RGB backlighting has been used in gaming keyboards for many years. Since its introduction, almost all gaming companies have adopted this lighting technology into their keyboards. While its popularity has slowly diminished in recent years, RBG lighting is still included in almost any modern gaming or custom mechanical keyboard.
RGB backlighting is one of the many features found on gaming and custom mechanical keyboards. Backlighting allows users to express their personality by customizing the keyboard lighting. The feature on keyboards can range from subtle accent lights to full lighting effects across the entire keyboard.
For this article, we will be giving a brief overview and the common uses for LEDs and RGB lighting. We will also be going through some common software used for backlit gaming keyboards.
A Brief Background to RGB Backlighting in Keyboards
LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, had started as visual indicators for circuits and other parts of small electronics. Early models had little in ways of lumens output but were accordingly conservative in terms of energy consumption.
Over time, LEDs were taken and iterated upon until they were bigger and brighter and could even stand to be used outdoors. In modern times, LEDs have a wide usage across both industrial and home, but electronics and devices are still using them.
RGB refers to the red, green, and blue light with multi-color LEDs. This operates on the theory that overlapping red, blue, and green lights let any strip of light portray all the colors within the spectrum that the human eye can perceive.
This is why RGB LEDs are so often used for lighting in computers. Not just keyboards but also various products that use light both for aesthetic and illumination, such as RGB strips found in your gaming desks or diffuser lamps. Worthy to note also is that technology has made it possible for RGB to harmonize in computer ecosystems, such as lighting effects that synchronize with music through software and more.
Applying lighting to a device depends on the build and make of said device, and for the keyboards, the lights are often placed under the keycaps. Of course, some mod their boards to have additional lighting, like applying LED strips to the sides, but generally, keyboard lighting in manufacturing comes in two ways:
Single-Color LED Backlighting
Single-color LED backlighting is exactly as the name suggests: the backlighting for the keyboard only comes in a single color. It can still have lighting presets, like how a key lights up only when you press it and whatnot, but the color stays the same.
This allows for a simpler, minimalist aesthetic instead of the rainbow technicolor of the standard gaming design. It’s favored by those who work in offices or don’t want to deal with all the flashing lights and is generally a bit easier on the eyes than the RGB technicolor.
Per-Key RGB Backlighting
Per-key RGB backlighting works differently from single-color LEDs because it can display almost all colors visible to the human spectrum of sight and can be configured down to the individual key. Per-key RGB lighting can be meticulously edited to the user’s preference through software from whatever the keyboard’s manufacturer is.
That software offers various customization for lighting, which can even extend beyond the RGB lighting of the keyboard to every single item within the user’s set-up that has connected RGB effects. This allows for a truly connected lighting set-up that can greatly enhance the aesthetics and usage of lighting.
Larger companies have dedicated software for letting the user configure their set-up to their preferences, and Logitech’s is called the Logitech G Hub. The part of the software that deals with the RGB lighting technology are called the LightSync LED and lets you control all connected computer peripherals, like mice, keyboards, speaker and, headsets. It allows for custom lighting templates, synchronization of all device lighting, or, if you don’t want any strobing lights, can shut everything off.
Razer’s lighting software is called Razer Chroma. Razer Chroma has much of the same customization and effects as the aforementioned LightSync and other effects like dynamic lighting (where the lighting reacts to sounds and music).
However, the main draw lies in how the Razer Chroma can also detect and control LED devices beyond the computer unit, so long as it is enabled. This allows for even smart home application and lighting profiles and effects control.
Corsair‘s lighting software is called iCUE. It boasts a single interface for control over a large set-up involving LED lighting. It has all the standard effects one might expect from lighting software, much like the software mentioned above.
It also allows adjustment between moods, switching smoothly between lighting presets instead of sticking to one and manually making the user change it within the settings.
Positioning of LEDs in the keyboard
If you are new to mechanical keyboards, it may confuse newcomers when enthusiasts start discussing direction. What direction they’re referring to would be the direction the keys should face. There are two:
North-facing switches have the LED through-hole (or general area thereof) facing away from the user and towards the top of the keyboard when placed within the keyboard’s PCB. These are the more commonly used type of switch direction.
Due to the north positioning, the LEDs can shine through more brightly than when in contrast with a south-facing switch. However, the direction does cause some interference for the standard Cherry profile keycaps.
South-facing switches have the LED through-hole (or general area thereof) facing the user and away from the top of the keyboard when placed within the keyboard’s PCB. These are the less commonly used type of switch direction.
The south positioning allows switches have no interference with the standard Cherry profile keycaps. However, as aforementioned, it does mean that it doesn’t have as much of a shine-through as the north-facing switches.
Is RGB-Backlighting on Keyboards a Necessity?
RGB backlighting is something of a premium feature. That’s why keyboards that carry it tend to cost more, other than the additional material to make it so, but also because of the enhanced aesthetics RGB lighting gives. But for, those who are still deciding whether or not to buy a keyboard with such features may want to know what the exact benefits of having RGB backlighting might give.
Highlight Favorite Keys
RGB lighting and customization allow the user to highlight their favorite keys. Like the navigation keys or the WASD keys to make them stand out.
The customization options would let users color-code any hotkeys or hotkeys they may have made or used the most. This will let users use their keys faster and easier.
The reactive lighting settings could also help in high-stakes, fast-paced gaming. Like reacting to every sound the game makes, allowing players to recognize when an enemy is approaching. Besides enemy alerts, the lighting can let players highlight specific keys needed for each game.
And last but not least, it allows the users to match the lighting to the rest of their system and enhances the look of the computer unit and the user’s mood.
Using a Desk Lamp as an Alternative to RGB Backlighting
Maybe even with all the settings and benefits and beautification needs listed, you’re not a fan of the price increase. Or put, your preferences lie somewhere that doesn’t involve strobing lights while you work.
This is understandable. The lighting effects tend to add visual noise and may distract some users.
Therefore, use a table lamp if you want to see your keyboard legends within a dim room. It’s a cheaper, ergonomic solution that doesn’t involve waves of neon. Lamps can be used for other purposes, even when away from the computer, with multiple uses. It doesn’t need the user to learn about software mechanics or synchronization, making it easier to use.
In summation, RGB backlighting is more of a bonus than a need. Those who are willing to invest more money for all the lighting effects often posted on social media by influencers are an excellent way to control the mood and lighting of the room. It isn’t needed for those who don’t want such a thing, and users can always use other means of lighting to see their keyboard.