Mechanical keyboards used to be a niche item, but they’ve gone mainstream in recent years. While some people (myself included) are still fiddling with boutique custom boards, it’s easy for your average gamer or writer to pick up a passable mechanical keyboard for not much money. And then there are the high-end “gamer” keyboards like the new Asus Strix Flare II Animate announced at CES. It is thus named thanks to the “AniMe Matrix LED display” with hundreds of dedicated LEDs that can display system stats, images, and more.
This is a full-sized keyboard, which I personally feel is far too large. Still, most people seem to want number pads even though it pushes the mouse much farther away. The Strix Flare II Animate also has media controls, but whereas most boards put those on the right, Asus has the roller and buttons on the top left corner.
The top right is reserved for the AniMe Matrix, which looks like a swath of small perforations in the surface. You can use the Asus desktop software to program the array to display information like the battery level on a laptop or recent notifications. There are also modes that sync with in-game sounds and help you configure RGB settings on the board. If you just want to display an image in the matrix, you can do that as well. However, the effective resolution is quite low. If you remember the HTC Dot View cases from a few years back, that’s about the level of detail we’re talking about here.
The total number of LEDs on the board is far higher than 312 — there’s an RGB LED under each switch, and there are LEDs around the periphery of the case. The board comes with shine-through keycaps to really show off those colors, and they’re doubleshot PBT. Most gaming boards have lower-quality ABS caps that wear down quickly. To make good ABS caps, you need very thick construction like what you get in GMK custom sets. But these PBT caps should have crisp legends longer than the electronics will last.
As it’s aimed squarely at gamers, the Strix Flare II Animate features an ultra-fast 8,000Hz polling rate. That’s eight times faster than most wired boards, which means the Flare II can theoretically respond faster to key presses. Asus says the total input delay is 0.125 ms, but even 1ms should be functionally imperceptible. Still, bigger numbers sell.
The board lets you remove the stock switches and put in something better, and it comes with Asus’ version of the standard medium-light clicky (blue), linear (red), and tactile (brown) switches. The Strix Flare II Animate launches later this month for $220. There will be a version without the AniMe Matrix LED display for $40 less.
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