Asus announced an animated mechanical keyboard, the Asus ROG Strix Flare II Animate, at CES this week. 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 about RGB keys.
The ROG Strix Flare II Animate is a full-sized keyboard with media keys. Most keyboards’ media keys are placed on the right side, above the numpad. The Asus keyboard’s programmable metal volume roller and hot keys are on the left side. 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 react to sounds coming from your game or provide indicators for battery life, keyboard brightness, or the keyboard’s current RGB lighting mode.
According to Asus, you can also set the display to show mail 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 had a customizable mini LED matrix on its lid. Since then, Asus has brought the technology to additional gaming laptops and, more recently, to the Asus ROG Delta S Animate gaming headset. The ROG Strix Flare II Animate is the most decked-out peripheral, though, considering it has over three times as many mini LEDs as the headset.
Of course, those aren’t the only LEDs in the keyboard. Asus’ ROG Strix Flare II Animate has programmable RGB LEDs under each key. The foam wrist rest, which attaches to the keyboard via magnets, allows the addition of a light diffuser running around the bottom, reminiscent of the options in some of Razer’s priciest gaming keyboards.
But while Razer’s keyboard wrist rests have their own dedicated lights, you have to remove the diffuser from the Asus keyboard’s lower edge and stick it onto the wrist rest in order to illuminate it. Razer makes having a light-up wrist rest easy; Asus makes it seem like a chore.
Beyond the lights, Asus’ clacker takes things to the extreme, 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 boasting extreme polling rates. It seems 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), carry an 8,000 Hz polling rate.
Most keyboards have a 1,000 Hz polling rate, which means they report to the connected PC up to 1,000 times per second. The ROG Strix Flare II keyboards report at up to 8,000 times per second, resulting in a total input delay of 0.125 ms (1/8 of a ms) compared to 1 ms for a 1,000 Hz keyboard. The new 8,000 Hz keyboards will join the likes of 2021’s Razer Huntsman V2 and Corsair’s K70 RGB TKL and K65 RGB Mini.
Big numbers can look exciting, but chances are good that you haven’t noticed your keyboard lagging 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 lag. 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 seems that 8,000 Hz keyboards are a solution in search of a problem.
The ROG Strix Flare II Animate has more to offer, though. Keycaps use a premium PBT plastic and doubleshot legends that won’t fade. The switches are Asus’ take on linear Red, clicky Blue, and tactile Brown, but they’re also hot-swappable, so you can switch them out easily.
Sound-dampening foam is supposed to bring a quieter keyboard with less pinging as well, so we’ll be keeping our ears open. Every key is also programmable, including macro recording, and you get a USB passthrough port.
Price and release date
All of this comes at an exorbitant price tag, even by mechanical gaming keyboard measures. The ROG Strix Flare II Animate will be $220 when it launches later this month.
If that’s too pricey for you, the ROG Strix Flare II, which doesn’t have the animated matrix, hot-swappable switches, or light diffuser for the wrist rest, is a slightly lower $180. It will also arrive in late January.