I’ve recently built my first PC in the past year and tested a fair share of keyboards to see what works and suits my style. Personally, I love the number pad for quick shortcuts when I’m writing articles for the magazine or creating short stories, and I think it’s easier to type out numbers there. Even when I only played games on a laptop growing up, I was constantly searching for a good, entry-level gaming keyboard to improve my skills and prevent hand fatigue. The SteelSeries Apex 3 TKL is the perfect find for this need.
Finding out the Apex 3 TKL was a tenkeyless keyboard irked me since I like the number pad as stated above, but I started to understand the benefits of tenkeyless boards from the gaming perspective. I love that there is more mouse space to get those 360-no-scope shots a little easier. As an overall keyboard, it is good, but as a gaming keyboard, it is great.
One of the things that makes the Apex 3 TKL special is that it is the first water resistant TKL keyboard on the market. I had one minor accident with a small water spill—unintentionally—and the keyboard was still working like a charm even after cleaning it up. For the exact specifications, it is IP32 dust and water resistant, so try not to make too big of a spill.
The switches on this keyboard contain the SteelSeries whisper-quiet switches that boast over 20 million silent key presses. This means whether you are gaming late at night or early in the morning, you have a higher chance of not waking up the household to the ‘clickety clackety’ sounds of the keyboard. Speaking about the click of the keys, this is a membrane keyboard that uses a POM rubber dome sheet for the switches, offering a low friction, less ‘clicky’ feeling when typing.
“One of the things that makes the Apex 3 TKL special is that it is the first water resistant TKL keyboard on the market.”
Yes, the switches are relatively quiet compared to other membrane and mechanical keyboards, but this attention to being a low-sound keyboard makes it lack in other areas. For a membrane keyboard, I expected a more spongy, squishy feel to it, but this one felt a little stiff and I felt like each time I pressed down a weird heavy snap back occurred through the tips of my fingers. This happened a lot when typing out content in documents and emails.
As for the experience in gaming, I played League of Legends, Apex Legends and Valorant—all games that require heavy use and accuracy in the WASD and QWER keys. For some reason, the key presses were about the same as the regular typing experience, where there was an unsettling kickback from the keys and a pinching feeling in the tips of my fingers. I thought this was only from a couple of matches, but it was consistent as I used the keyboard—thankfully, it has not gotten worse over time and how much I put it to hard use. On the plus side, I enjoyed the keys’ precision in-game, and the small amount of key travel helps. Performing quick peaks and wide-swings in games like Valorant or Counter Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO) felt smooth, honestly helped improve my counter-strafing and quick shots.
You cannot have a true gaming keyboard experience without some beautiful razzle-dazzle of RGB backlighting. The SteelSeries GG app was easy to find on the front page of the manual, allowing me to see how customisable this keyboard really is. The software was easy to understand from the beginning and I have not run into any strange issues yet. It is as brilliant as SteelSeries says it is, with its 16.8 million colours to choose from. Turning on the PrismSync feature in the app is very simple by clicking the On/Off button. I think offering the ability to customize the colour schemes up to eight zones is decent enough on an entry-level, but makes sense for the price point.
“Yes, the switches are relatively quiet compared to other membrane and mechanical keyboards, but this attention to being a low-sound keyboard makes it lack in other areas.”
The macro editor is an awesome addition that allowed me to pick certain keys to react to specific in-game events (ie. A kill, match win, etc.) through the lighting options on the GG app. The app even offers suggestions for games like CS: Go and League of Legends when actions like headshots or recalling to base occur. This was a nice addition that feels nice when the conditions are met and the Apex 3 TKL illuminates to you reaching that specific condition, like when confetti or fireworks go off at a big event.
For the overall lighting, the Apex 3 TKL shines brightly in customization and delivers a great experience for a gamer starting out and potentially beginning to livestream on Twitch. A lot of streaming setups have pompous lighting in their backgrounds and on their desks—the Apex 3 TKL can help add to the feng-shui of the entire setup for someone who is trying to have a certain aesthetic. Personally, I am not into fancy lighting setups, but can appreciate a nice colour balance to make Marvel’s Avengers’ Thanos very happy.
“For the overall lighting, the Apex 3 TKL shines brightly in customization and delivers a great experience for a gamer starting out and potentially beginning to livestream on Twitch.”
The small touches with the multimedia buttons and the three-way cable routing at the back of the Apex 3 TKL offer small celebration. The convenient options are great when I can quickly turn up the volume to hear the enemy’s footsteps, crucial in a 1-v-1 situation in any first-person shooting game. Also, cable management is so important for gamers like me who do not want any wires impeding my performance, and my attention to wire neatness in a PC setup needs to be painstakingly organized.
I believe the SteelSeries Apex 3 TKL delivers what it promised—an affordable, fantastic quality gaming keyboard at the entry-level. I would not say this is what an esports pro would necessarily use, but it is a great keyboard to build up a player’s reputation and climb the leaderboards. The keys are a bit stiff, causing some discomfort. This is really where the Apex 3 TKL lacks in performance and feel, but I admire the results of going through the pain for a higher kill count. I am not sure if this is also a personal problem, but I would be curious if other users have had this issue.
In terms of the RGB lighting features, the customisation is easy and offers a decent amount of variation with the lighting zones. At $59.99, and you are probably scrimping and saving where you can at the beginning of your gaming career—you cannot go wrong with the Apex 3 TKL.