The Ultimate Guide To Keycap Profiles and Materials


Gaming used to be a casual thing. You plug in a console and enjoy immersing yourself in a different reality. On the other hand, PC gaming always took a few more steps to start. You need to know if your setup supports the game. You need to know your specs before you even purchase or download a game. 

With tech being more accessible than ever, PC gaming experience is elevated to a whole new level. However, it also got complicated. There are so many parts to choose from and so many specs to pick! Like – keycaps! There are so many profiles to choose from and so many types of keycaps. Where do you start? Well, here. We compiled a guide to all the keycap profiles and materials in 2022.

Also read: What is Mouse Smoothing? 

First of all, you don’t need to get rid of your keyboard just yet. You can customize the one you already own. What are your options? What you ultimately choose will depend on your preferences, but here’s what’s on the market. 

You might use your PC for more than gaming, like working or editing. This could influence your keycap choice because you will want a keyboard that can be used both for gaming and productivity, ideally. Depending on your needs, you might want higher or lower keycap profiles, you might want a sculpted or uniformed, or you might consider the sound. So here are a few details that can help you make that choice. 

Keycap Profile Sculpted/Uniformed Shape Overall Overall
OEM Sculpted Angled Short Angled top, common in mass production
Cherry Sculpted Angled Short Similar to OEM, but shorter
KAT Uniformed Spherical Short Smoother version of SA
SA Uniformed Angled and spherical (top) Tall Angled from the top
XDA Uniformed Flat and rounded (corners) Medium Lightweight and low-profiled
DSA Uniformed Flat and spherical (top) Short Smooth, consistent height

Profiles

The most popular keycap profiles are OEM, Cherry, KAT, SA, DSA, and XDA. Let’s see what do all these random letters mean, and which one is for you! It’s important to note that there are other keycap profiles like the Apple Magic Keyboard, KAM, MBK, etc. But, let’s work our way up and start with the basics. 

1. OEM

OEM is a classic sculpted profile that appears in most mass-produced keyboards. Pre-built keyboards from brands such as Logitech, Razer, and Corsair mostly use these profiles. 

Sculpted means that the shape and the height of OEM keycaps varies depending on the row, as you can see above. If you look at the top row, you’ll notice how it’s slightly angled to give you a grip on your hand. Most users find this option excellent for typing comfort and for gaming too. 

2. Cherry

Cherry profile Keycaps are the most popular and most widely used. They are quite similar to OEM profiles, but they are slightly shorter, and the first-row key shape is flatter than OEM profiles. Just like OEM, Cherry profiles are sculpted. This makes typing more comfortable. 

Although it is widely used on mechanical keyboards, the Cherry profile is slightly more expensive than other profiles on the market. Because there is little space for sound to bounce inside, Cherry keycaps tend to produce a more bassy sound. 

Among all keycap profiles, this one is reported to provide the best typing experience, whether you’re a gamer or a casual typer. Both OEM and Cherry keyboards are made of either ABS or PBT. PBT ones are more durable than ABS ones. 

3. KAT

KAT is an abbreviation for Keyreactive All Touch and is a new version of the SA profile designed by Keyreactive. KAT profile keycaps are shorter and smoother versions of SA, with each keycap mounted tall and curvy. These keycaps are made of a thick plastic material that produces a chattering sound.

Users like this profile because of the smoothness of of the keycaps. Gamers who use this profile say it enables quick action and improves efficiency. Moreover, it is known to provide an impressive typing experience and accuracy. It’s praised as the best option for people who type a lot. 

4. SA

SA profiles are usually found on old keyboards like IBM Model M. The SA profile keycaps are generally tall and angled from the top. Signature Plastics was the first to offer SA caps in the Sculpted profile. If you have the habit of lifting your hands while typing, these profiles are ideal for you. 

The SA keycaps are most iconic because they produce the thock sound. However, they are not as fast as others and are not ideal for fast-paced gaming. They are suitable for typing for most people but not ideal if you do not have the habit of lifting your hands. 

5. XDA

XDA profile keycaps have a low profile that’s uniformed across the row. XDA caps are lightweight and provide a pleasing aesthetics. The uniformed shape makes it easy to move quickly around the keyboard, from one key to another.

If you are used to sculpted keyboard caps, like Cherry profile, it might be a challenge to get used to XDA. 

XDA caps also have more rounded square corners and might feel different. However, XDA caps are usually made from PBT, a type of strong plastic used in electronics. This makes them more durable than most keycaps. These keycaps are also a little less loud than others.

6. DSA

DSA keycaps are similar to XDA. Like, XDA, they have a lower profile and are uniform. However, what sets them apart is their signature plastic exclusive to DSA caps. The same downsides follow if you are more used to OEM or Cherry profiles. It might take some time to get used to the uniformed shape. 

However, if moving fast is what you need, these are the caps for you. The sound DSA caps make is similar to Cherry caps, the more bassy sound. Both DSA and XDA have spherical tops, but DSA has a slightly shorter profile.

Also read: Is MSI a Good Gaming Laptop Brand?

Other Things To Consider

Sound

Sound could be a factor in your choice. You might like your keyboards to be louder or quieter. It’s hard to describe sounds, so it might be best to watch the YouTube video above and judge for yourself. 

Customization

Custom keycaps are something you can get to personalize your keyboard. You can purchase these on websites like AliExpress, eBay, Amazon, etc. You just have to be careful that they fit in with the rest of your keyboard. 

Usually, they will have a description such as Cherry, SA, OEM, and so on. Now that you know what it all means, you will have an easier time coordinating and customizing. These keycaps will often have the material they are made of. 

RBG backlit keyboards are another very popular thing in gaming setups. In this case, the material matters a great deal. You will want to get double-shot keycaps. These keycaps are made through a complicated manufacturing process where two separate plastics are injection molded to make one keycap. 

If your keyboard has lighting on each key, this caps style is used to make the light shine through. They are usually made from either PBT or ABS. There are also pudding keycaps that let the light shine through the cap and are similar to double-shot. 

And last but not least, before you purchase your keycap set, it’s important to make sure the caps are compatible with your keyboard’s layout. You can see some popular layouts in the picture above that you can use as a reference. 

Conclusion

Getting a new keycap set and building your own customized and personalized keyboard is exciting but also confusing. In summation, consider what your priorities and general habits are. If you lift your hands often, OEM, Cherry, or KAT keycaps can be an excellent option for you. You might also want to look into how they sound if that is important for you.

If you need to move around the keyboard and move fast, then flatter, more uniformed, and less angled options might be for you, like XDA or DSA. So, before purchasing a new set of keycaps, consider your layout, your habits, and how you plan to use the keyboard. We hope we have helped you on this journey!



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