Most recently, we were reviewed by the ASUS ROG Strix Scope gaming keyboard, which left behind a rather pleasant impression of the overall quality of performance. Naturally, the cost of this product was also rather big. And as the subject of this review, ASUS offered us a simplified, and at the same time, improved version of this device, called the ROG Strix Scope PBT. Let’s take a closer look at what has changed.
|Model||ASUS ROG Strix Scope PBT|
|Polling frequency, Hz||1000|
|Number of keys||104|
|Keystroke resource, mln.||50|
|Switch type||Cherry MX Red (опционально — Brown / Blue / Black / Speed Silver / Silent Red)|
|Changing the angle of the body||+|
|Built-in memory, KB||+ (six profiles)|
|Ability to record macros||+|
|USB cable length, m||2|
|Braid material||Nylon braid|
|Material||Plastic / Aluminum|
|Color||Black / Red / Gray|
|Software||+ (ROG Armoury II)|
|Removable palm rest||–|
|Dimensions (L x W x H), mm||440 x 136 x 39|
|OS Compatibility||Windows 7 / 10|
|Peculiarities||All keycaps made of PBT plastic, extended Ctrl key on the left (two spare keys included), key to remove caps, channels for signal cable output to the back or sides|
|Average cost, $||125|
Contents of delivery
The packaging of the keyboard consists of an outer cover and an inner black box. There are a couple of product images and basic technical specifications. There is also a short list of the main advantages of the device.
Inside, the keyboard is protected from damage by cardboard dampers and closed with a cloth bag. Better than nothing.
The package includes instructions, two stickers with the ROG logo, two interchangeable PBT caps for the Ctrl key and a key to dismantle them.
The external design of the keyboard case remained unchanged. Like the regular Strix Scope, the top plate is made from 1mm gunmetal brushed aluminum alloy. The design is very strong in bending, nothing crunches or dangles even with very large lateral loads. The buttons are also arranged, as before, in the style of “skeleton”, and visually it seems that they are floating in the air. The most important difference from its predecessor can be seen at first glance – the color of the keycaps. Esc, left Ctrl and Enter are red here, most typing and test buttons are gray, and auxiliary keys are black. If you touch the caps, it becomes clear that they are all made of reliable and wear-resistant PBT plastic, rough to the touch. This is a significant improvement over the ABS caps.
The layout of the printed block of keys is made according to the American ANSI standard, the F1 button is located above the number “2”. The symbols are applied, with a high probability, by thermal sublimation, that is, they are burned into plastic and then filled with molten filler. The inscriptions are distinguishable by touch, erasing does not threaten them, but they will get dirty quickly enough. The Latin alphabet is located at the top center of the caps, while the Cyrillic alphabet is made thinner and shifted down to the right. The keyboard contains symbols of the Ukrainian alphabet. On some keys, special commands are placed on the front face. All single keycaps have the familiar shape with a cylindrical recess. As before, the left Ctrl has been increased to the size of a Shift to make it easier for players to hit it. But this was done by reducing the size of the space and shifting the Win and Alt buttons to the right.
The block of numeric keys is made as standard. The ROG logo in the upper right corner is no longer highlighted and is simply painted over the metal. Dot LED indicators with the symbols “1”, “A”, “S”, “F” and “Win-Lock” remained in their place, on the left. The first three diodes stand for Num-Lock, Caps-Lock, Scroll Lock. The “F” diode is lit if the F5-F12 keys are performing their standard function, and is not lit if they are configured to activate alternative commands. This is switched by the Fn + Ins combination, and the second function of any F5–F12 button can always be activated by holding it together with Fn. And the last icon indicates the game mode and the Win-Lock function (locking the Start button).
The switches in this keyboard are classic Cherry MX Red. However, they lost the backlight LEDs. Why? The answer lies in the cost of caps made of PBT, capable of transmitting light. They must be made using double casting technology, and this would greatly increase the cost of the product as a whole. In this case, PBT caps are made of one layer of plastic, there is no backlighting and, on average, the cost has even decreased. The main characteristics of the mechanisms are standard – a linear stroke, 45 grams of actuation force, a 2 mm actuation point and a full stroke of 4 mm. Alternatively, this keyboard can be supplied with a wide range of mechanisms to suit every taste – Cherry MX Brown, Blue, Black, Speed Silver and Silent Red. Stabilizers of long keys are of high quality, with hidden rods. Key play is minimal.
