ASUS ROG Strix Flare II Animate is an updated version of the Strix Flare mechanical gaming keyboard from 2018, from which only the name was inherited, and everything else has changed radically. And the vast majority of new features are hidden from an inexperienced eye. So in this review, we’ll talk about all the possibilities of the Strix Flare II Animate, try to determine whether it’s worth considering at all, and what are the pros and cons.
|Model||ASUS ROG Strix Flare II Animate|
|Product page||ROG Strix Flare II Animate|
|Polling frequency, Hz||1000 / 2000 / 4000 / 8000|
|Number of keys||104|
|Additional buttons||4 buttons, a wheel and 1 toggle switch|
|Key press resource, million||70|
|Type of keys||Mechanical|
|Type of switches||ROG NX Red або Cherry MX Red, Brown, Blue|
|Changing the angle of inclination of the case||+|
|Built-in memory||+ (6 profiles)|
|Ability to record macros||+|
|Handling simultaneous clicks||NKRO|
|Illumination||+ (RGB, 16.8 million colors)|
|USB cord length, m||2|
|Software||+ (Armoury Crate)|
|External interfaces||1 х USB 2.0|
|Dimensions, (L x W x H) mm||435 x 165 x 38|
|OS compatibility||Windows 10|
|Additionally||AniMe Matrix dot LED screen, scroll wheel, universal controller toggle, removable palm rest with through-lighting, connectors for easy replacement of all switches, gasket under the keys for noise isolation, lubricated stabilizers of long keys, lubricated button stems, button caps with PBT plastic, USB 2.0 pass-through output|
The keyboard comes in a nice red and black box in ROG’s signature colors. The cover has everything you need to know about the appearance of the product and its features.
Under the cover is the main massive box in black with a red ROG logo in the middle. Protection of its contents from damage is provided by cardboard inserts, plastic bags and wrapping made of artificial fabric.
In addition to the keyboard, the kit includes a palm rest, a sheet with information about its installation, an instruction manual, a metal key for removing the switches, a plastic key for removing the keycaps, a brochure with information on the warranty obligation and a sheet with stickers of ROG logos.
At first glance, the ASUS ROG Strix Flare II Animate keyboard looks quite simple. Now this is a classic full-frame skeleton, where the switches are inserted directly into the smooth gray metal plate of the top panel, which is about 1 mm thick. Thanks to it, the device withstands the diagonal twist test without a creak. The back of the panel is elongated, as there are additional buttons and controls on the left, the Republic of gamers inscription in the center and perforation with LEDs on the right. A complete magnetic palm rest can be attached to the front face. Unfortunately, it does not have a strong fixation and when moving the keyboard you will have to hold it with your hands. The total weight of the Strix Flare II Animate without the stand and cable is 1055 grams, or 1226 grams with the cable.
On the front face of the keyboard there is a line of LEDs covered by a removable translucent diffuser. It must be removed before installing the palm rest. The diffuser is held by two magnets on the sides, and has a small indentation under it in the center, by which it can be conveniently hooked during disassembly.
The removable magnetic palm rest measures 435x85x27 mm and weighs 337 grams. On the outside, it is covered in artificial leather, with an embossed ROG logo and inscription on the left side. There is a rather elastic filler inside. The back part with the inscription is made of plastic. There are two small rubber feet on each side and one in the middle. In the lower part of the recess behind, there is one magnet on each side, and two more magnets in the central part. A very interesting and logical technical solution from ASUS — instead of making separate LEDs and power supply for them in the stand (as implemented by some competitors), an optical fiber is stretched inside. It transmits light from the keyboard diodes to the front face of the stand.
The key layout is fully ANSI-compliant with long, single-row Shift and Enter keys. The F1 key is located directly above the number «2». The keycaps are made of durable double-moulded PBT plastic. That is why there is no Cyrillic alphabet on them, and Latin letters are pressed in the center from above. They are clearly visible when the backlight is on, but weakly visible without it. Additional service symbols are applied using thermal sublimation. The Fn button takes the place of the right Win key. In addition to the traditional tactile notches for printing, on the «F» and «J» keys, there is also a dot notch on the «game» button «W».
The additional control unit consists of a two-position toggle switch, a volume control wheel (both made of aluminum) and two separate buttons. By default, the toggle switches media tracks back and forth. On its left side, there is a round vertical button that executes the «pause/play» command. The volume wheel is pressed, executes the «turn off or on» command. The left key enables and disables the Win-Lock function. The right button switches the brightness of the backlight of the keys. Both buttons have built-in signal indicators and both cannot be assigned to other commands.
The digital block of keys, arrows and editor buttons is made standard. Above the arrows are dot indicators with white LEDs, marked with symbols «1» — Num Lock, «A» — Caps Lock and «S» — Scroll Lock.
A point perforation is made in the upper right corner. These are not just holes, but separate white LEDs, each of which is controlled separately and can create certain images.
