SteelSeries Apex Pro Review: a great mechanical gaming keyboard
People will travel miles to eat the best cheeseburger, or the best sushi, or to drink the best ale. But there’s also some that will look for the best keyboard for their gaming needs, whether they’re investing their spare hours into an RPG or a first-person shooter.
But the SteelSeries Apex Pro has set a new landmark of what gaming keyboards should aim for, and for where it can go in the future for the peripheral as a whole. Here’s why…
Saying this keyboard is customisable is a bit of an understatement.
It’s a full-size keyboard that is housed in an aluminum design. Every key looks as if it’s floating above the base of the design, which gives it a very modern feel, and a welcome one too, compared to some gaming keyboards that unnecessarily have a chunky design, focusing on that rather than the keys itself.
There’s also a USB slot at the back of the keyboard, so if you want to plug in a USB stick or even a microphone for quick access, you can easily plug something in here without having to look for your USB hub, or look for a spare slot on your PC.
It plugs into a PC using two USB ports, and soon after the ‘SteelSeries Engine’ app is installed to configure the keyboard to how you want it to operate, starting with the keys.
Here, the keys are indeed the focus, with each of them feeling comfortable with every press.
There’s also an additional wrist-rest, which magnetically clips to the bottom of the keyboard; so if you’re typing out a report and your wrists are feeling the ache, this can really help, and typing out this review on the keyboard itself, it’s proved to be a great addition to the experience.
Saying this keyboard is customisable is a bit of an understatement.
There’s also something else which is a new feature for gaming keyboards; the actuation of the keys can be changed through the ‘SteelSeries Engine’ app, where you can manage all the features of the keyboard.
We’ve all got a preference for certain keys; depending on it Blues, Reds, or Cherry keys, all with their actuation points. From setting it from 1 to 10, you can make sure that the impact of the keys are best suited to you.
So if you want to go from COD: Warzone with an actuation point of 2, but you then want to switch to a platformer like Yooka Laylee, it can be done, making this the best gaming keyboard to type on yet.
With every keyboard comes shortcut keys. Brightness, volume, backlit levels, media keys, there’s so much.
The volume key isn’t even a key, it’s a roller. A roller that’s located next to the OLED screen, so you can easily and accurately change the volume. It’s a very smart addition, and it’s out of the way so you know exactly where to go, instead of hitting the wrong Function key compared to other keyboards.
To note; the ‘SteelSeries Engine’ app comes with five configs that you can customise the keyboard to, such as: Key Binding, RGB Combinations and Actuations.
Using the ‘SteelSeries’ logo + F9 or F10, you can switch between the configs when needed, so if you want certain key bindings for certain apps, it can be done.
Another note here is the OLED screen. It’s a simple feature, where a design can be loaded onto it, and depending on the config profiles loaded, it will also reflect that on the OLED as well. For what it does, it’s fine, but it would have been nice to have seen more integration with games and apps for this, rather than a ‘now playing’ bar.
This a rare occurrence – we’ve got no complaints at all here. Every key can be customised with a colour and an effect if you wish, to reflect your setup and your lighting in your room as well.
Want just the ‘W A S D’ layout lit up? Done. Want just the function keys to be lit up? Or with different colours on each key? Done. Want to have a line of keys flash every time the Caps lock key is pressed? Done.
Losing an hour just to the RGB screen in the ‘Engine’ app proved to be, oddly, a very fun time, trying out different combinations of the effects and lighting with each config, to cater to a few apps of choice.
But it doesn’t stop there, not for this keyboard. There’s an opportunity to improve it through software updates thanks to the Engine’s app feature of every game.
We’ve got no complaints
Take for example Counter Strike GO; when switched on, the keyboard will change its RGB to reflect the health, armour, ammo, and on the OLED screen, your team’s latest scores, or even a countdown of the match if you wish.
Of course, it’s totally unnecessary and you would rather direct your eyes to the UI on the screen, but having the odd glance of the keyboard to see your health at 50%, reflecting the numbers 1-5 only being lit up to reflect this, is still a fun touch.
The only hope is that it can be reflected in even more games. Remember when you would visit an arcade, and some games would reflect the action of the game through the lights of the arcade light gun or joystick.
Imagine that but on this keyboard; the possibilities are endless here, but it’s a great start to see games and even apps like Discord take advantage of this for chat notifications and the rest.
The Apex Pro will set you back £199.99 on Amazon. For any keyboard, that’s expensive.
But when you look at keyboards for other uses, such as the iPad Magic Keyboard starting at £299, you do get a sense of value from the Apex Pro in the grand scheme of things.
You do get a sense of value
The amount of customisation, from the RGB, to the OLED, and even to the keyboard switches, makes it a keyboard that can cater to any use you deem fit, and suddenly, the £199 feels more like an investment rather than a burn in the wallet.
There’s also plenty of room for the keyboard to improve through software updates. Being able to change the actuation of the keys through software is huge, and this could be refined and improved through a simple-update of the firmware.
Fantastic design, with a magnetic rest wrist too
RGB will keep you busy for a long while, very fun
£199 is expensive for any keyboard
In short; a fantastic keyboard. Fantastic, and fun most of all. The keys feel great, and the RGB customisation is another level, both on the keyboard and through the ‘Engine’ software. Having the keyboard change colours depending on which game is currently being played is obviously very-overboard, but it’s still a great touch.
It would have been nice to see better integration with the OLED display in games; health status in Resident Evil for example, with a beating health bar perhaps? There’s lots of possibilities. We only hope that more developers look into having their own app integrated with the keyboard.
Yes, it’s £199 to buy, but for everything it offers, and after spending a good weekend just creating your own RGB configs, that money regret will soon pass.
This is the keyboard to beat for us right now. It’s set the standard for other gaming keyboards out there. The question now is what else could be appearing this year to try and topple it?
READ MORE: Apple Magic Keyboard review