Asus ROG Claymore review: A mechanical keyboard conversion

Asus ROG Claymore

Time to own up. Before now, I’ve never actually used a mechanical keyboard. For a time I used one of Roccat’s giant, spongy Isku gaming keyboards, mostly because that happened to be the one sitting on my desk when I started my first job, but in that same job, I soon began a long-lasting, if slightly unhealthy, relationship with one of Microsoft’s basic wireless keyboard sets. I know, I should probably hand in my RPS badge right now.

I had good reason, though. I promise. It was quiet, the keys weren’t too squishy, and it was pretty comfortable for the amount of time I spent typing everyday. Yes, it had a bit of trouble playing games – nervous, first person platforming manoeuvres definitely weren’t its forte – but when it’s your only option in the office, you make do. I’ve moved on since then, both in terms of job and keyboard, but if using the world’s worst bit of typing plastic has taught me anything, it’s that you learn to adjust to what’s in front of you. And right now, that’s the rainbow-coloured Asus ROG Claymore.

The price alone will probably make most people mash their teeth (and respective keyboards) in horror. £150 for the main board and an extra £50 for the detachable number pad? I can barely stomach the idea of paying more than £30 for a keyboard, let alone five times that amount.

Of course, even I have to admit the Claymore’s build quality is quite a step up from what I’m used to. Whatever your feelings are regarding Asus’ slightly try-hard, space age typography here, the lightly patterned aluminium-alloy frame cuts a smart profile on your desk, and its compact size belies a surprising amount of heft. The braided USB cable is also fully detachable, so it’s easy to replace if, like me, you happen to have have a pair of cats with a taste for PC wires.

Then there are those rainbow-coloured mechanical keys. Jeremy’s already discussed the highs and lows of owning a mechanical keyboard, but just to recap, mechanical keyboards get their name from the individual springs and switches underneath each key.

Asus ROG Claymore keys upclose

Your regular old Microsoft keyboard, on the other hand, just has a single plastic sheet inside it pocked with dozens of little contact domes – a bit like bubble wrap – connected to a circuit board. They’re cheaper and easier to make, but when something goes wrong you usually have to throw the whole thing out. By contrast, mechanical keyboards are generally more durable and if something goes wrong, you only have to replace the affected switches – although you’ll still need to be confident with a soldering iron if you want to do it on your own.

The only real problem with having mechanical switches is that they’re incredibly noisy, and I mean a Wolfenstein gatling gun kind of noisy. You can get switches that are quieter than others, but my particular Claymore sample came with Cherry’s ‘red’ type of MX switch, which, to my ears, produces one of the most anti-social CLACKETY CLACK CLACKs I’ve ever heard. It’s tolerable when I’m alone in my own office, but when I’m using the living room PC and my partner’s trying to watch TV, it becomes more obnoxious than a dripping tap.

To Asus’ credit, the Claymore does come in other switch colours. This includes the even louder, better-for-general-typing ‘blue’ switches, the heavy, slightly quieter ‘black’ switches, and the generally more balanced ‘brown’ switches that are considered a nice halfway house between work and play. But this is still going to be a keyboard best used in isolation if you want to maintain healthy relationships with the rest of your household.

Asus ROG Claymore number padThe number pad is entirely optional – a good thing, too, when it costs another £50

For all my objections about the noise, though, I’ve grown quite fond of the Claymore. The hundreds of RGB light configurations are maybe a bit much, but its precise, clean-cut movements made general typing really quite comfortable, and in-game actions were instilled with a weird sense of decisiveness. Why, yes, I will pull that lever, and I will do so with THE POWER OF A THOUSAND STRONGMEN.

It took a little bit of getting used to, I won’t deny it. After years of rummaging around on low-rise laptop keys, the sheer height of each Claymore switch often felt like my fingers were reaching up to type on pedestals. I adapted pretty quickly, though, and typing and lever-pulling on my old keyboard – another Isku I bought years later – now just feels a bit sad and limp, like poor old B.J. Blazkowicz at the beginning of Wolfenstein II.

As much as I like the Claymore, however, there’s still the small matter of it costing £150. You don’t get any extras with that, either, such as USB ports, a wrist rest or a headphone and microphone jack. There are programmable macro keys, on the fly macro recording, and you can sync your colour scheme to match your Asus ROG motherboard and mouse if you’re into that kind of thing, but I’d take another couple of USB ports over all that any day.

