SteelSeries is a brand known for catering to the e-Sports gamer. Their mice are incredibly popular on FPS titles, like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, for their driver-less use, quality construction and easy to program software. The same can’t be said of their previous lines of mechanical keyboards, which offer underwhelming quality at a very high price point and lack the same programmable software that their mice are known for. Enter the Apex M500, a mechanical keyboard that aims to win every e-Sports gamer’s heart over by learning from SteelSeries’ mistakes in the past.
The Apex M500 is a solidly constructed full form keyboard, featuring a hard plastic body with a metal inner chassis. It has a nice weight to it and feels like it can take any kind of abuse a gamer can spare, including its cherry MX red switches, which can handle over 50 million clicks over their lifespan. The board also features a unique back plate design that allows you to move the USB cable into one of three slots. This feature allows the user to adjust the cable to wherever their PC is located so there won’t be any problems with cable slack. The Apex isn’t going to blow anyone away with its incredibly basic design, but this is a keyboard that wants to impress you with its bright blue LED keys and easy to use software.
The Apex is one of the few keyboard SteelSeries offers that uses their Steel Engine 3 software. This software not only allows you to profile your keys to the game your playing, but it also allows you to change just how bright you want them to be. The Engine 3 software has a very easy to understand UI for people like me who don’t like messing around with minute number values. You can set up any number of profiles you need and even remap your keys in advance or quickly on the fly.
It’s unfortunate that there is only one SKU of the Apex M500 available. Recent SteelSeries products have all been about promoting variation and play-ability, but the Apex locks consumers into only one color and one type of switch with no RGB or MX switch variant to even consider. While it does come in at an affordable price point of $120 CAD before taxes, there are definitely some heavy contenders from Corsair, Razer and Cooler Master in its bracket to consider along with it.
A lot of a consumers purchasing decision is going to come down to feel. I personally prefer the tactile response of MX brown switches to the provided smooth reds, but the keyboard still operated perfectly under my stress tests of CS:GO and the Overwatch Beta. I never felt the board shift or collapse when I was playing and the keys were immediately responsive to all of my inputs. I never found the macro binding settings particularly useful for shooters, but they can definitely come in handy for strategy games and select MOBA's.
The Apex M500 is a quality mechanical keyboard. While it doesn’t have any outstanding features or inclusions that make it stand out from the pack as the front runner, it’s incredibly reliable and will handle all of your gaming needs. My only worry is the USB cable appears to be pretty low quality and is already showing signs of wear from adjusting it and pinching it into the three sockets. The cable would have greatly benefited from being sleeved if it meant increasing the price by just a couple more dollars.