Gaming

Keyboard works well out of the box

Built for fans of first-person shooter (FPS) games, exclaims the marketing blurb of the new Asus ROG Strix Scope gaming keyboard.

The claim rests entirely on this: the width of the left Ctrl key is twice the usual size. This key is often used to "crouch" in FPS games, allowing players to take cover or lie low to avoid being detected by enemies.

But as gamers would normally use their little finger to tap the left Ctrl key, which is at the keyboard's edge, I do not see much benefit in having an extra-wide key because gamers are unlikely to mis-hit it even in the heat of battle.

The WASD keys used by gamers to move their characters are also clearly marked in silver. A nice touch, but it will not improve gaming performance.

However, there is much to like about the Scope. For starters, its key features are self-contained and available out of the box. They do not depend on an app, unlike some gaming keyboards.

Take its flashy RGB backlighting. Available out of the box are 10 preset backlight schemes that you can select by pressing the Fn key with either the left or right arrow key.

It does not have dedicated keys for media playback or volume control. Instead, these media controls are shared with the Function keys at the top row. You can easily toggle between having these Function keys work as usual and act as media controls.

  • FOR

    • Design shows off flashy RGB backlight to good effect

    • Compact and well-built

    • Most features work out of the box


    AGAINST

    • No USB port or audio jack

    • No dedicated media controls or extra customisable shortcut keys


    SPECS

    PRICE: $269

    SWITCHES: Cherry MX RGB Red

    FEATURES: RGB backlighting, privacy key, dedicated media controls

    WEIGHT: 1.07kg


    RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 4/5

    PERFORMANCE: 4.5/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3.5/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

The Windows logo key, which is often disabled to prevent accidental key presses that may interrupt a gaming session, can be turned off with a combination of key presses. Again, no software is required.

It has a so-called Stealth key that emulates the Windows' Show Desktop button, which hides all running apps in the background. This feature also mutes audio. Pressing it again restores your apps and unmutes the audio. I can see this feature being used by some to play games covertly.

While most of its features work without an app, the Asus ROG Armoury II app is required if you wish to customise the backlighting, reprogramme the keys or record macros. Your tweaks can be stored in the keyboard's onboard memory in six different custom profiles.

The app is also required for the Asus Aura Sync feature, which lets users synchronise the lighting effects across multiple Asus devices that support this feature, such as monitors and graphics cards.

It uses Cherry MX switches, the gold standard for mechanical switches, which make mechanical gaming keyboards more tactile and accurate than standard keyboards.

The RGB variant of the switches used by the Scope has transparent plastic housing to better show off the RGB backlight, which comes in up to more than 16 million colours.

The review set comes with Cherry MX Red switches, which are built for fast-paced games as the keys can be triggered by a light tap. If red is not your flavour, you can choose from other Cherry MX RGB switches, including blue, brown and black.

Compared with the competition, the Scope lacks some features. For instance, it does not come with a wrist rest. It also does not come with USB ports or an audio jack.

Overall, it is a good keyboard that performs well and looks good. Its extra features mostly hit the mark too.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 05, 2019, with the headline 'Keyboard works well out of the box'. Print Edition | Subscribe