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Lifewire / Andy Zahn
Interesting RGB backlighting
Good typing experience
Compatible with gaming consoles
Affordable and good value
Membrane key switches
Lacks full dedicated media controls
Cable isn't braided
The Steelseries Apex 3 is an affordable, high-performance gaming keyboard that offers RGB backlighting and quiet, yet responsive membrane key switches.
We purchased the Steelseries Apex 3 so our reviewer could put it to the test. Keep reading for the full product review.
When you’re on a budget, it can be hard to pick a great keyboard, but the Steelseries Apex 3 aims to make that decision a little bit easier with an impressive range of features. Most notably it’s designed to be durable and water-resistant—the sort of keyboard that you can take with you and not worry about. Throw in compatibility with gaming consoles in addition to PCs, and you’ve got a truly compelling package. The question is, can it really deliver so much at such a low price point?
The Apex 3 really caught me off guard with just how good it looks. Its sleek design has an undeniably premium quality to it, and it feels as solid as it looks. It’s also quite compact and lightweight, without any appreciable compromise in build quality or performance. I appreciated the refined look of this keyboard, which makes it useful for office work as well as gaming.
A big selling point of the Apex 3 is its IP32 rating for water and dust resistance. This doesn’t mean it’s fully waterproof, but rather that it’ll survive accidental spills and not become gummed up as easily by dust and grime. This is particularly important, given its Xbox and PlayStation compatibility, which means that it’s more likely to be used in a living room environment where accidents may be more common.
As a byproduct of the water-resistant design, the RGB backlighting in the Apex 3 is particularly attractive, granting a soft diffuse glow that is far more soothing than the sharper and brighter RGB lighting in other keyboards. It’s an effect I genuinely love, and which would be well suited to being on camera in a streaming setup.
A big selling point of the Apex 3 is its IP32 rating for water and dust resistance.
The USB cable is of reasonably good quality. It can be routed in several different ways through the underside of the keyboard, but unfortunately isn’t braided. Another downside of the Apex 3 is its lack of a full set of dedicated media controls. However, it does feature a rather nice volume roller, which I’ve always found to be the single most important media control to have on a keyboard.
Alone, the keys may be a bit high for some hands, but fortunately, the included wrist rest solves this potential issue. It attaches easily, yet securely, via magnets, and I appreciated not having to fiddle with clips whenever I wanted to detach the wrist rest.
With proprietary SteelSeries Whisper-Quiet Switches, the Apex 3 may not be to everyone’s taste, as they aren’t mechanical, but personally, I grew to appreciate them. Though they are technically membrane switches, I could almost have mistaken them for mechanical.
They have a fairly deep actuation distance, and spring back up with a lot of force, and are satisfying, if not particularly speedy, to use. They’re much better than most traditional membrane switches and significantly quieter than the majority of mechanical switches. Steelseries rates them for 20 million keypresses, which is a reasonable degree of durability.
Though, as previously mentioned, the keys are set a little high on the Apex 3 without the wrist rest attached, with it that problem is solved, and this keyboard surprised me by just how comfortable it can be.
It’s not quite up there with the Corsair K100 in terms of comfort, but it’s shockingly close, given the tremendous price difference. With the wrist rest attached, this is easily one of the most comfortable keyboards I’ve used.
It’s not quite up there with the Corsair K100 in terms of comfort, but it’s shockingly close, given the tremendous price difference.
The Apex 3 works with the Steelseries Engine, which is primarily useful for customizing the RGB backlighting. It can also be used to set custom macros and adjust other settings. It was quick and intuitive to set up and use.
It is genuinely surprising that this keyboard is only $50 at MSRP. It looks, feels, and performs well above its price point. The Apex 3 is easily one of the best budget gaming keyboards on the market, yet to even call it a budget keyboard feels like a disservice to it.
It looks, feels, and performs well above its price point.
If you absolutely have to have mechanical keys and don’t mind paying a bit more, the Logitech G610 is a fierce competitor to the Steelseries Apex 3. The G610 is certainly more responsive to use and has a full set of media controls, but the Apex 3 has truly gorgeous backlighting and is water-resistant with an open design that makes it easier to clean. A key consideration when deciding between the two may be whether noise is a factor, as the Apex 3 is significantly quieter than the G610.
A fantastic keyboard at a bargain price point.
The Steelseries Apex 3 hits it out of the park in terms of value for money and just overall excellent design. Though there are some minor corners that have been cut to achieve its low price point, the Apex 3 retains all the things you really need for a great keyboard, and throws in a few neat tricks, like IP32 water resistance, to sweeten the deal. If you’re looking for a great gaming or general purposes keyboard on a budget, then the Steelseries Apex 3 is the keyboard to beat.
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