The no-compromise compact gaming keyboard for people who hate gaming keyboards
A few years ago, a patent owned by mechanical key switch pioneer Cherry ended. It was not long before copies, often inferior, of the iconic Cherry design were hitting the market. What grew out of that initial market has now become a huge industry that has spawned countless brands producing their own switches, as well as a new breed of keyboard snob which can only be rivaled by the audiophile community.
If your new switches were not hand-lubed with the oil from the last surviving Alaskan Sturgeon then you are nothing but a peasant. I’m not really about that. I learned to type on a fully mechanical typewriter, and eventually had the joy of moving up to an IBM Selectric, single element typewriter. If you like tactile feedback, I highly recommend seeking out a Selectric typewriter and enjoying the feeling as the entire unit shakes when the element slams into the ribbon.
Since the world went digital I’ve used everything from original IBM Model M keyboards to the crappiest e-waste keyboards ever included with Gateway PCs. During that time, I’ve found my preference among the Cherry design keyboards to be the Blue switches, as I never liked the feel of any of the linear switches I have tried. I have also spent too many years of entering columns of quantities, costs, part numbers, etc. to suddenly eliminate the 10 key from my life, but I’ve also made many gaming mistakes as I slammed my mouse into my keyboard due to the extra real estate taken up with my beloved 10-key.
- Key Switch: ROG NX Mechanical Switch
- Connectivity: USB 2.0 (TypeC to TypeA), Bluetooth 5.1, RF 2.4GHz
- Size (Full/TKL): 96%
- Lighting: RGB Per keys
- AURA Sync: Yes
- Anti-Ghosting: N Key Rollover
- Macro Keys: All Keys Programmable
- USB Report rate: (USB Report rate) 1000 Hz
- RF 2.4G Report rate: 1000 Hz
- Cable: 2M USB type A to C braided cable
- OS: Windows 11
- Software: Armoury Crate
- Dimensions: 377 x 131 x 40 mm
- Weight: 1012g without cable
- Color: Black
$179.99 USD list
“ROG Strix Scope II 96 Wireless gaming keyboard with tri-mode connection, streamer hotkeys, multifunction controls, hot-swappable pre-lubed ROG NX Snow & Storm mechanical switches, ROG keyboard stabilizers, PBT doubleshot keycaps and silicone dampening foam, three tilt angles, and wrist rest.”
What’s in the box?
ASUS offers a nice unboxing experience with most of their ROG labeled products, and the Scope II is no exception. Once opened, you will find the keyboard (inside an ROG branded black bag).
My first impression of the keyboard was positive. It feels extremely well made and solid, despite the fact that the bottom plate is plastic. Also contained in the box are: the wrist rest, an ROG labeled USB Type A to Type C cable, a Type A to C desktop housing for the wireless receiver, a combination keycap/switch pulling tool, and an alternate spacebar with the ROG logo.
The wireless receiver itself is held in the housing of the keyboard in a clever magnetic slot. After my years of Razer products, I was very pleased to not only see the Type C connection, but a Type C connection that would work with any Type C cable, and not one with a proprietary plug housing.
Let’s talk about the keyboard
The ASUS ROG Strix Scope II 96 Wireless is roughly the same size as a standard “tenkeyless” form factor. It is larger than the 60% models that have become popular over the last few years, but it still frees up a lot of mouse pad real estate normally lost to a full size keyboard.
While the 96 percent form factor alone is enough to gain some attention, the new Asus product offers a full line of features to help in compete in the market. The Scope II 96 offers both 2.4G and Bluetooth wireless, as well as wired connectivity. Below its aluminum top plate, the Scope II features both silicone and foam damping layers as well as proprietary ROG key stabilizers to absorb vibration and pinging in the chassis.
The keyboard features a programmable multifunction button and dial at the upper right. There is also a reasonably comfortable magnetic wrist rest, but I am uncertain that the “leatherette” covering will prove to be durable over the long term. There is, of course, the mandatory RGB implementation.
The North American model includes Doubleshot PBT keycaps. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the font used on the Scope II, and without the backlights set to 50% or brighter, the keys can be difficult to read. Usually this isn’t a problem for touch typists, but when attempting to learn a whole new keyboard layout, being able to see which key is delete can be desirable until muscle memory takes over.
The photos I’ve seen of the ABS keycaps available in other markets look to allow more of the illumination to shine through, but the font is still the same.
ASUS also touts a new series of switches for the Scope II, the NX Snow and NX Storm. The Snow is a mechanical, linear switch, while the Storm is a tactile, but not clicky switch. Both switches come from the factory pre-lubed (but the Alaskan Sturgeon still survives, thankfully).
The switches are also hot-swappable, so if you don’t find one of these to your liking, the Scope II is compatible with both 3 pin and 5 pin aftermarket switches. ASUS says that the Scope II 96 will be available with either switch variant, but at the time of writing, only the NX-Snow (linear) is available.
Right up front, the feel of the NX-Snow switches shocked me. Every other Linear switch I’ve tried has felt mushy (and honestly, a little cheap). The NX-Snow switches feel amazing. They are extremely smooth and quiet (or at least quiet in comparison to other switches I’ve tried). This is really the first time I’ve understood people who say that they prefer linear switches, and to some extent, I understand those aforementioned keyboard snobs and their desires to drive the Alaskan Sturgeon to extinction.
This wasn’t just a keyboard I was going to review, this was my new keyboard and I knew that within five minutes of typing on it. I really don’t know that I have a way to describe the typing experience other than to say that it was simply different, and better, than any other switch or keyboard I’ve ever used.
Everything is not all sunshine and roses. Despite my immediate love of the feel and typing experience of the ROG Scope II, there were some adjustments to be made. After 30+ years of typing on a full size keyboard there has certainly been a learning curve. I can’t touch type the delete key, and the single space Zero on the 10 key is taking some adjustment. It is a bit of a struggle, but practice with the form factor will make it a non-issue.
Also, when dealing with any ASUS product that features RGB, there is the big rainbow colored elephant in the room known as Armoury Crate. While ASUS has given us some great products over the years, they have also given us the software equivalent to Syphilis with this monstrosity. Luckily, they seem to have been listening (at least recently) as you do not have to install the full version of Armoury Crate for the Scope II, as they have a trimmed down version called Armoury Crate Gear which will only offer customization of the one device.
Better still is the fact that ROG Scope II 96 has six onboard profiles which can be customized within the Armoury Crate software, then saved to the device. You can then uninstall the software and utilize all 6 profiles, selectable with the a FN+1-6 keypress. To be honest though, the Armoury Crate Gear is not even close to the bloatware levels of the full version, and places very little load on the system. You do not have to create an account to use the software, but it does still run some background operations, even when not open. My personal feeling would be to leave it installed all six profiles set the way you want, and then uninstall it.
If my proclamation that this was my new daily driver keyboard didn’t make it clear enough, I really like this keyboard. The new NX-Snow switches have changed my mind on linear switches forever. I might be tempted to try the tactile version NX-Storm when it’s available separately, but for now, I’m sold.
At $179.99 it is not cheap, but it’s also less than the $300 plus people are spending on custom keyboards right now. The typing experience is exceptional and the feature set of the keyboard itself matches any other gaming/productivity keyboard on the market, and the Alaskan Sturgeon can continue to survive for a bit longer.
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