Best Backlit Keyboards

Updated August 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

36 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
227 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Buying guide for best backlit keyboards

Last Updated August 2019

Do you find yourself working late or gaming after dark? If so, a backlit keyboard can make it easier to get your work done or beat your top score. Illuminated keys let you use your keyboard at any time, night or day.

Keyboard design and functionality grow continually more sophisticated as technology advances and gaming requirements change. Whether you're a serious gamer or not, a backlit keyboard can increase your productivity. Our shopping guide takes you through the main considerations you need to think about, along with the features you’re most likely to find on backlit keyboards.

And don't forget to take a look at our top picks for the keyboards we think strike the right balance between functionality and price.

Backlit keyboards can be either mechanical or membrane. Mechanical keyboards have that distinct clacking sound and respond better and faster when you’re typing or gaming. Membrane keyboards rely on pressure sensitivity and generally don’t last as long as mechanical models.

Key considerations

Wireless vs. wired

Your first big decision is between wireless and wired keyboards.

  • Wireless: Wireless keyboards declutter your space and let you get comfortable when you’re using them. However, you do have to think about power and connectivity. Some models rely on rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, while others use standard alkaline. If it’s rechargeable, you’ll have stay on top of recharging so you’re not left without a keyboard. Wireless keyboards use either radio frequency (RF) or Bluetooth to connect to your devices.

    • RF keyboards are usually 2.4 GHz, as are many other household devices, which can lead to issues with interference.

    • Bluetooth keyboards eat up batteries more quickly and might require that a dongle be inserted into one of the USB slots on your device. Sometimes keyboards with Bluetooth have problems pairing with devices, or they can be slow to come out of sleep mode.

  • Wired: If you want to skip the unpredictability of a wireless model, stick to a traditional wired keyboard. They're always charged and you don't have to worry about connectivity. But, of course, you're limited in range, though some models come with a five-foot cord that still lets you get comfortable.

Layout

Not all keyboards are laid out in the same way. Some have a touch pad below the space bar while others have a touch pad to the right of the keyboard. And still other designs eliminate the touchpad altogether. Compact or lightweight designs may eliminate a separate number pad as well. How you plan to use the keyboard can help you decide on the best layout.

Size and weight

While keyboards come in various sizes and weights based on the layout and design, you'll find three basic categories:

  • Full-size: Everything on a full-size keyboard is, as the name implies, the usual size. These have 104 keys, a separate number pad, and function keys, and some shortcut keys may be included. If you have the room and the keyboard will stay in the same spot all the time, there's no reason not to get a full-size model. It has everything you need and usually feels the most natural to use.

  • Compact: Will you be carrying your keyboard in a briefcase, messenger bag, or backpack? If so, a compact model will take up less space and is usually lighter in weight. What “compact” means varies by manufacturer. Some use smaller keys, others eliminate extras like a separate number pad or arrow keys, and some do both as well as eliminate the surrounding case.

  • Thin/lightweight: Both full-size and compact models can also come in thin and/or lightweight versions. If you need all the keys on a full-size model but want to take your keyboard when you travel, a thin full-size model is probably what you need.

Compatibility

Some backlit keyboards lose a few of their functions when used with a Linux system or older versions of Windows. Make sure to check the specifications on both your device and the keyboard to make sure they’re compatible.

A warranty can give you some peace of mind if the keyboard stops working. Many manufacturers offer a two-year warranty. If you’re comparing two similar keyboards, opt for the one with a longer warranty.

Staff
BestReviews

Backlit keyboard features

Brightness

Even an inexpensive backlit keyboard should have some brightness adjustments that are easy to use. Pricier models might have five or more brightness levels with a key devoted to brightness control.

Keys

  • Size: Key size comes into play if you’re buying a backlit keyboard for visibility purposes. Some keyboards have large keys, bigger spaces between keys, and large lettering for improved visibility.

  • Hot keys: Full-size backlit keyboards may contain several hot keys to launch common programs and functions like Windows, Print Screen, and Pause/Break. Other models give you the option of programming some hot keys for gaming purposes. Compact and lightweight models might eliminate these keys to cut back on space and weight.

Noise reduction

The clacking of a keyboard can be disruptive in an office setting, dorm room, or other shared personal space. Some keyboards have noise reduction technology that dampens the sound each key makes.

