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SteelSeries Apex Gaming Keyboard


Pros: Custom Lighting Zones, 88 Programmable Keys, Solid Software, Lot's of Features

Cons: Size, Physical Key Feel, Minimal 3rd Party Software Support

It doesn't matter if you have all the best components in a PC with the coolest case and 30" monitor, if your input devices are either uncomfortable or just really crappy then your PC just will never perform the way you want it too. Getting quality input devices that you will actually use will make your gaming/computing experience all the better. Today's review is the SteelSeries Apex Gaming Keyboard.

My last couple keyboards were a Microsoft ergonomic something and more recently the Logitech G15 Gaming Keyboard. Going from the Logitech to the new Apex keyboard has taken quite an adjustment. The layout is just different enough that you have to pay attention to what you’re doing.

Upon first eyes and hands on you will instantly notice this keyboard is huge. Make sure you have some clear desk space. It has 88 programmable keys, five different customizable light up zones, four light up buttons where you can program up to four custom light up designs and then change the color configuration based on the task or your mood. There are also six media keys, and anti-ghosting for the 20 most commonly used keys. The palm rest is also built in and is of larger size than most other keyboards. One last feature that I have come to like is the Windows Key disable button. That way you don't accidently drop out of your multiplayer mayhem into your Windows desktop.

These are the main features I that brought me to this keyboard, having an Alienware laptop, I really like the customization of the laptop and wanted something similar for my desktop. This keyboard does a good job with that task. Once plugged into a USB connector the keyboard lights up to life. You get five of what SteelSeries calls Active Lighting Zones, which are customizable up to 16.8 million colors. These five different illumination zones make this keyboard really stand out.

For the actual keyboard use I have found it a little difficult to get used to as the keys do not have the same slope that most keyboards have. It is more of a flat slate and the keys are cut with a small space between the keys. I often find I hit the key next to the one I want or turn on the caps lock unintentionally. Over the past couple months it has become more comfortable and these errors have been happening less. I just think it is something to pay attention to.

I have played a handful of games on this keyboard and have no complaints in that department. For the FPS out there the "W" key has a double little bump to help you quickly find your movement keys. I am not a big MMO gamer, but my girlfriend is a World of WarCraft junkie and she has tried the macros on this keyboard and she really liked them for that game. It gives you plenty of extra keys to make macros for just about any task.

The software is where most people complain about this keyboard. I haven’t found there to be any issues with SteelSeries engine. I was able to jump in, make a few different lighting schemes and few macro keys order of operations and set up a couple different profiles. I really like this software more than I did the Razer Synapse 2.0 software that you have to log into to get your details or make changes.

Something I would also like to point out is the macros do not all have to be game related. I do a fair amount of web design and video/photo editing and the macros can created to repeat writing code or something of the sort. Being in college and with most classes all the headings or some tasks repeat from week to week, program a macro to drop your name into a paper with all the college details and save yourself a bit of time. Write once, use as often as you wish.

Over all, I am satisfied with my SteelSeries Apex Gaming Keyboard. I like my Alienware Laptop keyboard more, but compared to all the other keyboards I either use on a daily basis from work, school, and other computers I enjoy sitting at my computer and using the Apex keyboard. I rate it four stars as it was the learning curve and the sheer size. I also slightly miss the LCD from the Logitech G15 Gaming Keyboard.
What I would like to see it some gaming companies or even Adobe or Microsoft make some light up color profiles that tie into the software. Something similar to the Alienware Lighting FX that a few companies actually program for.

Design: 8
Build Quality: 8
Features: 9.5
Software: 8
Overall: 8.8


Pros: Up to 88 individual macro keys, Programmable backlighting, 4 separate and customizable layers, Media and other special keys, Large wrist wrest, Price

Cons: Software lacks ability to customize, Driver issues with other products, Non- Removable wrist wrest,

The SteelSeries Apex Gaming Keyboard is a a feature rich keyboard at a very competitive price. It brings most of the features from more expensive mechanical keyboards, to a $100 price point.

Here we see the top and front of the box. SteelSeries is really pushing their ActiveZone Illumination; more on that later. The back includes the features in several languages.

Here are some closeups of the back. The main features of this keyboard that a gamer would care about are the 88 macro keys, customizable backlight zones, and the fully reprogramable layout.

Included in the box is the keyboard, 2 additional feet, and a quick start guide. Starting with the physical features, the keyboard measures 22" x 8.5" x 1.5". This is much wider than typical keyboards, so make sure you will have enough space. Starting in the top left we have the 4 layer keys. These will switch between the keyboards layers which are basically profiles for the keyboard. Each one allows every key to be reprogrammed. This would be useful for different games that require different macros or shortcuts. Below that we have 10 programmable macro keys. At the very top we have 12 raised macro keys. Moving over to the arrows, we see SteelSeries' unique directional keys. More on these later. Finally on the right side we get volume/brightness keys and media keys.

The side has a sleek, elegant design that is illuminated when the keyboard is plugged in. The back has two USB ports for mice, headsets, or other accessories. It also features a 6' braided cable with pass through connector.

