For the past few years, I’ve been singing the praises of SteelSeries peripherals to anyone who’ll listen. They’ve consistently made some of my favorite headsets, mice, and keyboards, that not only look and feel great, but are true performance powerhouses that consistently lap the competition. Their latest keyboard is the Apex 7, which is meant as a more affordable companion to their Apex Pro keyboard, featuring a similar design minus their latest and greatest OmniPoint switches. Is it a viable alternative, and can it stand up among other mid-range keyboards? It’s available for $159.99 on Newegg.
Design and Comfort
Before I even plugged in the Apex 7, I was struck with how small it felt. This is a full size keyboard, but it feels smaller, thanks to SteelSeries’ sleek, compact design. Without much of a border on the chassis, there’s not a shred of wasted space, and as someone who likes to keep their desk as minimalist and clean as possible, I really appreciate it. It measures at a height of 403.3 mm, width of 17.2 mm, and a depth of 139.2 mm.
SteelSeries have always made solid, well-built products, and the Apex 7 is no exception. The body is made of aluminum alloy, and it’s incredibly sturdy. There’s zero give to this board – I feel like you could shoot it with a rocket launcher and it’ll stay intact. Also of note is the Apex 7’s cable. It’s made of rubber – yes, you read that right, rubber. I’ve never seen a rubber cable like this on keyboard before, but I love it. It’s thick, durable, and really gives off a premium feel. It can even be routed through three different channels built into the bottom of the board, so no matter what your cable management situation is, you can tame that monster of a cable and keep your desk looking nice and clean. Sadly, it’s not detachable. For those who might want a leaner, more traditional cable, you’re unfortunately stuck with this big rubber beast.
Aesthetically, the Apex 7 has a floating keycap design that not only allows for easier cleaning, but gives the RGB lights a cool back glow. Speaking of the RGB lighting, it’s top notch, and can be endlessly customized with SteelSeries Engine software. The keycaps have big, clear lettering, so you’re never squinting and struggling to search for obscure function keys. However, with the RGB lighting turned all the way off, the lettering is slightly faint and hard to read. I found it best to keep the lighting on, even at the dimmest brightness.
One of the most unique features of the Apex 7 is the OLED display. It’s a small, unobtrusive screen on the upper right hand side of the board that can be configured to show you information like lighting profiles, macro configuration, and the currently playing song from your media player. It’s an interesting idea that doesn’t quite come together, for the simple reason that I just don’t look down at my keyboard that often.
To make use of the OLED screen, I’d have to seriously change my workflow, and that’s just more effort than I’m willing to put in. It’s just as easy to load up the Engine software and do everything through there, rather than struggle with using a tiny screen to set up macro keys. Still, I have to admit it’s a cool premium feature, and I got a small amount of joy seeing the song I was playing on Spotify on the board. At the end of the day, however, the OLED screen is just not the all-star killer feature it wants to be.
Performance and Features
At this price point, you’d expect the Apex 7 to have a bunch of luxury features. Luckily, the board doesn’t disappoint. For those who like wrist guard, there’s a magnetic wrist guard. Unlike some other magnetic wrist guards I’ve used, the connection is sturdy and stable, and won’t accidentally get knocked loose. The padding on the wrist guard is a thin piece of rubber, and it’s surprisingly comfortable. There’s one USB pass-through port near the upper left hand side of the board. In a stroke of genius, SteelSeries illuminated the port, making it incredibly easy to see. No more lifting up the board to try to find the port – you can just plug your thumb drive (or whatever device) in without any hassle or fuss.
Forgoing the popular Cherry MX switches, SteelSeries have instead chosen their own custom switches. These switches are linear switches, meaning you can smoothly press them with minimal force. My review board came with red switches (that feel similar to Cherry MX Red switches), but SteelSeries offers brown and blue switches (presumably mirroring Cherry’s Blue and Brown switches) if you’re so inclined.
These switches were a bit of a mixed bag. While I liked how quiet and light they were, typing on them was a bit of a challenge – the switches are so sensitive that they’re prone to accidental keystrokes and typos. Strangely, I had the opposite problem when playing games – I’d occasionally get dropped inputs despite clearly hitting the key. It didn’t happen often – usually when I was trying to hit multiple keys at once – but when it did, it was frustrating. Apparently, I’m not the only one with this problem, so it looks to be something with the board and not my clumsy hands.
Ultimately, despite some complaints, the Apex 7 is a fine keyboard worthy of the SteelSeries name. However, it’s just a little too expensive to justify at this price. I’d advise gamers to wait for it to go on sale, or try their luck with the OminPoint switches on the Apex Pro.