The mechanical keyboards allow for a great deal of customization to fit your preferences. Choosing a keycap profile is an excellent way to improve the feel and sound of your keyboard, so let’s take a look at the differences between some of the most popular keycap profiles.
Here is a detailed profile guide that provides everything you need to know regarding keycaps’ characteristics. First and foremost, you should understand what a keycap profile is and why you should customize it.
What are Keycap Profiles?
Keycap profiles stand for different sets of key characteristics, namely shape, height, and inclination. Profiling keycap into different groups makes it easy for you to pick out the best keyboard set that fits your aesthetics and preferences.
Sculpted vs. Uniform Keycap Profiles
Sculpted, however, is much more intricate. A sculpted profile keyset has a varied shape and height for each row of keys. Hence, you must custom the keycap based on its measurements.
High vs. Medium Profiles
Keycaps with a high profile are simply taller than those with a medium profile. In terms of usability, many fellow keyboard enthusiasts agree that SA and other high profiles are difficult to type on and require some practice. Despite this slight disadvantage, these tall keycaps deliver a vintage aesthetic and unique sound, directly inspiring its devoted following with each keystroke.
These are, of course, different keycaps profiles with a lower design that is pretty commercial. Still, they are much less prevalent in the custom mechanical keyboard community.
Spherical vs. Cylindrical Profiles
The “cutout” on the keycap is the fundamental distinction between the different profile keycaps. The comparison below demonstrates this. Although the photographs show the keycaps from the side, the DSS profile has a curve in all directions, while the shape of DCS profile keycaps is flat. The curve on the DCS keycap would only go in one direction if you rotated it 90 degrees.
Types of keycap profiles
Cherry refers to a short keycap profile with an aggressive angle molded into it for easy typing. It is the most widely used and accepted layout profile in mechanical keyboards.
Because there isn’t much room for the sound to bounce and echo, cherry keycaps tend to produce a deeper bassy sound rather than different keycaps profiles. This keycap profile provides the best typing experience, whether you’re a gamer or a casual typer.
Key characteristics of Cherry profiled keycaps:
- Medium + flat profile.
- Short learning curve.
- Lower-register sounding.
The KAT Profile, also known as the Keyreactive All Touch profile, is a new version of the SA profile created by Keyreactive. KAT Profile Keycaps are shorter, mid-size, and smoother versions of SA profile keycaps, with each keycap mounted tall, somewhat, and curving.
Moreover, each row of KAT keycap tops has identical dimensions. That’s not only a huge visual enhancement, but it also helps with muscle memory during touch typing. For a visual depiction, look at the product photos.
Key characteristics of KAT profiled keycaps:
- Medium-yet-taller-than-cherry + sculpted profile.
- Sharp sounding.
Let’s be clear: MT3 is not a Signature Plastic SA knockoff. KAT is smooth, as opposed to SA, which can appear pointy and disproportionately tall on modern keyboards.
Kat’s concave keycaps don’t stab or inhibit your fingertips during row jumps, and they don’t have the gritty texture associated with PBT plastic. The typical dryness of PBT is present, but the substrate will not grind your fingertips into submission.
Key characteristics of MT3 profiled keycaps:
- PBT material.
- Bassy sounding.
OEM Profile is a classic sculpted profile that you’ll see on a lot of mass-produced mechanical keyboards – it’s often the profile of stock keycaps that come with a pre-built keyboard.
The primary criterion that distinguishes OEM from other keycap profiles is price. The OEM profile is usually the cheapest option here and is fairly easy to adjust to unless you’re coming from a low profile board, which may take a few weeks to adjust to. The sound is similar to the Cherry profile in that it is a bit bassy, but there is more of a difference in sound between different materials, thickness, and the keyboard.
Since this profile is widely available, it’s also a standard for artisans to produce custom keycaps with these measures. Interested in the design above? Take a look at our comprehensive OEM artisan keycaps!
Key characteristics of OEM profiled keycaps:
- Sculpted + short + Angled profile.
- Low-register sounding.
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SA Profile Keycaps are generally tall height profiles, angled from the top, and spherical tops that provide users with ease of typing. SA profiles were commonly found in old keyboards such as IBM Models M and some new models on the market because they had very similar height profiles.
SA Keycaps are the most recognizable profile due to their ideal design, distinct sound, and reputation for producing a Thock sound when registering a key.
Key characteristics of SA profiled keycaps:
- Uniform + Tall + Spherical profile.
- Older-keyset generation.
- Thocc sounding.
All keycaps on a uniform type keyboard are the same height and shape, giving the keyboard a flat appearance. If you barely lift your fingertips as they glide across your keyboard, unform keycaps are ideal. They provide excellent speed but less accuracy due to the difficulty in distinguishing keys by feel.
This keycaps profile guide is preferred by people who want to be creative and innovative with their keyboards.
Key characteristics of uniform profiled keycaps:
- Widely popular.
- Full-of-customization potentials.
- Standard sounding.
Many people like the look of these because they like the consistent height and look between rows and the sound, which has the lowest pitch sound on this list due to the small amount of space within the caps.
Key characteristics of DSA profile keycaps:
- Short profile.
- Learning curve required.
- Bassy sounding.
The KAM Profile is a one-of-a-kind uniform profile created by Keyreative and Zfrontier. The profile is straight and noncurved, and the keycaps are slightly wider with a larger touch surface area for your fingers rather than different profile keycaps.
