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Much more than a gaming keyboard

For some time now, high-end {custom} keyboards just like the Satisfaction 75 have built-in OLED screens that might be programmed with custom-made animations.

More not too long ago, Steelseries received in on the enjoyable with their Apex Pro TKL. Now, Asus ROG is mixing issues up with the Strix Flare II Animate (one other mouthful-of-a-name product), which includes a huge single-color LED array occupying your complete high proper nook of the keyboard.

The Strix Flare II Animate, named for its animated LED show on the highest proper, is a trendy keyboard meant to be the tastefully shiny centerpiece of a PC gaming setup. Because of this, it comes with all of the bells and whistles: hot-swap sockets, shiny RGB LEDs each within the keyboard and within the wrist relaxation, custom-made multimedia controls, inside silencing, and a high-quality feeling that’s exhausting to seek out in pre-built mechanical keyboards at the moment.

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Fantastic typing

Okay, I’ll admit, I’m extremely robust when reviewing a keyboard’s typing expertise. However, ROG appears to have it discovered. For the value, the Strix Flare II Animate feels nice to sort on. The switches — ROG’s personal NX Red switches — are clean and so they have well-weighted springs, and your complete keyboard feels strong and steady with them put in. In addition, the keyboard’s built-in silencing truly works (I’m as stunned as you’re), eliminating the loud echoes and pings which might seemingly be current in any other case.

Honestly, I’m type of amazed by this keyboard’s typing.

Honestly, I’m type of amazed by this keyboard’s typing. The switches are a bit scratchy, however they’ve nearly no wobble, and the scratchiness is minimal sufficient that almost all gained’t discover it in any respect. Also, the springs really feel constant and the actuation level is low sufficient that typing isn’t awkward. Considering these are in-house switches designed by ROG, they’re actually high-quality.

These switches sound fairly good, too. They have a strong, crisp clack that sounds high-end, and any ping or rattle is (largely) eradicated by the silencing foam put in within the case. Their sound profile jogs my memory of a classic workplace keyboard in the easiest way — clean, crisp, and exact.

Typing on the ROG Strix Flare II Animate sounds surprisingly good.Henri Robbins / Input

It’s additionally worthwhile to notice that the stabilizers, that are the identical sort as those in Razer’s mechanical keyboards, have some type of lubricant, much like dielectric grease, utilized to cut back rattle and noise.

Typing on the keyboard, I used to be capable of keep 110 phrases per minute (WPM), which sits just under the 125 WPM I’m able to get on my typical linear keyboard, a Boardsource Mark65 with Blue Velvet PME switches. When taking part in video games like Halo Infinite and Destiny 2, I discovered myself capable of maintain my very own, with inputs being simply as constant as another board. In addition, the multimedia controls positioned immediately above WASD made adjusting audio ranges and altering music whereas taking part in a lot simpler, because it required much less hand motion than it might have in any other case.

Despite a barely odd look, the multimedia controls really feel nice.Henri Robbins / Input

The typing expertise feels prefer it was designed by somebody educated about constructing a very good keyboard. Of course, this isn’t the superb typing expertise that may be attained by a high-end {custom}, nevertheless it’s leagues forward of most gaming-branded mechanical keyboards, and the customization potential of this keyboard makes the bundle even higher.

Reasonably gamer-y

With shine-through keycaps, RGB LED lights, “REPUBLIC OF GAMERS” branding in two completely different locations and a big LED array within the high proper nook, this keyboard isn’t gentle on lighting. However, it’s performed tastefully; the keycaps look good with the lights off, and there aren’t any dramatic, pointless angles or cuts meant to make the Strix Flare II Animate look “high-tech” or “tactical” for no cause.

Even the dials and buttons on the highest left really feel good to make use of. The rocking dial and the rotary encoder, mapped to ahead/again and quantity respectively, are each strong and satisfying to make use of. The two buttons subsequent to them, which lock the Windows key and allow/disable lighting results, each have a strong and durable “click on” regardless of being non-mechanical switches.

Looking by the software program, there are additionally some fascinating choices for avid gamers. Users can disable the Windows key and Alt+Tab performance (in “gaming” mode), and reprogram just about any key, together with the dials and buttons on the high. Five separate profiles may also be saved within the keyboard, all of that are accessible by urgent the perform key and 1 by 5. The funniest inclusion, nonetheless, is what I name the “anti-rage give up” setting. With this, the performance of Alt + F4 — a key mixture that you just’re fairly unlikely to hit by chance — is fully disabled whereas in “gaming” mode.

While I don’t suppose it’s price writing about in-depth, this keyboard does additionally boasts an 8,000Hz response time. This seemingly gained’t make a noticeable distinction in your recreation except you’re within the high 0.01% of avid gamers, nevertheless it gained’t trigger any issues both — a better refresh charge is sort of by no means a draw back.

The LED band on the entrance of the keyboard provides additional gentle with out wanting excessive.Henri Robbins / Input

The customization is made higher by the inclusion of hot-swap sockets, which permit customers to take away the included NX switches with out desoldering. This might be helpful for tuning the switches or changing them fully, one thing that might in any other case be extremely inconvenient. This additionally makes your selection of change a lot much less necessary, since you may substitute them for a fraction of the value of a full keyboard if you find yourself not being a fan of them.

It’s leagues forward of most gaming-branded mechanical keyboards.

Some of the Strix Flare II Animate’s comfort options aren’t excellent, although. For instance, USB passthrough is good, however feels pointless within the age of wi-fi mice and headsets, particularly when stated USB port ends in the cable splitting off on the finish into two separate USB-A connectors. And possibly I’m simply too younger, however like I stated when reviewing the MSI GK71 Sonic, I nonetheless can’t perceive why anybody would go for a full-size keyboard once they may have an 1800-layout keyboard just like the Drop Shift, a TKL just like the Razer Huntsman V2 TKL, or perhaps a 65% keyboard just like the Mode SixtyFive with a separate numpad. All of these layouts make extra sense for day-to-day use, and take up much less house in your desk.

