Most gaming keyboards only use lighting to look pretty. You watch as the keys illuminate with a dazzling array of 16.8 million colors and a variety of effects. Gaming keyboards with optical mechanical switches do the same thing, sure, but they’re also built around the idea that light offers the best way to register a key press. RGB lighting is essentially a decoration; the lighting used by optical switches are foundational.
It’s taken a while for optical keyboards to go mainstream, but they’re slowing becoming increasingly common among vendors claiming to make the best gaming keyboards. Razer, Corsair and Roccat all released keyboards with optical switches in late 2020, and Asus joins the optical trend with the introduction of the $130 Asus ROG Strix Scope RX. Could this finally be the keyboard that convinces gamers to flock to optical switches?
Asus ROG Strix Scope RX Specs
|Switches||Asus ROG RX Red optical mechanical|
|Onboard Storage||5 customizable profiles|
|Media Keys||With FN|
|Interface||USB 2.0 Type-A|
|Additional Ports||USB 2.0|
|Construction||Aluminum top plate, plastic base|
|Software||Asus Armoury Crate|
|Dimensions (LxWxH)||17.3 in x 5.4 in x 1.5 in (440 x 137 x 39 mm)|
|Weight||2.4 pounds (1.07kg)|
Design of the Asus ROG Strix Scope RX
The ROG Strix Scope RX is a full-size keyboard that features a few design changes to the standard layout meant to help it appeal to gamers. The most notable of those changes are the double-width left Ctrl key, which is supposed to make it easier to find the “crouch” button in most shooters, and the Stealth key that sits in the function row (we’ll talk more about what that key does next). Otherwise, the ROG Strix Scope RX looks like a standard gaming keyboard.
The ROG Strix Scope RX's Stealth key lets you quickly hide all open apps and mute the system’s audio. Like I said in my Asus ROG Strix Scope TKL Electro Punk review, that feature doesn’t feel particularly necessary while working from home. For those who disagree, well, that hoodie-clad keycap is just waiting for you to press it.
It features a black and gray color scheme accented by per-key RGB backlighting and a rather conspicuous ROG logo in the top-right corner. The lighting appears to shine evenly through the keycaps, and the aluminum top plate’s treatment allows it to reflect those lights without coming off as shiny.
There are no dedicated media keys, unfortunately, but Asus did give media controls top priority when it printed the function row’s legends. The “F5” to “F12” labels are all printed on the front of their respective keycaps instead of the top, which is a nice touch. A similar labeling approach is also used for the secondary functions (changing profiles, controlling lighting, et cetera) of other keys.
The ROG Strix Scope RX offers USB 2.0 passthrough, which some will find useful as it brings a USB Type-A port closer to you. But that does mean the keyboard's stuck with a thick cable -- in this keyboard's case, a rubberized one -- that ends with two different USB connectors. That isn’t uncommon for keyboards that offer USB passthrough, but it’s still disappointing after reviewing the HyperX Alloy Origins 60 mini keyboard with a detachable braided cable. Comparatively, the ROG Strix Scope RX is a beast.
I suppose portability isn’t as much of a concern for a full-size keyboard. The ROG Strix Scope RX measures in at 17.3 inches long, 5.4 inches wide, and 1.5 inches tall before the feet are extended from underneath its top corners. It weighs 2.4 pounds. At that point having a sleeker, more travel-friendly cable probably wouldn’t change much. For comparison against other optical gaming keyboards, the Razer Huntsman, is 17.5 x 5.5 x 1.4 inches, and the Corsair K100 RGB, with many media and macro keys, is 18.5 x 6.5 x 1.5 inches.
Luckily, it seems like Asus was prepared for the ROG Strix Scope RX to sit in one place for extended periods. The company said the keyboard offers IP56 dust and water resistance, which means it should be able to withstand any reasonable accumulation of dust or spills.
Typing Experience on the Asus ROG Strix Scope RX
Most important is the ROG Strix Scope RX’s status as the first keyboard to feature Asus’ proprietary ROG RX Red optical mechanical Switches. These linear switches are supposed to be able to withstand up to 100 million keystrokes, feature a 1.5mm actuation point, require 40g of force to actuation and 55g of force to bottom out and a have total travel of 4mm. These specs are similar to the linear Cherry MX Red standard mechanical switches, but they require less force to bottom out (55g versus over 60g) and a shorter actuation point (1.5mm versus 2mm). They also require less initial force for the spring to start compressing (45g compared to about 30g ). More details are on Asus’ website.
The ROG RX Red switches performed surprisingly well during everyday use. I’ve been fairly vocal about my preference for tactile keys, especially when I’m typing, but the first time I pressed a key on the ROG Strix Scope RX, I double-checked the packaging to make sure I wasn’t sent the wrong keyboard by mistake. These don’t feel like any other linear switches I’ve used before. While they are linear, meaning they don't have a bump along its travel, such as Cherry MX Browns, they feel stiffer than other linear switches, like Cherry MX Reds. And that stiffness persisted after I used the keyboard for days.
Whether that’s a virtue or vice is a matter of perspective. For me, it meant I got the advantages of linear switches — namely their responsiveness and relatively quiet operation — without the disadvantage of having to edit out a bunch of accidental keypresses. But it’s not hard to imagine that someone expecting a linear switch to be easier to press might be a little frustrated.
