Seven color choices and six lighting modes. Up to 25 keys can be pressed at once, making it a great option for most gamers. Responsive keys that aren’t too loud. Includes a heavy mouse with a smooth glide. Uses Bluetooth.
Lights reset and flash every time you restart the keyboard.
Excellent lighting that can be adjusted to your preference. Can easily be seen even next to a bright monitor. RGB lighting offers different colors and settings. Excellent keyboard for the price.
A few users had issues with sticky keys.
Incredibly lightweight at only 0.3 pounds. Small enough to easily fit in a backpack or briefcase. Bluetooth connectivity works well. Compatible with four of the major operating systems. Battery lasts a long time.
Battery indication light doesn’t come on until the batteries nearly depleted.
The aluminum and blue backlight option give it a futuristic appearance. Great, responsive mechanical keys. Comes in different finishes with different lighting colors, including an RGB option.
The keys hit the aluminum casing while typing, making it louder than normal.
We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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: 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.