Review: EnjoyPBT 9009

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Ah, the fabled 9009. Originating from this CHAD of a keyboard, the Cherry G80-9009, this pastel green, pastel pink, beige and white colorway is very popular in the keyboard community. Like, VERY POPULAR. In this review, I’ll be taking a closer look at the EnjoyPBT (ePBT) version of this colorway — the EnjoyPBT 9009 to see how far ePBT has come over the years and how it stacks up with the other PBT dye-subs I have with me.

Unboxing

The unboxing experience is, as the kids would say, kinda whatevs. The keycaps came in 3 ziploc bags packed in a cardboard box. Not my ideal method of storing/shipping keycaps (I prefer trays like how GMK, JTK etc do it) but it gets the job done. One worry with storing keycaps in bags is that there’s a chance of the keycaps being nicked and scratched while in the bag. Thankfully, there is none of that here.

The Layout

 

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Layout Support here is nothing short of amazing. Most layouts I can think of are supported with this keyset and we get 9 (!!!) spacebars to choose from. KBDFans even threw in a free set of 1u blanks to support folks with ortholinear, ergonomic etc. layout keyboards. In GMK terms, it means this set comes with a Base Kit, a lesser Spacebar Kit and a 40s kit minus legends. That equates to, let’s see, a lot of bleeping PBT caps.

There’s an argument to be made about whether paying for so many keys is necessary as the for 120 dollars the buy-in price is the same as a GMK set’s. But, for a relatively high-end, probably long-lasting set like this, the huge keycap compatibility is important as it means the set will support most of your future keyboard purchases. Also, the complete compatibility means that selling the set in the future is easier as this keyset will support other people’s keyboards too. Personally, I wouldn’t mind paying a little extra for that security, whether or not it encroaches into GMK price territory.

Most importantly, for all you folks who have attained enlightenment, the set comes with modifier-colored pipe/backslash and backtick/tilde keys for the A E S T H E T I C symmetry.

One minor gripe is that the 6u spacebar does not have a center mounting stem, which is a problem for Razer/Logitech/Corsair users. Yes, yes, Razer is bad. I get it. However, my dad bought this set thinking that it would fit his Razer Blackwidow’s strange bottom row but the 6u spacebar only has an off-center stem and not a center one. I don’t know how difficult it would be to add a 6u spacebar with support for both but considering that 50% (a wild estimation) of mechanical keyboards out there have 6u centered stem spacebars, not having it is a missed opportunity. Still, it’s a pretty minor issue, but I would be remiss to not mention that.

Colorway

9009 is an iconic (and straight up overplayed) colorway in the keyboard community, with the OG version and GMK versions of the set selling over retail (and sometimes WAY OVER RETAIL) on r/mechmarket. Hype aside, I do enjoy this colorway for it’s simplicity and classic design. Beige and grey sets get me every single time because I’m an unapologetically, vintage-loving hipster normie and this is no different. While I do not own a GMK or OG set to compare the colors of this ePBT version with, I do think the pastel pink and pastel green accents are pretty (regardless of whether it’s a faithful reproduction of the original). Props to KBDFans and EnjoyPBT.

Keycap Quality

The keycaps themselves are very thick. At 1.5mm thick, these Gateron-made PBT keycaps are absolute units. Here’s a photo comparing the thickness of the caps with the other PBT dye-subs I have on hand.

Cap Thickness.001

They’re joint thickest with IMSTO Ural (which makes sense since this IMSTO set utilized Gateron/ePBT blanks just like the 9009 set) and /dev/tty, while also quite a bit thicker than the Topre ones.

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The ePBT caps have a uniform matte finish to them with a very slight glossy sparkle when viewed at from an off-angle. You can see said gloss on that F8 key on the right side of the picture above. It’s not super bright or even noticeable head-on, but it’s still brighter than my future as a reviewer.

Texture Comparison.001

The texture of ePBT/Gateron keycaps is my personal favourite of all the keycaps I’ve tried. Up close, the skin-like, pore-ish texture of the /dev/tty is an immediate turnoff (and downright icky if you ask me!), while the stock Realforce keycaps have too visible and rough a texture to my liking. Meanwhile, ePBT keycaps have a texture that’s soft to the touch, yet provide just enough friction to rest your fingers on. Very nice.

However, the keycaps are not all perfect.

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As seen in the photo above, the edges of the keycaps are pretty jagged and rough. In some cases, there are even extra PBT bits protruding outwards from the keycaps. Nothing that a file can’t solve, but I wish it were better. You get jagged edges with most PBT sets, even the more expensive ones like IMSTO Ural. However, the edges on /dev/tty are near perfect on every key and are the benchmark of PBT quality (as in the keycap itself, not the legends) to me so seeing burrs on the ePBT is off-putting.

Warping is a serious issue that past iterations of ePBT/Gateron caps and most PBT keysets face. In many cases, the long modifier keys and spacebars are so warped that even with the most well-lubed of stabilizers, they would cause an uneven depress and as such cause the stabilizer to rattle.

