Traditionally, choosing a laptop has been about compromise.
SteelSeries Apex Pro gaming keyboard review: Expensive experiment
- Adjustable actuation
- Smart OLED screen
- Quite expensive
- Conventional design
A feat of engineering that’ll thrill keyboard nerds who can appreciate it more than it will those looking for something a little more straightforward or affordable.
Price$ 329.00 (AUD)
Should you buy the SteelSeries Apex Pro gaming keyboard?
If you’re the kind of technically-minded person who finds the idea of a gaming keyboard where you can alter your actuation point at a whim, then the premium price that the SteelSeries Apex Pro demands might actually be worth paying.
Though the hardware here lives up to the hype, it also privileges the enthusiast over the everyman for both better or worse. After a month or so living with it, I’m convinced that anyone could use this gaming keyboard and have a great time. However, with the RRP being what it is, you have to hope that those who do buy in are equipped and eager to make use of its unique capabilities.
Price when reviewed
In Australia, you can score the SteelSeries Apex Pro gaming keyboard for approximately AU$329.
You can buy the SteelSeries Apex Pro gaming keyboard on Amazon here.
SteelSeries Apex Pro gaming keyboard full review
There are two kinds of gaming keyboards: those that try to perfect what’s been done before and those that try to do something new. SteelSeries latest, the Apex Pro, falls neatly into the latter category.
Available in two variants (full-size and tenkeyless), the Apex Pro comes with all the perks and features you’d expect and then some. The $329 asking price nets you dynamic per-key RGB lighting, a magnetic wrist rest, an aircraft-grade aluminum chassis and an integrated OLED Smart Display. Overall, the design here feels sleek and premium - even if it doesn’t end up feeling quite as futuristic as something like Logitech’s creme de la creme gaming keyboard.
When it comes to the differences between the two models, we’re mostly talking about form-factor. The SteelSeries Apex Pro TKL is smaller and lighter but it lacks the full-size number pad found in the flagship Apex keyboard.
Still, regardless of which size you go for, the Smart Display on the Apex Pro and Apex Pro TKL can be easily customised to display whatever you want. It also supports instant notifications from apps like Discord or Spotify and games like CS:GO. This is a neat inclusion but like many such permutations on the usual gaming keyboard formula: it’s very much what you make of it.
Some will see it as a fresh new avenue for self-expression and creativity. Others will forget it’s there after about five minutes. If you fall into the former camp, that's great! But if you suspect you’ll find yourself in the latter, it doesn’t make the premium price tag on the Apex Pro any easier to swallow.
Of course, it’s the OmniPoint adjustable actuation switches on the Apex Pro gaming keyboard that merit the most attention here - and rightfully so. These switches can’t be found on any other keyboard, they use magnetic sensors to provide a significantly faster response time than traditional mechanical switches and, most intriguing of all, they allow for users to easily customise their actuation point using software.
Actuation point settings can be customised, saved and stored using SteelSeries' Engine software - even down to a per-key level. Unfortunately, there’s no way to export or share those profiles as of yet and SteelSeries software remains somewhat finnicky.
Still, this unique hook does a great job of setting the Apex Pro apart from the rest of the options on the modern gaming keyboard menu and, once you’ve found the level of clickiness you want, makes actually using the Apex Pro a treat. Using the Apex Pro to play games like Resident Evil 7, A Short Hike and Overwatch felt punchy and responsive. You can configure keyswitch profiles on a per-game basis, so you've got plenty of freedom to make the experience your own.
The Bottom Line
That being said, it’s hard to dismiss the fact that the SteelSeries Apex Pro is mostly appealing because of what it represents and achieves rather than what it offers most end-users.
Even as someone impressed as hell with the tech powering SteelSeries’ dynamic actuation switches, I found that I didn’t actually use them that much. Once I had found the precise level of sensitivity that was right for me, I barely played with it. The novelty was gone and was satisfied with the experience.
The fact that this keyboard lets you find that sweet spot at all undeniably rules. All the same, with the $329 price-tag in mind, I find it difficult to make the case that the experience of using the dynamic key switches Apex Pro was that much better than that of keyboard half its price.
The SteelSeries Apex Pro is a feat of engineering that’ll thrill keyboard nerds who can appreciate and get the most out of its central gimmick more than it will those after something a little more straightforward or affordable.
If you're not willing to bite on SteelSeries Apex Pro, check out our guide to the best gaming keyboard here for a few other choices.
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