Asus ROG Claymore connectorYou’ll find these connector slots on either side of the keyboard and number pad

The optional number pad does come with a rather gorgeous metal volume knob that I could just roll up and down all day, but when you’ve already got a full array of multimedia keys mapped to the function buttons on the main keyboard, it does feel a bit superfluous. Don’t get me wrong, that slider is infinitely more satisfying to the touch than tapping a bunch of multimedia keys, but I draw the line at paying another £50 for the privilege. It’s worth noting that you can also attach the number pad to either side of the keyboard thanks to a pair of simple slot mechanisms, but unless you really feel the need to have an ambidextrous number pad, I’d give it a miss.

There’s no denying the Claymore’s a great keyboard, but there are definitely cheaper options out there. Alec described a near identical conversion to mechanical keyboards after buying Razer’s Blackwidow Ultimate, which costs £110, and you can save even more money by opting for one that doesn’t pulsate with all the colours of the rainbow. If the Claymore does take your fancy, though, it might be wise to wait a few weeks until Black Friday, as you may be able to pick one up on the cheap depending on what deals are available. If you’ve got the money to spare, though, then the ROG Claymore won’t disappoint.

55 Comments

  1. crazyd says:

    Now that you have the mech keyboard bug, it’s only a matter of time before you are dropping ~$400 on a real deal Model F clone with actual steel plates instead of just simulated plastic clickers. Or maybe that’s just me…

  2. DEspresso says:

    So much space under the keys, I think me snacks way to much for this one. Does not look crumb-friendly.

    • Ragnar says:

      The crumbs just fall out, so that’s not an issue.

  3. fish99 says:

    You can negate a lot of the sound from a mechanical by fitting o-rings which stop the keys bottoming. Even with clicky blues it makes quite a difference.

    • Ragnar says:

      Doesn’t that negate a lot of the feel, too, since you’re now bouncing on rubber O-rings?

      • fish99 says:

        Not at all, in anything they feel better. They don’t bounce at all, it just deadens the whack sound, and it also reduces the throw a little bit. The ‘feel’ from blues come from the tactile bump, not from bottoming the keys.

  4. Ragnar says:

    I seem to be very much at odds with the type of gamer these high priced mechanical keyboards seem targeted towards.

    I don’t need my keyboard to put on a light show, but I absolutely want to have dedicated media keys and preferably a calculator key too. I don’t understand why all these high priced mechanical keyboards lack features found in $30 membrane keyboards.

    • Ghostwise says:

      Different uses. Gaming, coding, general desktop use, etc. may lead to different preferences about key characteristics and patterns.

      Personally I use two different mechanical keyboards depending. Though admittedly it’s because I managed to fix my Unicomp, which I thought I had somehow broken and had already ordered a Logitech replacedment for.

    • fish99 says:

      Agree, I managed to get one with dedicated keys for mute, vol up/down and calc, but I really miss stuff like next/previous track.

      • Smarag says:

        On Keyboards without it you can just program e.g. alt+volume up to mean next track.. It’s really not rocket science. Most higher priced keyboard usually all have individual programmable keys.

        • fish99 says:

          My Ducky Zero doesn’t have any software, but it already has these shortcuts hardwired into it, but since I’ve changed the keycaps I can’t even see which keys they’re on anymore.

          The thing is, when you’re in the middle of a game, in the dark, finding ALT and F5 for next track is frankly a pain in the butt and involves looking away from your game, whereas dedicated media buttons, or a volume wheel, you can find by feel alone.

    • PseudoKnight says:

      There’s different people with different needs/wants. I don’t care for the lights either, but I imagine they can be turned off. What I do care about is the lack of a required superfluous keypad (which exists on a large majority of keyboards and it annoys me since they’re redundant). This gives me much more space on the right for my mouse and still lets others buy the keypad if they want. I wouldn’t care either way for media keys, as I never use them. That’s what shortcuts are for.

      Unfortunately the price is a no-go, and I’d really want a split keyboard (less wrist strain) if I’m paying that much.

    • modzero says:

      The lack of frame is the reason. At least that’s why I’d consider it. I don’t particularly care for the mechanical stuff — the long travel and noise are silly — but being able to clean a keyboard with a bit of compressed air? Yes please.

      And maybe one can set the backlight to dim white. Lightshow is bad, but I like backlit keyboards.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      Regarding the light show – that’s mostly for promotional reasons – in reality, most keyboards are set to white, but then you can load up different profiles that activate automatically when you run a program – for example, I have a profile for Da Vinci Resolve which groups all my shortcut keys and lights each group a different colour, in deus ex, I have the keys I have mapped to the game stuff on yellow, the rest turned off.

      I sure some people enjoy the light show, but don’t think that that’s all they can do, they can be pretty useful too.

