The SteelSeries Apex keyboard comes in two different variations; the Apex which is the one featured in this review and the Apex [RAW] which is much like other [RAW] products in the SteelSeries range that are targeted as the budget variation of the product. The Apex and the [RAW] both sit on top a membrane switch rather than mechanical switches. This may not do it for some gamers who look for mechanical keyboards but featured wise you get what you expect from most gaming keyboards.
Before getting into the review check out the two variations of the SteelSeries Apex Keyboard. This will help you while reading the review to choose which one might be better suited for you.
|Low profile keys||✓||✓|
|Backlight color||16.8 mill. at 8 levels||Bright white at 8 levels|
|SteelSeries ActiveZone||5 zones||–|
|Anti-ghosting||6 simultaneous keypresses of 20 antighosting capable gaming keys||6 simultaneous keypresses of 20 antighosting capable gaming keys|
|W-key with tactile bump||✓||✓|
|Media keys||Dedicated||Through modifier key|
|Adjustable keyboard tilt||Two angles (7° & 10°)||Two angles (7° & 10°)|
|SteelSeries Engine support*||✓||✓|
|Braided, anti-tangle cord||✓||–|
|Rubber dome keys||5 mill. keystrokes||5 mill. keystrokes|
|USB hub||2 ports||–|
|OS compatability||Windows, OS X, & Linux**||Windows, OS X, & Linux**|
Packaging and Extras
From the first look at the box you can see the full keyboard layout in all its glory. The Apex focuses on the fact it is colourful and boy is it, with over 1 million different colour variations. The Apex [RAW] does not have the colour options but still comes in a strong crisp white illumination.
Out the box and unplugged you can see the keyboard looks quite standard. The Apex is made of complete plastic and is moulded to have the curved effect at the back to add a little style. There is no metal or fancy material and this is probably a design choice to keep the cost of the overall keyboard down.
The Apex keyboard is on the larger side due to the fact that the wrist rest has been built in to the keyboard rather than it being an optional component. If you are a person who likes or needs more of a cushioned wrist rest you probably still want to use one and if you are not worried about one this might just be dead space. However, for a wrist rest which is built in, it does have a nice depth and angle which sits low and allows for additional comfort.
Inside the box you get 2 sets of little rubber domes and these are not what you might first expect, they are the keyboard feet. This is a very different way of raising up the keyboard unlike the standard plastic flip feet. Swapping the feet is easy but it can be awkward to keep the spares somewhere safe but in reach. The smaller feet seem a little too low but it is all a matter of preference on the height and angle. A good function the rubber feet do have is the added bonus of connecting well to the desk, meaning they won’t slide around easily.
The Steelseries Apex
The Apex keyboard needs two USB ports to power the keyboard and the two USB ports on the back of the keyboard and the cable itself is a strong braided cable to reduce tangles and breaks. Underneath the Apex has drainage holes which help if your keyboard gets some spillages, this is quite a strange addition but one that probably will save some people in the future if the spill is not too bad.
Setting up the keyboard and plugging it in, it was quite obvious that this keyboard is indeed very colourful and striking. Keys are very evenly illumined which can be a problem for some backlit keyboards and the choice of colours is almost endless. Having the option to change the level of brightness on the Apex does help in low lit environments to stop the keyboard being too overpowering but on the Apex [RAW] this option is only available via the software.
On the other hand, the SteelSeries Apex keyboard layout is interesting, with an oversized spacebar and esc key which we can only assume is to make them easier to hit without looking. The space bar being oversized is a great idea as it makes sure you can find it in those hard battles and it does work where standard spacebars would fail. Another thing to note is the W key which has two little raised dots to help you find your way back home if you stray.
Arrow keys on the Apex have some new members of the family with the added up left and up right keys. They extra keys might not do what you want out the box but they can be configured later, though if you are an avid user of the WASD configuration then you may find yourself never using these extra keys though.
SteelSeries have added to the Apex to have a set of dedicated media keys which the [RAW] version does not have and unlike a lot of keyboards, the media keys are located on the far right of the keyboard which can cause you to hit them instead of the numpad if you are not looking. If you do not use the media keys frequently you may find these more of annoying than helpful.
There are 2 different areas for the macro keys, above the F keys you will find M1 – M12 and along the left hand side of the Apex you will see two rows of MX keys. Interestedly the M keys are raised higher than the F keys so you are able to tell the difference without looking. The MX keys are nice but they can be hard to distinguish by feel alone if you are gaming and don’t have the chance to look over at what key you are pressing you might miss the key you need.
Finally we have one of the Apex’s key features, the L keys which are located above the MX keys. The L keys are used as layers, allowing you to switch between different macro sets on the keyboard, allowing up to 4 sets of completed macro keyboard layouts to be easily switched between on the fly. Even cooler is the fact you are able to set each layer to have different colour pallets on the keyboard, allowing you to train yourself to know what colour aligns to what macro sets you have.
The SteelSeries Engine is the complete package for all your SteelSeries Gaming needs and allows you to customise and change the settings of all your peripherals in one application. On keyboards like the Apex and Apex [RAW] it allows you to change the function of every key on the keyboard. Any key is able to perform a key press macro, launch an application, a text macro or nothing giving complete customisation of the entire keyboard. Being able to name the keys virtually on the screen also has a nice finishing touch to it.
Unlike the Apex [RAW] the Apex has an option to change the colours of different areas of the keyboard and is divided by the four layers you can have for your macros. Both keyboards have the option to change settings such as the polling rate and keyboard layout to match your version of the keyboard.
A function which is always interesting in the SteelSeries Engine is the ability to log all key strokes. You can press record and play a game or type up some work, come back to the Engine press stop and it will give you a heat gauge type view of your most pressed keys. Great if you want to know which keys are bound to go first from excessive use and to see your typing habits.
Overall, SteelSeries have made a good piece of kit for its price and the Apex comes with a nice balance of features and little extras with the ability to macro like you have never have before. The Apex [RAW] is a great entry price if you are looking for a low end gaming keyboard but some of the features mentioned in this review will be missing so for the extra little bit of money, the Apex is definitely the better choice.
It could be improved by adding mechanical switches, better placed media keys and a nicer optional wrist rest but as it feels like SteelSeries wanted to reduce the overall cost which takes away slightly from true gaming prowess. If you’re looking for a decent mid-range gaming keyboard the Apex is for you and for the price it definitely is a strong competitor for the other keyboards in its price range.