It seems like SteelSeries might be trying to take over your computer room, and if you’re anything like me you’ll willingly let them. The company is constantly updating their lineup of high quality headphones, keyboards, and mice, all of which have had a stellar track record. Their latest mechanical keyboard, the Apex M800, is another step forward in innovation. It’s a low-profile, responsive, and well-built piece of hardware that looks as good as it feels. The keyboard comes with the SteelSeries engine as well, which, when paired with the outstanding tech, makes it easier than ever for gamers to program macros, switch profiles and boost their gaming performance with each keystroke.
Let’s start off with the physical specs of the M800. The keyboard is a weighty 3.06 pounds, which you will notice as soon as you take it out of the packaging. The weight is considerably more than my previous keyboard, the Corsair Vengeance K70, but the weight shouldn’t be a cause for concern, after all the product is just going to sit on your desk. The one perk to all this extra bulk is that when combined with the rubber grips located on the on the bottom you can take comfort in knowing that this product will never slide on your desk in the heat of online battle.
"SteelSeries' Apex M800 is a low-profile, responsive, and well-built piece of hardware that looks as good as it feels."
The M800 has a width of 20.08 inches, a height of 6.85 inches, and a depth of about 1.6 inches, making for a sleek low-profile mechanical keyboard option. The keys themselves run on a QS1 Switch and maintain the industry standard of 45cN which may not appeal to some people who are pickier about the force used for each keystroke. I found the resistance to be perfect though, and spent more time trying to get used to the way the keys are actually designed. You see, the keys are relatively compressed (not so much in terms of spacing but in actual key height), especially for a mechanical keyboard, but after taking some time to switch back and forth between this, the previously mentioned K70, and a Monoprice Cherry MX Red, I found it the easiest to type on the M800. There’s something about its lack of raised keys that contributes to the overall smooth experience, especially for FPS and MOBA titles.
The switch functionality may not give of the satisfying ‘clack’ that most mechanical keyboards are known for, but it’s a small sacrifice for a smoother and easier typing experience. The best way I can describe the keys themselves is to have you imagine a kind of hybrid keyboard that hovers somewhere between the soft-touch setups popular throughout the early 2000’s and the mechanical experience that has recently made a resurgence.
"The SteelSeries Engine is without a doubt one of the easiest and most intuitive macro editors I’ve ever had the pleasure of using."
SteelSeries advertises Anti-Ghosting as a feature of the M800, and it’s true. 256 keys can be pressed at once and the Apex M800 will register them all. So, if your situation demands it you can always take comfort in the fact that all simultaneous button presses will be registered without fail. The one-touch multimedia controls are convenient and easy to disable if desired, and the quick access keys located on the left hand side are simple and will allow for anyone to easily swap between profiles on the fly.
The M800 is capable of illuminating 16.8 million colors, contains unlimited lighting layers, and makes it incredibly easy for you to setup your own presets. Right now I have it set so that my WASD are all in red; my Q, E, R, are in green; my 1-6 keys in purple; and my Z, X, C, V are all in blue. This is the current layout I use for MOBA and RTS gaming, but that profile can easily change with one press of the quick access button for an entirely different layout tailored towards something else, like FPS. The colors are more than just a cosmetic feature. In fact, I found that the color changes allowed my peripheral vision to locate and quickly press keys almost immediately. Combine that with my muscle memory and I found myself almost never making a wrong keystroke -- perfect for competitive eSports.
"The SteelSeries Apex M800 is more than an excellent keyboard, it’s an essential part of any hardcore PC gamer’s setup."
The SteelSeries Engine is without a doubt one of the easiest and most intuitive macro editors I’ve ever had the pleasure of using. Any user should easily be able to program a variety of macros ranging from simple to complex. Even text-based macros are supported allowing users to program direct to console. It’s also incredibly easy to setup multiple user profiles, profiles that respond to particular applications, and, when combined with the SteelSeries cloud, users will have no problem saving these profiles for future use – perfect if you ever need to reformat.
There are two USB ports located on the back of the M800. Sometimes with my K70 I ran into driver conflicts while attempting to use on-keyboard USB ports, but I never ran into any of those problems with the M800. It’s a subtle, but convenient feature that, in my opinion, should become industry standard.
The SteelSeries Apex M800 is more than an excellent keyboard, it’s an essential part of any hardcore PC gamer’s setup. The price point might be a bit more than most people will be willing to budget, but those that can afford to pick one up should know it will be one of the highlights of your gaming rig, not just because of the tech behind it but also because of its sleek style and innovation. SteelSeries has once again managed to create an essential piece of hardware that I can’t imagine replacing anytime soon. It’s more than just a keyboard, it’s become an integral part of my PC gaming experience.
Review by: Palmer Sturman