Stylish. Bold. Attitude. – SteelSeries APEX Keyboard Review
This accessory was reviewed on a PC.
I’ve not really given much thought to the keyboard market in the last few years – primarily due to the fact that when I game on a PC, it’s usually on my gaming laptop. With a built-in keyboard, there’s not a lot to motivate you to look beyond your steel and plastic clamshell for anything more. But after spending a couple of weeks with the SteelSeries APEX, I find it more and more difficult to go back to the old ways.
When you first set eyes on the APEX, you’ll initially be intimidated by its massive construction. To be fair, the keys are well-placed and sizeable for a range of hands large and small – but in comparison to most standard keyboards nowadays, the SteelSeries’ branded accessory is a behemoth. This is due, in part, to the addition of the macro keys on the left and along the top of the keyboard, as well as the media keys on the right. Additional design changes from a standard keyboard include a repositioned (and larger) Escape key, a double-sized space bar, and diagonal-left and -right arrows on the arrow pad. Two additional USB ports can be found on the front of the matte-black bodied keyboard for quick and easy access, and the angle can be adjusted by inserting one of two sets of rubber feet that are included with the setup.
The keys are very responsive and have some definite weight to them so as to give the user a solid sense of contact. The keyboard’s matte-black finish does a good job of keeping grease from sweaty hands from building up on the finish during long gaming sessions, the spacing of the keys are set at a comfortable distance as well, and the built-in wrist pad at the bottom provides some additional ergonomic relief. But what really sets this keyboard apart from most is the zone illumination. Five zones on the keyboard can be configured with a custom color scheme, much like that on the SteelSeries Sensei mouse. These zones consist of the left side macro and layer buttons, the top-level function and additional macro keys, the letter block, number pad and utility keys, and the logo and side illumination areas for a little extra flair.
Configuring your colors is as simple as installing the SteelSeries Engine software from the company’s site, clicking on a zone under the colors menu, and choosing a color or inputting your favorite hex color code. Each of the four macro layers can have a custom color scheme for a quick and easy reference to which setup you’re currently running under, or if you just simply enjoy having different color combinations depending on what game you’re playing. This same SteelSeries Engine software can be used to program your keyboard macros and set the polling rate of the keyboard, as well as set up any of your other SteelSeries peripherals such as the Siberia V2 headset or any of the SteelSeries mice. You can even track what keys you’re pressing under the Statistics tab, which provides you a convenient heat map of your usage.
SteelSeries has done a fantastic job on the overall design of the APEX keyboard, but it’s the subtleties that make it stand out. The extra-large space bar is a welcome addition for games that require a lot of jumping such as Unreal Tournament (yes, I still play that) and Guild Wars 2. The movement of the Escape key and increasing the size make it both easier to find, and easier to avoid as well. The diagonal keys on the arrow pad were another really helpful addition, especially if you’re a southpaw gamer.
Although the APEX keyboard is close to perfect, it’s not without flaws. Zone illumination is a fantastic concept and truly is helpful when finding your way around in a dark room, but it would have been nice if the WASD keys had been given their own zone for easy re-centering in the dark. The keyboard is also significantly larger than most standard sets at 21 inches across and 8.5 inches deep, which also means that it’s larger than many keyboard trays out there – so you’ll be taking up significantly more real estate on top of your desk regardless.
That being said, if you have the space for this keyboard, there is zero reason holding you back from getting it. Stylish, bold, and responsive, the SteelSeries APEX is a keyboard that will help you get to the top of your game and show a little attitude at the same time.
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