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Wednesday, 5 July 2017


Asus Cerberus Mech RGB Review

The fire breathing Cerberus from Asus just went mechanical but is it good enough to burn down the competition?

Asus has always been a brand better known for their top of the line motherboards and graphics cards, their quality has almost been second to none making their hardware a fan's favorite and an eye candy for professional overclockers and PC enthusiasts! Lately they've been roaming in new waters of the peripheral division and have been very aggressive especially with their Cerberus lineup of headsets, mouse and keyboards.
Thanks to Asus India I have with me today one of their latest launches in form of the Asus Cerberus Mech RGB Gaming Keyboard which happens to be their first ever mechanical keybaord in the budget oriented Cerberus lineup.

Coming in at Rs 5200 the latest Asus Cerberus keyboard adds mechanical key-switches to the range and is thus aptly named the Asus Cerberus Mech RGB keyboard. Asus has chosen to equip the fully mechanical Kaihua RGB switches and will make them available in Red, Blue, Brown and Black feel/action varieties. Asus says that the Kaihua switches offer a lifespan of up to 70-million keystrokes. Furthermore, full anti-ghosting and N-key rollover (NKRO) technology ensures that every keystroke is logged.
Programmable RGB back-lighting means that all the keys on the Asus Cerberus Mech RGB can be tailored to match your style / gaming preferences. Asus provides seven built-in lighting effects in customizable colors.
Hotkeys can be a blessing, and the latest Cerberus keyboard features a full set of media keys plus on-the-fly macro recording. A Windows key lock makes sure you don't interrupt your gaming by an accidental press of this otherwise useful key.

What's in the Box?

Asus has packed the Cerberus Mech RGB in a thick box which let me tell you is quite heavy and thick for a keybaord of this stature. I've seen more expensive and bigger keyboards packed in boxes that are much thinner or flimsier than this one, good to see that Asus has taken care of such a basic but important stuff over here.
The front is decorated with a rendered image of the keybaord along with the Cerberus on the right in all its flames and glory or heads and glory or whatever describes it best! The product name and logo are printed in bold on the top lefty corner which makes it quite attractive and practice.

At the back you can find a well labeled color diagram of the keybaord with the various features marked and neatly enlisted. Also some more details and specifications are on the right. So all in all its a basic design and the back with nothing much going on.
One thing that I didn't like about the packing is that nowhere on the box is it mentioned the switch type of this keyboard for the user to know what they are buying into, mine is a Kaihua Red switch variant but I can't seem to fin this written anywhere on the box or inside the manual.

Open the box and we can find the Cerberus RGB perched between two thick blocks of molded foam blocks for some extra padding to keep the product safe during bumpy transit. A swappable keys, quick start guide and VIP Member Warranty leaflet is also inside to aid the buyer with various things.

Take a stare at the Cerberus!

The Cerberus from its first looks is nothing close to the persona of a conventional gaming keybaord that we are used to. Its a simple rectangular keybaord with matte black finish and all the basic keys that one would want on their keybaord.

Even though the unit measures in at 448 x 150 x 35mm which is quite compact it weights in at 1250g which is quite heavy for a unit of this size! You can feel the weight when you lift the keyboard off the table especially in the middle where it feels to be the heaviest.

At the back the keyboard dis plain and simple with nothing special to discuss. Its all plastic and has two grip pads at the bottom and two feet for tilting the keybaord if one wants to. The plastic used over here feels somewhat cheap and the two slots at the bottom seem to indicate that Asus originally planned to add a wrist rest to the Cerberus Mech RGB but withdrew at the last moment probably as a  cost cutting measure. Since mine is a review sample that came freshly baked out of the oven, I guess they'll rectify this by either adding a wrist rest or removing these slots from the main body in their upcoming review/retail samples.

What I love about the design is that the entire front or upper body so to say of the Cerberus Mech RGB is rubberized, say no to oily fingers, which is smooth and feels really very good when touched. It might gather dust particles in the long run but then it feels and looks so good that I can live with that much hassle. This strategy not only gives the keybaord an aesthetic appeal but it also saves Asus the cost of using an premium grade plastic for the body to make it look good and make the paint last, clever strategy guys!

