|Specs at a glance: Asus ROG Strix Flare II Animate|
|Switches||Asus ROG NX Red or Brown|
|Keycaps||Doubleshot PBT plastic|
|Connectivity options||USB-A cable|
|Weight||2.55 lbs (1,157 g)|
|Other perks||USB passthrough port, keycap puller, switch puller|
Switches, keycaps, chassis colors, backlighting—many features bring personality to mechanical keyboards. But for the flashiest among us, they’re not enough. If you’ve ever looked at an RGB keyboard and still yearned for more pizzazz, Asus’ ROG Strix Flare II Animate is for you.
LEDs go wild on this keyboard, from the bright RGB backlight to the hundreds of mini LEDs above the numpad that create pixellated animations to varying degrees of success. You’ll need to love LEDs to be drawn to the keyboard, but they’re not the Flare II Animate’s sole selling point.
Even without the display, this is a premium keyboard with hot-swappable switches, quality keycaps, programmable keys, and on-board memory. For serious gamers, the board claims 0.125 ms input lag compared to most keyboards’ 1 ms.
All of this glitz and glamour comes at a high price, though—$220, to be exact.
Hit-or-miss animated display
If there’s one thing the Flare II Animate is not, it’s discreet. A common complaint about RGB lighting on PC peripherals is that it can be distracting. The Flare II Animate has plenty of RGB, but it kicks things up a notch with 312 mini LEDs that you can program to display different animations, including text.
I generally find RGB to be a mild distraction at most, but the so-called AniMe Matrix is another story, especially when it’s programmed to display moving animations. The movements looked flashy in my periphery and drew my attention from the monitor, and the contrast between the multicolored RGB and the slightly brighter white mini LEDs was also a bit much. You can only change the animation (including making it a static image or turning brightness off or down) if you download the keyboard’s software.
After downloading the Armoury app, you can activate 19 premade dot-matrix effects. Some are hard to decipher, though. For example, “Basketball” looks like a man dribbling until he takes the ball to the hoop—then the animation looks like a random splash of light. “War” simply looks like flashing, abstract lights.
I wish Asus would add more static images or simpler animations. Ultimately, only a handful were clear enough to make me want to use them frequently, and too many of those were some form of Asus branding.
I tried uploading my own images, but Asus’ app doesn’t provide any tips, and nothing I uploaded showed clearly on the LED display. Extra tinkering may yield better results—but it might also lead to questions about how much time you want to spend getting tiny LEDs on your keyboard to show a distinct image.
I experienced a similar problem when testing a different, equally showy mechanical keyboard, SteelSeries’ Apex Pro. Its 120×48-pixel OLED screen was better at conveying information like keyboard menu options with clear, high-contrast (albeit small) text, but customizing the display by uploading your own pics is a challenge. Using the app to tweak elements like speed and duration was a much easier way to adjust the Flare II Animate’s premade matrix effects.
Text on the matrix fares better. The letters running diagonally up the display are legible, especially with thinner fonts. There’s a full selection of fonts, including a couple from Asus, plus Comic Sans and even Wingdings 1 and 2. But the keyboard won’t play an animated effect followed by text, or vice versa. You have to choose one or the other.
More conservative typists can force the LED display to convey information, including laptop battery life via an animated battery meter. You can also set the display to show the date and year or alert you to a new email or alarm in Windows.
The ROG Strix Flare II Animate is the first keyboard to use Asus’ AniMe Matrix, but the feature has shown up in the company’s laptops and a pair of gaming headphones (the Asus ROG Delta S Animate). In general, I’m excited to see a new form of keyboard customization. Sure, some may find all the LEDs gaudy, and others will get bored with them after a few days. But even a simple preset effect can make the keyboard look unusually eye-catching.