SteelSeries Apex Pro
Perfect for Gamers
Switches: OmniPoint Analog Switches | Backlighting: Per-key RGB | USB passthrough: Yes | Media Controls: Volume wheel and buttons
VERDICT:While it's not exactly going to be friendly to your wallet, the SteelSeries Apex Pro is the fastest keyboard on the market. The other nifty features are just the icing on the cake
The debate and comparison between the membrane and mechanical keyboards have lasted for a long while now. People talk about it all the time and honestly, we won’t be doing that today. It’s obvious to anyone that mechanical keyboards are superior and feel better in any way. Whether it’s for or for just good old typing.
But we will be honest here. Keyboards aren’t exactly the most exciting thing to talk about these days. In 2019, almost every mechanical keyboard has the basic features people want. It’s just a matter of picking between different design and, most importantly, what type of switch you want.
The SteelSeries Apex Pro wants to change that perspective. In a world of keyboards where everything seems to mix in with the crowd, the Apex Pro stands out from it. But what’s so game changing about this keyboard? Well, there’s the magnetic user adjustable switches for one.
That’s just the main selling point, apart from that we have a robust and intriguing design, and other extra features sprinkled on top. Unsurprisingly, it does come with a high price tag. We’ll help you decide if it’s actually worth your money.
Design and Build Quality
The SteelSeries Apex Pro is going for a pretty minimal and slender design. One of the biggest annoyances with most high-end keyboards is just how big they can get. They really end up eating up a lot of your workspace on the desk. Unlike those huge slabs, the Apex Pro definitely is a lot cleaner.
The chassis is crafted from “aircraft-grade aluminum”. Which is basically just a fancy way of saying it’s made from high-end aluminum. It’s built like an absolute tank and has no flex to it whatsoever. The keyboard, though a bit smaller, feels much sturdier in person. Typing on it is an absolute joy. The chassis pretty much ends where the keys end, which gives it that minimal look. Nothing juts out from this design.
Following suit of other modern keyboards, the keycaps are elevated above the keyboard deck. All of this stuff combined is what gives it that clean and minimal aesthetic. There’s also an included magnetic wrist wrest in the box, which is actually very comfortable. Usually, people don’t care about the wrist rest, but this one doesn’t look out of place. Plus the soft rubber material does a lot for the comfort.
Apart from that, we have a USB pass through at the upper left (illuminated by an LED, which is nice). and your standard adjustable feet at the bottom. We also have a volume wheel, a media key for pause/play and a small nifty OLED display (more on that later). There are even cable routing channels at the bottom, to make things even cleaner.
Enough talk, we need to get to the real highlight here. That happens to be without a doubt the switches themselves. As we mentioned before, the switches are magnetic switches which are user adjustable, but what does that actually mean to the consumer?
Well, first we need to explain things a bit. These switches are actually known as analog switches. Meaning they don’t have a fixed actuation point. On the Apex Pro, the switches are controlled via magnets, meaning through software you can lower or raise the actuation point. Imagine having a different layout for typing and one for gaming, on the same keyboard.
Sounds interesting right? But how do they actually feel? Well the switches themselves are pretty linear straight out of the gate. The actuation point can go from 3.6mm all the way down to 0.4mm. Now those numbers might not mean a lot to the untrained eye, but they are actually very impressive. Linear switches such as the Cherry MX Red actuate at 2mm, while the Cherry MX Speed switches activate at 1.2mm.
So yes, as you can probably imagine, the “Omnipoint Analog” switches as Steelseries calls them, are astoundingly fast. This makes them pretty versatile as well, for typing you can have a higher actuation point. Then, if you want to play some competitive games, you can go into the software and tweak it to be faster.
The OLED Screen
We need to be clear here, this is not the first time we’re seeing a display on a keyboard. It’s been done by companies such as Razer in the past, and it’s always been written off as a gimmick. And while the OLED display on the Apex Pro isn’t going to change your perspective on things, it is still a nice bonus.
The screen itself is pretty small but still visible from a normal viewing angle. Apart from that, it only displays stuff in black and white. We don’t think this is a big issue, as we’re not going to be watching any real media on this display. But it does give some helpful cues paired with the volume wheel and the media button underneath. When tuning the volume, it gives you a small animation on the display.
Apart from that, you can use the media/menu button to scroll through menus. Using the volume wheel as navigation, you can record macros, change the lighting effects, play some of your silly gifs and even change the actuation point on the fly.
As we said before, it’s not a game changer by any means, but it’s a nice bonus.
RGB Lighting and Software
A high-end mechanical keyboard in 2019 without RGB? That’s quite a rarity these days. So it shouldn’t be a surprise seeing the Apex Pro following that trend. We’re not going to waste a lot of time talking about all the different effects and customization you can go through. If you’ve seen it before, it’s probably all here. We have breathing, pulsing, static, wave and a plethora of other effects we’ve seen before.
The lighting itself actually shines through brilliantly. It’s really bright and the spacing between the board and keys gives the keyboard a nice glow. Setting it to a static light color really gives it a nice ambient glow which we personally like a lot. Weirdly enough though, you can’t change the lighting for every single key. SteelSeries has said that they will add this into the software later down the line.
As for the software itself, well it doesn’t impress all that much. Thankfully, it’s not a buggy mess like Corsair’s iCue software. It does a good job of keeping things simple. But then again, things are almost too simple. You can go in and change the actuation point for every single key. Which is pretty neat to be perfectly honest. But it only gives you an adjustment slider and does really tell you the actual value. The slider can be changed from 1-10, with one being the lowest and ten being the highest actuation point.
Up to this point, the Apex Pro from SteelSeries is shaping up to be the perfect keyboard. But in all honesty, none of it really matters if it doesn’t perform well. So how does the SteelSeries Apex Pro stack up? Three words: Like a champ.
Once you dial down the actuation point, the switches are wicked fast. It might actually take you some time to get used to the switches if you’re coming from Cherry MX Reds or Blues. But once you get the hang of it, it really does feel a lot faster. Of course, this won’t win you matches alone, your internet speed, input lag, and online game services matter as well. But we definitely noticed that our character was responding a bit faster. The Omnipoint analog switches are really amazing.
Even for typing, the switches feel incredible. Sure they are a bit linear and take a bit of time to get used to. But you’ll quickly start to love them. The great thing about these analog switches is that you can change every single key’s actuation point. So you can even say goodbye to accidental presses from now on. This is helpful in games as well as typing.
The Omnipoint Analog switches are like a dream. It’s a very linear switch and probably the smoothest switches we’ve tried to date. That’s definitely saying a lot. Also, having that whole flexibility to change the actuation point is a much-appreciated feature. This makes the keyboard incredibly versatile as well.
But it’s important to keep in mind that the main 60 keys have the Omnipoint analog switches. The rest of them are using SteelSeries Red switches. This isn’t a big deal, however, as you’ll be using the main 60 keys for gaming and typing anyway. However, we would have liked to see the arrow keys carry over those switches as well.
The software could also be improved a bit. That slider or meter really isn’t doing justice to the average consumer, who might get confused from all this jumble. A render or an actual value explaining this stuff could be helpful.
Finally, there is the price to consider, At $200 this is one expensive keyboard. And it directly competes with the Razer Huntsman Elite and its optomechanical switches. However, it’s even faster than Razer’s switches. Basically, the Apex Pro currently blows the competition out of the water. It might be expensive, but it will easily last you a while and it’s worth the investment.
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Prices taken/valid at the time of review.