      • Ragnar says:

        My keyboard is on a tray under my desk 99% of the time, and I find that I either remember what all the keys do, or I have to go into the keybinding menu to look them up. Just seeing that V is used by the game doesn’t help because I don’t remember what it does.

        I have a Logitech mouse currently with RGB LEDs, and while it was fun for a few minutes, it’s A) also under a tray under my desk and B) under my hand when I’m at my desk. I like that I can make it glow orange in theory, but in practice I can’t see it when I’m at my desk because it’s under my hand and I can’t see it when I’m away from my desk because I’m away from my desk. The only use I’ve found for it is using one color for high-dpi and another for low-dpi, so I can tell at a glance what mode it’s in when I sit down.

  5. 5thWheel says:

    I absolutely love my Das Keboard 4C Ultimate (for coding, I don’t really play games that need whatever extra love a mechanical keyboard is supposed to bring) because I’m a huge nerd who once watched The Matrix:)
    link to daskeyboard.com
    I guess it would be the inverse of a rainbow keyboard:)

    • kwyjibo says:

      Just get a Das.

      No idea why anyone would want this rainbow light bullshit.

      RPS, try covering general purpose good kit instead of stuff marketed towards 1337 GaMeR Pro bullshit.

    • gpown says:

      Looks sweet. Too bad Filco has the side-print patent in Europe – I still have my CM Quickfire TK Stealth because of that, otherwise I’d get something better (because then they would have side-printed models). I don’t like top-print, but probably couldn’t use blanks.

  6. Rizlar says:

    I know, I should probably hand in my RPS badge right now.

    Hopefully this is sarcasm. Who cares what sort of keyboard anyone uses?

    Have tried cherry MX blue keyboards belonging to other people and yeah, they feel really nice to use and it would be nice to own one. But I also love my chunky, clunky, cheap arsed, wired keyboard with the missing leg. Never really considered replacing it, let alone worried about my status due to it. It works.

    • Ghostwise says:

      Hopefully this is sarcasm. Who cares what sort of keyboard anyone uses?

      Keyboard manufacturers ?

      But yes, “the real old skool pros use mechanicals” is an old tongue-in-cheek meme in tech, and presumably what’s Ms. Byrne is referencing.

      It’s just a goofy joke, mostly used when such a keyboard gets too noisy from rapid typing. No need to get that defensive.

  7. Premium User Badge

    garfieldsam says:

    Will never be worth it to me until they can make it beer-spill-proof :(

    • battles_atlas says:

      This is a major issue. I shorted my beloved Corsair red switched keyboard when I tipped wine on it. Great keyboard but has a big hole in the tray the keys sit in which goes straight onto the circuit board. Ended up buying the same one again mind, more than half the price of the one reviewed here

  8. Michael Manning says:

    Hate the aesthetic of gamer peripherals, it just looks so…juvenile? I can’t articulate it, just looks really silly I think. But I want one.

    • Zenicetus says:

      I can do without the rainbow colors and steampunkish (or is it industrial punk?) look of the exposed switches. But I do like mechanical keys and backlighting. I use the Razer something… Black Widow Ultimate, I think? Good mechanical keys, solid green backlighting. Not too expensive compared to some of these things, and it has held up well, so far.

      I still miss my old, original IBM PC metal keyboards though. None of the newer keyboards has ever felt that good under the fingers.

    • Fade2Gray says:

      Right with you. I found myself a nice, simple black Logitech mechanical keyboard with white back-lighting on Amazon for a decent price a few months ago. Very happy with it.

    • BadCatWillum says:

      Enthusiast mechanical keyboards have the mechanical switches and the RGB stuff (if you want it) and mostly have a neutral industrial design, but my favourite feature is the finely-chiseled PBT keycaps on my Vortexgear Pok3r. They just feel great under my fingers, like typing on carved granite.

  9. Freud says:

    I’ve used everything from mechanical to cheap keyboards and I don’t think it makes much of a difference as far as playing performance goes, unless it’s a super cheap keyboard that fails to record multiple keys pressed or something like that.

    It’s more that mechanical keyboards give a tactile satisfaction. The sounds and the resistance feel good.

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      Same here. I spent £100 on a lovely DasKeyboard, and the build quality is great, and it’s got built in USB3 ports, and a volume knob, and next/previous track buttons, but honestly? It’s not utterly changed the way I type.
      For the first few days the mechanical keys felt really good, but I don’t really notice the difference now (and I have a cheapo keyboard at work which is fine).
      Would I still pay £100 for a mechanical keyboard? Probably not, no. I would for £50 though.
      Of course the build quality on the DasKeyboard is so good I doubt I’ll ever need a new one, unless they invent a new alphabet or something.