The keyboard comes with a long braided cable that ends up into a gold plated USB 2.0 port for maximum compatibility & optimum signal transfer. The cable is not too stubborn when it comes to straightening it out so you don't have to worry about kinky wires hanging below your desk.

On the top right corner we have three embossed LED backlit indicators for Num Lock, Caps Lock and the Gaming Mode. The color of these indicators always remains blue and does not animate with the rest of the keyboard lighting scheme. I would have loved to see them be in harmony with the rest of the keybaord but sadly it isn't!

The Cerberus comes with good quality key caps that offer considerable grip both while typing aswell as during gaming sessions. Asus has also included four extra textured key caps along with a key plug to swap any default cap according to the user's will. These caps somewhat feel awkward to me since not only their color is too bright making them the odd ones out on the keybaord but I also find them a bit too cheap and flimsy. They just don't feel a part of the package no matter how hard you try to convince yourself.

These keys are not printed with non printed or marked so as to make them a a universal replacement for any key on the board. If compared with the standard key cap we can see that these are textured for extra grip to ensure a slip free experience during typing or gaming. Probably these are for gaming only since I don't find any other use of them otherwise.

Pop any of the caps and you will see the Kailh Red switches from Kaihua lying underneath. Kaihua is a Chinese brand founded in 1990 that created the Kailh switches for keyboards and while they are not the most popular options to go with, their mechanical switches are quite decent from what I've heard and read. These Kailh Red switches have an actuation force of 50g and 1.1mm depth which is somewhat lesser than the CherryMX Speed or Red switches which are fairly popular. How good they are we'll see in our testing further ahead in the review.

I love the fact that even though its not a top of the line mechanical keyboard it doesn't suffer from the LED light bleeding issue that some high end keybaord do. The lights are properly defused and glow in a soothing fashion without any unnecessary shine. This has been primarily achieved by lower cap height and also by the fact that the keyboard has a fencing at the sides and bottom that traces along the keys giving them a depressed look! Its a good design that looks good and also does some practical work.

Customization - Everything is onboard!

The Asus Cerberus doesn't comes with any software or suite to aid one for programming the macros or making various customizations be it in terms of LEDs patterns or brightness, everything is done via various combinations of the on board buttons.
There are two vital keys on the keybaord that need to be used for almost all the customization settings namely as the Function Key near the bottom right and the right ALT key which has a Macro function.

On-the-fly macro recording

Dedicated macro keys let you execute complex commands with a single press. Your macros are stored in the keyboard, so they are available even if you use Cerberus Mech RGB with multiple PCs.
Step 1: Press Fn + Right-Alt to start recording.
Step 2: Type the key sequence you want to record.
Step 3: Press Fn + Right-Alt to end recording.
Step 4: Assign a macro key
The macro Key can be assigned to any key on the keyboard, you can even swap two keys in case you want to for a particular reason. These macros are easily re-writable and by using Fn + Esc you can erase every Macro assigned fora  clean reset. Unlike software based Macro programming you cannot mix and match mouse and keyboard commands over here so keep that in mind, for mouse based functions you will have to use keyboard shortcuts for the same.
Gaming profiles recording
Set different macros and keyboard backlighting for specific games by the same method as given above but program to the profile to any of the Function keys from F1 to F5.

Windows key lock

Temporarily disable the Windows key to prevent interruptions to your game from accidental key presses. This can be done by pressing the Fn+F6 where you can swap between the gaming and PC mode. The lighting modes for the Gaming and PC modes are also different for one to make out on which mode the keyboard is set at on a particular moment.
Multimedia control keys
Adjust the volume or mute audio without leaving your game on the fly by using the below combinations -
Fn + F7: Mute
Fn + F8: Volume Down
Fn + F9: Volume Up
Fn + F10: Play / Pause
Fn + F11: Previous Track
Fn + F12: Next Track

This is basically a cost saving move I'd say since dedicated media keys can be assigned easily to a keybaord that is priced in the upper $100 segment!

