Complete Guide of Keycap Profiles and Materials
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Complete Guide of Keycap Profiles and Materials

|Apr 5, 2022
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One central element to a great computer experience that might not always be recognized is the impact and selection of keycap profiles and materials. Often the screen size, CPU, GPU, RAM, and specific brand take precedence, but keycap profiles should be among such attributes in developing the perfect at-home or office setup. 

When building a modern office setup, state-of-art technology is not the only important aspect to consider. Your comfort is another element that must be taken into consideration. For the ultimate working or gaming experience, you want to ensure you have a system specifically catered to your needs and preferences, as well as a system that considers your health.  

What Are Keycap Profiles?

Keycap profiles simply allude to the size and shape of a keycap or keyboard. Why is this important? It all comes down to ergonomics. When selecting a keycap profile for your setup, you want to pick the design that is most comfortable for you. Whether you are working, gaming, or simply surfing the web, often time passes by very quickly and you find yourself using your computer for hours on end.  

Ergonomic products are designed with you in mind. In essence, they are solutions that limit pain and undesired discomfort. Concerning keycap design, an ergonomic goal would be to develop a model that could limit the potentiality of arthritis or related conditions. 

Keycap designs were engineered to offer a more seamless experience, where pressing keys become second nature. If one just thinks back to the keyboards of another era, some of them were difficult to use. They were massive and hard to press down. Their shape was unideal. 

Computer manufacturers recognized the imperativeness of creating an easy-to-use and comfortable keyboard. Modern technologies have also allowed the development of more accurate keyboards, limiting undesired errors. 

Another lesson technology companies learned is that one size does not fit all. People prefer different keycap types. This is where the different styling options, SA, Cherry, OEM, DSA, and XDA, become exciting to explore. 

What Are Keycap Profiles?

Keycap Profiles: What’s The Difference?

Cherry, OEM, DSA, SA, and XDA keycap types are all consistent and reliable. You cannot go wrong with any of the models highlighted. Here you will find a keycap profile comparison, describing the different types of keycaps.  

What Is a Cherry Keycap Profile?

A Cherry keycap profile is often recognized as one of the most popular designs and best keycap profile. It is known for its comfortability. Engineered with a similar shape to OEM, Cherry keycaps are shorter in size. When typing on a Cherry profile keycap, a “bassy sound” is made. Due to their ergonomic and structured design, Cherry keycaps have become a favorite in the gaming community. A structured design is in reference to that Cherry keys vary in size and shape and are not uniform. 

Since Cherry profile keycaps and OEM keycaps do have similarities, customers often wonder what are the main differences that set these two products apart. The first row on Cherry keyboards is flatter than OEM models. Additionally, all Cherry profiles are officially certified by the brand and are not produced by third-party companies. Perhaps most noteworthy, the Cherry keycap dimension is significantly more compact than the OEM keycap dimension.  

The Cherry Profile CanyonCaps by Deskr is a great option to learn more about if you desire a Cherry keycap profile. It is aesthetically very pleasing while being a high-quality ergonomic product.  

What Is a Cherry Keycap Profile?

What Is an OEM Keycap?

One can think of an OEM keycap as a more commonly used and accessible design akin to Cherry. As highlighted, both products have a similar build. OEM keycaps are often seen on most mechanical keyboards. According to Switch and Click, they are not a “uniform keycap set, meaning the different rows of a mechanical keyboard would have a different overall design and height.” Additionally, they are often referred to as “the standard profile.”  

Bigger in stature compared to Cherry products, OEM keycaps still offer a pleasant experience for users. While they are not the same as Cherry profile keycaps, comfortability still played an important role in their design.  

What Is an OEM Keycap?

Are OEM keycaps good for gaming?

OEM keycaps can be suitable for gaming based on personal preference. They have a slightly curved shape, medium height, and provide tactile feedback. The key feel depends on the material used, usually ABS or PBT. OEM keycaps are compatible with various keyboard layouts and offer customization options. The decision on using OEM keycaps for gaming comes down to individual preference in terms of shape, key feel, compatibility, and aesthetics. Trying out different keycap profiles is recommended to find the most comfortable option.

What Is a DSA Keycap?

DSA keycap profiles were designed with low-profile keyboards in mind. They are smaller in stature compared to Cherry and are completely uniform. Users who enjoy a design with a similar key shape will like the experience that DSA models provide. 

According to Dot Esports, the gaming community has taken a liking to DSA keycap profiles due to their association with low-profile keyboards. It depends on personal preference whether you prefer structured or uniform keycap design.   

What Is a DSA Keycap?