This kind of LED display is called AniMe Matrix, and we previously saw a similar solution on the ASUS ROG Zephyrus G14 laptop, albeit on a much larger scale. By default, it displays the ROG logo and shows all keyboard function switches with corresponding images. Very original, isn’t it?
This keyboard uses proprietary ROG NX Red mechanical switches. You can learn more about their features and varieties at this link. By and large, these are classic linear switches similar to Cherry MX Red (which can also be installed here). They have an actuation point of 1.8mm of travel and a full travel of 4mm. Initial pressure is 40 grams, activation point is 45 grams, and full force is 55 grams. The point of activation coincides with the point of deactivation of the mechanism. But even that is not the main thing here. The stem and housing inside the switch are lubricated from the factory. The hidden stabilizers of the long keys are also lubricated from the factory. The keys are a little wobbly, but the overall level of their stabilization is excellent. And a layer of foam material is laid between the case and the switch board to isolate noise. As a result, the tactile sensations of using this keyboard are simply close to ideal. There are no extra overtones, when pressing the buttons, the sound of activation is muffled and solid.
And that’s not all. The keyboard is equipped with special connectors that allow you to remove and replace the switches with any other switches compatible with the position of the legs. The kit includes a metal key for disassembly. The seat is designed for one central plastic leg and two contacts below, located diagonally. The backlight LED is soldered on the board in the center from above.
The height of the keyboard with folded legs along the back row of keys is 38 mm. With unfolded legs — 50 mm. The slightly inward sidewalls allow you to easily rearrange the keyboard if necessary. A slightly understated Cherry key profile is used here.
The power cable enters the keyboard case from the back, exactly in the center and has a short bend protection. A USB 2.0 pass-through port for connecting peripherals is to the left of the cable.
The nylon braided cable is thick and inflexible, 2 meters long. Towards the end, it branches into two separate USB Type A connectors, one of which is responsible for connecting the keyboard itself, and the other for a pass-through USB port. There is a velcro here to adjust the extra length.
The lower part of the keyboard body is plastic, with diagonal glossy and matte stripes and the ROG logo. Three rubber oval feet are glued on the front. And two more are located behind on stands raised from the body. The serial number sticker is located in the center of the back.
The folding legs also have anti-slip rubbers.
The backlight in the keyboard is implemented at a decent level. The backlight of the keys has sufficient brightness in four levels and is not dazzling. It can be customized and has many lighting effects. All symbols on it are well read both in the dark and in daylight. Colors are rendered accurately and richly, with the exception of white, which has a blue tint. I have already talked about an interesting solution with a palm rest and a strip of LEDs on the front face. The three Lock-indicators above the arrows shine in dim white. The same can be said about the game mode indicator and backlight brightness on additional buttons on top. The dot LED screen also does not dazzle the eyes in any way and has adjustable brightness. In addition to moving pictures, it clearly shows all the switching of keyboard functions, which is very convenient.
The ASUS ROG Strix Flare II Animate keyboard has an advanced hardware platform with built-in memory for five variables and one immutable profile, where key assignments and backlight settings are stored. Additional functions are implemented by combining the corresponding keys with the Fn button. You can find information about them on the official website, in the instructions, or intuitively understand their purpose by looking at the icons on the corresponding buttons. The table below provides a complete list of those functions that were successfully reproduced. All actions are accompanied by animation on the LED screen.
|Fn+Esc||Resetting the keyboard to factory settings (hold until the LEDs start flashing)|
|Toggle switch up||Previous track|
|Toggle switch down||The next track|
|Pressing the wheel||Mute/unmute|
|Wheel down||Reduce the volume|
|Wheel up||Increase the volume|
|Fn+1||The first memory profile|
|Fn+2||The second memory profile|
|Fn+3||The third memory profile|
|Fn+4||The fourth memory profile|
|Fn+5||The fifth memory profile|
|Fn+6||Custom memory profile|
|Left additional button||Activation or deactivation of the game mode in which the Win button and (optionally) combination Alt+Tab or Alt+F4 are inactive. The white indicator on the button will light up|
|Right additional button||Press to adjust the brightness of the key backlight. Four levels and the possibility of complete shutdown. The brightness of the indicator on this button changes accordingly|
|Fn+Left Alt||Writing a macro command. Sequence of actions: 1) press Fn+left Alt (left ALT will begin to slowly flash white); 2) press the desired sequence of keys and press Fn+left Alt again (left ALT will start flashing white quickly); 3) Press the key to which you want to bind the command (the green color of the key means that it is free for writing, and the red color means that the command is already written on it). To delete a macro command, repeat the second point without typing any command and save it on any button highlighted in red|
|Fn+↑||Increase the brightness of the LED display backlight (5 levels)|
|Fn+↓||Reduce the brightness of the LED display backlight (5 levels)|
|Fn+←||Previous lighting effect|
|Fn+→||The next lighting effect|
As software, ASUS ROG Strix Flare II Animate uses the Armory Crate application with a lot of resource-hungry processes and redundant elements. The software needs to be downloaded and installed. There are five tabs for configuring the keyboard. The first is responsible for changing the assignment of buttons. All keys except Fn are available for this. You can assign keyboard and mouse commands (left or right button only), macro commands, launch programs or open sites, multimedia and Windows commands, launch the Armory Crate driver itself, enter certain text, completely disable the key, or return its function as configured. There is also a button to reset everything to the initial settings. Also, in game mode, in addition to the Win button, you can disable the Alt+Tab and Alt+F4 combinations. You can also change commands on additional media buttons: side, tumbler, wheel and the button below it.
