Asus announced an animated mechanical keyboard at CES this week, the Asus ROG Strix Flare II Animate. It has many of the trendiest specs found in modern premium gaming keyboards, including an ultra-high polling rate. But it’s the programmable LEDs that really make it stand out — and no, I’m not talking RGB keys.
The ROG Strix Flare II Animate is a full-sized keyboard with media keys. The media keys on most keyboards are located on the right side, above the number pad. The Asus keyboard’s programmable metal volume roller and hotkeys are on the left. The space above the numpad is instead reserved for the keyboard’s so-called “AniMe Matrix LED display”.
The AniMe Matrix is composed of 312 mini LEDs that you can program via software to display your own images or animations. You can also set the mini-LEDs to respond to sounds from your game or provide indicators of battery life, keyboard brightness, or the keyboard’s current RGB lighting mode.
According to Asus, you can also set the display to show email notifications and the time and date.
Asus has been adding mini LEDs to unexpected products for a while now. It started at CES 2020, when Asus debuted the ROG Zephyrus G14, which featured a customizable mini LED matrix on the lid. Since then, Asus has brought the technology to other gaming laptops and, more recently, to the Asus ROG Delta S Animate gaming headset. However, the ROG Strix Flare II Animate is the most decked out peripheral, as it has more than three times as many mini-LEDs as the headset.
Those aren’t the only LEDs in the keyboard, of course. The ROG Strix Flare II Animate from Asus has programmable RGB LEDs under each key. The foam wrist rest, which attaches to the keyboard via magnets, allows for the addition of a light diffuser on the bottom, reminiscent of the options found in some of Razer’s most expensive gaming keyboards.
But while the Razer keyboard’s palm rests have their own dedicated lights, you’ll need to remove the diffuser from the bottom of the Asus keyboard and stick it to the palm rest to illuminate it. Razer makes having a light up palm rest easy; Asus makes it look like it’s a chore.
Aside from the lights, Asus’ clacker goes above and beyond, even for a gaming-focused product.
8,000 Hz polling rate and other luxuries
2021 was the year of the hertz, with more and more peripherals showing extreme polling rates. It looks like 2022 will continue the trend, as the ROG Strix Flare II Animate and its non-animated counterpart, the ROG Strix Flare II (also announced today), have a polling rate of 8,000 Hz.
Most keyboards have a polling rate of 1,000 Hz, which means they report to the connected PC up to 1,000 times per second. The ROG Strix Flare II keyboards report up to 8,000 times per second, resulting in a total input delay of 0.125 ms (1/8 ms) compared to 1 ms for a 1000 Hz keyboard. The new 8,000 Hz keyboards will join, for example, the 2021 Razer Huntsman V2 and Corsair’s K70 RGB TKL and K65 RGB Mini.
Big numbers may look exciting, but chances are you haven’t noticed your keyboard getting stuck behind your fingers. Unless a keyboard is extremely subpar or has a poor wireless connection, most people would say that standard keyboards produce no discernible delay. When I tested the 8,000 Hz Huntsman V2, I couldn’t tell the difference between gaming at 8,000 Hz and 1,000 Hz. It takes a tech enthusiast, like a professional gamer, with a super-fast computer and monitor to take full advantage of an 8,000 Hz keyboard.
However, the ROG Strix Flare II Animate has more to offer. Keycaps use a premium PBT plastic and doubleshot legends that will not fade. The switches are Asus’ take on linear red, clicky blue, and tactile brown, but they’re also hot-swappable, so you can easily turn them off.
Sound-damping foam should also bring a quieter keyboard with less pinging, so we’re keeping our ears open. Each key is also programmable, including macro recording, and you get a USB pass-through port.
Price and release date
All this comes with an exorbitant price tag, even by mechanical gaming keyboard measures. The ROG Strix Flare II Animate will cost $220 when it launches later this month.
If that’s too expensive for you, the ROG Strix Flare II, which doesn’t have an animated matrix, hot-swappable switches or light diffuser for the palm rest, is a slightly lower $180. It’s also coming in late January.
This article has been updated to clarify 8,000 Hz keyboards.