Steelseries Apex Pro Mechanical Gaming Keyboard Review
Peter Donnell / 6 months ago
A Closer Look & Performance
The Apex Pro is a premium keyboard in every regard, which means it comes with a few nice extra features to justify the higher price tag; aside from the cool switches. The first one is this massive detachable wrist rest. It mounts using a magnetic lock, so no need to deal with those awful plastic clips or anything like that.
You simply snap it into place and you’re good to go. It’s not particular padded or anything, and it’s not that thick either. However, it is quite long and matched the width of the keyboard; overall, I found it to be very comfortable.
The keyboard comes hard-wired with a thick black cable. I’m not sure why SteelSeries didn’t opt for a removable USB-C cable, as would be the “premium” standard these days, but they didn’t. The cable is plenty durable, and it’s sure to withstand any abuse you throw at it. There are two USB headers; one for the keyboard, the other for the USB pass-through.
At first glance, it looks pretty much like you would expect a keyboard to look. However, little details like the premium quality metal housing and that soft-toned texture finish do make a good impression. It’s premium materials throughout here, and it looks and feels like a quality product. It’s amazing what a careful choice of materials can do, but it makes all the difference here.
The rounded corners, the folded metal front edge, and a little bit of edge trim all make an impression too. It’s not just a slab of aluminium glued to a rectangle of plastic. Again, the little details in the construction make a really good impression here.
Simple and Effective
There aren’t a lot of obvious features here, and that’s fine with me. Sure, I love a bank of dedicated macro keys and stuff. However, when it comes to the pure gaming experience, a clean and tidy layout is absolutely fine. I think the keycaps look great too, with their left-aligned font, which is nice and large to allow plenty of lighting to come through.
Of course, with the software, you can macro the keyboard within an inch of its life; if that’s your thing.
The only really obvious features that stand out here are the lighting and macro controls. You can program and record right from F9-F10. You can also control the master brightness from the F11-F12 keys. However, that’s about it, and everything else is software-based. Fortunately, SteelSeries has one of the cleanest and easiest to use software suites on the market, hurray!
The additional functions can be accessed via the SteelSeries FN-Shift key on the bottom row; nice and simple.
Up in the top corsair of the keyboard, you’ll find a few cool features. there’s a glossy looking panel that’s actually housing a small OLED display. This is no big surprise though, as SteelSeries features an OLED display on their premium headset controllers, gaming mice, and other devices. Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that it’s properly cool to have; we’ll fire that up in a moment. Here you’ll also find an infinity scroll wheel for the master volume control, as well as a multifunction button for multimedia control.
Tucked into the rear of the keyboard, you’ll find a simple USB port. Using the pass-through cable, you can plug in a headset, gaming mouse, or just about any other standard USB device here. It’s not super-power though, so don’t expect to use it as a phone charger.
The USB cable is hard-wired on the base of the keyboard. It’s pre-routed to the left of the keyboard too. However, there are three routing options, so you can make the cable go whichever way you desire. Of course, that’s handy if the cable is choking up on a monitor stand or something.
While we’re here on the underside, we can see those lovely kick-stands. They are, without a doubt, the fattest ones I’ve ever seen. None of that cheap flimsy crap here, this is a quality kick-stand.
The switches on this keyboard are fully mechanical. The keyboard features OmniPoint Adjustable Mechanical Switches. These use the Analogue Hall Effect Magnetic Sensor. Cherry switches (For example) would use a metal contact in a fixed location, but with the Omnipoint you can have the switch trigger a keystroke at varying distances.
The keys feature a 45cN of force actuation. This is exactly the same as the Cherry MX Red linear switch. However, it feels different, and it’s all the better for it. It’s silky smooth, with no major resistance as you would expect. However, it feels smoother. It’s hard to explain, but it’s like every keystroke is lined with silk. It actually reminds me of these super expensive Cooler Master Topre Switches. They feel like Cherry, but they feel unique and that’s a bloody bold statement, I know. Rather for 100m clicks vs the Cherry 50m, they’re longer lasting too. I haven’t got the bloody time to prove that though.
Bonus, they support standard cherry keycaps, which is always welcome.
So, the keyboard has RGB, but that’s pretty much on par with the market these days. What I love is that the colours are b-e-a-utiful and really rich. The keyboard is plenty bright, but not overly so.
We’ve seen some RGB keyboards that light up the room, this isn’t one of them, and it looks better for it. It’s fully per-key, so you can customise it, but I’ll show you some screenshots of the software in a moment.
Now, let’s not beat around the bush here, gaming keyboards are plentiful. Most feature something like Cherry or Kailh switches and broadly, they’re all pretty damn good these days. Side by side, SteelSeries can compete, their switches are seriously on point. To my senses and touch, they have a nicer sensation to them as I said above, however, I know that’s subjective too.
What really cuts a new path is the customisation of the switches. Now, you cannot change how the switches feel, they always strike the same. What you can change is how far the switch goes down before the PC registers a keystroke. At the highest setting, it’s just 0.4mm, that’s 1/3rd of the Cherry MX Speed switches. That means a much faster response time overall. For serious gamers, that’s a game-changer, but most at-home gamers will no doubt appreciate it too.
When you first connect the keyboard, the OLED fires up. You can see here, it wants me to update the firmware. That’s easily done, just load the software and it’s pretty much a two-click process. Plus, it only took about a minute, which is great.
Once that’s done, it’ll default to the SteelSeries logo. However, it’s totally customisable too. Plus you can show things like your KDA in CS:GO, or discord messages or even your current Spotify track. No doubt more features too once people tinker with the SDK.