The back of the keyboard is smooth and features two adjustable rubber pads for raising or lowering the keyboard's angle. These don't do too much though. I would have liked a greater amount of adjustment, but it isn't too big of an issue. Another potential area for improvement would be adding cable management slots onto the bottom. I can understand why there aren't any though. The keyboard is just 1/4" thick at the front.

Here is a closer look at the keys with the backlight on. You can see the raised macros above the F-Keys.

Now on to the review

Usability 5/5
The Apex was very easy to use. I used some of the macro keys for my desktop and regular computing experience, and some for games. I set up some keys to open webpages, programs, or folders. This is very handy for highly visited sites or locations. The large spacebar and wrist wrest make for a very comfortable typing experience. The only issue I had with usability was the fact that the keyboard is very wide. It will not fit into most keyboard drawers. This won't affect everyone as many people use their keyboard on top of their desk. With gaming keyboards expanding length wise to fit macros, this is a common problem. Overall the Apex was very easy to use.

Performance 4/5
The Apex does not have mechanical keys. This greatly reduces the price, but many gamers prefer mechanical keys. From my experience with the Apex, I would say it is in between a Cherry MX Brown and a typical membrane keyboard. It isn't as mushy as most generic keyboards, but isn't as tactile as the Browns. Here is the inside of the keyboard. You can distinctly see the different zones and the membrane.

I was generally impartial about the raised macro keys. I see what SteelSeries was going for, but I don't see how practical it is. Why would you need to do two macros in quick succession? Why not just combine then into one larger macro? That being said, I can see them being useful if your game uses different combinations where you would often combine macros. For the two additional directional arrow keys, I don't see them helping or hindering. Most games use WASD so they wouldn't be used too much anyway, but they can help eliminate finger strain. If you never use them, you can reprogram them to a macro that you would use.

Software 3.5/5
The SteelSeries Engine was the keyboard's biggest flaw. First off, there is a known driver compatibility issue with certain ROCCAT products. As soon as I opened the SteelSeries Engine, my ROCCAT KONE XTD crashed and would not work again until I closed the SteelSeries Engine, and plugged in the mouse again. I am not sure which company is at fault here, but it would be nice if both products would play nicely.

The Engine looks impressive at first, but it lacks many key features. All keys except the SteelSeries and Windows key can be reprogrammed. You can choose from 3 different actions: a keypress macro, an application to launch, or a text macro. You can also change the polling rate.

The keypress macro is just like any other and allows multiple keys with programmed delays. The application allows you to launch applications. If you want to launch folders or webpages, you need to do some more work. The text macro will enter a block of text each time the key is pressed. Those three will cover most users, but compared to other keyboards, they are lacking. I would have liked the ability to initiate mouse functions, perform windows specific commands, or repeat commands multiple times just to name a few.

Finally on to the colors. The backlight has multiple brightnesses including completely off. The software allows for brightness control of individual zones as well as the whole keyboard. I found the colors useful when switching between profiles for different games. It is an easy way to see what set of macros you have on.

In conclusion, the SteelSeries Apex is a great keyboard for the price. It is not mechanical, but still brings most of the features of its mechanical brothers. With a few software updates, this keyboard would be unstoppable.


Pros: Programmable keys, lighting, cable length, USB ports on the keyboard, big space bar

Cons: Key pressing is hard especially for FPS gaming and typing, software conflicting with other programs

Build Quality: 9/10
Design & Look: 8/10
Software: 6/10
Value: 7/10
My final Rating: 7/10

Review Price: £80

First of all I would like to thank SteelSeries for sending me the keyboard for review.
The Apex can be purchased from a variety of resellers, such as AmazonUK. The prices vary quite a bit, but the average price I found was around £80.

Before getting into my written review, here’s my video review of the Apex:

Now let’s get into this written review!

Build quality

The build quality of the Apex is very good. I really like the fact that the keyboard comes with small rubber domes that can be used as a "riser" for the keyboard.

The cable is also very nice and long which means that plugging it into the back of your computer won't be a problem, furthermore the cable is braided which is always nice to see.

The keyboard also has two USB 2.0 ports at the top of the keyboard, in order to give you quick access to USB ports.

SteelSeries Apex Keyboard - USB ports SteelSeries Apex Keyboard - Input
The keyboard is nice and chunky, thus feels very robust when picking it up. I should also mention that this keyboard is rather large in size, thus you'll need quite a bit of desk space to accommodate it.

There are dedicated media keys on the right hand side, which are very much welcome to any type of user.

On a very minor note, I found that the scroll lock, print screen, pause buttons could have been better placed with their respective lights. The reason I say this is because when the scroll lock is activated, it puts on the right hand light and not the one directly about it. It's a minor thing, but it's something that I think should have been looked at. It's a very minor and picky flaw, but something worth mentioning.

The reason I gave this a 9/10 and not a 10/10 for build was because of its lighting. The white was never really white - it looked a little off-white. The colours on the side were not accurate to what the software was showing. I don't know if that' software or build quality related, but I felt it was more build quality related, as I feel it is the lights within the keyboard being unable to produce certain colours properly.


