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Even if you use computers regularly and have been gaming for years, you may not have heard of keycap profiles.
They are a commonly forgotten aspect when considering a new laptop or keyboard, but they can play a huge part in the comfort of your gaming experience.
Custom keycaps can be a technical subject, so below is an easy guide breaking down the most common and popular keycap profiles for gaming.
Keep reading to learn about keycap profiles, the available types, and how to choose the perfect one for your needs!
What are Keycap Profiles?
|Keycap Type||Profile||Height||Row Shape||Keycap Shape||Ideal For|
|Cherry||Medium||9.4mm||Sculpted||Angled||Writing, Esports Gaming|
|SA||High||16.3mm||Sculpted||Angled and Concave||All-purpose, non-speed optimized|
So, what is a keycap profile?
Well, a keycap profile refers to the shape and size of each keycap on your keyboard and plays a large role in how comfortable it is for you to type and game.
On Keycaps.info, you can see graphical depictions of all keycap profiles, and you can even stack them to see how they compare.
It does not matter what you do on your computer; if you have a bad keycap profile for your needs, you will not have an enjoyable gaming experience.
Before jumping into the five most popular keycap profiles, it is important to understand the three main parts that dictate how a key profile works and feels: keycap shape, row shape, and keycap height.
(For a further detailed reading on these, I recommend Das Keyboard Blog. See also the list of further recommended articles at the bottom of this article).
First up is the shape of the keycaps. Four shapes dominate keycap design, with Angled and Concave being the most commonly used.
- Angled: Keycaps angled either from front to back or back to front are designed for ergonomics, reach, and comfort.
- Concave: These come with spherical or cylindrical shaped indents. Spherical keycaps are often found on old-school keyboards. However, they are still preferred by some gamers even today.
- Rounded: Rounded Keycaps are typically used by artisan keycaps and feature convex tops. Example: Artisan keycaps styles like those found on Etsy.
- Flat: Found on chiclet-shaped keyboards, these keycaps come with a flat surface top. Example: Apple Magic keyboards.
Row Shape: uniform vs. sculpted profile
After the keycap shape comes the row shape, which is the overall shape of an entire row of keycaps.
There are two types of row shapes, uniform and sculpted, and both have different benefits and disadvantages.
If you prefer jumping from one keycap to another and barely have to lift your fingers off the keyboard, then a uniform profile is perfect for you.
While you will enjoy a faster typing experience, your accuracy will take a hit.
Sculpted keycap profiles, on the other hand, are the favorite of most gamers, as they provide contoured keycaps, allowing you to know what key you are hitting merely by the shape and feel.
The final spec for keycap profiles is keycap height, which is how tall the keycap is.
This content was first published on GamersNotAllowed.com
There are low-profile keycaps that can be as small as 2mm and high-profile keycaps that can get as tall as 17mm.
Depending on how you type and bend your wrists, you will want to test out a few different-sized keycaps to find the perfect one.
Sculpted keycap profiles rarely have same-sized keycaps across the entire keyboard, while uniform keycap profiles will typically keep a single height across the board.
Different Keycap Profiles
Now that you know keycap profiles, it is time to learn about the five most common profiles available.
While there are other keycaps, they are not commonly used and are much more niche.
OEM Keycap Profile
First up, we have the OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) keycap profile, commonly found on most mechanical keyboards when they come out of the package.
They are medium profile keycaps with a height of 11.9mm, have angled tops, and are sculpted.
Its design makes an OEM profile perfect for gaming, typing, and general computer usage.
It is generally comfortable for many typing styles and makes for a great introduction to using specific keycap profiles.
OEM Keycap profile is the best option for gamers who do a lot of other work on their computer.
XDA Keycap Profile
The XDA is a good option for you if you prefer low-profile keyboards. Standing at 9.1mm, it is the second shortest of the five main types and can take some getting used to, especially if you prefer using taller profiles like the OEM.
Another potential downfall of these keycaps is they come with uniform row shapes and have non-angled, concave keycap shapes that favor speed over accuracy.
While good for overall typing, they are not the greatest for gaming due to their non-angled and uniform row shapes.
Cherry Keycap Profile
Cherry profile keycaps are popular among gamers, Esports players, writers, and anyone who enjoys a comfortable typing experience.
They are fairly similar in design to OEM keycaps and stand at 9.4mm, making them slightly shorter than OEM.
These keycaps are angled and come with sculpted row shapes, allowing accurate and speedy typing.
While they are not nearly as prevalent as OEM keycap profiles, they are one of the best you can use, regardless of your typing preferences.
DSA Keycap Profile
The final out of the five most popular keycap profiles is the DSA keycap profile.
This keycap has a low profile. Coming in at 7.6mm, these are best if you prefer speed over everything else, as low keycap profiles provide the greatest speed available.
Design-wise, they are almost identical to XDA keycaps; the only real difference is their height.
They come with uniform row shapes and concave keycap shapes that increase their speed but can decrease typing accuracy.
