Switching keyboards is like getting a new car. There’s an adjustment period, and everything feels foreign for a while. Using SteelSeries’ APEX Gaming Keyboard for the first time reminded me of shifting from my old Sentra to a new Mustang. It’s bigger, it has more features than I can wrap my head around and it takes a few days before driving becomes second nature. Much like the Mustang, the APEX is a gorgeous monstrosity. Its intimidating size, measuring 2.05 (H) by 22.05 (W) by 8.66 (D) inches, exhibits a sense of grandeur and supremacy without sacrificing elegance. This is the kind of peripheral that completely dominates its surroundings with its colorful illumination zones and stylish design.
But what about performance? For gamers, the APEX offers countless customization options and long-lasting comfort. For typing, not so much. Its gamer-centric construction makes typing sluggish and imprecise. Then again, the APEX is geared towards users who spend more time with games than Microsoft Word. As far as membrane keyboards go, SteelSeries’ APEX is a superb piece of technology that’s only rivaled by its mechanical counterparts.
"As far as membrane keyboards go, SteelSeries’ APEX is a superb piece of technology that’s only rivaled by its mechanical counterparts."
The SteelSeries APEX is beautiful. It may very well be the sleekest, most tastefully crafted gaming keyboard on the market. Its expansive frame covers 140 buttons, including dedicated media controls and 22 independent macro keys. Despite its size, the APEX looks classy with its low-profile keys and intuitive design. The keyboard comes with a sturdy braided cable with 2 USB connectors, one powering the keyboard, the other powering two USB 2.0 ports in the back of the base. This makes connecting headphones or USB flash drives a breeze. For added comfort, the APEX comes with extra rubber legs that increase the keyboard tilt for easier typing. The rubber material also prevents sliding, something that’s very common and irritating with most flippable keyboard feet.
Installation is effortless and only requires the dedicated SteelSeries Engine Software download. The software is feature-rich and provides on-the-fly color and key customizations with switchable profiles. The keyboard consists of five adjustable zones, each capable of 16.8 million colors. The intuitive layout makes finding customized macros groups particularly easy.
The color choices are practically limitless, although certain colors don’t translate accurately from how they’re displayed on screen. Orange, for example, looks golden yellow on the keyboard, no matter how much red is added. The same problem persists with specific hues of blue. When transferring hex codes from our SteelSeries Rival Gaming Mouse profile to match the APEX, the blues displayed different tonal variations across each zone.
"With up to 88 possible macros, the APEX is sure to satisfy the most hardcore gamers, even if it is overkill for the average user."
Aside from nitpicky color inaccuracies, the gaming performance is exceptional. Buttons are positioned closer to each other, making the macros and Shift/Ctrl keys easier to reach. The W key protrudes a tactile bump, which helps with quick hand repositioning during intense gaming sessions. For a membrane keyboard, the keys have a nice clickiness to them and snap back into place instantly. The macros above the F-keys are raised, allowing smooth downward key-combo strokes without raising the hand.
With up to 88 possible macros, the APEX is sure to satisfy the most hardcore gamers, even if it is overkill for the average user. In fact, most of the keyboard is programmable, with an absurd 504 possible button combinations. The jumbo space bar is especially useful. Because of its larger size and quick response time, the hand gets more rest while gaming and typing. The diagonal arrow buttons are a nice touch too, although I can’t see many gamers shifting away from traditional WASD controls.
"It’s beautifully designed, has a stupendous amount of programmable keys and provides comfort during extended gaming periods."
While the tighter key placement is great for gaming, it can be a nightmare for typing. It takes a long time to get used to the layout and typing simple things, like browsing the web, is troublesome. It’s very easy to hit multiple keys at once, regardless of how small a user’s hands are. After all, this is still a keyboard and typing remains one of its primary functions, whether it’s designed for gaming or not.
Typing difficulties aside, the SteelSeries Apex is phenomenal for gamers looking for a high-end membrane keyboard. It’s beautifully designed, has a stupendous amount of programmable keys and provides comfort during extended gaming periods. SteelSeries delivers yet another fantastic peripheral that combines luxury and value. While the Razer BlackWidow Ultimate Elite still remains one of this year’s best gaming keyboards, the APEX may be the best alternative money can buy.
Review by: Tin Salamunic