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I have three rules when it comes to a gaming keyboard. It must be a good quality mechanical keyboard with no unnecessary macro keys. The SteelSeries Apex Pro (Check on Amazon.com) ticks all these boxes and then some!
With its sleek and coherent design, the keyboard gathers many claps even before the test. SteelSeries made a compact keyboard [such as the ASUS ROG Strix Scope (Check on Amazon.com) or HyperX Alloy FPS (Check on Amazon.com)] by reducing the multimedia buttons to one multifunctional button and a volume wheel. The OLED display is not essential, but a nice gimmick. And if you want an even more compact one, the Apex Pro is also available as a TKL version, without the number pad.
SteelSeries Apex Pro – Design
The build quality is beyond any reproach. The gaps are precise and very narrow. In addition, thanks to the metal surface, the Apex Pro doesn’t bend and the added weight makes it feel even more premium. In general, the keyboard seems very robust. With ABS plastic and the rubberized palm rest, the feel is also great (although PBT keys could have been a plus and would have given it an even more premium look).
The edges and corners of the SteelSeries Apex Pro are rounded and smooth. In its upper-right area, we can see the OLED display beside the volume wheel and multi-function switch. These three elements are discreetly placed in the empty space above the numeric keypad. Via the display, you can manage the illumination, macros, the activation point of OmniPoint switches, profiles and other various settings.
The wrist rest is magnetic. It easily attaches to the keyboard and doesn’t slip. Wrist rests are a rare commodity, however, we believe that the one included with the SteelSeries Apex Pro is a practical and subtle addition. When you spend whole days pushing buttons you rarely realize how much a simple wrist wrest can help with fatigue. It’s a little hard though; it would have been nice to find one similar to the Cooler Master MK750 (Check on Amazon.com) with its foam padding.
Underneath we find three cable channels, so you can move the cable to the left, center or right of the keyboard. The white illuminated pass-through USB port sits on the left side on the back. Also noteworthy are the three non-slip rubber feet located in the front of the keyboard.
The RGB illumination also makes a very good impression. It is beautifully even and looks much chicer and not as intrusive as with cheap gaming keyboards.
Let’s get technical for a moment. The RGB lighting is great to have, but it won’t make you a better gamer. The Apex Pro’s OmniPoint switches won’t either, but they are quite interesting to discuss.
Let’s face it, the reigning king of switches is Cherry MX. The brand has become the standard of mechanical switches. So, what’s so special about OmniPoint switches? This mechanical linear switch has an adjustable (via software) activation point.
Most gamers will shorten the activation point in order to make the keys lightning fast. However, not all of us use a keyboard solely to humiliate other players in CS: GO. I for once find this hypersensitivity a bit annoying when it comes to writing.
SteelSeries Apex Pro – Features
The big novelty as we said before is SteelSeries’ OmniPoint switches. These are linear switches requiring an actuation force of 45cN. This is the same amount of force needed to activate a Cherry MX Red. In addition, the total travel is 3.6mm but the activation point is adjustable. Via the software or the display on the keyboard, this point can range from 0.4mm to 3.6mm.
[Note: the keyboard display does not allow for key-to-key management of the activation point. To do this, you will have to go through SteelSeries’ Engine software.]
So, this OmniPoint switch is similar to a Cherry MX linear switch. Wrong, the OmniPoint switches are radically different. When pressed they leave us with a feeling of fluidity that we had never felt on a mechanical keyboard.
The other great feature of OmniPoint switches is that they are adjustable. The idea is very interesting and allows you to fine-tune the keyboard. If you’re looking for sensitivity, at 0.4mm, simply grazing a key is enough to activate it. It is so sensitive that I couldn’t write without making a whole lot of mistakes.
On the other hand, at 3.6mm, you have to really press down in order for the individual keys to register. With this setting, I also made some mistakes mostly because letters or even spaces were missing.
Once I found the perfect activation point (in the middle for me), however, the keyboard really came to life. I don’t need to set a different activation point for each key though.
In addition, it should be noted that only the basic 61 QWERTY keys feature these OmniPoint switches. The function keys, arrow keys and numeric keys on the keypad all use standard Red SteelSeries switches (they are similar to Cherry MX Red switches: 45cN, 4mm travel, 2mm activation point).
SteelSeries Apex Pro – Performance
The Apex Pro convinced us with its spec sheet and features, but ultimately it is essential to test it in day-to-day use. We are glad to say that the Apex Pro doesn’t disappoint. The design is extremely functional and we came to grips with it fairly fast.
The most “arduous” but also the most gratifying task is to find the right activation point for you. I use Level 5 when writing and Level 2 when gaming. If you are a competitive LoL or DOTA gamer then you will love the reactivity of Level 1. I don’t know if someone will ever use a setting above 5 but it is good to have the option.
Add to all this the pleasant feel and comfort of the wrist rest and you will love to work and game with it for hours.
The OLED display doesn’t offer any significant added value in everyday use, at least in my case. You can configure the keyboard by pressing the multimedia button and scrolling the volume wheel but this is only a simplified version of the extended configurations you can find in the software suite.
Do we recommend the SteelSeries Apex Pro? Definitely. It focuses on important characteristics such as compactness, pleasant surfaces, excellent build quality, great tactile feedback. Many gaming keyboards often boast excessive dimensions, unnecessary special keys and/or other superfluous extras.
Apart from the OLED display, the Apex Pro is compact and minimal. The display doesn’t make the keyboard bigger and can be used for simple configurations.
The multimedia button and volume wheel are more than enough and there is also a pass-through USB port and chic RGB lighting.
The only real weakness and a huge dealbreaker for most (including me) is the price (Check on Amazon.com)! The TKL version of the Apex Pro is a tad more affordable (Check on Amazon.com). You can also opt for the Apex 7 (Check on Amazon.com), which is way cheaper, but you don’t get the adjustable switches. The choice is yours.