye sublimation, which infuses the dye into the plastic. Captions are almost as durable as double-shot (e.g. IBM Model M uses dye-sublimation and can last over 30 years), but the main downside is that the print can only be darker than the main plastic.
Of course, if you want to test your typing skills or go for the ultimate clean setup, blank keys are always an option. While countless companies make blanks, the most reliable ones will usually come from manufacturers already known for their non-blank options. For example, EnjoyPBT offers their chunky PBT keycaps as blanks for about half the price of their printed counterparts, and they look fantastic when placed on the right keyboard. However, if these sets are still a bit out of your price range, there are options as low as $20 on Amazon. However, these will be compatible with fewer keyboards and are often less durable than higher-end offerings.
While the legends may not be as crisp as ePBT keycaps, Drop’s Bloom range of PBT keycaps are a great alternative with multiple colorways. The keys have a similar thickness and are also a bit smoother than ePBT – a difference that ultimately comes down to choice. Although I prefer a little rougher surface on my keys, these might work for anyone who doesn’t have a preference or prefers a little smoother texture under the fingertips.
Finding good parts for Topre switches can be difficult. Most of the time, Topre board enthusiasts will resort to buying MX-style replacement stems (like those featured in all of the other items on this list) and adapting their keyboards to the most option. current. However, Topre sometimes ends up having the best side of things. Concrete example, this set of keys. The Extended-2048 from KBDfans is a set of keys designed after the Apple Extended Keyboard II that are compatible only with Topre-style electro-capacitive switches. On top of that, they use thick PBT plastic with dye sublimation, which means they’ll last a long time and sound fantastic on a well-tuned keyboard.