Interestingly, the double-molded buttons are still on this keyboard. They can even be easily distinguished by their red color, and these are Esc, left Ctrl and Enter. All other caps made of PBT, gray and black, are single-ply. If I were ASUS, I would add double-molded keys to WASD, since it is on them that the main user load steadily falls in the gaming scenario. But, instead, for some reason, two left Ctrl keys were put in reserve.
The lower part of the sidewalls has an inward bevel, which makes it easier to lift and rearrange the device if necessary. Folding legs change the slope of the case and the height of its rear from 39 mm to 51 mm.
The signal cord enters the keyboard housing through a triangular recess in the center back. It can also be removed from the right and left sides, through special channels.
Nylon braided wire is hard and medium in thickness. It maintains its shape well. When removed from the back, its length will be 2 meters, and when laid to the sides – 1.8 meters. There is no ferrite ring on the cord.
The back side of the keyboard has several decorative elements. The right side is designed in the form of diagonal stripes of matte and glossy plastic, and on the left is another ROG logo. The sticker with the serial and product number is glued diagonally. At the rear there is a tunnel system for cable management. The wire is held in it well enough and does not fall out.
There are five rubber feet – in the corners and in the center of the case. The outer edge of each leg is polished to a high gloss, and the inner edge is made of ordinary matte rubber. If you keep it and the table cover reasonably clean, the grip is excellent and the keyboard adheres firmly to the table. The rubber bands on the two folding legs are also glossy.
The keyboard is not backlit. Five information LEDs have a soft white glow, which is clearly visible in both dark and lit rooms.
ASUS ROG Strix Scope PBT has built-in memory for six profiles (five of which can be changed) and allows you to record macros and some other operations without using a driver. All combinations of additional commands are activated using the Fn button. Below is a list of features that we were able to replicate.
|Fn+Esc||Reset keyboard to default settings (hold for 5-6 seconds)|
|Fn+Ins||Switching the mode of operation of the F5–F12 keys between standard commands and multimedia. Alternate command mode can always be executed with a combination with the Fn button|
|Fn+F5 / F5||Start/Pause|
|Fn+F6 / F6||Stop|
|Fn+F7 / F7||Rewind|
|Fn+F8 / F8||Flash forward|
|Fn+F9 / F9||Mute/Unmute Sound|
|Fn+F10 / F10||Turn down the volume|
|Fn+F11 / F11||Turn up the volume|
|Fn+F12 / F12||Minimize all windows and turn off sound|
|Fn+1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6||Switch to 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 profile or default profile|
|Fn+Win||Enable or disable game mode. The Win key is disabled by default. The corresponding indicator lights up|
|Fn+Right Alt||Macro recording. Recording order: 1) press Fn + right Alt to start recording (LEDs F and WinLock will blink); 2) dial a combination of keys; 3) press Fn+Right Alt again to end recording (F and WinLock will blink faster); 4) press the key to which the macro command should be written. To reset the command from the key, you need to repeat all the steps except the second. To cancel the recording, you can press Fn + Esc once|
ASUS ROG Strix Scope PBT uses the ROG Armory II universal driver (the current version at the time of writing this review is 3.00.34), which needs to be downloaded from the official website and installed. After installation, the program will be permanently active, unless otherwise specified in its settings. Automatic and forced check for updates is available. The current keyboard firmware version is 1.00.05. There are 12 interface languages to choose from. In our case, we had to update from version 3.00.28, because this application refused to install completely.
On the basic Keyboard / Settings tab, you can remap all keys except Fn. All settings are saved in one of the five on-board profiles, the sixth (which is the default) is unchangeable. The launch of profiles can be tied to the launch of a specific application. You can disable Alt+Tab and Alt+F4 shortcuts for Game Mode. You can assign default commands, keyboard commands, left or right mouse clicks, a macro, launch a program or open a website, multimedia commands, some Windows features, or disable the button entirely. Unfortunately, the current version of the driver has a bug with displaying the keyboard layout image, so you have to blindly search for radio buttons, although they are fully functional.
