“The ROG Strix Flare II Animate is the go-to gaming keyboard in 2022.”
- Hot-swappable keys
- 8,000Hz polling rate
- USB passthrough
- Comfortable pleather wrist rest
- Beautiful AniMe matrix
- Software could be more focused
- Expensive for a wired keyboard
Year after year, we see a slew of great gaming keyboards that are more or less the same as the competition. None of them are bad, but they’re not a reason to perk up. The ROG Strix Flare II Animate is.
It’s not just the AniMe matrix that sets the keyboard apart. It’s not even the 8,000Hz polling rate, supremely comfortable wrist rest, or hot-swappable key bed. It’s the combination of features that makes the ROG Strix Flare II Animate stand out.
When Asus announced the keyboard earlier this month, I hoped it would be my gaming keyboard endgame. And after using it for a few weeks, I now know that it is.
The ROG Strix Flare II Animate doesn’t waste time trying to impress you. From the moment I opened the box, it was clear where the $220 went. This is a premium keyboard from top to bottom, and Asus is quick to make you feel like it was money well spent.
Like the budget-focused Akko 3068B, it’s the details that make the difference on the Strix Flare II Animate. The thick braided cable comes with an ROG-branded cable tie already attached, and the keycap pullers are specifically designed to fit the keyboard’s look. They even snap together so you don’t have to store them apart.
You’ll quickly forget about all of those details once the star of the show lights up: The 320-LED AniMe matrix. By default, it shows an ROG logo that slowly pulses, and no matter how you configure it, the matrix will light up when you use function and media buttons on the keyboard.
I’ll dig into configuring the matrix more below, but I had a custom animation up and running in a couple of minutes. The matrix is just a little bundle of gamer clout, but a company could still screw that up. Asus didn’t. The AniMe matrix is useful if you need it to be, downright cool when you want it to be, and it brings the look of the keyboard full circle.
Opposite the matrix, you’ll find a few function and media buttons. There’s a metal volume wheel, a toggle for forward and back, a play/pause button hidden on the side, and dedicated keys for Windows lock and LED brightness.
On the front, you’ll find the RGB light diffusor, which is similar to the RGB strips on the sides of the Corsair K100 RGB. Without the wrist rest, it offers an even glow that incorporates the lighting you have on your keys. A rain effect, for example, will carry beyond the bottom row of keys into the diffusor.
Asus wanted to include every feature a gaming keyboard could have, and it succeeded.
It looks fantastic. Even better, you can snap off the diffusor to attach the faux leather wrist rest and carry the lighting through. It seems Asus set out to include every feature, functionally and visually, of gaming keyboards in 2022, and across the board, succeeded.
The wrist rest is a big part of that. It’s plump and comfy, and it goes a long way to make an argument for the Strix Flare II Animate against competition like the Razer Huntsman V2. It snaps into place perfectly and refuses to move, but it takes a bit of adjustment. With the back stand up, the wrist rest is nearly as tall as the bottom row of keys.
It doesn’t break the typing experience, thankfully. I ended up closing the back stands with the wrist rest attached, and it’s typing nirvana. In this configuration, the height peaks at the intersection of the keyboard and wrist rest, with a subtle downward slope away from the keyboard. No adjustment here; I loved using the Strix Flare II Animate like this from the first keystroke.
My only complaint with the design of the Strix Flare II Animate is that there aren’t tenkeyless or 65% versions available. That’s just my preference, and if Asus ever decides to branch out, I’ll be the first in line.
The Strix Flare II Animate model I reviewed came with Asus NX Red switches, which aren’t my favorite. Asus offers one of three of its NX switches: Either Reds, Browns, or Blues, which approximate the feel of their Cherry MX counterparts. I don’t tend to like linear switches, but that’s the beauty of the Strix Flare II Animate’s hot-swappable switches.
The only other mainstream keyboard with this feature is the Logitech G Pro X, which didn’t start a trend toward hot-swappable switches. More than two years later, I hope the ROG Strix Flare II Animate is the catalyst.
You can throw any 3-pin switch into the ROG Strix Flare II Animate, including switches from Cherry, Gateron, and Kailh. The smaller switch options excite me more — switches from Akko, Glorious PC, and TTC. The past few years have seen a boom in third-party switches, and the ROG Strix Flare II Animate is primed to take advantage of them.
Any of my complaints with the switches don’t matter because you can just swap them out. I don’t like Red switches for typing, so I immediately replaced most of them with my set of Akko Jelly Blues. But I like linear switches for my space bar, where I need to quickly jump in games like Destiny 2. The ROG Strix Flare II Animate didn’t make me choose.
With how cheap many third-party switches are, the ROG Strix Flare II Animate encourages experimentation, and it bridges the gap between mainstream gaming keyboards and boutique options like the Cyberboard R3. Hot-swappable switches are a great way to bring the customization present with gaming PCs to peripherals, and I’m glad Asus is leading the charge with them.
With how much else the ROG Strix Flare II Animate has going on, I assumed it would have the same cookie-cutter gaming features as any brand name board you could buy at Best Buy or Micro Center. You know what they say about assumptions.
The keyboard comes with an 8,000Hz polling rate, which is only available on a small number of keyboards (including the Corsair K70 RGB TKL). Most keyboards only come with a 1,000Hz polling rate. The difference? The higher the polling rate, the faster your keyboard can report keystrokes to your PC.