In the case of the ePBT 9009, warping is still an issue on the longer keys, but much less so. On the shorter keys like both shifts, backspace and enter, warping is a mild issue at best. The keys look relatively straight on all 3 axes and probably won’t cause an issue with your stabilizers. Peep these photos:

Shift Warping .001

Even the spacebars are relatively straight on all the axes, with /dev/tty edging out ePBT and IMSTO VERY slightly in the 6.25u test, and with both 7u ePBT and IMSTO spacebars performing admirably. Well done, ePBT. While I may have gotten lucky with this set and have no warped spacebars in them, this is very promising as most ePBT sets I’ve seen have had bad 7u spacebars. Are the days of banana modifier keycaps finally gone? See for yourself:

Space Warping .001Space Warping .002Space Warping .003Space Warping .004

Legend Quality

Legend.001

Legend quality is an often overlooked part of keyset design. I mean, as a touch typist myself, I don’t even look at my keyboard while typing so it shouldn’t matter that much, right? Well idgaf and I like my legends so why I can sometimes be very anal passionate about it. The way I did this part of the review is by IRL pixel peeping the legends for inconsistencies and comparing them to my IMSTO dye-subbed set. IMSTO is renowned in the community for making the best dye-subs ever, so if past ePBT keysets are any indication, they *should* be blown out of the water here.

Surprisingly, from a distance, none of the keycaps stood out as atrocious, which surpassed my expectations of it already. At a glance, that already makes it better than the tilted by an angle, off-center and feather-prone /dev/tty set. And we all know it’s gonna be better than JTK. Get your shit together, JTK.

Another good thing I noticed about ePBT (and IMSTO Ural) is that the legends have mostly consistent cap and midline heights. To illustrate what I mean:

leading

Many keysets out there cannot get it right 100% of the time because it takes a lot of design effort for it to be so. Well done.

Legend Comparison.001

In the above close up images of the 8/* key, we can see that the legends of the ePBT keycap are very sharp, possibly even sharper than the IMSTO one, though I do not have a microscope on hand to verify. This could be due to the darker black utilized in the ePBT keycap, or due to the fact that I’m not looking close enough, but I truly believe the sharpness on the ePBT cap is similar to the IMSTO one. Another positive.

However, like the rest of the keyset, there are some flaws in ePBT’s dye-sub that stem not from the quality of the dye-sub process but from the typography used in their raw files.

Legend Comparison.002

Against the Realforce key, ePBT wins hands down as the Realforce key has way too much feathering around the legends. The Realforce key has cleaner lines and zero flaws that I can make out, but its lines are not sharp at all.

Here are more pictures comparing the legends side-by-side with IMSTO:

Legend.003Legend.004Legend.005

One problem I noticed with the ePBT spacebar row keys is that they are shifted up away from the center axis. When I first noticed it, I thought it was an optical illusion or something because every other key was centered well. But up close, it definitely fails the eye test. In the case of the IMSTO, every, and I mean EVERY legend is centered correctly. Minus points for the ePBT here.

Legend.002

Legend.006

Kerning is another issue as seen in the picture above. On the one End (ha!), the letters are too close and are touching each other on the ‘End’ key; on the other, the space between the ‘i’ and the ‘o’ on ‘Option’ is so big your mother will fit in it. Plus points for me for being able to hang with the teens with that joke, minus points for ePBT for that spacing.

Kerning.001

There is inconsistent kerning on most of the other word legend keys too as seen in the picture above.

Overall, though, ePBT 9009 only falls slightly behind IMSTO Ural in terms of typography, kerning and centering while besting all three of /dev/tty, HHKB and Realforce keycaps. It still has some egregious issues with legends, but it’s nothing that can’t be fixed in future iterations of EnjoyPBT. I like ’em. A lot.

Sound

Now I’m just going to start by saying PBT is my preferred keycap material for sound AND IT SHOULD BE YOURS TOO. I kid, but I’ve tried many keycap materials in many profiles and I found myself going back to /dev/tty’s PBT for the best sounding keycaps. So how does Gateron/ePBT caps sound compared to /dev/tty?

The ePBT caps have a slightly higher-pitched, softer in volume bottom out sound compared to /dev/tty’s louder, more full and deeper bottom out. The ePBT caps are more consistent in its sound (which sometimes makes it dull, but that’s a matter of preference) compared to the more lively, dare I say even musical sound of the /dev/tty.

In the grand scheme of things, ePBT sounds amazing in its own right and definitely sound better than some other PBT (DSA, XDA) and ABS (SA, GMK, etc) keycaps, but I still prefer the more inconsistent but fun /dev/tty bottom out.

Typing

In my opinion, there’s not much to say here other than the fact that Cherry profile is the far superior layout compared to anything I’ve used over the years. I’ll be writing a Long Term Review on Cherry profile in the coming months but in short, I prefer cylindrical keycaps because they are easier to move between rows with and I prefer a lower profile sculpted set because I’m just not used to typing on a high profile set (that’s why I cannot use /dev/tty for any extended period) or a flat set (DSA and SA R3, BEGONE!). This set being run in Cherry profile is the best thing KBDFans could have done in this regard.