  10. Flangie says:

    I remember when all PC keyboards were mechanical and soft touch membrane boards were quite expensive upgrades.

    Currently awaiting Razer’s take on the Currys/Dixons portable cassette deck. So much more tactile than an ssd… :-)

    • apa says:

      The good old original IBM PC keyboard. It was quite noisy and IIRC not very light to press the keys. The Keytronics were a bit more quiet and nicer to use.

  11. Chorltonwheelie says:

    One of the absolute best bits of PC kit I ever bought (and I’m a right hardware queen) was a £50 Steelseries 6GV2 from ASDA.

    Heavy, jet black, no daft lights or badges and cherry black keys. Perfect.

    Absolutely no need to spend silly money on a pimped up eyemare to get a great plank.

  12. Jenuall says:

    I like a decent keyboard for typing on, but as far as gaming is concerned I’ve never seen the benefit of spending anything extra.

    W,A,S,D etc. all seem to work just fine on any keyboard I’ve played on over the years.

  13. Nelyeth says:

    I have a GSkill Ripjaw KM780, which cost me around 80€ (it was on sale, something like -30% if I remember correctly). I think it’s a solid choice for the price, and it has a lot of features I couldn’t live without now : backlighting, a few customizable keys, a wrist-rest, but most importantly, a USB port and a freaking scroll wheel for the sound. That one is the true unsung hero.

  14. emptyhalls says:

    Why even review something this prohibitively expensive

    • crazyd says:

      There’s plenty of parts on / in my PC that are way more expensive than this. And, it’s not even a top of the line mechanical keyboard, prices go MUCH higher than this.

  15. suibhne says:

    Picked up a Corsair K65 – the compact version without a numpad – about three years ago. Haven’t looked back. For gaming as well as general use, this keyboard elevated something that I thought was a purely quotidian activity into an interaction that I actually enjoy.

    Yes, it seems a little silly. And yes, it’s a really small, nice-to-have factor in the final reckoning. But I will never again use a non-mechanical keyboard for my home rig.

  16. empty_other says:

    I really wish they made quality non-mechanical keyboards for desktops.

    Take for example the Surface Pro 4 cover/keyboard: Backlighted, silent, enough resistance in them to not accidentally click a button. If they had recreated that, but with a desktop key-layout instead, and an usb cable (and no touch pad), i would be very happy.

    While i have found a lot of good non-mechanical keyboards on laptops, every non-mechanical desktop keyboard i have tried so far have been awful.

    • crazyd says:

      … The Surface Pro 4 keyboard IS mechanical. It’s not a membrane. There’s no such thing as high quality membrane, they are all mushy nonsense.

      There are quiet mechanical keyboards, not all of them are MX Cherry Blues.

    • HidingCat says:

      Don’t Logitech have some keyboards that are similar to that?

  17. AyeBraine says:

    I just want to throw this out there in case someone is willing to prove me wrong and point me toward mechanical goodness.

    I have a Logitech K310 washable keyboard and I love it. I type a lot (and I mean a lot, I’m an editor and scriptwriter), and I play a fair bit. As I understand this keyboard has run-of-the-mill key bubbles, but it has _gorgeous_ island layout where every key is _very_ separate from each other, which feels like heaven to me compared to the old heavy IBM keyboards I grew up using, that have cliff-like keys next to each other.

    At the same time, the keys have a good range of movement to them, and they’re positive: you have to hit them to press them down (I hate cheap island-type keyboards with almost flush, mushy keys). They clack just the right amount (quite audible and positive but not shrill – when you type a blur the sound blends into a satisfying soft patter). And this blessed keyboard has what I seek most when shopping for boards: two-story Enter key and long Backspace and Shift keys. Yeah, you can also wash it and brush it to become squeaky clean from the inside and the outside.

    As it stands now, I’d like to purchase a lifetime supply of K310s (which isn’t possible because they seem to be discontinued). But every time I read about mechanicals I begin to doubt. Any advice?

    • njury says:

      Had a keyboard like that, loved it.
      Switched to mechanical, loving it even more. It’s the feel, however stupid that sounds.

      I do bottom out the keys, and having moved in with my girlfriend I am now forced into buying either a very expensive “silent” mech board or going back to traditional.

      It is *NOISY* as in very, very noisy.
      If you are in the proximity of anyone when typing it will drive them insane. All you need to do to prove this is letting that other type on your board while you try to do anything. It’s insanely annoying.

