I’ve been a fan of backlit keyboards since college. More specifically during finals time where I was just overleaded with late assingments while preparing for finals at the same time for which I had to lock myself up in the library. Most of the time overnight.
I had a backlit keyboard back then the problem was there was no brightness levels which is why I decided to look for the best laptops with backlit keyboards .
Why opt for backlit keyboard where you can adjust brightness levels?
To save up battery. The darker the room you’re in, the less brightness you need and the less battery you’ll use.
Of course, after I found my pick, it became more useful for other resons too:
- To play video games in the dark (I didn’t want to hit the wrong button in a raid)
- To write documents on wee hours . Since everyone’s catching ZzZz you might want to get a silent keyboard here too.
I found out it also became useful to:
- Avoid hitting up the page up and down buttons accidentally. It sucks to end up at the end of the page especially when you have a writing a very long document.
- Check out Facebook before going to bed.
Tactile Feedback + BackLit Keyboard
Beware though that just having a backlit keyboard doesn’t necessarily make your laptop’s keyboard great to type on.
So make sure your laptop’s keyboard has great tactile feedback. That’s just fancy word for responsive keys that easily registers what keys are pressed without much force. These are usually keyboards either get travel distance (thicker) or with a great design (to make them responsive like the MacBooks).
Anyways, this list will only include laptops with backlit keyboards AND responsive keyboards. If there’s data published about how much travel distance they have, I will mention it in the descriptions. I will also mention other features like keyboard type and finish.
If you don’t know ANYTHING about keyboard descriptions or computer jargon, then jump to the last section. You’ll find a brief summary of what you need to know to pick up the best keyboard on your own.
This list is big because it’s meant to have a pick for every type of user: gamers, writers, office workers and people with a little budget.
I apologize if it’s a bit too long , just keep scrolling down until there’s one that suits your needs and budget.
AMD Ryzen 3 3200U
4GB RAM DDR4
Vega 3 Graphics
15” TN full HD 1080p
Acer Aspire 5 Slim vs ASUS VivoBook 14 Slim:
The ASUS VivoBook 14 featured here is not the cheapest laptop with a backlit keyboard that will be the Acer Aspire shown below:
However, the Acer Aspire 5 has a sort of an old processor : the ryzen 3 3200U is a 3rd generation (1st actually) CPU and we are in the 6th generation (or 4 to be more correct). That’s 3 generations behind!
The Ryzen 3 3200U is not a slow and old processor but you can get a much hardware set up now if you add 40 more bucks to your budget. The ASUS VivoBook here only costs about 40-50$ more but it includes the latest 11th gen Core i3 CPU (the fastest CPUs on budget laptops) as well as a backlit keyboard on a very thin design.
I would this is perfect for students, office works and just about anyone who’s after a snappy workflow when using everyday tasks.
Travel distance: 1.4mm – medium travel distance
Type: Full sized island type keyboard; does not include a numpad
Backlit: Can be turned on and off with F7 as shown below:
Backlit keyboard has not brightness levels you can only turn it off and on. It does not have a sensor to detect light surrounding conditions but as an added bonus it has a fingerprint reader.
2. MacBook Air
Best Laptop Keyboard
M1 Chip CPU
M1 Chip GPU
13.3” Retina IPS
All MacBooks have awesome keyboards and that’s fact. Even the older versions outdo most windows laptops. In fact, the older versions (those pre-2017) were reviewed as teh best keyboards on ultrabooks especially those models which kept the original keyboard design of Steeve Jobs which went on until 2017 basically.
So if you can’t afford the newest M1 Chip model, you can go for the older models, their keyboards are just as good. You’d be surprised to find their price can gp as low as at $200 (11 inch models) and as low as $300 for the 13 inch models with a keyboard that just blows most windows laptop’s keyboards out of the water AND a backlit feature too.
However, I’d advice you not to buy those MacBooks made between 2017-2019. I’m typing this review on a 2019 MacBook and although the touchbar and the automatic backlit feature is nice, it’s just not as responsive as the older or newer versions.