It matters more on mice like the Corsair Sabre Pro RGB than it does on keyboards, though; 1,000Hz already reports keystrokes every millisecond, so stepping up just continues to divide that millisecond. In the case of 8,000Hz, for example, it’s 0.125ms. That’s not super important for a keyboard, where you’re unlikely to feel the difference of fractions of a millisecond between keystrokes.
I used the 8,000Hz polling rate for about a week, occasionally toggling back to 1,000Hz for reference. I couldn’t tell the difference. It didn’t matter if it was Destiny 2, Halo Infinite, or even Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy — the ROG Strix Flare II Animate felt the same regardless of the polling rate.
The gaming experience on the ROG Strix Flare II Animate is sublime.
It’s technically better, but the 8,000Hz polling rate isn’t the selling point of this keyboard. It’s just a perk. Unfortunately, it’s only a perk for some gamers. You’d need to be an ultra-competitive gamer to notice a difference, and you need at least a 9th-gen Intel i7 or 2nd-gen AMD Ryzen 7 to even use the higher polling rate.
Outside of polling rate, the gaming experience on the ROG Strix Flare II Animate is sublime. It’s not the switches or keycaps, which you can get with any gaming keyboard, but the wrist rest and build. Angled down with the wrist rest attached is my new favorite way to play games. It’s comfortable, and moving between rows felt immediately natural.
You can configure the ROG Strix Flare II Animate through Asus Armoury Crate. The app includes all of the settings you’d want, including macro recording, custom RGB effects, and per-key remapping. But it doesn’t hit the same heights as Corsair iCue or Logitech G Hub.
Part of the problem is focus. Armoury Crate is a hub that includes extra features like machine-wide profiles, game deals, and system updates. The extras are great, but they drown out the settings for the ROG Strix Flare II. Razer has this problem with Synapse. There’s too much going on, and it makes getting around to make basic changes more difficult than it needs to be.
That’s not to say it’s difficult overall. Armoury Crate doesn’t look as good as iCue or G Hub, but it’s just as fast. I managed to update my firmware, adjust my polling rate, select one of the 10 premade lighting effects, and create a custom AniMe animation in about five minutes after finding the right spot.
Outside of lighting, Armoury Crate allows you to remap any key with an application shortcut, a text input, a macro, or anything in between. That spreads to the media buttons, too. And if you don’t want to mess with the software, you can record your macros on the fly. I had hoped for more robust macro recording — Armoury Crate tops out at 100 commands — but it’s still more than enough for most people.
Once you have everything set, you can store your macros, key assignments, and lighting in one of five onboard profiles.
After learning Armoury Crate’s quirks, you’ll be able to get around without too many issues.
Again, Armoury Crate doesn’t reach the heights of iCue or G Hub, especially when it comes to custom lighting effects (that comes through a separate app, Aura Creator). But it doesn’t do anything too egregious, and after learning its quirks, you’ll be able to get around without too many issues.
The AniMe settings are a little more involved. Use one of the presets or a basic image, and you’ll be fine. Anything else falls apart. The animation timeline is imprecise and lacks settings, and adding your own images or GIFs is a practice in patience.
The problem is that the AniMe matrix only has 320 LEDs. It gets more difficult to tell what you’re looking at as the image gets smaller, which restricts you to basic shapes and patterns. The built-in clock doesn’t show up great, either. You can display your system clock, including a notification for alarms, but numbers don’t always play nicely with the matrix.
It’s just a situation of expectation versus reality. The AniMe matrix is limited. It’s great within those limitations, though. It’s a fantastic way to get quick status updates about your PC or check the time, and if you find an image that plays well with this format, the matrix adds a lot of personality to a setup.
The ROG Strix Flare II Animate is a keyboard that refuses to say “no.” Plump and cushy wrist rest? Check. Excellent lighting and customization options? They’re here. Hot-swappable switches? Asus has them. It’s the ultimate gaming keyboard at the start of 2022, combining disparate elements from mainstream and boutique gaming keyboards to make something that feels truly special.
It’s still a $220 wired gaming keyboard, which is tough to swallow. If you’re like me and are willing to pay a premium price for premium products, however, it’s money well spent.
Are there any better alternatives?
Nothing brings together all of the features of the ROG Strix Flare II Animate, but a few keyboards get close:
- $200 Razer Huntsman V2 — The closest competitor to the ROG Strix Flare II Animate with a pleather wrist rest and 8,000Hz polling rate, but lacks hot-swappable key switches.
- $150 Logitech G Pro X keyboard — Comes with hot-swappable key switches, but limited to a tenkeyless design and lacking media or function buttons.
- $230 Corsair K100 RGB — Packed with extra macro buttons and better software, and matches the ROG Strix Flare II Animate with a faux leather wrist rest. However, it still lacks hot-swappable key switches.
How long will it last?
Until the LEDs give out. With hot-swappable switches at the ready, you could continue to give new life to the ROG Strix Flare II Animate for as long as you can buy key switches.
Should you buy it?
Yes. The ROG Strix Flare II is the gaming keyboard endgame. At the start of 2022, there isn’t another keyboard that does everything this one does. It’s expensive, but even similarly priced rivals can’t top what Asus is offering.
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