  18. Premium User Badge

    syllopsium says:

    I have a couple of Unicomp keyboards – modern versions of the IBM Model M (yes, I’ve seen the Model F recreation, but I’m not taken with that layout). Both are hardwired with a Dvorak layout, which makes gaming.. interesting. The (PS/2) one I have doesn’t do full key rollover, though.

    The solution I had was the Logitech G13, no it’s not buckling spring, but I care less when I’m gaming. It’s easy to hide out of the way when I’m using my main keyboard for productivity, and the LCD screen will probably be useful at some point..

  19. Caiman says:

    I must be weird, but I much prefer typing on a good quality membrane keyboard (emphasis “good”). They’re quiet, have a nice tactile feel without being clicky, and my fingers just flow over the keys. Perhaps I haven’t found the “right” mechanical yet, but they just seem like hard work (not to mention the noise).

    • sosolidshoe says:

      You want Topre switches. They’re a kind of “hybrid” design using both a capacitive mechanical switch with spring and a rubber dome. The result is probably the most satisfying typing experience I’ve ever had – it’s actually hard to describe. All the Cherry/Alpine switch mechanical boards I tried were…light? Fragile-feeling almost? Just resting my hands on the keys was enough to accidentally depress them sometimes, and of course they all have that awful cup-of-dice plastic clicky-rattle sound. Topre requires intent to depress a key, there’s a nice resistance just above the actuation point of the switch from the rubber dome, but none of the “mushy” feeling you get from membrane keyboards, plus the Topre’s have a lovely satisfying “thock” sound when they bottom-out.

      They also don’t suffer from the slightly juvenile(IMO) design aesthetic that plagues mechanical gaming keyboards – the money you’re spending is reflected in the build quality and the typing experience rather than in trying super-duper hard to make it obvious to everybody who sees you that you spent money. The downside is the cost though – you can get “cheap” Cherry/Alpine switch boards now but only a few models of keyboard use Topre and you won’t find them less than $200-250US even secondhand. If you’re going to bother buying anything beyond a cheapie membrane though, I’d say the premium over a Cherry/Alpine based board is worth it, especially if the rattle-clack sound and lightweight keypress-feel of those style switches doesn’t appeal.

  20. Premium User Badge

    Harlander says:

    Someday I’ll replace my six-year-old Microsoft wireless keyboard and mouse… someday…

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      Unlikely, those Microsoft mice are basically indestructible.
      (Microsoft don’t get enough credit for their peripherals, even their £10 keyboards are better quality than some £50 ones)

  21. Little_Crow says:

    Still running my Saitek Eclipse, and am dreading having to replace it.

    Blue backlight with the only media keys for mute,volume up and down and toggle backlight with a decent weight and heft.

    I think my main blocker is that I don’t use headphones and the clicking noise might drive me insane, but I would have too research properly if disaster befelled my Eclipse

  22. Faxanadu says:

    I’m a sucker for Gamer(tm) stuff. I wan’t to like mechanical keyboards. But the buttons are huge, the noise is awful, and it just doesn’t… Feel any better??? I feel like I’m missing out, I just don’t get it.

    My link to tomsguide.com sidewinder is awesome. N-key rollover aka anti ghosting aka press as many buttons as you want, macro buttons, volume buttons, low profile keys to give you that laptop hacker feel, and dim, stylish not over-the-top lighting.

    And the cost? Ehh around 40€ from the nearest supermarket.

    • HidingCat says:

      You probably use a lot of force; I know of people who just hammer on keys and for them membrane or mechanical doesn’t feel any different to them.

  23. Cederic says:

    I’m in love with my Logitech G910. Feels much nicer than Cherry mechanical switches and far quieter too – but still that awesome mechanical precision and feel.

    My cleaner likes it too, but that’s because the keys all glow pink in the dark.

  24. Maruk says:

    I have the latest Corsair K95 RGB, and it is a great keyboard. Yes, it has a lightshow, which is a deceptively effective aid in daydreaming. But it also lies completely still when typing. No slipping, no bending, no creaking. Nothing except the delicious feel of keys being pressed under appreciative fingers. It has an aura of sturdiness! The wrist rest also perfectly sets up my hands for typing. Plus the lightshow. The random rain effect, set to slow speed is mesmerizing!

    Short of being ergonomically curved, I think there is very little this keyboard could do better at this time. It will be interesting to see how they innovate it in the future.

    I had another mechanical keyboard before this. A “Q-Pad” which is manufactured and sold under various names. It was decent enough, but this board is a major step up in all respects. The q-pad also suffered from having certain rubber parts which ended up getting tacky and attracting dirt.

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