A lot of companies have expanded their business into making keyboards and mice over the last decade, and it’s been interesting watching PC hardware manufacturers like Asus and Gigabyte get into the act. It’s not been a smooth process, by any means, every now and then one of them makes a massive leap ahead in quality.
The new ROG Strix Flare is just such a stride forward, an impressive solid and weighty piece of kit that demands respect as soon as you put it in place in front of your monitor. It eschews the over-wrought design of many gaming products in favour a more elegant, monolithic aesthetic. There’s also a single triangular notch on the top right edge, and this holds a neat little trick – the Strix Flare comes with a couple clear plastic inserts to stick in here, one with the ROG logo and one you can customize yourself, which the keyboard’s RGB lighting cleverly illuminates. It’s designed for eSports logos or more personal customisation, and we’re not gonna lie – it’s cooler than we were expecting. Asus included a custom logo for one of our publications and it really does make me smile.
It’s the keys that make the keyboard, though, and the Strix Flare uses tried and trusted Cherry MX switches in either red, brown, blue, or black varieties. We’ve a red version to review, and though it’s not to our usual taste, some of us still feel that you cannot beat Cherry switches. Of course, your mileage may vary, buy typing and gaming on the Strix Flare is mostly a pleasure. The keys are responsive, accurate, and well-spaced, while 100 per cent anti-ghosting means you never miss a keystroke in a flurry of activity.
The one annoying thing about the keyboard though is linked to its RGB lighting. This ties into Asus’ Aura Sync software, so can be synced up with the rest of your PC’s lighting, or controlled via macros to produce a range of… scintillating effects. I turned it off, but if you like breathing, pulsing, or dripping lighting, you’re in luck. It’s also very bright, thanks to a reflective white plate under the keys – in a dimly-lit room the keyboard is font of illumination. However, there’s also something under the keys that causes a slight ringing echo with each key-stroke, and because of the greater size of the openings around each block of keys, you can really hear it. Some may not notice, some may not care, but it makes the keyboard just sound a little… tacky.
On board macros and memory round out the package, as well as a detachable wrist rest, and one of the cleverest features is a groove on the underside of the keyboard to route your headphone cable. But these features don’t quite add up to Asus’ asking price – there are keyboards out there with more features for less.