Travel distance: as low as 0.8mm yet still as responsive and “clicky” as a typewriter.
Type: chiclet type keyoard, no numpad (even the bigger models lack one). Only the 2018-2019 models lack the FN keys (due to the touchbar).
Backlit: brightness levels can be justed through the FN key.
It includes sensors: Light sensors are placed near speaker grilles. Which activate the backlit feature as soon as you step into a low-illumination area.
You can program it to turn off after a certain period of inactivity.
Intel Celeron N3350 Up to 2.4 GHz
4GB RAM DDR3
14″ Full HD (1920 x 1080) IPS
Despite being cheap as hell a lot of ChromeBooks have a backlit feature.
The reason is simple. ChromeBooks do not need the latest hardware, tons of ram or large storage to run fast. They all run fast regardless because Chrome OS ( the OSX ) isn’t hardware demanding plus software doesn’t need to be install on it but rather it’s used through the cloud and as web-based app.
This is why manufacturers have plenty of money left to add extra cool features like the backlit keyboard. The lack of high hardware need also accounts for the super long battery lives they have.
Their keyboards are surprisingly good because they have high travel distances (there is a lot of space left for thicker keys because it doesn’t even need ventilation or extra hardware)
Now this is not a premium ChromeBook so it lacks a few features like the IPS display but it’s got a backlit feature. Currently selling for about $200!
Travel distance: medium travel distance 1.5mm
Type: Chiclet keyboard; no numpad, FN keys are included
Backlit: Basic ON/OFF backlit feature. No brightness level adjustments. No sensor either.
BackLit KeyBoard Laptop ASUS
Ryzen 7 5700U Up to 4.3Hz / 8 Cores
RX vega 7
512GB PCIe NVMe SSD
13.3” full HD IPS NanoEdge (400 nits)
The ASUS ZenBooks models are a great (slightly) cheaper windows alternative to the MacBook Pro and the MacBook Air.
This 13” ASUS ZenBook in fact are a bit thinner and lighter than the MacBook Air. However, the keyboard isn’t nearly as good though it’s still a lot better than most windows laptops.
Backlit includes an auto-light sensor (sensor can be turned off)
Travel distance: 1.6mm
Type: clichet type keyoard, it has a numpad on the trackpad.
Backlit: Similar to MacBook Air’s backlit keyboard. Brightness levels can be adjusted and the light sensor feature (which turns off the backlightining in bright conditions) can be turned off as well.
Though there is no numpad on most ASUS ZenBooks, the newest model featured here has a “virtual numpad” on top of the trackpad. That is you can set the trackpad to turn into a numpad if you desire
Backlit Keyboard Laptop Lenovo
10GB RAM DDR4
Intel UHD Graphics
15” full HD IPS TouchScreen
This is the most budget friendly laptop I’ve found with storage and ram upgraded all the way up. You’re just not going to find a laptop with this much RAM and storage goodness and a backlit feature. I’d recommend this model to office works who need to save a lot of photo and videos on a computer.
Travel distance: 2mm
Type: Island type keyoard, no numpad
Backlit: Backlit Keyboard can be activated by pressing FN+Spacebar, two levels of brightness.
Great tactile feedback due to high travel distances which comes from being a relatively thick laptop.
6. 2022 HP 17
Intel Core i7-1065G7
32GB RAM DDR3
13” full HD TouchScreen 2 in 1 IPS
Another budget laptop with modern hardware just like the ASUS VivoBook and the Lenovo Idepad 3. However, it lacks the upgrades of the Lenovo and the resolution of the ASUS. Regardless it’s still faster than the ASUS VivoBook 14 and it’s got a much bigger display (17”).
Travel distance: 1.7 mm
Type: Cliche Type KeyBoard.
Backlit: Several steps for brightness levels.
Core i5, Core i7
Intel Iris Xe Graphics
128GB-1TB PCIe NVMe SSD
13” IPS 2880 x 1920
There are several 2-1 laptops with a backlit keyboard including but not limited to : the Lenovo Yogas, the HP Envy, the Surface Pro 8, etc.