The thickness of the walls is 0.55mm greater than that of the DSA profile (1.65mm total), and the height is 1.05mm greater than that of the DSA. The Dye-Sub Technique has been tried and tested, and it has proven to be dependable and long-lasting.
The keycaps have already been prototyped, and images can be found on the Geekhack IC.
Key characteristics of KAM profiled keycaps:
- Uniform profile.
- Low-register sounding.
XDA keycaps, like DSA, are low profile and uniform, which leads to this keycaps profile guide being popular among enthusiasts due to its attractive appearance.
If you’re coming from a high profile like SA, this profile will be easier to learn than DSA. You’ll probably have the most trouble if you’re not used to the profile’s uniformity.
Key characteristics of XDA profile keycaps:
- Uniform + flat profile.
- Light + aesthetically pleasing.
- Low-bassy sounding.
Other keycap profiles
Here are some other profiles from other keycap manufacturers, tho. This list might not be as popular as the collection above:
- NP Profile: a uniform profile and rounded edges that provide an excellent grip on the keyboard, allowing you to type frequently.
- DOM Profile: primarily used in Artisan keycaps, with the see-through keycap, in particular, being more visually appealing.
- DSS Profile: a sculpted profile that provides an excellent typing experience that is also fully optimized for touch typing.
- Asa profile: combines the OEM profile’s height with the spherical shape of keycaps. It’s a personalized profile provided by AKKO.
Can you switch keycap profiles?
Keycaps are not universal since you can find keycaps in all sizes, shapes, and designs. There is no keycap profile that is supported by all keyboards or simply put, no-size-fit-all. The sides of some high-profile cases are too close to the switches for SA keysets, but otherwise, yes. You should have no trouble switching from OEM to Cherry profile on your board.
If you mix and match caps from those various profiles, you will definitely notice the differences. Subsequently, your keystrokes might not be as smooth as you want them to be.
Do keycap profiles make a big difference in sound?
The feel and sound of your keyboard’s typing, are determined by the different profile keycaps you use. ABS keycaps are said to make more noise than PBT keycaps. If you want your keyboard to be quieter, choose PBT keycaps. Furthermore, the rough surface of your keycaps prevents your finger from slipping.
Keycap Profiles Comparison Chart
Here is a quick comparison table for some of the most common profiles on the market. Get the one that fits your preferences the best!
|Keycap Profile||Height||Shape||Profile Generalization||Keycap Profile Description|
|1. Cherry||Short||Angled||Sculpted||The profile is very similar to the OEM profile, but it is shorter. A trendy design.|
|2. OEM||Short||Angled||Sculpted||The keycap profile is found on most keyboards. Mass-produced and accepted as standard. The top is angled.|
|3. KAT||Short||Spherical and inclined||Uniform||Keyreative’s smooth keycap profile is used for these keycaps.|
|4. XDA||Medium||Flat and Rounded square corners||Uniform||Profile with a medium height and a spherical top|
|5. DSA||Short||Flat and Spherical Top||Uniform||Profile is slightly shorter, with a spherical top.|
|6. SA||Tall||Angled and Spherical from the top||Uniform||Tall profile with a slightly spherical and angled top.|
|7. DOM||Equal to SA R1’s profile||Snow-glob with a rounded top||Uniform||Signature Plastics makes these specialized for touch typing.|
|8. DSS||Slightly Shorter||Snow-glob with a rounded top||Sculpted||Firstly introduced in the 1980s and re-introduced, Textured feel, optimized for touch typing.|
|9. NP||Medium Height||Rounded Edges with Excellent grip||Uniform||The top is rounded, as with XDA.|
Which Keycap Profile is the Best for Typing?
They can be far more comfortable because you don’t have to raise your hands as much to type on a low-to-medium-profile board. Shorter height results in less strain on your wrists during extended typing or gaming sessions, making you less likely to develop carpal tunnel syndrome or other wrist pains.
Finding the best keycap profile for typing usually boils down to selecting a keycap set that is easy to type on and minimizes the distance the fingers must stretch to reach each key. As a result, the Cherry profile is highly recommended for typing purposes.
Which Keycap Profile is the Best for Gaming?
In gaming, the placement of a keycap and its surface texture, appearance, area, dimensions, and distance from other keys are crucial. It can significantly impact your gaming experience, especially in games that require many keys. That is why gamers must find the right keycap profile.
These elements and considerations must be considered when selecting the best keycap profile. And if we consider all of these factors, the only keycap profile that appears to be the best is the Cherry MX keycap profile.
However, the keyboard switch has a more significant impact on the difference in experience than the keycap profile. Cherry MX is excellent, but if you want to improve your gaming performance, you should consider using a higher-quality switch in conjunction with the MX profile keycaps. You will undoubtedly have a positive experience with them.
the keyboard’s overall keycap press experience relies heavily on keycap profiles. That is why you must educate yourself on them and ensure that you select the best one for your keyboarding experience. Changing a new keycap set for our keyboard is always exciting and challenging, but with the proper knowledge, it becomes simple.
We hope we were able to assist you in understanding the differences between types of keycap profiles and guiding you in selecting your first keycap set.
Here at Hirosart, we provide artisan custom keycaps that make your setting much more pleasing to the eyes without compromising the comfort and ease of use. Check out our collection. We got more to show you!