Conclusion

If you have 120 dollars to blow on a keyset, and you like the 9009 colorway, buy this one. Everything about this keyset in terms of layout, keycap quality, legend quality, sound and typing feel is on the better end of what’s available in the keyboard community. KBDFans is a reputable seller with very good communication so I have no qualms recommending them to anyone in this hobby. EnjoyPBT has stepped up their game and, in my opinion, officially stepped into the big league. With improvements to their typography and maybe the introduction of 5-sided reverse dye-sub for custom color keysets, ePBT has the potential to be the biggest player in this space.

As of the time of writing, there are still some sets available directly from KBDFans and some available on r/mechmarket.

I’m not sponsored by KBDFans btw. I just really like this set.

11 thoughts on “Review: EnjoyPBT 9009

    1. It’s definitely possible! There are a few JTK sets going into group buy phase soon that I’m interested, so I may get in on one of those and review it when it gets here!

  1. I found out something interesting while replacing an inexpensive AliExpress set with ePBT 9009 (R4).

    It turns out that ePBT 9009 (and presumably other sets) shares a profile very closely, if not exactly, with at least one of the affordable sets from AliExpress.

    I am referring to a ‘Cherry’ profile PBT ‘Dolch’ set. This one here:

    https://www.aliexpress.com/item/Grey-Red-110-108-PBT-Keyboard-Keycap-Cherry-Profile-Dye-Sublimated-MX-Switch-For-Cherry-NOPPOO/32826060604.html?spm=a2g0s.9042311.0.0.79c24c4dSxxZMv

    Anyway, I took photos. Here’s the ENTER key of the ‘Dolch’ set beside 9009’s ENTER:

    https://imgur.com/V2NIrqH

    A number of keys looked absolutely identical in profile, as did the structure of the keys as revealed by the undersides.

    This leads me to believe that several manufacturers, or at least non ePBT production lines, are sharing equipment with official ePBT.

    The ‘Dolch’ keycaps are similar/identical in shape with 9009, but the material may be different. I lack the means to assess this, however.

    What’s interesting is that the $34 keycaps from AliExpress come packaged in trays in a nice reusable box, complete with keycap pullers and a brush, whereas $120 ePBT 9009 comes thrown together in two unmarked bags.

    Most interesting, the $34 set had no burrs or imperfections that I could detect, whereas my ‘D’ key and a couple of other alphas had burrs.

    See this photo thread for more info on the AliExpress Dolch set [there’s a comparison photo with 9009 on the numpad]:

    https://imgur.com/a/kFy1UfB

    Review thread of ‘Dolch’ set:

    1. 1. They share the same profile because Cherry profile is an industry standard. Keycaps like GMK, EnjoyPBT, BSP, OG Cherry and that KPRepublic set all use Cherry profile for their keycaps. That doesn’t mean that they’re using the same tooling, and I’m pretty sure KPRepublic’s tooling is different from that of EnjoyPBT. Just FYI!

      2. And yeah! There are some things that the cheaper KPRepublic set does that’s better than the EnjoyPBT set. That’s why the point of diminishing returns varies for different people in this hobby. What I can say for sure is that with ePBT, you’re paying for far superior legends and dye sublimation quality. Also, the keycaps themselves have gotten better over the years and no longer warp badly on the longer keys.

      Thanks for such a lengthy comment! I’m glad you’re engaging with the content this closely.

      2.

  2. True, Cherry profile is an industry standard. It just seemed to me that the construction [molds and such] seemed exactly the same between the ‘Dolch’ and ePBT keys. The Varmilo keycaps, said to be Cherry or SS2 profile, seemed noticeably different in shape – not ‘sisters’ like ePBT and this Dolch.

    Given how different manufacturers ‘share’ the same Gateron blanks, I thought this might be the case here. At least tooling-wise.

    But, I have to say, I am enjoying the feel of my new ePBT caps, and I don’t think they are using the same material as the AliExpress ‘Dolch.’ These ePBT keycaps are like airy popcorn, in a good way.

    In any event, I appreciate that ePBT is an ‘enthusiast’ grade keycap. It delivers the essentials into the hands of hobbyists and such, without gratuitous extras. The AliExpress set I was reviewing is probably aimed more at ‘entry-level,’ hence the additional utility items.

    I’m using 9009 round 4 here, and the legends are pretty good – by ePBT standards.

    No freakish legends. They’re mostly aligned properly. In general, the labels seem to be left-aligned, although some of the navigation-cluster keys appear almost centered. (“Insert” and “Delete”) And the small labels are a little too blurry or runny for my liking. The “Deal” key being an offender here. Not sharp enough. So there is that. The alphanumeric keys are fine.

    Your review was very informative, and helped convince me to buy the set. I also tried dev/tty last month, and it was revelatory.

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