Laptop or notebook computers have a built-in keyboard, whereas tablet computers do not (except for the "convertible" tablets). Handheld computers normally have a numeric keyboard, but not a QWERTY alphanumeric keyboard. In all cases, external keyboards can be connected to any portable computer, usually through a USB port. Also, wireless keyboards are also very popular.

The size of the keyboard in a laptop is closely tied to the screen size. With an ultra-portable, small screen-size laptop, the keyboard is compressed and may not be as easy to type on as the larger keyboards in the 14" and 15" laptops. External keyboards can be chosen in just about any size to fit the intended usage. For example, a small external keyboard is normally preferred when the computer and keyboard are to be mounted in a vehicle. Keyboards also vary greatly in price. A small plastic keyboard could cost as little as $35 whereas a fully-rugged, heavy-duty backlit keyboard could cost as much as $375.

Backlit Keyboard

Another common optional feature with rugged computers is the backlit keyboard. In the typical backlit keyboard, each key has a tiny light bulb in it which allows the user to see the keys clearly at night or in poor lighting conditions. In a vehicle environment, many computer users would rather have the backlit keyboard feature than needing to constantly have their vehicle's dome light on. This is particularly true in a police car or other emergency vehicles.

Task Lights and Other

There are other ways to light-up the keyboard than the backlit method. A few models of rugged laptops have phosphorous in the keys. This allows the keyboard to be "lit" for a few hours after being removed from a light source. Other models have a LED keyboard light mounted in the display screen. The task light is pointed at the keys and can be turned on and off at the user's discretion. And finally some users will buy and attach a small keyboard light to their laptop display.

Group Mobile Comment: Please ask one of our sales engineers about the various keyboard sizes and types if you have any uncertainly about which option is best for you.