There are two things I cannot abide in a keyboard: residual crumbs and an absent numpad. The plush, robust, and compact ASUS ROG Strix Scope II 96 Wireless (catches breath) ticks these boxes and then some. Deceptively heavier than it first appears, the Strix Scope II Wireless has a low-rise form factor topped off with a solid metallic plate and elevated keycaps. As is the current trend with mechanical keyboards, the switches aren’t recessed into the base of the board and therefore won’t catch your gamer particles. This wireless, fully featured gaming keyboard removes virtually all unused surface space of the chassis without skimping on features.
For those gamers like myself who grew up with desk-devouring devices like the Logitech G19 and its side column of macro keys and LCD that most people wouldn’t have used, this offering from ASUS respects your table space with barely a compromise. The Strike Scope II 96 Wireless is marginally larger than the average numpad-less keyboard which is a boon for those in the market for a board that takes up less horizontal space but are married to their numpad. It can be a bit challenging at first for touch typists, with the orientation of the entire standard array of keys understandably packed tighter together than the ill-fitting analogy of the sardine can. When reaching for keys outside of the standard QWERTY configuration, such as function keys, they have no tactile spacing or touch-identifiable features to account for the additional keys now squeezed into their row. They’re all crammed along the top of the device while also containing the insert, delete, and page keys that normally hover above the directional keys. For most typists, these keys exist on the periphery and likely won’t disrupt.
The function keys proving a potential jumble is the only general tactile gripe I have with this compacted design, leaving the rest of the day-to-day experience an absolute delight. The mechanical switch of choice here is the NX Snow switch, which features padding within the switches to soften the clicking that comes with typing and quick, repetitive input. This pairing of padding and switch has come as a revelation while typing, making for a plush responsiveness without fully eliminating the physical sensation of a click that many desire from these keyboards. The rebounding of each cap after its soft register meant that my fingers felt like they were virtually typing on clouds. Gelatinous clouds, with a spongy responsiveness when probing these inputs.
With a quick once over with an air can, these raised keys surrender all the residual nasties
Pros for the touch typists aside, ASUS is still marketing this wireless keyboard towards power users who might also indulge in gaming. Here’s where I level my greatest, most subjective criticism of the Scope II 96 Wireless. While the plush dampening pads create a satisfying buoyancy when typing, this resistance can lead to a bit of hand fatigue if you have to hold keys for longer periods. When playing an action game like a first-person shooter and engaging the WASD keys repetitively, I found my hand starting to cramp and tire. I noticed this when testing with Cyberpunk 2077, where driving and running would irritate the back of my hand behind the knuckles. This meant that I would actively avoid WASD-heavy titles when gaming, opting for my gamepad instead. This may be a red flag for very few. If this isn’t you, though, I implore you to still consider this keyboard.
As is a standard with gaming keyboards, there is an array of backlight colour options thanks to the RGB lighting. Compared to my faithful Ducky and my partner’s Razer keyboards, the backlight is noticeably dimmer in half of the lighting modes to the point where the additional functions on the top two rows of keys are effectively invisible when operating in the dark. Also compared to those keyboards, the lighting options aren’t as exciting with only two modes dynamically responding to input. The passive modes, which light the keyboard according to various preset patterns, do a substantially better job of equally lighting up all keys along the top half of the board that are otherwise hard to detect in other modes.
As my first wireless keyboard, I had the anxiety that I’m sure many first-time adopters do: battery life. Fortunately, the Scope II 96 boasts up to 1500 hours of battery life when running wirelessly. Over my couple of months of hands-on testing with this keyboard, I have not had to recharge the keyboard beyond its first top-up. This board just goes strong.
The top two rows have a secondary function for virtually everything
The included wireless receiver also works via Bluetooth or a handy 2.4GHz connection. I had some input hiccups while testing in tandem with the ASUS Harper Ace wireless mouse on the same connection and receiver. On the back of the keyboard, you can simply switch the connection channel via a slider and my almost imperceptible input lag immediately disappeared. The receiver can also be stored on the back of the device, meaning I was easily able to take the keyboard to another workstation with ease.
As emphasised by its ridiculously long name, the ASUS ROG Strix Scope II 96 Wireless successfully crams a whole heap of premium features into a compact, sturdy form factor. As a wireless keyboard retailing at $299, its remarkable battery life, portability, and dual connectivity make this an all-rounder. The plush keycaps create a propelled glide across the board when touch typing, though this same elasticity may cause hand fatigue when playing games that require holding in the same keycaps for hours on end. This minor ergonomic considerations aside, there is a person for whom this wireless keyboard is perfect. ASUS may just have the tightly packed daily driver for you.
Review unit supplied by publisher