SA Keycap Profile
Next is the SA (Spherical All) keycap profile, one of the tallest keycap profiles you can purchase, standing at a mighty 16.3mm.
While this belongs on the most common keycap profile list, it’s not that popular among gamers.
SA profile keycaps come with a sculpted row shape and angled keycaps, making them a great all-purpose style, but they come with several disadvantages.
Namely, these spherical keycaps are not very fast and can be uncomfortable due to their height.
So unless you are a huge fan of tall keycap profiles, you will want to steer clear of them and aim for a lower profile.
These are among the least popular of the five main profiles available for keyboards for gamers. That said, I’ve seen hardcore gamers swear by them, but they’re kind of niche.
While these keycap profiles are not often used, they deserve an honorable mention. If you do not fancy the ones above, you may find your next favorite in the list below.
These are fairly niche and are not as easily found as the main five listed above.
- KAM: A uniform version of the KAT keycap profile.
- G20: Another low-profile keycap profile, these stand at 7.6mm and have a uniform row shape and angled tops.
- MT3: These are similar to SA keycaps but come with sharper corners and unique angles.
- MBK: One of the lowest possible keycap profiles, these keycaps measure only 3.2mm tall.
- KAT: Standing at 13.5mm, they come with angled, concave tops and use sculpted row shapes.
- Tai-Hao: These stand at 14.88mm, and are similar to OEM keycaps.
- Dom: Often found on artisan keyboards, these are high-profile keycaps with rounded tops and uniform row shapes.
Why Is It Important to Choose the Right Keycap Profile?
So now you know about the different keycap profiles and what the differences are, but how do you choose the right keycap profile?
How do you, as a gamer, make an educated guess to find the perfect mix between accuracy and speed so you can dominate your foes in battle?
Before we get into the tips for choosing, let me answer why it is important to pick the right keycap profile.
Whether you are typing, gaming, or just browsing the internet, it is important to have a comfortable keyboard. What dictates that comfort?
The keyboard profile does, so unless you enjoy discomfort, choosing the right one is important because it allows for long periods of comfortable usage.
Tips For Choosing
Here are a few other things to consider before buying custom keycap sets.
Try before Buy
Before purchasing a new keycap with a different keycap profile, you should try to use the keycap profile before purchasing.
Maybe you have a friend who uses the keycaps you want to purchase, or even see if a nearby retail store sells a keyboard with that keycap profile.
By testing it out, you can ensure it is a type you want to use and is neither uncomfortable nor feels too weird.
Check Compatibility With Your Keyboard
Next, checking whether the keycaps you are purchasing are compatible with your keyboard and the switches you use is important.
For example, Cherry MX switches require you to use Cherry MX Keycaps.
The last thing you want to do is purchase a new batch of keycaps and not have them work with your switches. Besides verifying switch compatibility, if you have a particular type of keyboard, like a 65% keyboard, you must ensure the keycaps you purchase will fit.
Also, you need to check if you have an ISO or ANSI keyboard layout.
An ISO keyboard has an upside-down L-shaped Enter key that takes up two rows.
An ANSI keyboard layout comes with an Enter key that is usually 2-3 keys wide and only takes up one row.
Consider the Keycap Material
Finally, you will want to consider the material used to make the keycaps you are considering purchasing.
PBT (Polybutylene Terephthalate) and ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) are the most common materials.
PBT is more durable but expensive than ABS keycaps which are cheaper but do not last as long.
It is also important to consider the feeling of the keycaps when purchasing them, as both ABS and PBT keycaps can come with either a glossy, smooth feeling.
In contrast, others feel more textured and slightly bumpy.
When you design your custom keyboards and keyboard layouts, the keycap is essential to how playing games and typing will feel. A good set of keycaps can make all the difference.
That being said, there are many popular choices on the market, and the most popular keycap profile may not be the right one for you.
The best keycaps for you are a matter of personal preference. And choosing the best keycap profile can be a technical process. It’s always best to try before you buy.
Also, remember that keycap sets don’t only have to consist of one type of key.
Fx, you might prefer the arrow keys to have cylindrical tops or different heights than the rest of your keyboard.
Or you might go for an artisan-style keycap for the ESC key. It’s all up to you.
Keep in mind, though, that Cherry switches require Cherry keycaps, which limits the options a bit.
But by finding the best new keycaps that suit you can provide comfort no matter how long you game for.
If you found this article helpful, check out my other articles, like the best white gaming headsets. Until next time, happy gaming!
Recommended further reading:
Dashkeyboard has a nice breakdown of keycap profiles.
Keepnews has many great articles on mechanical keyboards, including this one on keycap styles.
Keycaps.info has an excellent graphical overview of all keycap profiles.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jan has played video games since the early 1980s. He loves getting immersed in video games as a way to take his mind off stuff when the outside world gets too scary. A lifelong gamer, the big interest led to a job as a lecturer on game sound at the University of Copenhagen and several written articles on video games for magazines.