In the backlight settings, 11 types of effects are available, including static backlighting. The backlight can be turned off completely. You will need to download the Aura Creator program to customize the lighting of each button individually.
In the Perfomance tab, you can choose the polling frequency of the keyboard controller. It is set to the standard 1000 Hz. An increase in speed is possible up to 2000, 4000 or 8000 Hz.
In the AniMe Matrix tab, you can enable or disable the corresponding LED display, adjust its brightness, and choose or edit the picture that will be displayed on it.
In the «Firmware update» section, the keyboard firmware version is checked and updated if necessary. The current version of the firmware at the time of writing this review can be seen in the picture.
In the macro editor, you can record keyboard and mouse commands (including scroll directions and additional keys), with or without time delays. Then all of this can be edited. A total of 100 actions are available per command chain, with key presses and key releases being separate actions. The command can be configured to record the delay as is, fixed delay, or no delay. Playback is available in three options: continuously on click, continuous repeat, or once. The recording delay can be set to 1, 3 or 5 seconds. All macros can be named, created and deleted, imported and exported.
Ergonomics and testing
The ASUS ROG Strix Flare II Animate full-size mechanical keyboard inspires confidence right from the unpacking stage. It is heavy and strong — you can feel it immediately when you take it in your hands. Gaming devices of this type usually look «cheap», but this is not the case at all. The exterior design is quite durable and solid, without unnecessary flashy elements. Separately, it is worth noting the quality of manufacturing of the magnetic palm rest. The level of its elasticity is selected very successfully — quite soft, but the «foam» does not collapse under the weight of the hands. In addition, an optical fiber in the middle relays the backlight from the front face of the keyboard — an ingenious and unique solution that is easy to implement and looks good. The only thing is that the stand is not fixed to the keyboard and disconnects on its own if you lift it up. There may also be issues with too thick and hard signal cable. In my opinion, it could have been made smaller and removable. But there is one additional USB port that is always at hand.
Additional controls are conveniently located under the left hand. I am sure that many users will adjust them to their specific needs. It is also good that the brightness of all indicators is selected in such a way as not to dazzle the eyes. As for the LED display, Strix Flare II Animate is probably the first case of a successful application of the idea of a screen in a keyboard in principle. Because here you can really display not only funny pictures, but also useful information for the user, without distracting attention.
The completely standard key layout does not require getting used to typing in the blind. Therefore, the lack of Cyrillic font is a small problem. And you can type on this keyboard with pleasure. For this, there is everything you need — clear ROG NX Red linear switches with PBT caps, excellent stabilization of long keys, lubricated stabilizers, lubricated rods and housings of the mechanisms themselves, and also a gasket to isolate excess noise. We didn’t forget about the chip for players — increased polling frequency of the keyboard controller to 8000 Hz. And for those who need advanced upgrade options, there are connectors for quick replacement of switches without the need for a soldering iron. The main thing is not to accidentally install mechanisms that are worse than those already installed here from the factory.
An excellent hardware platform with a large amount of memory and a significant number of profiles allows you to record macro commands without using software. And today it is a rarity. I always have complaints about the optimization and interface with the Armory Crate software, but it gets better over time and that’s a good thing. The backlighting is nicely done in this keyboard. It cannot show pure white, but that is its only real drawback.
ASUS ROG Strix Flare II Animate supports full NKRO anti-ghosting, which allows you to activate all buttons at the same time.
The ASUS ROG Strix Flare II Animate is an all-around great gaming mechanical keyboard. It has a nice design, a solid construction, a convenient palm rest and a pass-through USB port. Nice touches include a useful LED screen and additional multimedia controls that can be assigned to other desired commands. There is also a good backlight, on-board memory and the ability to quickly record macro commands. But the best of it is hidden in the middle. These are excellent oiled ROG NX Red linear switches with PBT button caps, excellent oiled stabilizers, and an insulating pad under the PCB. And in addition, the polling frequency is increased to 8000 Hz and connectors for quick replacement of switches. Such a combination of qualities is extremely rare to find in mass-produced keyboards. Because usually such things are assembled individually and with their own hands.
The keyboard has some flaws, not critical from my point of view. Among them: a thick and inflexible signal cable, the absence of Cyrillic and the inability to reproduce the pure white color of the backlight.
ASUS ROG Strix Flare II Animate is a solid keyboard that provides an unparalleled tactile sensation. I can sincerely recommend it for purchase to both professional players and just connoisseurs of high-quality mechanics.