Out of these, the Surface Pro is the only one with more advanced backlit featured and also the most lightweight and thin. Surprisingly the newest model is not that expensive and the older models are even less expensive.
The keyboard feels nice to type and it’s extremely responsive just like you’d expect from an ultrabook. However, it’s definitely flimsy and weak when it sits on your lap. You’re going to need a hard surface to place it on if you want to hit your fastest typing speeds.
Travel distance: 1.05-1.8mm
Type: clichet type keyoard, no numpad but has dedicated FN keys
Backlit: 3 levels of brightness.
16GB RAM DDR4
512GB PCIe NVMe SSD
15” IPS full HD 1080p
This is more of a business-like laptop as you can tell by it’s dark-colored theme and the apperance of a rock-solid design which in fact it’s true. The Thinkpads are one of the most well designed laptops on pair with the MacBooks in terms of manufacturing quality.
The key feature of the ThinkPads is their keybaords. They’re out of this world and pretty much on par with the MacBooks. Why?
If you look closely there’s a large shadow around the keys which looks like a lot of extra space. In fact, that’s just the side of the keyboard showing up at an angle. You can’t see it from all other laptops on this list because that is due to the fact this is a very high travel distance keyboard which makes it super responsive and very similar to a type-writer without requiring much force for characters to register.
Travel distance: 2.3mm
Type: Island KeyBoard. Full Sized Numpad.
Backlit: Two brightness levels.
11th gen Core i7-11800H up to 4.6 GHz / 8 Cores
16GB RAM DDR4
3050Ti RTX NVIDIA 4GB vRAM
1TB PCIe NVMe SSD
17” full HD IPS 1080p 500 nits
All Dell XPS models have awesome , thin and very responsive keyboards. They resemble the same thrill as the MacBooks when typing but unfortunately they still lack brightness level adjustment on their backlit feature. I picked this model because we already went through several budget , low performance for every-day tasks machines.
This is a very portable machine yet with enough power to blaze through pretty much any of the biggest titles and the most hardware demanding tasks. Mostly because it comes with one of the latest GPUs.
If you’d like a thinner smaller Dell XPS 13 because you don’t the need the huge amount of extra space this 17” brings or the dedicated GPU on board then check out this link:
Every Dell XPS laptop even those made several years ago will have a backlit feature, FYI.
Travel distance: 1.22mm
Type: huge island type keyboard includes full sized numerical keypad and all fn keys.
Backlit: a basic backlit keyboard which can be toggled on and off through the FN key + F7 key.
AMD Ryzen 7 5800H 3.2-4.2GHz (Turbo) 8 Cores
16GB DDR4 RAM
NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3050 Ti 4GB vRAM
1TB PCIe NVMe SSD
15” IPS full HD 60Hz
The most budget friendly gaming laptop I’ve seen so far with both a very powerful and recent GPU+CPU combo AND an RGB backlit keyboard.
It’s also pretty slim so it’s easier to carry and does not rely on high travel distance for tactile feedback. The laptop is slim and has a well designed low travel distance keyboard that’s both responsive and clicky.
You can find more gaming laptops with RGB keyboards.
But they’re not necessarily going to be cheap and slim at the same time.
Travel distance: 1.5 mm
Type: Full sized Island Type KeyBoard with a numerical keyboard and complete FN keys.
Backlit: Includes adjustments for backlit brightness levels and illumination set ups up two four different regions. Also includes highlighted QWER keys for emphasis when gaming.
It’s very important to be aware of what the features or specifications of keybaords are when you shop for a backlit keyboard or any type of keyboard really. This is not only useful to get the best keyboard but also to get the best bang for your buck.
Like I said, brightness levels can be just as important especially if you rely on battery life.
Not all backlit keyboards on laptops let you to control the brightness.
The ones that do will usually let you do so through one of the F keys.
It’s going to be very rare to find these type of backlit keyboards under $700 dollars though. It’s usually on very premium ultrabooks like the MacBooks, ASUS ZenBook, Dell XPS, Surface Laptop, etc.
