SteelSeries Apex [RAW] Gaming Keyboard Review

SteelSeries makes its ambitions bright and clear with the name of their latest keyboard, The Apex [RAW]. Packed with 17 macro keys and 2 macro levels for a total of 34 macros, 2 extra arrow keys, and raised macro keys for easier access, the Apex [RAW] is a stripped down version of its big brother, the Apex. As it doesn’t feature everything the Apex has in its arsenal, you can get your hands on the Apex [RAW] for £55.99  inc vat. versus £79.99 for the Apex. Is it worth the money however?
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Specifications:
  • Full illumination with eight levels of intensity
  • SteelSeries Engine Support
  • Macro keys: 17
  • Programmable macros: 34
  • Unlimited number of profiles.
  • Connection: USB
  • Cable lenght: 1.8 m
  • Dimensions: 500 x 220 x 30 mm
  • Weight: 1.2 kg
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SteelSeries ships the  Apex [RAW] in a black box with a clear image of the keyboard in its illuminated state on the front and some of its key features in the bottom left.
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Inside the box are the keyboard, a quick start guide, 2 rubber feet to raise the keyboard and a SteelSeries sticker. Unlike the Apex, the Apex [RAW] does not have a braided cable. Instead, a thick rubber coating is used to protect the cable.
The areas between and surrounding keys have a glossy finish, whilst the keys and remaining areas have a more textured surface.
The top left of the keyboard houses the L1 and L2 keys. These keys are used to switch between the two available macro levels. Below these keys we find the MX1 through MX5 keys.
Along the top of the keyboard the M1 through M12 keys are visible. These keys have a raised profile, helping users find their way around the keyboard without having to worry about accidentally hitting the wrong F-key.
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Moving down we can clearly see the space bar, which is significantly broader than the average space bar.
We can also clearly see the SteelSeries key on the right-hand side of the keyboard. The SteelSeries key functions as a modifier key for disabling the Windows key and accessing media controls by combining the F-keys.
Taking a closer look at the right hand side of the keyboard we can clearly see the extra arrow keys. SteelSeries claims these offer an extra bit of directional convenience which we’ll be taking a closer look at later in this review.
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The sides of the keyboard have a white trim with a hard bit of plastic in a scalene triangle shape that fits in nicely with the design of the keyboard.
The bottom of the keyboard shows the 4 rubber feet. The little cut-outs below the feet make it easy to remove them if you want to raise or lower the keyboard. The rubber feet also keep the keyboard firmly in place, as opposed to plastic feet.
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SteelSeries has opted to not make this a mechanical keyboard in favour of rubber dome switches. The travel distance for each key is extremely short, which does help when gaming. However, for general usage this is not always the most ideal solution.

The SteelSeries Apex [RAW] can be plugged in and used without the need for any additional drivers. However, by not installing the SteelSeries Engine customization options will be limited to what can be configured through the operating system’s control panel.
Installation of the SteelSeries Engine is straight forward and should not present a problem to most users. The drivers and firmware tool can be downloaded here.
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The SteelSeries Engine serves as a hub where you can manage any SteelSeries devices you may have plugged in. The main screen for the Apex [RAW] shows an overview of the keyboard. Each individual key, with the exception of the SteelSeries key, can be selected and modified with ease.
It is also possible to move a key’s function to another location on the keyboard. For example, the Escape key can be dragged to the spacebar. The Escape key will then function as the spacebar from that moment on and vice versa.
Before a macro is recorded it is also possible to select the option to record delays. Furthermore, the key’s behaviour can be altered by selecting from one of four options: Keypress Macro, Launch Application, Text Macro and
Disable Key.
Along the top of the screen are 4 options: Buttons, Settings, Properties and Statistics.
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The Settings screen only offers 4 options: Illumination Intensity, Polling Rate, Keyboard Layout and Restore To Factory Settings.
The Illumination Intensity values run from 0% to 100% and the polling rate values run from 125Hz to 1000Hz.

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The Properties screen is where profiles can be assigned to specific applications or even all applications in a specified folder. In the screenshot above I selected my Steam folder which brought up a list of every executable in the 421GB folder. This is something to keep in mind if you are selecting a folder that has a lot of applications that will never be opened.
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Finally, the Statistics screen can be used to keep track of key presses. Rather than function as a malicious key logger, it only records the number of times keys have been pressed. It then displays the information with a combination of colours. The screenshot above tells me that I have the typing skills of a nervous cat, pressing the spacebar only a couple of times more than the backspace key whilst typing this review.
With regards to the Apex [RAW]‘s typing performance I was worried that the keys would have a spongy feel to it, not unlike the average laptop. However, SteelSeries has provided enough travel distance on the keys to provide enough tactile feedback without compromising their design choices.
It is worth noting that if you have been using a mechanical keyboard for a prolonged period of time, it will take a decent amount of time to get used to the Apex [RAW].
The spacebar in particular deserves a special mention. I personally assign the special functions of weapons in-game to the spacebar and use the Mouse 2 button to jump. The size of the spacebar definitely made my life easier in hectic situations and I wish more manufacturers would follow in SteelSeries footsteps for this specific design choice.
The Apex [RAW] supports anti-ghosting for up to 20 frequently used keys, allowing users to press 6 keys simultaneously. I confirmed these claims by using Microsoft’s Keyboard Ghosting Demo which can be found here.

It has to be said that the choice of rubber dome switches is an odd one in a day and age where competitors are using mechanical switches on keyboards in a similar price range.
That said, the build quality of the SteelSeries Apex [RAW] is excellent. The keyboard feels sturdy, remains in place despite my best “ragequit” attempts and the white illumination makes it look very pretty.
With 34 programmable macros across 17 dedicated macro keys on 2 levels no gamer should feel constrained by its customization options. Add the options provided by the excellent SteelSeries Engine and what you are left with is a keyboard that lets you configure your keyboard in every insane and sane possible way.
Competition for the Apex [RAW] in the same price bracket comes in the form of keyboards such as the TT eSports MEKA Mechanical Keyboard and the Corsair Raptor K50. Ultimately though, it is the Apex that poses the biggest threat to the Apex [RAW]. Its bigger sibling offers 2 USB ports, dedicated media keys, customizable lighting, 4 macro layers and costs only £24 more than the Apex [RAW].
The SteelSeries Apex [RAW] is available for £55.99 inc vat.
Pros:
  • SteelSeries Engine offers unlimited customization potential.
  • Attractive, low-profile design.
  • Anti-ghosting for 6 simultaneous key presses across 20 frequently used keys works as advertised.
  • Rubber feet are easy to change and offer excellent grip.
  • The bigger spacebar is an excellent idea executed extremely well.
Cons:
  • No customizable lighting.
  • No USB ports.
  • Glossy finish looks attractive but attracts dust and fingerprints within seconds.
  • The Apex costs only £24 more than the Apex [RAW], making it a tough sell.
WORTH BUYING
Puppy says: If you are on the market for a low-profile, solid keyboard with unlimited customization potential through SteelSeries’ excellent SteelSeries Engine, the Apex [RAW] is definitely worth your time.
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About Yomal Malinda

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