What Is a SA Keycap?

A SA keycap profile (spherical all) is an example of a classic large keycap design. Some may consider these types akin to the 1980’s designs of the past. SA models have a noticeable height to their structure. Despite their size, they are easy to type on. According to Dot Esports, they have a “unique sound profile, with each click of a keycap sounding substantial.”  

What Is a SA Keycap?

What Is a XDA Keycap?

A XDA keycap profile is an option akin to the DSA. The main similarity is that the XDA was also developed for low-profile keyboards and has uniform keys. The XDA is aesthetically well-designed and can be easy to type on depending on personal preference. If one prefers a sculpted design, the XDA will not be the ideal choice.

What does XDA mean in keycaps?

XDA is a flat, uniform keycap profile that was initially introduced by a keyboard enthusiast group called "Teamwolf." The name "XDA" doesn't have a specific meaning but is rather a designation given to this particular keycap profile.

The XDA profile is characterized by its flat top surface and uniform height across all keycaps. Unlike some other profiles that have sculpted or contoured shapes, XDA keycaps have a consistent flat design. The keycaps are typically cylindrical in shape and have a slightly concave top surface to accommodate the fingertips.

The XDA profile is known for providing a smooth and uniform typing experience. It is popular among keyboard enthusiasts who prefer a flat and uniform keycap design. The consistent shape and height of XDA keycaps make them compatible with various keyboard layouts and can offer a clean and modern aesthetic to the keyboard.

It's important to note that XDA is just one of many keycap profiles available, and the choice of profile ultimately comes down to personal preference in terms of feel, typing experience, and aesthetics.

What Is a XDA Keycap?

Is XDA profile good for gaming?

The XDA keycap profile is a popular choice among gamers, but whether it is "good" for gaming ultimately depends on personal preference. Here are some factors to consider:

Keycap Shape

XDA profile keycaps have a flat, uniform surface, which can provide a consistent typing experience. Some gamers prefer this profile as it allows for easy finger movement across the keys without any curvature or sculpting getting in the way.

Keycap Height

XDA keycaps are typically of medium height, which can provide a comfortable typing experience for gaming sessions. They offer a balance between the low-profile keys and taller keycaps like OEM or Cherry profile.

Key Feel

XDA keycaps are usually made of high-quality materials, such as ABS or PBT, which can enhance durability and provide a satisfying feel during gameplay. However, key feel can also be influenced by factors like keycap thickness, texture, and your personal preference.

Typing Speed

The flat and uniform surface of XDA keycaps can promote a consistent typing experience, which might be beneficial for gamers who require fast and accurate keystrokes. However, it's important to note that individual typing style and hand ergonomics can play a significant role in typing speed.

Ultimately, the choice of keycap profile for gaming comes down to personal preference. Some gamers may prefer the XDA profile for its flat and uniform design, while others may find that profiles like OEM, Cherry, or even custom profiles better suit their gaming needs. It's always a good idea to try out different profiles if possible to determine which one feels the most comfortable and enhances your gaming experience.

Keycap Materials: What’s the Difference?

There are two main differentiating keycap materials: ABS and PBT. Both are commonly seen in the keycap market today. 

ABS, which stands for acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, refers to keycaps that are manufactured with a “thermoplastic.” According to The Gaming Setup, ABS material is “highly recyclable” and has an “ease of melting and molding.” ABS material is created affordably and efficiently, allowing for mass production. ABS products can have a long usage life, even though they are budget-friendly. This is why ABS material can be preferred by numerous computer manufacturers.  

PBT material, which stands for polybutylene terephthalate, offers a stronger feel to keycap profiles. According to The Gaming Setup, “PBT keycaps are sturdier and thicker than ABS keycaps.” PBT is also a thermoplastic, allowing for recyclability. This material is long-lasting and more reliable than ABS. There is one important con to mention, which will be discussed below.   

The Gaming Setup highlights “four core truths” that separate ABS and PBT material. Firstly, ABS products will decrease in quality with extensive usage. PBT material will retain its original quality and feel. Second, ABS keycaps have a “softer” sound in comparison to the PBT’s more noticeable and “tactile” sound.  

Third, there are more aesthetic varieties of ABS keycaps that come in an assortment of color variations. PBT keycaps have a limited number of aesthetic options. Fourth, research has shown that some PBT keys tend to warp.  

keycap profiles Materials: What’s the Difference

Different Types of Keyboards

A discussion on keycap profiles would not be complete without briefly highlighting keyboard designs. Mechanical, membrane, and split mechanical keyboards all have pros and cons. Like keycap profiles, it all comes to your personal preference.   

