SteelSeries Apex Pro gaming keyboard review: Close to perfect

Steelseries Apex Pro Mechanical KeyboardSteelSeries

SteelSeries asks for a premium price for their Apex Pro gaming keyboard, but does it offer the features to make it worth it?

When it comes to gaming peripherals, SteelSeries is among the top contenders in the space. We recently rated their newest headset, the Arctis Nova Pro Wireless, the best gaming headset currently available.

The SteelSeries Apex Pro Mechanical keyboard is the company’s top-tier keyboard offering, available in both full-size and TKL versions. We’ve got our hands on a fully-sized Apex Pro and have been putting it through its paces.

But at a premium price of $200, does the Apex Pro offer the features to make it worth it?

Key specs:

  • Switch type: Omnipoint Adjustable linear, Omnipoint Linear
  • Keycaps: ABS
  • Connectivity: USB-A
  • Form factor: Fully-sized
  • Compatibility: Windows, Mac OS X, Xbox, and PlayStation
  • Features: OLED Screen, clickable scroll wheel and media button, magnetic wrist rest, 0.7ms response time, wrist rest
  • Release date: June 2019
  • Price: $199 / £199
  • Where to buy: Amazon US, Amazon UK

Included in the box: SteelSeries Apex Pro Gaming Keyboard, magnetic wrist rest, and product information guide.

Design

Apex Pro Mechanical Keyboard side view

Right out of the box, the design of the SteelSeries Apex Pro is stunning. The matte gunmetal gray aluminum alloy perfectly compliments the black keycaps and magnetic wrist rest. Though, at $200 we would have expected to see higher-quality PBT keycaps, instead of the relatively cheap ABS option used here.

Although it’s a full-size keyboard, the SteelSeries Apex Pro Mechanical Keyboard’s footprint is drastically reduced thanks to the company removing any “bulk” from the top, sides, and bottom, bringing the keycaps clear to the edge of the body.

On the top right of the body, you’ll find an OLED screen right beside a media control button and the clickable metal roller. As you get further into it, you’ll find a USB passthrough port beside a SteelSeries logo as well. The company has taken cable management in mind, with a three-way routing system on the bottom for the attached USB cable. This is always welcome, as nothing feels better than cleanly cable managing anything that you have on your desk.

The logo beside the USB passthrough on the back of the keyboard is paired with an extremely subtle typeface logo on the wrist rest to make up the branding on the whole keyboard, which appears to be minimal and clean, something that echoes throughout the entire SteelSeries product lineup.

The soft-touch coating makes it one of the most comfortable wrist rests that we’ve ever used while working and gaming, though it did occasionally get in the way during sweaty games of Call of Duty. But yet, thanks to its magnetic connection to the keyboard, moving it out of the way is a breeze.

The Apex Pro’s OLED screen allows you to control its vibrant RGB illumination, switch actuation force, as well as record macros and change profiles on the fly.

Paired with the SteelSeries GG software, users can install a wide variety of apps that use the screen for various purposes. Although in our testing, we rarely found ourselves looking at it, so it has continued to replay a gif of keyboard cat over and over again. The OLED screen is a really nice, premium touch that we really loved. The sheer amount of customization offered by this keyboard is almost unparalleled.

Typing experience

SteelSeries Omnipoint Adjustable SwitchesSteelSeries
The Omnipoint Adjustable switches bring the SteelSeries Apex Pro to a level no other gaming keyboard is.

The biggest selling point of the Apex Pro by far is the typing experience provided by the switches. From the outside, they look — and feel — like your typical linear keyboard switches like Cherry or Kailh Box Reds which are perfect for gaming. However, your mileage may vary when it comes to typing on linear switches, everyone is different.

The keyboard’s “Omnipoint Adjustable” switches allow you to adjust the actuation force from 0.4mm, to 3.6mm, a feature rarely seen in many other higher-end boards. This provides either a shorter or longer keypress for users to customize to their liking. This is a neat feature that we enjoyed playing around with, as it’s incredibly unique, and is something that we wish that we could have seen in other optical keyboards.

It can also be adjusted differently on each key, offering you the ability to set your WASD a little more sensitive than the rest, which makes it excellent to use in competitive titles that require fine movements. It could cause some problems for those using the board primarily for office use, as this is very much a premium gaming feature. You might not want to accidentally set it to 0.4 if you’re buried in spreadsheets all day long.

Typing on the SteelSeries Apex Pro is a treat thanks to the adjustable actuation. We almost immediately dove into the software to make the actuation ever so slightly lower, and almost immediately saw a decrease in typos thanks to having a more definitive keypress every time. It’s just a cut above boards like the Corsair K70 RGB Optical Mechanical, which offers no adjustable actuation.

When adjusting the actuation higher, it did allow for even faster-typing speed, but we found ourselves stumbling over keys a lot more which meant going back and fixing our spelling mistakes. Other users might enjoy the lighter actuation force, and the ability to change it on the fly is something that other optical boards simply do not do.

Software

Apex Pro Software SteelSeriesGG

SteelSeries GG gives users the ability to customize their products and honestly, it’s pretty good. As soon as you open up  SteelSeries GG, you’ll be greeted with five menus: Key Bindings, Meta Bindings, Actuation, Illumination, and OLED Settings.

Key and Meta bindings both allow you to remap any of the Apex Pro’s 104 keys to whatever your heart desires, with the Meta binding being the layer accessible when you press the SteelSeries key. Many keyboards have a second layer, with it more commonly called the “function” layer.

Remember the Omnipoint adjustable switches we talked about earlier? That’s what the Actuation menu is for. All you have to do is click the specific key (or keys) you want to adjust and move the bar on the left side of the screen.

The illumination tab provides endless customization for the vibrant RGB lighting with 12 regular presets, as well as options for different reactions when you press keys and even an alternate AFK effect for when you’re not using the keyboard. When it comes to the OLED, the options are fairly basic. The software gives you the option to upload a GIF to display or draw your own design in either regular or inverted black and white colors.

Is it good for gaming?

The SteelSeries Apex Pro Mechanical keyboard is absolutely perfect for gaming, thanks to its Omnipoint Adjustable switches that absolutely steal the show in every instance. They allow the end-user to adjust actuation to either be higher or lower, allowing for the key to activate with a heavy or light press depending on your needs.

With a higher actuation making keys easier to activate, the board can be easily used for quick movements in any of the popular FPS titles like Call of Duty or Apex Legends.

We only tested the keyboard in a few games, with Warzone being one of them. It didn’t make us the next esports professional, but the ability to adjust actuation separately for all the different keys used in the game made playing it an absolute breeze.

In Fall Guys and Gang Beasts, which are both games that are more commonly played with a controller, we were able to adjust the actuation to its lightest so we never missed that game-saving jump after our friends attempted to throw us into the abyss.

Should you buy it?

This is very much a gaming keyboard as much as it is a typing keyboard. We’ve talked your ears off about the SteelSeries Apex Pro mechanical keyboard’s Omnipoint Adjustable switches, but they really are the star of the show when it comes to the overall use of the board.

9/10

When it comes down to it, the SteelSeries Apex Pro Mechanical Keyboard offers unique features and presents them insanely well. At $200, it is slightly more expensive than other gaming keyboards, but thanks to the Omnipoint Adjustable switches and SteelSeries GG software customization making the SteelSeries Apex Pro Mechanical keyboard fit for every application, it’s well worth the extra money.

The Steelseries Apex Pro gaming keyboard is available now from Amazon US and Amazon UK.

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