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What is a Lighted Keyboard?

Back-lit keyboards are a standard feature on Apple's MacBook line.
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  • Written By: R. Kayne
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 15 April 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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A lighted keyboard is backlit with LED lights so that external lights are not necessary to see the keys. If you cannot type by touch, a lighted keyboard is very handy for working or gaming in dimly lit rooms. Most models use a Universal Serial Bus (USB) port to connect to the computer or laptop, and feature two, rear, one-inch (2.54 cm) kickstands to set the keyboard up at an angle.

There are many sizes and layouts for lighted keyboards from small laptop-sized models to standard, gaming, and large multimedia keyboards. However, there are only two basic ways to design a lighted keyboard: either illuminate a clear board and use black lettering on the keys; or use opaque keyboards and illuminate the characters on the keys instead. Both types of lighted keyboards have their advantages and disadvantages and which is better usually comes down to personal preference.

If the keyboard is clear with black lettering, it will throw off a fair amount of light when lit because the entire keyboard shines. Some people might find the extra light these models generate helps them to see the keys better, while others might simply think it’s visually appealing. Others might find these models throw off too much light for their liking, and that looking at a shining keyboard can be harsh on sensitive or tired eyes.

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The other type of lighted keyboard uses a standard-appearing opaque keyboard in black or bone. When the keyboard is backlit, the characters on the keys glow or shine. The LED backlight also creates a lattice of light between the keys, outlining them against the baseboard. These keyboards throw off less light overall, but some people with visual disabilities might find illuminated characters harder to read than illuminated keys.

Many lighted keyboards are directed towards the gaming market and will include special navigation or programmable keys. Some models are larger than standard keyboards to accommodate special functions and media buttons, and many have advanced features like adjustable levels of backlight for varying ambient light conditions.

Aside from standard QWERTY or placement of the letters themselves, many specialized or aftermarket keyboards incorporate designs that change the position or size of certain keys hoping to improve the convenience of using the board. For touch-typists or someone already used to a standard layout, a learning curve can come with using a non-standard keyboard and sometimes that learning curve pays off and the new layout is friendlier. If, however, you prefer certain keys in certain places, be sure to check placement while admiring the shine of a lighted keyboard.

Backlit keyboards are specialty items that might not be available in all brick-and-mortar computer outlets. However, many online stores stock these popular products. Cost varies widely depending on features, with most models priced between $20 and $100 US Dollars (USD).

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