Keyboard LED Question

Does anyone know how to change the white keyboard illumination LED color? While I appreciate having keyboard illumination, it’s literally painful to be lasered in the eyes while I’m trying to work in the dark. Ideally, I would want a spill-resistant keyboard with illuminated keys that just light up the letters and don’t leak light out the sides. (Here’s hoping that we see those features in a future spin, at least as an option. Take my money!) Absent that, though, I’d be happy if I could change the color to red.

At least with the Librem14 you can dim down the backlight a lot. The initial (lowest) setting is really pretty low, enough to see the keys in the dark and almost invisible leaks. The color can not be changed though, we have white only and also replacing the LEDs would be pretty complicated and close to impossible, you would need to break the keyboard assembly apart which is not meant to be taken apart. I am fairly sure that it would be trash afterwards.

Individual LEDs per key, well, I would say this is not totally impossible but would be pretty high effort and high cost - not so much the cost for the LEDs but design cost. You need traces to each LED then, you need the space under the key for the LED etc. This will make the mechanical and electronics design a lot more complicated. It would very likely need more energy to drive that many LEDs even if they are dimmed down. Each LED has its own efficiency then. Finally controlling all of them individually, I think that’s what you are suggesting here, would be a pretty massive undertaking. You would need an extra microcontroller to control such an LED matrix. Individual brightness will be close to impossible since you would need PWM outputs for each LED, which would be what, something like 60? Or you would need to use “smart” LEDs like WS2812 that can do the PWM themselves.

So, hmm… no, I do not think that we can do that any time soon… I’m sorry.

But try the dimming in the L14, that should already help the (little) leak.



Nicole is by far the most helpful CTO of any company anywhere in the world anytime in history. It is hard to imagine getting better than this. Fantastic.


Oh, thank you! :slight_smile:

We are all doing our very best within the limited capabilities we have.



Hi Nicole, first of all I’m sorry for the late reply. So as to the LED issue, I’m pleased to hear that the L14 has very low brightness. (I have an L15.) Honestly, if you can only have one LED color, then perhaps put it to a vote. Red seems by far the least offensive to the retinas. Purple or blue would be the worst, assuming equal lumens.

The second related issue is susceptibility to spilled liquids. By using a spill-resistant keyboard (as some Lenovos now have), we would eliminate the illumination leakage and also protect from spills at the same time. I’m sure it would be an attractive upgrade if you don’t want to make it a standard feature.

Oh dear, color discussion :wink: I usually try to stay out of this since this quickly moves to product design and then all hell breaks loose :wink: Design philosophy is not so much my cup of tea and I had plenty of discussions with designers that did not end well, so I try to stay out of it. BUT I will carry this forward to our design team, let’s see. But seriously, dimmed low the white LED backlight on the L14 is really totally non intrusive or offensive. But again, that’s just my opinion and I totally get it that others may disagree.

The spill resistant thing though is interesting, I will discuss this with the factory. Though I also have to say that at least concerning actual spills so far after thousands of laptops sold we only had reports for maybe a hand full of spill events. So actual (bad) spills do not seem to happen that often.

But I am curious, why do think that a spill resistant keyboard would also help with the illumination leakage? Is there any intrinsic reason for it? Sorry if I sound a bit naive here but I have not looked deeply into spill resistant keyboards yet.


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I had spill incident with L13 and didn’t report it. Everything survived, except few keys stopped work. So it works only with external keyboard. I will try to NOT do same test with L14, but it would be nice to know if it’s more resistant or not.

White light generally contains blue light of the frequencies near blue-green that activate the photoreceptors in the ganglion neurons in your retina that are the primary input of the SCN (supra-chiasmatic nucleus) which is the “master clock” of your body.

Red light generally does not contain those frequencies of blue light. Hence, red light is safe to leave on when you want your body clock to think it is night. White light, in contrast, can mess up your body clock,
interfering with sleep and causing other health problems.

This isn’t a design issue. It’s a health issue.

ADDED LATER: I am not sure about how conclusive this is, but it is thought that the blue light that tells the SCN it is daytime can get through your eyelids to reach the retina in sufficient amounts that the SCN will generally conclude that it is daytime even if you are sleeping (and hence have eyes closed). Less than 10 minutes exposure seems to be ignored so it is okay to turn the light on at night if you can be quick about it.

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Suffice to say that Joe is right: this is a health issue (sleep disruption and retinal degeneration), not so much an aesthetic one. Photobiomodulation is a real thing, and it’s not always helpful.

I’m also persistently undisciplined enough to keep beverages near my keyboard. I suspect I’m not the only one doing so, given that coffee cups are perhaps the last surviving remnants of brick-and-mortar offices for remote workers. Therefore spills will happen. Therefore you already have a market for this paid upgrade on your next model.

As to spill-resistant keyboards, the reason they prevent light leakage is that the keys are all sealed around the base against liquids, and thus also light. You end up with only the letters being illuminated, which is the way it should be.

Big thanks for passing this onto the design team!

I wish I were so lucky, Honza. Some of my keys have been going into random repeat spasms. I literally need to shut off “[” storms every hour or so. The damage is permanent because the keyboard has long since dried out.

Where did you hear that non-red light could cause retinal degeneration? That would be quite interesting to read more about if there’s evidence for it.

(The connection between blue light and the SCN (master body clock) is fairly well established by now, so I’m not asking about that.)

Well, it seems like the answer is that, at the illumination levels in this context, no significant retinal damage will occur. Apparently this is an issue in brighter sources, though – especially toward the blue end of the spectrum.

Just my 2 or 5 cents:

  • Are you aware that your Librem 15 has two levels of backlight (just to make sure you did’t accidentally miss that)
  • With the screen at 15% (3 ticks above black), and this forum in dark mode, it emits about as much light as the keyboard backlight in low-mode, maybe 25-30% in high mode. It’s really not that much light.
  • I’d be happy with:
    • Keep as is
    • Warm-White LEDs
    • RGBWW backlight (globally, not per key)
    • water proof with light only through the characters

I guess I could deal with warm white as well if there were a low-intensity mode, as there is on L14 today. And thanks but I already know about the 2 levels on L15. Low is still annoying, personally.

I totally agree that there’s no need for per-key illumination; if we were to use global backlight instead, and it resulted in some degree of illumination variability, that would be acceptable. Just please, no more gaps for light or liquids.