Custom LED matrix

The predominant promoting level of the ROG Strix Flare II Animate is the programmable LED Matrix positioned within the high proper nook of the keyboard. The animated show, referred to as the AniMe Matrix (yeah, we all know), might be programmed to show completely different animations, key inputs, and knowledge out of your PC.

This system’s predominant draw back is that it will possibly solely be used when ROG’s software program, Armoury Crate, is put in. The animations can’t be saved onto the keyboard and, as such, they gained’t be maintained when switching between gadgets. While this isn’t a serious challenge for a keyboard like this (the full-size structure and two USB ports make transporting this keyboard and utilizing it on different methods pretty impractical), it’s nonetheless mildly disappointing.

It’s a cat!Henri Robbins / Input

Besides that, the LED matrix is nice. The system is easy, strong, and comes with a whole lot of programming choices out of the field. There are preinstalled animations that may sync with system audio and show date and time info, together with beauty animations designed by ROG that simply look cool. In addition, you may add your personal photographs and GIFs, which the software program converts to black and white. The solely main challenge is a fairly apparent one: The array is actually low-res and, in consequence, most photographs will likely be pretty exhausting to make out except they’ve excessive distinction (or in case you squint).

While it wasn’t an issue for me, it’s price noting that the matrix solely has white LEDs and, in consequence, can’t match with the remainder of the keyboard’s shade (except you set the backlight to white as nicely). It’s not an issue for many, however it will possibly pose a difficulty in order for you your total setup to be one constant shade, or if you wish to have the matrix present a multicolor video.

Custom animations are clean and straightforward to program.Henri Robbins / Input

Along with that, there appears to be some kind of restrict on file measurement or size. I used to be capable of add shorter GIFs under a few megabytes, I used to be unable to add a full-length GIF of Shrek (2001) that was round 40MB (the app froze after I tried to add it). Whether this was purely on account of file measurement or a mix of file measurement and size, I’m unsure. But both method, I’m not notably dissatisfied, because it looks like a fairly cheap limitation.

Hard to restore

The general building and materials selections of the Strix Flare II really feel high-end. The case, a mixture of plastic and metallic, has no flexibility and is strong. The silencing foam on the within prevents the typing from sounding notably hole or plasticky and likewise supplies a weight that feels premium.

On high of the switches, ROG is utilizing dual-shot PBT keycaps. While they aren’t notably thick, they get the job performed with out being too flashy. Typing on them, the matte texture feels high-quality and works nicely to maintain your fingers on the fitting keys. The keycaps aren’t particular, however they’re not dangerous both. And let’s be sincere, your keycaps are in all probability one of many first belongings you’ll improve when you get a brand new keyboard.

The wrist relaxation, which is constituted of reminiscence foam, is snug for lengthy use, and the magnetic attachment to the principle keyboard signifies that it doesn’t slide round throughout use. Along with that, the RGB LEDs shining by the wrist relaxation is definitely actually cool — it seems to be good and makes your complete keyboard really feel like one uniformx bundle. The solely challenge I’ve is how excessive the wrist relaxation sits. Because it’s at nearly the identical degree because the lowest row of keys, it will possibly make urgent the spacebar and different bottom-row modifiers a bit troublesome till you’ve gotten used to it.

Even below picture lights, the LED array was seenHenri Robbins / Input

One of the important thing variations between a low-price {custom} board and a high-price gaming board is accessibility. Spending $200 on a pre-built mechanical keyboard often means the meeting is pretty advanced and exhausting to work on, whereas spending $200 on a {custom} keyboard often ends in one thing comparatively straightforward to open up and tinker with.

However, I couldn’t discover a method to open the Strix Flare II Animate with out feeling like I used to be going to interrupt one thing. Even after peeling off a sticker on the again and eradicating nearly 20 screws, the keyboard refused to come back aside. While I think about engaged on this keyboard could be pretty troublesome with the unconventional multimedia controls, advanced LED array and silencing foam, it’s nonetheless disappointing that it will possibly’t simply be opened up. The proprietary, non-removable dual-ended cable does make repairability a priority, it is balanced out by the hot-swap sockets, which make change alternative a comparatively straightforward activity.

High-end, excessive value

Overall, the ROG Strix Flare II Animate is without doubt one of the highest-quality mechanical gaming keyboards I’ve checked out. It’s strong, easy, and has a cool gimmick that legitimately provides to the expertise. And together with that, the hot-swap sockets imply you aren’t caught with the included switches in the event that they don’t find yourself suiting your wants.

Coming in at $220, the Strix Flare II Animate is without doubt one of the costlier gaming-oriented mechanical keyboards, and it finally ends up competing with optical keyboards just like the Corsair K100 and Razer Huntsman Elite. In phrases of technical gaming efficiency, each of those choices are barely higher than the Strix Flare II Animate. However, conventional mechanical switches with hot-swap sockets nonetheless enable for personalisation and repairability that optical switches don’t have.

Besides a couple of small particulars, the keyboard seems to be clear and feels nice.Henri Robbins / Input

The predominant benefit that this keyboard has over the others, nonetheless, is pure fashion. It seems to be nice, sounds nice, and has actually spectacular (not over-the-top) lighting choices. If you need the very best-performing mechanical keyboard in the marketplace, then the Strix Flare II Animate in all probability isn’t for you. But in order for you a keyboard that’s nonetheless high-performing (I might say it’s round 90 p.c of the best way there) and far more enjoyable, then that is the mechanical gaming keyboard for you.