A keyboard is more than just the sum of its switches, however, and in that regard the ROG Strix Scope RX left something to be desired. The keycaps feel oddly grippy and grimy even though my house is (almost unbearably) dry because of the extended New York winter. It almost felt like I had to pull my fingertips away from the keycaps any time I wanted to punch at another one.
But those are just qualitative impressions. The quantitative impressions are more favorable: I scored an average 122.3 words per minute (wpm) with 97.3% accuracy on the 10fastfingers.com typing test. That’s faster than I typed on any other keyboard, including my daily drivers, with only a slight decrease in accuracy, (which varied; I was 99.5% accurate in one of the tests.
It was also nice to have some of the keyboard back after using a 60% board. Providing easy access to media controls, arrow keys, and important tools like Home and End was a point in the ROG Strix Scope RX’s favor. Do I still find the number pad unnecessary? Yeah, especially since I have a fairly large mouse pad. But having those others keys available helped during everyday use.
Gaming Experience on the Asus ROG Strix Scope RX
Gaming is where the ROG Strix Scope RX is supposed to shine. Optical switches aren’t just meant to be more durable than their strictly mechanical counterparts, since they actuate when the stem passes through a light beam, rather than via metallic contact. They’re also said to be more responsive. Nothing travels faster than light, right? That is just an illusion, though, and the reality is that I wasn't able to tell that I was gaming on optical switches rather than standard mechanical ones.
I will say the way Asus designed the ROX RX Red switches lends to my play style. I like to keep my fingers on important keys (the WASD cluster, left Ctrl, etc.) when I play my go-to competitive titles, like Valorant and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Some linear switches interpret that hovering as a key press, which can lead to disaster if it results in me peeking at a bad time.
That doesn’t happen with this keyboard, however, because of the ROG RX Red Optical Mechanical Switches’ initial resistance. That means the switch will probably be even more polarizing when it comes to gaming —many linear switches are popular specifically because they can be activated by a baby’s breath from halfway across the room— but it worked for me.
The grippy quality of the keycaps also proved to be a boon rather than a hindrance when it came to gaming. Typing requires me to find a bunch of different keys in rapid succession, while gaming mostly requires me to keep my hands on the same keys for extended periods. That’s easier (if not more pleasant) when those keys are slightly grippy.
A word to the wise: if you’re going with a full-size keyboard like this, you should get a mouse pad that’s either small enough to sit next to it or large enough for it to sit on. Mine, the Razer Gigantus V2 in large, was caught in a no-man’s-land that forced me to move everything around when I switched from writing to gaming. Those minor inconveniences add up. (For some recommendations, see our Best RGB Mouse Pads list.)
Software and Features on the Asus ROG Strix Scope RX
The ROG Strix Scope RX uses the same Armoury Crate software as other Asus peripherals to handle key settings, basic RGB lighting management and firmware updates. It’s also compatible with Asus Aura Sync, which helps the company’s products shine their pretty lights in unison, but people who haven’t invested in that ecosystem can just stick with Armoury Crate.
You can save settings to the keyboard’s onboard storage. It offers five user-managed profiles, as well as a default profile that can all be accessed via the F1-F6 keys. This will mostly be used to swap between specific key assignments and lighting effects based on the game being played, and Armoury Crate can switch profiles automatically when games are launched.
Much of the keyboard’s additional functionality can be managed right on-keyboard, too, which is a welcome feature. The arrow cluster can be used to manage the lighting’s brightness and effects, a quick-toggle switch immediately switches the function row to media playback controls, holding down Fn while pressing the Windows key can “lock” it to prevent accidental presses.
The keyboard’s on-the-fly macro recording makes it easy to record and assign macros without ever having to launch Armoury Crate too. It’s nice not to be totally reliant on the software for basic functionality, such as managing different lighting presets or switching between profiles saved to onboard storage. Armoury Crate is a bonus, not a necessity, as it should be.
The ROG Strix Scope RX also boasts 100% anti-ghosting, N-key rollover, and a 1,000Hz response rate.
The ROG Strix Scope RX was a surprise. I expected the linear optical switches to respond to a feather landing on top of them, but instead they met me with resistance similar to that of a tactile key. I expected to use Armoury Crate for everything, because it’s been a while since I reviewed an Asus keyboard, but instead I was reminded that most features can be managed on-keyboard. I expected it to look exactly like a stereotypical gaming keyboard, but… well, yeah, I was right there.
There’s a lot to like about the ROG Strix Scope RX. It feels sturdy and offers per-key RGB lighting, and a wide array of features that should allow it to appeal to a diverse audience. Not everything feels like a must-have, though, and Asus’ decision to opt for a more resistive linear switch for its first optical keyboard might confound people who expect more responsiveness.
There are some downsides too. Nobody likes grimy keycaps, and I suspect that’s exactly what the ROG Strix Scope RX would have if there were a single additional drop of moisture in my home. Its rubber cable is massive and looks bent after just a little over a week of use. Travel doesn’t even feel like an option with this keyboard; it’s simply too big to easily take anywhere.
For those seeking a sturdy full-size keyboard with optical linear switches that aren’t as sensitive as the titular character in “Bubble Boy,” then, the ROG Strix Scope RX should fit the bill. Anyone looking for something a little more responsive or portable should consider something else.