The SteelSeries Apex Pro arrives in a gaming keyboard scene that hasn't changed all that much in the last decade or so. We've grown so used to Cherry MX mechanical switches and RGB lighting that everything kind of starts to blur together. The SteelSeries Apex Pro has changed that perception, at least for us.
This beast of a gaming keyboard not only features a robust and attractive build, with little to no wasted space, but also new magnetic key switches that are user adjustable. You read that right: you can custom-tune the actuation of most of the keys on this keyboard, dialing in exactly how you want your typing - and obviously, gaming - experience to feel.
It's a compelling idea, and it comes with a high price tag, too. If you want to get your hands on the SteelSeries Apex Pro, you're looking at $199 (£199, about AU$288). That's a lot of cash to ask for a keyboard, and definitely puts it up in the high-end of the gaming keyboard scene. But, when compared with competitors like the Razer Huntsman Elite at $199 (£199, AU$369) with its neat optical switches, the Apex Pro absolutely belongs.
Luckily, if you love the form factor but don't need the fancy switches, you can pick up the SteelSeries Apex 7, with mechanical switches, for $159 (£149, about AU$230)
But if you opt for the higher-priced model, the SteelSeries Apex Pro brings a promise of user customization and a svelte design that really makes it stand out in the gaming keyboard landscape. That enough makes this keyboard worth your attention, but is it worth your hard-earned cash?
One of our biggest pet peeves when it comes to gaming keyboards in general is just how big they can get. You'll constantly find these huge, foreboding slabs of plastic jutting out of the sides of a lot of keyboards. Luckily, the SteelSeries Apex Pro avoids this trend.
The aluminum frame of this laptop is just big enough to house it, without too much excess. There is no space wasted on the sides, as the Apex Pro virtually ends where the keys stop. This minimalist design wins it big points as far as we're concerned.
In fact, if it wasn't for the wrist rest, this keyboard would take up about as much space as your standard office keyboard - luckily the wrist rest is magnetically attached. We wouldn't advise removing the wrist rest, however, as its covered in a soft faux-rubber material that is incredibly comfortable. The wrist rest is usually something we abandon right away, but we're still using it with the Apex Pro.
The key caps are elevated above the keyboard deck, giving the keyboard a very modern and clean aesthetic. And, while they are made of plastic, they still feel solid and premium.
Above the number pad, you're going to find an OLED display, a volume wheel that you can click in to mute, and a media key which will play/pause your music by default. This OLED display will allow you to set a custom image, or even a GIF, further boosting the customization of this keyboard.
Right now, this OLED display can be used to adjust settings like actuation, lighting and OLED brightness without mucking around in the software. In fact, when you're adjusting the actuation through the OLED display, you can see a visualization of the amount of force required for each numbered setting. There will be more functionality coming to this OLED display in the future, but that's all it can do right now.
Around the back of the keyboard, you'll find a USB pass-through. Not only is the pass-through easy to reach, but it's illuminated, so it's easy to find even during a late-night gaming session. Of course, because there is a USB pass-through, this keyboard requires two USB ports for power.
And, of course, there's RGB lighting on the SteelSeries Apex Pro, and it looks excellent. However, at the time of writing, there isn't much in the way of custom lighting setups. This keyboard features per-key illumination but we can't assign our own bizarre lighting setup. The SteelSeries Engine software says more illumination options are coming soon, though, so it's just a matter of time.
We've used hundreds of gaming keyboards in our time, and we have to say: the SteelSeries Apex Pro might be among the best yet.
The custom actuation means that no matter what your preferences are, whether you like Cherry MX Browns, Blues, Reds, or even Blacks, you can tune it for the force you actually type with. We actually enjoy typing with the new MacBook Pro, so we set the actuation extremely low, a 2, and turned it up to 6 when playing some Destiny 2.
Just imagine for a second: you're playing Overwatch and you're constantly hitting your Ultimate on accident, because you're way too clumsy. With the SteelSeries Apex Pro, you can just adjust the actuation for the 'Q' key up to a 10, and you'll only trigger that ability when you really mash on that key.
One of the biggest benefits to these tune-able magnetic switches, however, is how quiet they are. They're still absolutely audible in a quiet room, but they don't have that grating noise that a lot of other high-end gaming keyboards have. We're actually able to play our games late at night without waking up the rest of the house.
Long story short, this is one of the best gaming keyboards we've ever had the pleasure to use. And since pretty much everyone can tune it to their own typing and gaming preferences, it's easy to recommend the Apex Pro to anyone.
The SteelSeries Apex Pro is one of the best gaming keyboards, if not the best. The custom actuation, elegant build and bright RGB lighting all help to make it stand out among the dense competition.
It's a little expensive, but considering the keyboards it has to compete with, it absolutely should be. If you have the cash, and you're looking for a premium gaming keyboard, the SteelSeries Apex Pro should absolutely be at the top of your list.
Images Credit: Future
- Want a look at the competition? Check out our best keyboards roundup