“…the design, build quality and comfort factors of the Apex 3 help it to dominate in the mid-range.”
Trying to find a high-quality mid-range gaming keyboard can be a real challenge. From finding the right switches to suit your style to getting yourself a peripheral made of good quality materials, it is often the case that sacrifices have to be made in one arena or another. Enter the SteelSeries Apex 3; marketing at only £59.99 (at the time of writing) and boasting some seriously enticing features for your money…
The headline features of the Apex 3 are its custom SteelSeries whisper quiet gaming switches, IP32 water resistance and customisable RGB illumination. Add to that a well-finished metal build with soft, detachable and durable magnetic wrist rest and presentation is very much on point, too. On the face of things, you are getting a heck of a lot for your money. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding though, so how does it perform?
My immediate reaction when setting up the keyboard was that it was stylish, sleek, not too gamer-y and pleasingly has a standard British layout. I noted that my wrist rest had some damage to it (pictured), but presumably this does not come as standard on all deliveries. Otherwise, everything came out of the box well-presented and was very easy to set up and use within minutes. Upon plugging the Apex 3 into the computer, I was also impressed by the smooth, matte, almost pastel-style colouring of the RGB lighting, with a gently flowing pattern set up as standard. The quality of this, although the keys are not individually backlit as with more premium peripherals, was solid and the colours vibrant; I could ask for little more at this price point. With aesthetics ticked securely off the list, then, I was more than ready to try the Apex 3 out in a game.
As I started to type on the keyboard for the first time when logging into the computer, I noticed one or two important things. First, the quiet switches are notably quieter than those on the Corsair K95 Platinum keyboard which I am used to using. This, too, is supposed to have quiet switches, but the custom ones designed by SteelSeries for the Apex 3 seem to prevail in this department. It is important to consider the fact that the Apex 3 is a membrane gaming keyboard rather than mechanical, though, which will naturally reduce the noise output. Nevertheless, “whisper” quiet is a bit of a stretch, with plenty of general key clacking still present (see the video in this review). The keys on the Apex 3 also feel a little heavy to me, with a significant amount of force required to activate each key. Whilst this may suit some users well, it is well worthy of note that, compared to both Cherry MX Reds and Browns, and to Razer’s Linear Optical switches, the Apex 3 requires a little more action from you to achieve the results you want. The response time of the membrane keyboard is likely to be somewhat slower than these mechanical options as well, but there is more on that to come.
What the keys sound like
For general typing and computer use, the Apex 3 is a quiet and comfortable keyboard to use. Despite the somewhat backwards learning curve of pressing the relatively heavy keys on the membrane surface, there was a lot of comfort to be found when completing general admin tasks that sometimes a mechanical keyboard simply doesn’t suit as well. With the Apex 3 being marketed specifically at gamers, however, its performance in the game is the most critical aspect. To test this, I compared the Apex 3 to my Corsair K95 Platinum in several games of Call of Duty Modern Warfare multiplayer matches and Warzone. As a recently released game which requires fast-paced actions and responses from the player, this seemed like the ideal title with which to test SteelSeries’ most up-to-date addition to its arsenal.
There was a moderate but notable difference in performance between the two keyboards, with the mechanical option coming out on top. The Apex 3 responds smoothly to controlling your character, but the slower response between knowing what to do, pushing the keys and that action happening was marginally noticeable. That being said, the gameplay experience was comfortable, perhaps more so than with the more expensive option. The shape, design and quality of the keyboard and its wrist rest made for superior comfort over a lengthy period of play. Depending on the games you hope to play and how much money you have in your back pocket, a £40 saving on the Apex 3 might well make it the weapon of choice for you. If you are looking to jump into high-intensity games such as shooters, though, it is always going to be hard for any membrane keyboard to compete on the level of higher-end mechanical options. Speed and responsiveness are not the top qualities of the Apex 3, but it makes up for some of that in smooth and comfortable usage.
Upon closing, it would be lax to mention just a couple of other features of merit on the Apex 3, as well as a few which are not present but would be desirable. The built-in media control wheel on the keyboard is presented with a stylish and easy-to-operate design, and is certainly a welcome feature. For many, a numpad being built-in will be a must, and the multi-purpose macro keys (pictured) on the board will tick a box for a number of potential purchasers. Thick rubber feet and an adjustable stand ensure security of the keyboard when in use, whilst the intuitively designed cable channels beneath the keyboard will help you to up your cable management game. It would have been nice for the cable itself to be braided, in line with the Apex 3’s other premium features, and on-board memory would also have been an appreciated feature.
Whilst it cannot quite compete with the higher-end keyboards on the market for performance, the design, build quality and comfort factors of the Apex 3 help it to dominate in the mid-range. The price point is more than fair for the number of high-quality assets which the keyboard boasts, and it excels in the respect against close competitors. For casual gamers and those on a restricted budget, or even for those players looking to use the keyboard for work as well as play, the Apex 3 might well be the perfect choice of keyboard. For gamers looking for real pace and responsiveness, however, a mechanical option is still likely to be the top dog in terms of performance.
You can purchase the SteelSeries Apex 3 RGB Gaming Keyboard here – https://steelseries.com/gaming-keyboards/apex-3
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SteelSeries Apex 3 RGB Gaming Keyboard
The water resistant Apex 3 is a full-fledged gaming keyboard created by combining SteelSeries’ cutting-edge technology with a collection of gaming-focused features.
Product Currency: GBP
Product Price: 59.99