Patterns and Brightness

Using the Function and arrow keys one can either adjust the brightness of the lights including turning them completely off  or can switch between the predefined patterns this keybaord comes with. Side arrows are for patterns that include a very pleasing trickle like mode, wave, gaming keys light up mode and even breathing mode and per key light mode which are exclusive to the PC mode. Brightness is via the up and down arrows offering four levels of brightness.

Nothing special just a bunch of photographs I managed to click with different lighting configurations and the same red color!

Performance - Time to put these Keys to Test

Whenever I review a keyboard or mouse I like to use the device for atleast a week putting it through my daily usage varying across the week. My usage is obviously more inclined towards typing and I mean lot of typing with various keyboard shortcuts combinations, followed by casual gaming mainly racing, open world or FPS. So lets classify the Asus Cerberus Mech RGB Gaming Keyboard performance across two broad categories of daily use and gaming.

Daily Affairs

Asus Cerberus Mech is a very competent keyboard when it comes to typing paragraphs swiftly and smoothly.  The Kailh Red switches due to their quick response & lower actuation makes it really easy to type long paragraphs with great speed without hurting your fingertips. Though it does need a little getting used to since the keys are quick but with a few minutes into training your fingers you'll find yourself using it with no problem. Since my fingers are thick I did accidentally push the Caps Lock key at times since the key is quite big and at almost no separation from the main alphabetical keys, people with slimmer fingers might not come across this issue.
I didn't feel much difference between these and the CherryMX Red switches, which I'm more used to, when it came to typing or anything else & so won't most of the people since the difference is extremely minute. The keys are not slippery and the slim design makes them a good landing pad for the fingers imparting reasonable grip.
The biggest downside with these switches is that they are really noisy when you are typing and I mean typing really quick since at that stage it starts sounding more like a noisy cricket on my table! The keys are still fine but when you hit the larger keys like the spacebar, backspace or enter it makes a sound like a hollow wooden shell

Game On!

Gaming is the area where this keyboard really shined for me since I personally prefer the CherryMX Red switches for gaming purposes so the Kailh Red did an identical job for me. The keys are just perfect and due to logical actuation force and distance its neither too sensitive nor too hard. I generally find CherryMX Speed switches a bit too quick and can't be used without some practice but these I'd say are a buy and go for most of the buyers out there. Still sometimes I found pressing a key accidentally as my finger was resting over it & managed to press it down just by a little, namely the spacebar not mainly due to the key sensitivity but due to the absence of a wrist rest which is gravely needed for a compact keybaord like this and for users like me who have large palms.
Rapid key strokes is where the keyboard proves its metal as they keys offer high resistance with distance and hence reset quickly so rapid strokes are easy and swift making it easy in game like Rise of the Tomb Raider.
The extra key caps provided are of little to no use since I found my fingers to be liking the default caps more than the former. Asus should either refine these extra key caps quality or remove them entirely from the package to save cost and divert it towards a much needed wrist rest.

My Verdict

Asus Cerberus Mech RGB is nothing less than a sheer delight so to speak! The keyboard does exactly what its advertised to do and what one would expect it to do. Kailh Red switches are something that have impressed me thoroughly and cleared all my apprehensions once I put those keys to use, I wouldn't be surprised to see a few more manufacturers opting for these switches in the coming future due to their excellent performance and lower cost.
Customization is just enough and it has almost everything for every user's taste including a balanced range of effects which many manufacturers tend to overdo at times. I do feel the absence of dedicated media keys and a wrist rest over here especially the wrist rest since everyone needs that on keyboards that are compact such as the Cerberus Mech RGB. Asus should probably shun away those extra orange key caps and include a wrist rest instead to make it a much better and complete package.
Coming in a Rs 5200 this is probably one of the best mechanical keyboards you can get for that price today, with just two grands more than its predecessor this Mech RGB sure offers a lot more useful stuff making every penny worth spending.
I recommend the Asus Cerberus Mech RGB to anyone who is looking for a mechanical keybaord on a budget and values balanced performance with pleasing aesthetics to get the most out of his money. 
Pros - 
  • Its RGB
  • Supports Macros
  • Premium finishing on the keys and keyboard top
Cons - 
  • A bit noisy
  • No wrist support
I give it a 7/10 earning our Gold Award!

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