Colors

Some backlit keyboards come with fun light and color settings. Some models have only one color option, though you might be able to buy the keyboard in one of several different colors. Other keyboards allow you to pick any color on the RGB spectrum. Some models allow you to change the color in certain keyboard sectors, which can be helpful when gaming. Others have lighting effects that intensify based on your typing speed, adding to the excitement of a game.

NKRO and anti-ghosting

  • NKRO: For most office work you don't need to worry about N-key rollover (NKRO). If you'll be using the keyboard for gaming, it's definitely something you want to think about. Keyboards with NKRO recognize the press of each key no matter how many of them are pressed simultaneously. Keyboards without this ability might only recognize a certain number of key combinations. Without this feature, key combinations needed for gaming or use with programs like Photoshop might not be recognized by the keyboard. NKRO isn't that important for general use, but if you'll be using specific key commands and functions, you should probably look for a model with NKRO.

  • Anti-ghosting: Some keyboards have anti-ghosting rather than NKRO. These models recognize up to a certain number of simultaneous keystrokes. That number may be a few or high enough, around 25, that they function like keyboards with NKRO.
EXPERT TIP

If you use a keyboard for extended periods of time or have carpal tunnel syndrome, look for a full-size model that includes a soft rubber wrist rest.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

You don't necessarily need a full-size keyboard to have keys that are easy to read. There are compact models with large, laser-edged lettering that enhance visibility and cut back on key size.


Staff  | BestReviews

Backlit keyboard prices

Inexpensive: You can find a basic backlit keyboard for less than $20. These models usually only have one color and don’t have any gaming features.

Mid-range: Once you get into the $20 to $40 range, the keyboards come with a whole host of features like five light levels, multiple color choices, and 25-key anti-ghosting.

Expensive: In the $40 to $60 range are keyboards with NKRO, aluminum casing options, and multiple color choices. There are more thin/lightweight models at this price, though they might not have all the gaming features.

Premium: Backlit keyboards that cost more than $60 have all the bells and whistles like NKRO, color options, and hot keys, and might include a gaming mouse. You’ll see lightweight models with full gaming functionality at this price, too.

Tips

  • Choose a keyboard with auto shutoff. You can save the battery life of your wireless keyboard by choosing a model that automatically turns off the backlighting when the keyboard’s inactive.

  • Clean your keyboard regularly. For the keyboard to function properly, it needs to be maintained and cleaned regularly. All it takes is compressed air to blow dust and grime from between the keys and a little rubbing alcohol on a cotton swab to wipe off the keys.

  • Try an ergonomic keyboard. An ergonomic backlit keyboard might be a good choice if you have limited wrist mobility or a medical condition like carpal tunnel syndrome.

Other products we considered

We limited our recommended products list to the top five, but here are a couple of models that still might be a good choice for you. The EagleTec KG010 Mechanical Keyboard is a relatively inexpensive mechanical keyboard with N-key rollover. It has five colors and just as many lighting modes. We like that you can also customize the light settings. The Velocifire VM01 Mechanical Keyboard is designed for professionals and has the brown switches that are perfect for quiet typing in a workplace or dorm room. The heavy, durable keyboard makes this one feel far more expensive than it is.

Some keyboards include pre-programmed lighting patterns. These models allow you to pick certain keys or areas on the keyboard to highlight based on your gaming needs.

FAQ

Q. Are there keyboards that will let me light certain sections in different colors?
A.
Backlit keyboards designed for gaming might give you the option of lighting certain sections in a particular color. This feature is designed to speed gaming responses. Other models might not allow you to change the color of a certain section but give you the option of lighting one section over another with the purpose of enhancing your gaming experience.

Q. Do keyboards use a Bluetooth dongle to connect wirelessly?
A.
Some keyboards require the use of a dongle, which plugs into one of your USB ports. However, some keyboards have an internal Bluetooth connection, eliminating the need for a dongle.

Q. Are there backlit keyboards that resist spills?
A.
A spill-resistant keyboard might be hard to pass by, but you should know exactly what that term means. Typically, a backlit keyboard that’s advertised as spill resistant has a polymer film installed over vulnerable components, protecting them from moisture. Others might be designed to channel water away from the keyboard’s vulnerable areas. However, no keyboard is completely waterproof, so hang on to your drinks.

The team that worked on this review
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    Web Producer
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    Post Production Editor

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