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Hardware Review: SteelSeries Apex 350 Gaming Keyboard

4.5
Game Name: SteelSeries Apex 350
Developer(s): SteelSeries
Release Date: 2013

A Keyboard is as essential for a computer, as is the electricity that it uses to run.  A keyboard allows the user to type, navigate and basically perform any task that is required.  Without a keyboard, using a computer would be very difficult.  Technology has allowed the world to begin phasing itself away from the physical keyboard, by means of a touch or on-screen keyboard with devices such as tablets and cellphones, but a physical keyboard is still an essential component of any computer or laptop.  They all have one, and its doubtful that they will be going away anytime soon.

Gamer’s will agree, that when using a computer to game on, a good quality keyboard is essential.  Whether it be mechanical or membrane, you just need something that works, and works well.  Laptops don’t usually have a great keyboard for gaming on, so often a 3rd party keyboard is needed.  There are lots to choose from, but often the choice can be narrowed down by a few simple features.

Most gaming keyboards these days have some sort of programmable or macro keys that, using provided software, can be made to do custom keystrokes, keystroke groups or complex actions all with the press of 1 button.  Other keyboards will have the use of mechanical switches, which is preferred by many gamers due to the great tactile feedback it gives.  These are just a small sampling of special features that are available on gaming keyboards, and should be considered when looking to purchase one.  But there is more to it than just that, and I will explain.

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Logitech G11 Keyboard

I’ve been using a gaming keyboard since probably 2007 or 2008.  My first gaming keyboard was the Logitech G11. At the time, the G11 was a top notch keyboard.  It had lots of macro keys which were programmable through their software, along with a blue back-light on all the keys, so playing games in low light areas was amazing.  I used this keyboard until 2015, when some of the key paths started to malfunction and wouldn’t work anymore.  I loved this keyboard to death, and was having a hard time parting with it.  When the annoyance of not being able to use some keys (Like the zero key), I had to come to the conclusion that it was time for something new.  Looking over the plethora of gaming accessories that were available, how do you come to the choice needed to buy one that you will like?  It is difficult, but none the less it came down to 1 simple thing with me.  Comfort when typing.

Yes, for me, its not about mechanical switches or macro keys, its the comfort my hands feel when typing.  With that being my main driver for choosing, along with price (I’m not rich), I set off to the local store to see what was available.  Several key manufacturers are prominent in the gaming peripheral market.  Razer and SteelSeries are fairly knew, and make great products, along with Logitech.  I know there are several more out there, but these 3 are the main ones available at my local store.  Buying online offers you more choice, but you can’t really test it out first.  As I had owned a Logitech keyboard for so long they were fairly high on my list.  Razer had a higher price point, but I didn’t count them out.  SteelSeries was one I hadn’t heard of before.  Their price was decent, and their products looked good. I narrowed down my choice and picked up the SteelSeries Apex keyboard.  About the same price as the Logitech one, but I was drawn to it for some reason.

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2 USB Ports

The SteelSeries Apex 350 keyboard was a low profile keyboard, built in wrist rest (comfort), rubberized feet and has some macro keys.  The first thing that grabbed my attention was the colors.  All they keys were back-lit, and capable of being lit in 16 million colors due to the customization software.  The bottom of the Apex has swap-able feet to adjust the keyboard to a desired height, and includes a 2 port USB hub.  While the G11 I used for many years had a 2 port hub also, the APex 350 has a dual USB connection to your computer, which eliminates the USB power issues I ran into with the G11 when connecting a mouse and USB headphones too.  The G11 hub didn’t have enough power available to power my devices, and so it rendered most of it useless.  The Apex 350 uses 2 ports from your computer, there by doubling the available power.  So far I’ve had no issues running a mouse, gamepad, or headphones simultaneously through the hub on they keyboard.

The keyboard itself has 5 different independent color zones which can be customizable through their software, which is capable to be lit in any combination of 16.8 millions colors.  These zones are able to be customized to your macro profiles to make it easy to see which macro is enabled.  The software also allows you to create and manage your macro’s with a total of 22 different macro zones, all of which can be created on the fly.

20160114_184041The Apex 350 has 20 keys setup with superior anti-ghosting technology in the main gaming area. These keys are: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Q, W, E, R, A, S, D, F, L-Ctrl, L-Shift, Space, and the four arrow keys.  There is also 2 small bumps on the W key to enable to you to find the WASD keys faster.  Included on the far right side next to the number pad are keys for extra control, including the standard media keys such as play/pause, FF, Rev, mute, Vol up, and Vol dn.  The volume keys double as brightness keys for the lights by pressing and holding the SteelSeries key.

While no software is needed to use this keyboard, it is totally plug-in-play capable, you do miss out on a lot of the customization features enabled in the software.  The SteelSeries engine is easy to navigate, and creating profiles and macro’s are very streamlined.

Apex Engine_01 Apex Engine_02

Feature list

  • Layout: Low-Profile
  • USB Ports: 2 USB 2.0 Hubs
  • Ergonomically Raised Macro Keys: 22
  • Dedicated Media Keys
  • Driver-less Plug-and-Play
  • Anti-Ghosting: 20 Key
  • Illumination: 5-Zone Prism RGB Illumination
  • Swappable Rubber Feet
  • Weight: 1330 g, 2.93 lbs
  • Height: 52 mm, 2.05 in
  • Width: 560 mm, 22.05 in
  • Cable Length: 1.8 m, 6 ft

While we all know gaming accessories are not cheap, price is a big factor.  Currently the Apex350 retails for about $100 CAN, which is decent for a gaming keyboard.  If you are in the market, or prefer a mechanical keyboard, you will end up paying a lot more for that choice, but don’t count this one out.

Overall, I was impressed by this keyboard.  I wasn’t sure I was going to like it, but after a very short break in period I found this to be one of the best keyboards I have used.  I plan to use this keyboard for many years to come.  I would recommend this keyboard to anyone looking to upgrade or replace their current keyboards.

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