The Asus ROG Falchion has to be one of the more interesting mechanical gaming keyboards released in recent years. Adopting a 65 per cent form factor, this compact solution does a fine job of freeing up precious desktop real estate and packs a handful of unique and often well-thought-out features that go some way toward justifying the lofty £150 price tag.
There's no denying that £150 is a significant sum for such a small keyboard, yet the Falchion's petite profile is one of its key strengths. Appreciating that the prevailing 60 per cent form factor isn't ideal for most gamers, Asus has opted to move up to 65 per cent to allow for full-sized arrow keys, as well as Insert, Delete, Page Up and Page Down, flanking the keyboard's right side.
It's a layout that works rather well, and overall dimensions of 305mm x 101mm x 39mm are positively tiny compared to the full-size Corsair K100 RGB I've been using these past few months. That's precisely the point; though you lose out on some of the functionality of a complete keyboard, you gain a whole lot more space for mouse movement, and a 60/65 per layout is of course more versatile in tighter confines such as the bedroom or alongside the living-room TV.
Such a diminutive profile makes Falchion a naturally good-looking piece of kit - it is sleek and proportioned just right - while build quality is solid throughout. There's no unwanted flex, the chassis doesn't squeak under strain, and at 520g it is light enough to hold in one hand if need be. I've yet to master my Elliot Carver typing skills, but it's nice to have the option.
Asus has the form factor down to a tee and there's more to the Falchion than first meets the eye. This is the first ROG keyboard with wireless Aura Sync RGB lighting, so you needn't worry about losing your fancy lighting effects when hooked-up via the small 2.4GHz USB dongle, and if you are particularly pedantic about latency, you can simply keep the braided USB-C to USB-A charging cable plugged in at all times. A welcome choice, though it's a shame Asus didn't tick every available box by including Bluetooth connectivity for simplified laptop pairing.
Continuing the clutter-free approach, the back of the keyboard is home to just one port - USB-C - flanked by an on/off toggle switch and a magnetic dock for the 2.4GHz dongle. Pop-out, non-slip feet on the keyboard's underside are at hand to increase the typing angle, and Asus even includes a transparent polycarbonate cover that can be used to protect the keys when slipping the keyboard into your backpack. A nice idea, though the cover doesn't clip firmly into place and has a tendency to come off inadvertently. Said cover can also be placed beneath the keyboard during use - Asus reckons doing so gives the RGB lighting a diffused look - but in practice overall comfort is compromised and in our estimation the Falchion doesn't look as elegant with the extra bottom layer.
There's no USB passthrough nor dedicated media controls - no surprise on a wireless keyboard of this size - yet the smaller form factor doesn't diminish the typing experience. In use, the familiar feel of mid-height linear Cherry MX Red mechanical switches feels suitably clicky with consistent actuation throughout - only the spacebar has a distinctly different thud - and Asus has managed to remap a vast number of secondary functions via Fn shortcuts.
Secondary labels on the front surface of the PBT doubleshot keycaps work well - F1 to F12 are mapped to the top row, media shortcuts line the QWERTY keys - and it doesn't take long to get accustomed to all the shortcuts. There is an Fn Lock if need be, the Windows Key is easily disabled, and if you prefer not to install the Armoury Crate software utility - more on that later - macros can be recorded and mapped on the fly.
The last trick up Falchion's sleeves is a touch panel on the keyboard's side. Touch-sensitive controls are notoriously difficult to get right, yet having approached Falchion's left flank with hesitation, we've come away impressed at how well it works during everyday use. Adjusting volume (the default function) is effortless, with good visual feedback from the corresponding light bar, and the top, middle and bottom sections of the touch panel can also be remapped using the Armoury Crate software. Handy if you want to zoom in or out, quickly launch specific apps, or even trigger a macro, and having registered zero unwanted swipes during use, the touch panel's positioning is spot on.
Plenty of nice touches, though there are a couple of potential drawbacks to the Falchion proposition. Firstly, a concern for enthusiasts who favour customisation is that certain keys - space, right-shift, enter - use non-standard sizes, making keycap replacements awkward to source. Secondly, your mileage with battery life will vary. Asus promises up to 450 hours of use from a single charge, but enabling the RGB lighting reduces that estimate dramatically to 53 hours. How you use the keyboard will dictate wireless longevity, though it's helpful to know a quick 30-minute charge is enough for 32 hours of RGB-less gaming.