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ASUS ROG Strix Flare II Animate Review

The New ROG Flagship

Christopher Coke Posted:
Category:
Hardware Reviews 0

The ASUS ROG Strix Flare II Animate is a pricey gaming keyboard but is one of the very best you can buy today. Between it’s exceptional customization, great switches, stellar build quality, and easy programmability, any gamer will find something to love here — assuming they can afford it. Coming in at $219.99, should the Strix Flare II Animate make its way onto your wish list? 

Specifications

  • Current Price: $219.99 (ASUS) <- Link here or to vendor site if unavailable
  • Key Switch: 
    • Cherry MX Red
    • Cherry MX Brown
    • Cherry MX Blue
    • ROG NX Red (tested)
  • Connectivity: USB 2.0
  • Size (Full/TKL): 100%
  • Lighting: 
    • AniMe Matrix™ LED display
    • Per key RGB LEDs: Front underglow lighting
  • AURA Sync: Yes
  • Anti-Ghosting: Yes
  • Macro Keys: All key programmable
  • USB Pass through
  • USB 2.0 Cable: 2M braided cable 
  • OS: Windows® 10 
  • Software: Armoury Crate
  • Dimensions
    • Keyboard: 435mm x 165mm x 38mm
    • Wrist rest: 435mm x 85mm x 27mm
  • Weight: 1157g
  • Color: Gunmetal
  • Contents
    • 1 x gaming keyboard
    • 1 x wrist rest
    • 1 x ROG keycap puller
    • 1 x ROG switch puller
    • 1 x ROG sticker
    • 1 x quick start guide
    • 1 x warranty booklet

ASUS ROG Strix Flare II Animate - Design and Key Features

The ASUS ROG Strix Flare II Animate is a full-sized gaming keyboard designed to challenge the market for what a flagship keyboard should deliver. It’s feature rich and has a few unique tricks up its sleeve that work to separate it from the pack. The biggest of these is easily the new dot matrix display which can be customized with your own graphics, but there’s more to this keyboard than just a new LED display. 

Starting with the basics, the Strix Flare II Animate is a mechanical keyboard, outfitted with your choice of Cherry MX Red, Blue, or Brown switches, or ASUS’s own ROG NX Reds. I tested the latter and ROG’s switches easily outperform Cherry MX Reds. Not only are they a touch lighter at 40 grams actuation force instead of 450 grams, they’re also much smoother without any spring noise, so both feel and sound better too. Though ASUS doesn’t describe any factory pre-lubing, I wouldn’t be surprised to find the stems have lube pre-applied. Of course, the switches are also hot-swappable and can be changed whenever you like without the need for soldering. 

(Side-note: You’ll need a Kailh-style switch opener to crack these switches yourself. It’s very difficult to open them without one). 

Design-wise, the keyboard is very similar to the original Strix Flare II but does have some noticeable and, in my opinion, very positive upgrades. It features the same gunmetal aluminum top plate and excellent doubleshot PBT keycaps. They keycaps are shine-through so you can see the legends in the dark, and though the font is stylized for gaming, I didn’t find it garish: just a bit more angular at the edges. 

The keyboard also brings back the dedicated media controls on the left side. This is one of the few gaming keyboards I’ve seen that actually mounts its volume wheel and track controls on the left and I wish more would do it. It’s quicker to access for quick adjustments. This is especially true because of the unique way it’s implemented. You have the knurled aluminum volume wheel (which clicks in to mute), as well as a neat paddle to switch tracks. I listen to Spotify a lot as I work and being able to flip forward was convenient. A button on the left side handles play and pause duties. To the right of these keys are dedicated buttons for Game Mode/Windows Lock and controlling the brightness of the RGB. Behind these on the top rim is a USB passthrough port for a mouse or gaming headset.

The big improvements this time are visual and allow added levels of personalization not seen on a gaming keyboard before. On the right side is a new dot matrix display equipped with more than 300 mini LEDs. This allows you to display custom graphics and animations, as well as many preset options available within the Armory Crate software. This display also serves a functional purpose, changing to indicate the different modes and functions the keyboard offers. It switches to confirm volume, RGB mode, macro recording, brightness, and more. I also like that it’s only white, standing in contrast to the rest of the board for some added pop. 

The second addition comes in the form of a new RGB light strip along the base of the keyboard. This is on the bottom rim of the keyboard and does work to throw some underglow onto your desk. What’s especially neat is that the lights are bright enough to shine through the included wrist rest, illuminating the bottom edge of that, almost like the Razer Huntsman Elite which needed POGO pins to work correctly. The downside to this is that you need to remove the light diffuser to connect the wrist rest. This isn’t a big deal because it’s held by magnets, but does leave you with a long bit of plastic to keep track of. 

ASUS has also paid special attention to the acoustics of the board. Beneath the metal shell is a layer of acoustic foam to eliminate any sense of hollowness and damp down any spring ping. I’m not sure how effective this would be with Cherry switches (which are notoriously pingy) but there is no ping at all with the ROG NX switches. The keyboard also uses a different stabilizer design designed to reduce rattle and are pre-lubed on top of that. There was virtually no rattle at all out of the box. 

In terms of physical design and build quality, there is very little to criticize, but if I could change anything it would be the cable. While it’s nicely braided, it’s also thick, stiff, and requires two USB headers to support the USB passthrough. I understand the necessity, but it’s difficult to cable manage and overall a bit of a pain to work with. 

ASUS ROG Strix Flare II Animate - Performance

For gaming and typing, the keyboard performs impeccably. It’s responsive, feels good to use, and is programmable across every key. You really couldn’t ask for more in terms of performance, whether you’re a competitive gamer or a casual weekend warrior. As an MMO player, I did miss dedicated macro keys, but the number pad is an effective stand-in for games that don’t require it.

One of the qualities this keyboard is marketed on is its ultra-fast 8000Hz polling rate. As a competitive feature against other products in this price range, I think it’s necessary. In practical use, it’s difficult to tell any difference. Your keys register instantaneously, but the same is true of 1000Hz (1ms) keyboards. In short, I wouldn’t choose this or any keyboard based on that alone.

Instead, I think it’s worth choosing because it’s equipped to deliver you through any game or genre you’d care to use it with. Programming macros is easy, takes seconds, and doesn’t require software. You can also change lighting presets without installing anything on your computer. If you do care to install Armory Crate, you’ll find that the software is hugely improved from even a few years ago and opens the door to even more customization.

In short, this keyboard leaves nothing on the table. It really is exceptional for a wired gaming keyboard. 

Final Thoughts

The ASUS ROG Strix Flare II Animate is a great gaming keyboard. Except for its stiff cable, it hits all the right notes for a gaming keyboard and then one-ups it with the neat (and functional) new dot matrix display. At $219, it doesn’t come cheap, but it is one of the very best gaming keyboards for the money today and is well worth considering for your next peripheral upgrade. 

The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.

9.0Amazing
Pros
  • Excellent build quality
  • Extra smooth switches and pre-lubed stabilizers
  • PBT keycaps
  • Cool and customizable dot matrix LED display
  • Easily programmable
Cons
  • Expensive
  • Cable is stiff and bulky


GameByNight

Christopher Coke

Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight