bit-tech.net

SteelSeries Apex [Raw] Review

SteelSeries Apex [Raw] Review - Introduction and Features

Manufacturer: Steel Series
UK Price: £55.99
US Price: $69.99

The SteelSeries Apex [Raw] is the company’s new more budget variant on its Apex gaming keyboard. Like its more expensive sibling it’s a membrane keyswitch keyboard, rather than mechanical switch, but this aside it has most of the key features you’d expect of a gaming keyboard: the keys are backlight, it has a plethora of macro and multimedia keys and its key selling point is its low profile keys, which are ‘designed for quick reflexes’. On the surface it looks like a more sensible proposition than the full-fat Apex, with a lean feature set and keen price, but does that hold up in practice?

Straight out of the box it’s fairly quickly apparent this isn’t a premium keyboard. It is built entirely from plastic and there is a bit of flex and creak to the chassis as you manhandle it. Also, something about the big curved expanses of matt black plastic just feels a little cheap – it’s so obvious they’re moulded plastic rather than anything more luxurious. Likewise the black-on-white-on-black curved details at the ends look pretty crude up close. But that’s the point, these complaints only really count when manhandling and peering at the Apex Raw. In situ it actually has an understated class to it: the design is clean and simple, as we’re used to from SteelSeries.

SteelSeries Apex [Raw] Review SteelSeries Apex [Raw] Review - Introduction and Features
Click to enlarge

The keyboard is large though, and partly this is down to the incorporated wrist rest, which we found to be rather unnecessary. For those that use wrist rests, a higher, more cushioned one would be better, while for those that don’t require one, the non-removable one here just takes up valuable desk space. As integrated wrist rests go, though, it is more use than most with a decent amount of depth and a front edge that sits nice and low.

SteelSeries Apex [Raw] Review SteelSeries Apex [Raw] Review - Introduction and Features
Click to enlarge

Included in the box are a couple of rubber feet which can be used to raise the back of the keyboard by replacing the standard feet. Said feet are large and grippy so that despite the keyboard being fairly light we had no issues with it sliding around. Swapping the feet is easy: the notch makes it easy to pull them out and push the new ones in. Also on the underside are drainage holes in case of spillages: the keyboard isn't sealed but the drainage should help keep all but the largest of spills from ruining the keyboard.

SteelSeries Apex [Raw] Review SteelSeries Apex [Raw] Review - Introduction and FeaturesSteelSeries Apex [Raw] Review SteelSeries Apex [Raw] Review - Introduction and Features
Left: Small feet. Right: Tall feet. Click to enlarge

Elsewhere, immediately noticeable is the lack of a USB hub or audio pass-through. The latter’s omission isn’t so much of an issue as at this price level the quality of an audio-pass-through would be so poor as to render it pointless. However, a USB hub would certainly have been nice to have – this is just one of the features the Raw has lost compared to the non-Raw Apex.

While on the topic of USB, the cable is a standard rubber coated affair, with no anti-tangle finish or braiding. At two metres long, it’s plenty long enough for most typical layouts, though. Moreover, regarding both the cable and the USB hub, we’d certainly rather SteelSeries spent the money on the core features of the keyboard than these extras, and that’s largely what it has done.

SteelSeries Apex [Raw] Review SteelSeries Apex [Raw] Review - Introduction and Features
Click to enlarge

Plugging the Apex Raw in, we’re immediately struck by how ‘just right’ the white backlighting is. It isn’t fancy but it’s evenly lit and the level is such that it’s neither too dazzling in the dark nor totally overpowered in brighter conditions. Helping here are the large, easy to read symbols through which the light shines – they really highlight how poor the symbols are on the Logitech G710+ for instance.

SteelSeries Apex [Raw] Review SteelSeries Apex [Raw] Review - Introduction and Features SteelSeries Apex [Raw] Review SteelSeries Apex [Raw] Review - Introduction and Features
Click to enlarge

There are a couple of downsides to the backlighting, though. For one, the level can only be adjusted in software, making quick adjustments rather difficult. Then there’s the Steel Series logo, which shines markedly brighter than everything else. With there being no zonal lighting control at all this can’t be toned down or turned off so can be a little distracting, especially when sitting back and watching a film or playing a dark and atmospheric game.

SteelSeries Apex [Raw] Review SteelSeries Apex [Raw] Review - Introduction and Features SteelSeries Apex [Raw] Review SteelSeries Apex [Raw] Review - Introduction and Features
Click to enlarge

Taking the keyboard apart we can see the reason for this brightness as the logo has its own dedicated pair of LEDs, so if it really bugs you it would be a simple fix to de-solder these, or add an inline resistor to reduce their brightness. The rest of the backlighting is achieved via LEDs that run along the back edge and are dispersed using a reflective backplate. Meanwhile the keys themselves are all anchored so you shouldn’t have an issues losing them if you do fancy taking this keyboard apart, which is more than can be said of the 21 screws required to undo the thing!

SteelSeries Apex [Raw] Specs
  • Connection: Wired USB
  • Cable: 2m rubber coated
  • Build: Plastic
  • Key switch: Rubber membrane
  • Backlighting: Yes, uniform white with software brightness control
  • Gaming/macro keys: 6 macro keys on the left edge, twelve macro keys above the F keys and dedicated UpLeft and UpRight cursor keys.
  • USB pass-through: No
  • Audio pass-through: No
  • Key-rollover: 20 keys
  • Extra features: Low-profile keys, Media Controls as secondary functions to F key, fixed palm rest, drainage holes in case of liquid spillage.