SteelSeries makes some pretty good keyboards, some are even featured in MSI's gaming laptop range, but the company launched something truly special for 2019 called the Apex Pro. It's a mechanical keyboard, but with a twist — you can alter the switch actuation point for each individual key, allowing you to change how quickly keystrokes are registered.
After using the Apex Pro for a solid week, I've not switched to anything else, which shows just how good this thing is.
$196 (opens in new tab)Bottom line:
- Quiet switches
- Configurable actuation
- Sleek design
- Magnetic wrist pad
- Non-detachable cable
A stunning aluminum mechanical gaming keyboard
Keyboards have come a long way. Mechanical keyboards succeeded membrane counterparts by replacing the single flexible surface below the keycaps with switches. These switches allow each key to actuate separately, allowing you to effectively press down across the keyboard and have each keystroke register just fine. This is something that simply isn't possible with less accurate and reliable membrane keyboards.
Mechanical switches come in different flavors depending on personal preference. The Apex Pro from SteelSeries throws this choice out the window by allowing you to actually alter the actuation point — to which the keypress is registered — and make the switches actuate faster to accommodate typing or require more pressure for gaming.
The switches aren't all that's special about the Apex Pro. SteelSeries makes some great looking hardware, and this latest product is right up there, thanks to the sleek aluminum build and effective use of RGB lighting. It's not obnoxious, but also not so subtle you'll not notice it's there.
SteelSeries bundles a magnetic wrist pad that can be attached to the front of the Apex Pro and there are runners underneath the keyboard to allow you to route the USB cable depending on where your PC is located. Unfortunately, the cable is not detachable, but it's thick, and the built-in USB passthrough makes up for this minor complaint.
On the top-right of the Apex Pro, there's a small OLED display. But wait, before you roll your eyes at the fact a keyboard houses a pointless display, know that this one actually has some use. Aside from being able to load up your favorite tech website's logo as a splash screen, it's possible to use this display and the accompanying wheel to alter a whole host of settings, including lighting and actuation.
SteelSeries clearly designed this keyboard with LAN events in mind. You'll be able to load profiles and switch them on the fly, and there's no delay between profile switching, even if there's a difference in key actuation points. It's all instant, and you can even configure the keyboard to load up profiles depending on the game.
Typing and gaming on the SteelSeries Apex Pro is a dream
The Apex Pro makes it possible to adjust the actuation point between 0.4mm and 3.6mm using the on-board control wheel and OLED display or SteelSeries Engine. The software interacts with the magnetic Omni point switches to adjust how each key performs, and you can set keys to different values that can then be saved to profiles.
This such a big deal for a variety of reasons. Say you enjoy playing League of Legends and frequently hit F by accident — because everyone knows you set the flash ability to F. By setting the actuation point to that specific key to 3.6mm and QWER keys to 1.6mm, you'll be wasting your valuable ability less often.
The same goes for MMOs like World of Warcraft, where you can set frequently used abilities to keys with faster actuation points set for immediate triggering. And in first-person shooters, you want your keystrokes to register as soon as possible for immediate response in-game. That's now possible without ruining other titles where super-fast actuation doesn't make sense.
You'll not be keeping up anyone in the house either. The Omni point switches are quiet, allowing you to mash the keys as hard as you can or practice for a new typing world record. You won't feel that satisfying clicky tactile feedback found on Cherry MX Blue switches, but the rest of this feature set is a great trade-off.
It's just a shame about the non-detachable cable. Still, it's hard to think of much else that's bad about this keyboard.
Should you buy the SteelSeries Apex Pro?
The Apex Pro is something special. It shows what can be achieved with magnetic or optic switches (the latter of which is used by Razer) and by allowing the user to change the actuation point of said switches on the fly is really neat. The only drawback to the Apex Pro is the price. It's fairly steep for what is a keyboard.
This keyboard is unlike anything I've used before, and I doubt it'll be beaten, even by future typing platforms with my beloved low-profile switches. If you can stretch your budget to accommodate the price — and you've already got a kick-ass gaming PC — I cannot recommend the Apex Pro enough.
The Apex Pro from SteelSeries is the best keyboard I've used to date. It's a striking design with subtle RGB lighting effects, has a functional OLED display you'll actually use, and the new magnetic switches are simply sublime to use both in and out of your favorite games.
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Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.
These are Hall effect switches and are of a completely different design than other common "mechanical" switches on the market. They're more like the optical switches in that they don't need to physically close a circuit to send the signal. That's why you can set the actuation point. I've never tried it but this kind of system sounds very cool. I think a company from Europe, Wooting, pioneered this customizable actuation stuff. Also, they're linear switches - meaning that they don't have a tactile bump by design. That's why they don't feel like other tactile switches. Same with the click. And I'm pretty sure all of the following from the above review was just made up: "Mechanical keyboards succeeded membrane counterparts by replacing the single flexible surface below the keycaps with switches. These switches allow each key to actuate separately, allowing you to effectively press down across the keyboard and have each keystroke register just fine. This is something that simply isn't possible with less accurate and reliable membrane keyboards."
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