Some of these ultrabooks will automatically adjust the brightness level based on how much light there’s around you. Thus if there is a lot light around, it will completely turn off. If you’re in a dark room they will turn on just but not go full brightness.
This is achieved through a sensor which takes light from your surroundings (kind of like a webcam). Don’t worry this sensor is not on all the time so it doesn’t drain much battery.
This is basically program or customize how you want your laptops to light up. In other words, which keys you want to light up and what color you want them light up with. You can also customize the pattern in which all light up together such as shown in the figure.
For example you can set a specific color to a group of keys(or even an individual keys) like the usual up down left and right ( WSAD keys) or have all keys transition back and forth from the same pattern of colors.
This is only available on gaming laptops. Not just any gaming laptop though only those expensive gaming rigs with the latest graphics cards and processors. Usually found on the big brands only : MSI, ASUS and Alienware. Not really available on newcomer brands. f
Now there are several problems that may come with a backlit keyboard. Usually due to the designer’s fault. The most common problem of these is backlit bleeding.
A good backlit design should have the light limited to the area under each key which results in illumating each symbol on top and nothing else.
No design is perfect there’s always going to be some degree of backlit bleeding. The problem starts when it’s way too much and the lights justaround around the edges too. I mean its not really a problem because I personally don’t mind this but it’s just something to keep in mind.
The usual culprit is having the keys placed too high with respective to the surface below.
Most cheap laptops with backlit keyboards will have a lot of backlit bleeding. Only the most premium ultrabooks will have little to no backlit bleeding.
Key travel is basically the distance they need to go down for the characters to register on screen.
High or slim doesn’t really matter as long as the design is good you should still be able to hit your fastest typing speeds.
Usually keyboards with high travel distances will have awesome tactile feedback and yes you’ll need to press a little harder on them but they’ll still be responsive. It’s not difficult to design a responsive keyboard once you have a lot of space, that’s why the usual desktop keyboards are very nice to type on.
Thus thick laptops like gaming or workstation laptops will usually opt for these types of keyboards because they’re cheaper to design and they’re still super responsive to type on.
Thick gaming and budget laptops will have 1.5 to 2mm of travel distance.
On the other hand…
If you’re buying a thin laptop, then you have to research high and low to make sure that the keys are well designed because there’s not much distance for them to go down and make them have a nice tactile feedback.
Ultrabooks like the MacBooks, ASUS ZenBook and Surface Laptop will usually have short travel distances but due to their awesome design they will still be super responsive. Another advantage of these ultrabooks is that they’re also less noisy.
The layout will be of two different types: island style and conventional.
Island keyboard simply have space around each key while conventional keys are all mashed together as you can see above. This is a matter of preference too.
I use both of them (one of them is external) and i have no problems switching back and ford between them . However since im more used to conventional keyboards, I can type much faster with them.
What Laptops Have BackLit Keyboards?
I’d say most laptops over $600 will have backlit keyboards. You’ll be lucky to find them under $400.
More specifically on….
Which are the most expensive thin laptops. They’ll have come with LED-illuminated keys. Price start around $700 and may go up to $1000. The MacBook Air and the Dell XPS 13 are the most expensive examples.
Basically every high-end gaming laptop from well-known brands (ASUS, MSI) with a high-end and expensive dedicated GPU will always have an RGB backlit keyboarda.
Only a selected few out of these will have the more fancy features we described before.
Ex: changing colors instantly, having the keys divided into sections through different coloring,etc.
They usually cost wel over $1000.
I’d say pretty much every ultrabook has it. It’s just a matter of tradition and competition. If you’re buying an ultrabook, you should think more about the price and specs rather than backlit keyboards because they will all have them.
It’s extremely rare to find backlit keyboards on budget laptops ($350-500) but it’s not impossible. You just need to start looking at those budget laptops with more “budget” friendly CPUs and storage because that tells you that the manufacturer has cut down prices enough to afford a backlit keyboard into the overall design.