ASUS ROG Strix Flare II Animate Review
Published: 31st January 2022 | Source: ASUS | Price: |
If you are the type of person who likes a subtle keyboard, perhaps the famous Das Keyboard for example, then clearly the ROG Strix Flare II Animate will not be the one for you. It is extremely visual, bordering on gaudy. As well as some of the brightest RGB lighting we've yet seen under the keys, you have the big strip along the front of the keyboard which can be shone through the wrist rest to light up your stomach, and that's all before we've even touched on the huge LED matrix on the top right which utterly dominates things.
Starting simply the Flare II comes with ASUS own ROG NX switches. These are available in the traditional red, blue and brown types. Or, for those of you unaware, the reds have a smooth, linear feel. The blues come with a irritating microswitch click upon actuation and the browns have a bump you can feel rather than hear once you've depressed it enough for the key to actuate. They all have different depths before actuation too, with the reds being the 'fastest' at 1.8mm, the browns having 2mm and the blues the deepest at 2.3mm. Lastly the actuation pressure, how hard you have to press them to get them to fire, goes red through brown to blue, from 45gf for the red, 58gf for the brown and 65gf for the blue. These are very close to the standards set by the Cherry MX brand that has absolute market dominance. In fact, and rather curiously, if you want to swap the ROG NX switches out for Cherry MX ones you can. ASUS provide a tool to do so and the keyboard has been designed with switch swapping in mind. It does beg the question, if ASUS have confidence on their design why allow the competitor to be installed in their chassis, and if they don't have confidence why not just include Cherry's with it?
Build quality is exactly what you would expect both from a ROG product, and indeed any keyboard that costs north of £200. It's extremely solidly put together with zero flex. Even the feet feel robust, which isn't a claim you can make about all keyboards. The supplied wrist rest is of a very high standard, being both supportive but not the kind of feeling beneath your wrists that you worry it'll need replacing after a year of heavy use. Lastly the USP of the Flare II Animate, that gigantic logo, is certainly attention grabbing. If you've ever wanted a keyboard that echoes your motherboards design you've never been better positioned to make that happen.
Negatives? When the keyboard is off that attention grabbing LED matrix just blends into the background and the keyboard looks hugely unbalanced. That giant control wheel and buttons at the top left dominate things. Whether it's a problem with our launch sample or something that will affect them all, but ours wouldn't work at all until we'd installed the ASUS Armoury Crate software. Something we avoid wherever possible thanks to its rather flakey nature. Just worth bearing in mind you might need to download and install the software prior to connecting the Flare II. Once you do we aren't exactly sure what you're going to use that enormous LED matrix for. Yeah it can show single colour, 20x20px type images, but how often do you need those? Yes it can tell you that you've just pressed play, but were you in any doubt? It feels hugely gimmicky to us and not a patch on the usefulness of a screen on a keyboard such as the Steelseries Apex 7 for example. Lastly that price is non-trivial. Yes it's an ASUS ROG keyboard. Yes it's fully RGB and mechanical switches. But still, €230!?
If you have a need for your keyboard to match your motherboard, and you just can't get enough high quality lighting on your desk, then the ASUS ROG Strix Flare II Animate will scratch that itch like few others, and wins our OC3D Aesthetics Award.