Now the design of the keyboard would have been covered in part in the build quality section just above. With that said, I thought to include a few other points that revert back the fundamental design of the keyboard and the thus the typing experience on it. This section, I feel is a little subjective, but with that said I feel it should be mentioned regardless.

The layout of the keyboard I feel is great for MMORPG players or MMOs generally speaking. This is because of the vast programmable keys that can be used with a macro do perform certain tasks. Games like World Of Warcraft, League of Legends or even simpler games like Magicka really benefit from this keyboard. However games such as Call of Duty, Battlefield or even Borderlands don't benefit from this keyboard, and in fact I would strongly recommend AGAINST this keyboard if you're a gamer that need to hold keys down, such as WASD for moving around in a FPS shooter.
The reasoning behind this statement is because the keyboard is very hard to press down. When I say "very hard" I mean in comparison to other membrane keyboard and even in comparison to BLACK switch mechanical keyboards (black switches are known to be tactile and thus harder to press). Black switches on mechanical keyboards are often recommended for certain types of gamers, despite me not really liking black switches as I felt I had to press harder to get the same response I wanted, versus the response on a brown or red switch keyboard. The Apex on the other hand is even harder to press than a black mechanical keyboard, something I feel a little surprised about, on a membrane keyboard.
Thus, if you like something vastly "hard" to press down, then the Apex will be great for you, but for me and I would say for the general FPS gamers out there, the Apex is a no-go. This applies to longer periods of gaming. You won't notice that much of a difference in minutes, but play for a few hours and you'll see a huge difference between the keyboards. My performance in FPS games vastly dropped when I played on the Apex, whilst on a black mechanical keyboard the "feel" was different, but my performance was similar.

Thus I would like you to take it as you will for the design of the keyboard, but I don't feel this keyboard is suited for the "average/general" gamer. It is intended for more specific gamers, more notably MMO gamers that require vast amounts of macros to perform combos and whatnot. Especially wit their directional arrow keys, which offer better avenues for moving around (racing gamers would appreciate this).

On another note, I really don't recommend this keyboard for typing on. I do a lot of typing and within a matter of 30 minutes, my fingers were tired of the heavy touch of the Apex. I simply couldn't stand pressing hard on it. Furthermore it was reasonably loud as a keyboard, reminded me somewhat of a tamed blue switch mechanical keyboard.

Overall, the design is great for certain types of gamers, but not everyone will rejoice in the design elements of the keyboard nor will they enjoy certain aspects of it. Again, this is subjective, but definitely worth mentioning.


The software was a let down from start to finish. This was mainly due to the conflicts I had with other gaming software. I actually logged down a video of this, where you can see the SteelSeries software having problems with the Logitech and Anker software.

This mean that you are somewhat limited or should be slightly careful with what and how you pair the SteelSeries products with other products you might have. Furthermore I felt the software didn't give me enough customisable options to allow me to really use my keyboard the way I wanted it. For example, I couldn't launch a folder without having to copy and paste the link from my Logitech software to the SteelSeries' one.

Overall the software wasn't that impressive, despite offering a few cool features, which can be seen and demonstrated in my video at the top of this article, I felt the overall software "experience" was mediocre.


Overall, I really liked the keyboard for certain games. However this keyboard to me didn't really feel worthy of a perfect score as, in my opinion really does apply to certain types of gamers. In some respects I would suggest trying the keyboard before buying it. However I know that is very hard to do nowadays. Thus, all I can say is: If you';re a gamer that wants a heavy touch keyboard with nice colours and functionalities, this keyboard will be the right match for you. However if you're a FPS gamer who types quite a lot on your computer, you won't really mesh well with it.

Hope you enjoyed my review!
SteelSeries Apex Gaming Keyboard

SteelSeries Apex is designed to give you everything you want and more. With sleek lines and style, the Apex leaves nothing to be desired. Enjoy 88 more ways to win with 22 macro keys each capable of up to 4 macro layers. SteelSeries Active Zone lighting delivers 5 independent color zones, each capable of 16.8 millions colors for style and function. Set unique colors for each of your macro layers enabling you to not only recognize your current layer faster, but also locate groups of keys with ease. The Apex also includes a few extras like integrated USB hub, independent media keys, and a braided nylon cable.

BindingPersonal Computers
FeatureUnlimited number of profiles to create and store Unlimited macro creation Complete button remapping Analyzed usage via recorded movements and heatmap display 6 simultaneous key presses of 20 anti ghosting capable gaming keys
TitleSteelSeries Apex Gaming Keyboard
CatalogNumberList - CatalogNumberListElement64145
Item Height2.05 inches
Item Length8.66 inches
Item Width22.05 inches
Package Height3 inches
Package Length24.4 inches
Package Weight5 pounds
Package Width10.5 inches
ProductGroupPersonal Computer
UPCList - UPCListElement813810014538
Item Weight2.93 pounds
ESRBAgeRatingRating Pending
Model Name/TypeMPNEAN/UPC
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