In the macro editor, you can create an unlimited number of macros, assign them names, delete, modify, import and export. Keyboard commands and basic mouse functions (not counting scrolling) are available for recording. Delays can be recorded as is, with a fixed time, or without a delay. Playback can be scheduled once, for a certain period of time, or until the command key is released.
There is also a backlight synchronization with other ASUS devices in the driver. But since there were no others at hand, as always, the tab remained inaccessible.
The last tab is the statistics module. When recording is enabled, it captures the number of keystrokes per key, creating a visual heat map that lets the user know exactly which commands they use over 9,000 times.
Ergonomics and testing
Ergonomically, the ASUS ROG Strix Scope PBT keyboard is no different from the original ROG Strix Scope, but now it’s even more pleasant to the touch through the use of keycaps made of PBT plastic. As before, there is a monolithic feel of the metal case, hardy classic mechanical switches, specially polished rubber feet that literally “glue” to the table, a cable management system and a successful keyboard profile that makes it possible to dispense with a palm rest.
As before, the standard key layout does not cause problems with getting used to, typing on it is comfortable. But it takes time to get used to the increased left Ctrl button, due to which the space has decreased and the Win and Alt buttons have shifted to the right. At first, Win will be constantly pressed instead of Alt, so it’s better to just block it so that there are no accidental exits from the game.
A huge selection of mechanical switches allows the user to satisfy any whim. Classic Cherry MX paired with durable PBT keycaps for a great tactile typing experience. Thanks to the reinforced material of the buttons, the backlash of the mechanisms practically disappears. To complete happiness, only rubber dampers under the keys are missing, but they can always be purchased additionally. It is also a pity that the caps were not made using the double casting technology. In this version, they would be practically eternal and the possibility of leaving the backlight would remain. On the other hand, the cost of such a device would be sky-high.
It will not be superfluous for users to be able to record macros on the fly without a driver and save them to separate profiles. It is also interesting to switch the mode of the F5–F12 keys. If they are not in demand, then when switching to the multimedia buttons mode, sound and player control is always at hand, without pressing Fn or extra switches on the case. And the F12 privacy button, which minimizes all windows and turns off the sound, can generally be considered unique.
The disappointment is the ROG Armory II software. For the last few revisions, it works and even installs very unstable. In addition, due to the universal support for all branded gaming devices, it has become too overloaded with extra modules and has grown noticeably in size. I hope that the manufacturer will pay attention to this problem and try to adequately resolve it. Luckily, the Strix Scope PBT works just fine without a driver.
ASUS ROG Strix Scope PBT supports full-fledged NKRO anti-ghosting, which allows you to activate even all the buttons at the same time.
The ASUS ROG Strix Scope PBT is a great example of what a real gaming keyboard should be. Compared to the original ASUS ROG Strix Scope, only two things have changed. First, the backlighting of the keys has disappeared. Secondly, instead of ABS keycaps, PBT keycaps are installed here. As a result, the total cost of the device was reduced by almost a third. And the tactile sensations from typing and playing on this keyboard have become significantly better. The only pity is that they decided to use single caps here, making only Esc, left Ctrl and Enter using double casting technology.
Everything else remains in place: a perfectly sturdy aluminum plate chassis, classic Cherry MX mechanical switches in an assortment of six tactile sensations, NKRO support, grippy feet, cable management, six-profile on-board memory, and the ability to record macro commands without the need for a driver. And another feature of the keyboard is the enlarged left Ctrl.
I could not find any shortcomings in the Strix Scope PBT. The only “but” is the unstable current revision of the driver that supports this device. Hope this problem gets fixed promptly.
The ASUS ROG Strix Scope PBT is a very interesting variant of a mechanical keyboard from a well-known brand, one of the few in its class and price range to feature keycaps made from PBT. And if the lack of RGB lighting is not a critical point, then the Strix Scope PBT can be a worthy purchase at an adequate price.