Mechanical vs. Membrane Keyboards

Mechanical vs. membrane keyboards, which one is better? Mechanical keyboards have “tactile, noticeable feedback” and can be personalized. They are often regarded as aesthetically pleasing and ergonomic. They are great for a more permanent setup, as they are large and difficult to travel with. Mechanical keyboards are generally less affordable than membrane keyboards but provide a great value for their price range.  

Membrane keyboards have “quiet, smooth keypresses” and are way easier to travel with. They are additionally less expensive than mechanical keyboards and are often budget-friendly. They cannot be personalized as much as their mechanical counterparts and have “less precision.”  

A split mechanical keyboard is ergonomically designed for your comfort and wellbeing. Split mechanical options have been crafted from the ground up uniquely. These keyboards, true to their name, have a split design instead of a traditional layout.  

Research has found that a split design is better for customer usability and comfort. If you are sitting at your computer all day and typing away, a split mechanical option is a great option to invest in.  

To highlight a specific keyboard option, the Ergonomic Keyboard for PC by Matias is a high-quality ergonomic product that offers the most versatile experience by offering keyboard adjustments. It includes gel palm support pads for ultimate customer comfort. 

The Ergonomic Keyboard for PC by Matias can be a wonderful keyboard model for your setup. You can use its adjustability to position your keyboard in the perfect way for you. Personalization and customization are at the heart of its design.  

Mechanical vs. Membrane Keyboards

Gaming to the Max

As every gamer knows, gaming can not only be a fun pastime but a lucrative way to make a living. Either as a hobby or a job, gaming is something that consumes you “both physically and mentally.” It becomes an experience that immerses you.   

When you are playing a game, your mindset is strictly focused on that game. You want your computer system to be all ready to go without any glitches. Additionally, your whole setup including your keyboard and mouse needs to be organized in your preferred way. The least of your concerns should be an inconvenience.  

With a gaming keyboard tray, this process can be of so much more ease. Using a gaming keyboard tray allows for better organization and setup comfortability, allowing you to place all your energy on what matters most. Also, with most options having a hand rest near the mouse, the soft texture is soothing to the touch and allows for relaxation.  

There are a variety of reliable options including the Startup Under Desk, Yescom Under Desk, Vivo Adjustable, KT1 Tray with Negative Tilt, and Fellowes Executive. Each offers a great benefit to you, as a gamer or a computer user in general.  

A gaming keyboard tray, among other office desk accessories, could be a fantastic addition to your personalized setup. 

The height and placement of your keyboard setup can indeed have a direct effect on your gaming results. This is where the science of ergonomics comes in. When designing a setup, be sure to appropriately position your screen and keyboard in a manner that limits body discomfort. 

Placing a focus on limiting discomfort can lead to less back and neck pain, as well as sore hands. Sitting comfortably with correct positioning can also improve and correct posture. Good posture is very important, as it relates directly to your spine and nervous system. 

Concerning ergonomics and the ultimate comfort experience, a standing desk would be another product that could be great for your setup. These desks are adjustable in height and are easily adaptable. This flexibility is imperative to have when building a gaming environment with your health and wellbeing in consideration. 

Some standing desk options we have to offer include the SmartDesk Core, SmartDesk Corner, SmartDesk Pro, SmartDesk Core Duo, SmartDesk Connect, and SmartDesk Chunky Oak. While they differ in features, size, and price range, each model is ergonomically designed with you in mind. 

Gaming to the Max

The Bottom Line

From the chair you sit in to the desk you use to the key caps you type on, everything matters when designing an ideal office or gaming setup. Your health can take a toll when sitting down at a computer screen for extensive lengths of time. Fortunately, there are products that can serve as aids to limit body discomfort.   

Autonomous is a proud manufacturer and spokescompany of the ergonomic philosophy. Ergonomic products can make your overall experience far more enjoyable, and ultimately more productive. When your health does not take a back seat to your work or gaming, you will be feeling better and more energized to live life to the fullest.  

As small as they may be, keycap profiles are an important contributor to this equation. The exact design you select is a personal preference. Research has demonstrated that Cherry based keycap profiles are often considered the best keycap profile because of their focus on consumer comfortability.  

Whether you choose a Cherry, OEM, DSA, SA, or XDA keycap type, you can have a positive typing experience. It is important to recognize whether you like structured or uniform design, as that will be a deciding factor in which profiles are best suited for you.  

We invite you to explore our keycap profile options and discover which type offers you a more seamless, and enjoyable working or gaming experience.

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