Forward-thinking on a budget: Asceny One review

This is a great optical option at a competitive price.

Photo via Colton Deck

This year has seen some massive strides forward in the gaming peripheral market and most of them have come at a premium. While the Asceny One keyboard doesn’t do anything new, it does a lot right at a highly competitive price point.

Boasting several of the market’s most important buzzwords of the year, like hot-swappable and optical, the Asceny One takes these features and compiles them into a tiny, forward-thinking, and budget-friendly package—albeit with some flaws.

Hot-swappable keyboards are gaining a ton of traction lately. Logitech’s newest iteration of the Pro X keyboard featured a hot-swappable PCB, which was a bold move for the peripheral giant. Considering that Logitech is undoubtedly one of the heavy hitters in the peripheral market, its inclusion of hot-swappable PCBs signals a potential shift in the keyboard meta. Asceny is looking to capitalize on this type of forward-thinking by providing a hot-swappable keyboard and taking it to what the company sees as the next level. 

Photo via Colton Deck

The Asceny One is a 60 percent keyboard that boasts flexibility with its hot-swap PCB. But the kicker here—and what really makes this keyboard of interest—is the optical switches. Asceny’s use of optical switches is pretty interesting. Given that there aren’t many readily available optical switches, the decision to make a hot-swappable optical keyboard is decidedly forward-thinking in the sense that it banks on there being as many varieties as there are with mechanical switches. With few optical switches out there, consumers only have a couple of interchangeable options to select from at the moment. Asceny is aware of the limited options out there, but with a company like Razer making its own proprietary optical switches, it makes sense why Asceny would want to move in this newer, yet risky, direction. 

So, why choose optical switches? The answer is a bit of a non-answer. These switches are rated for 100 million clicks, which is about double that of a quality mechanical switch, like Cherry and Gateron mechanicals. Optical switches also have a faster response than traditional mechanical switches, but the difference was hard to spot with the Asceny One. An Asceny representative compared using optical switches to using a 144 Hz monitor as opposed to a 60 Hz monitor. We didn’t feel that the difference was that large but the keyboard did feel pretty light on its feet after an initial adjustment period. 

There’s no doubt that the keyboard can perform, but something that may take users a bit to adjust to is the mushy feel of the switches. Compared to a traditional mechanical switch, the bottom out of the Gateron Brown opticals feels a bit anticlimactic at first. Luckily, this is extremely easy to adapt to and even comes with an odd little bonus. Due to the softer feel, users may find that their keystrokes are a bit quieter than when compared to mechanical switches. It’s a bit of give-and-take at first, but the end result is more or less the same. And just to be clear, this is an optical keyboard, which means mechanical switches won’t fit into the hot-swap PCB. 

Glorious GMMK Compact (Left), Asceny One (Right)

Aside from the use of optical switches, another thing that makes this keyboard stand out is the feel of the stabilizers (stabs). While using quality stabs seems like common sense at this point, these feel far superior to even that of the Glorious GMMK Compact. These stabs help lower the rattle upon bottom out and provide an overall mellow tone to each keystroke. It’s a small thing but it makes a huge difference at this price point. 

Users can also expect to see some RGB effects here with programmable profiles. It sounds all well and good, but this is probably the biggest pitfall of the Asceny One and really the only time it shows itself to be a budget board. The software used to customize RGB lighting profiles on the keyboard is a bit tedious to download. It isn’t uncommon for smaller companies to use host sites for downloads, but this software requires additional software to open the .rar file. It isn’t a huge deal, but for users who aren’t familiar with this type of software, it’ll likely trigger a red flag. There are also a few effects baked into the board and they’re accessible with a few keystrokes, which is a nice alternative for users who don’t want to download any additional software.

Photo via Colton Deck

Another oddity to this board is the fact that there’s a microphone in it that’s used for an audio visualizer RGB effect. It’s altogether neat, completely unnecessary, and mildly creepy. We found ourselves unplugging the keyboard when not testing it based on sheer paranoia. Conspiracy theories aside, this feels like a big missed opportunity. The money spent on this could have easily gone into providing users with adjustable feet or another highly-desirable feature, like an aluminum case instead of plastic. This is one of those features that will be highly divisive on a user to user basis. For us, it really just seemed like a missed opportunity to do something else instead. 

Added bonuses here include some neatly colorful keycaps similar to those seen on the Anne Pro 2, spillproof PCB, and the use of a USB-C connection. Both the keycaps and USB-C connection lean toward the future due to customizability becoming a more requested feature and USB-C being regarded as the future-proof connection method. These features are really nice to see on a budget board. 

Photo via Colton Deck

The double shot ABS keycaps actually feel pretty sturdy. The keycaps are interesting in terms of look, with glossy sides and matte legends. It’s an odd choice that doesn’t help or hinder in this scenario. 

We think we’ve seen a similar keyboard out on the market before, though. It seems that Asceny doesn’t manufacture in-house and instead chose to rebrand a preexisting design. While this sounds like a weird practice, it’s fairly common for other companies to outsource manufacturing or slap their label over a preexisting product. We were pretty unfazed by this revelation and found it to be a smart move on Asceny’s part. While we don’t know what the company’s grand idea is, it would make sense to use a strong preexisting design to be able to cover costs for making proprietary peripherals down the road—but this is merely speculation.  

Overall, the Asceny One is an impressive budget offering that takes its commitment to the future of competitive gaming seriously and at a comparatively meager price of around $59.00. If you’ve been curious about trying out optical switches but are afraid to commit to a more expensive option, then the Asceny One will do well on your desk.

Despite the odd inclusion of a microphone and the weak software, the company seems keen on making big moves to improve upon its first entry into the market. If you do choose to pick up the Asceny One, make sure to read the included letter, which gives you a great idea of who the people are behind the company.

Pros

  • Can’t beat the price.
  • Optical switches provide a slightly different gaming experience.
  • USB-C.
  • Additional keycaps.
  • Built-in hot-swappable value.
  • Solid stabilizers, even when compared to the GMMK Compact.

Cons

  • No adjustable feet.
  • Off-putting inclusion of a microphone.
  • Wonky software download may be a turnoff.
  • The non-proprietary design may also be a turnoff.

Find it on Amazon.

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