SteelSeries Apex M800 Review  (9.3)

The world’s fastest and most customizable gaming keyboard is quite a title to attach to one of your products; and with the release of the Apex M800, SteelSeries is finally able to say it with confidence. SteelSeries has designed the Apex M800 to be the world’s fastest and most customizable mechanical gaming keyboard on the market and they’ve taken steps to ensure that this one not only meets the standards of its competitors, but surpasses them.

SteelSeries has partnered with experts in mechanical switch technology to create a new switch that takes less force to use and allows for the quickest key press register possible, and they’ve done it. With most mechanical keyboards there is a certain distance that needs to be traveled as well as a certain amount of force that needs to be applied to each key to register as a key press. With the new QS1 Linear switch the Apex M800 is able to produce a 25% faster actuation than your average Cherry MX switches, which have become the standard on gaming keyboards. The actuation SteelSeries Apex M800 QS1 Switchpoint is 1.5mm while the throw distance is just 3mm. So that means by the time the key is pressed down half way the keyboard has already registered the key press. This is one of the things that makes a mechanical keyboard so great when compared to membrane keyboards. Now because of the way that these QS1 switches register their key presses, you don’t get that satisfying click and clack that you are used to with your Cherry MX switches. You get a very different, but distinctly clack heavy mechanical keyboard sound during use. For those who don’t know, the entire click and clack that you get when using mechanical keyboards is the audible actuation point. So on Chery MX Blue’s (the standard for gaming keyboards) you hear a distinct click once you push down to roughly 2mm, and the clack comes when you’ve fully traveled the entire throw distance which is known as bottoming out. Now for the quickness that they’re talking about, when you press down the QS1 switches the keyboard is actually registering the press and resetting itself almost instantly which increases the speed at which the keyboard can operate. This is such a minute detail that it’s not really worth worrying about unless you’re truly looking for the title of owning the fastest keyboard. Now the pressure required to register a key press is very similar to the Cherry MX Brown, and Cherry MX Red switches which are known as some of the easier ones to use. This lightness leads to less fatigue when using a keyboard as the full pressure that is needed to register a key press is much lighter than other mechanical switches. As I had mentioned earlier, the QS1 switch is a linear switch which is the simplest operation which moves straight up and down without any tactile feedback. This is the same technology behind the Cherry MX Black and Cherry MX Red switches. This is a lot of information for those who aren’t well versed on mechanical keyboards, but simply put, the switches used in the Apex M800 are some of the easiest and quickest ones to use which doesn’t cause as much fatigue as other keyboards as well as not having the sometimes annoying click and clack of some of the Cherry MX switches.

Diving back into a little more technical knowledge, every key of the Apex M800 is rated for 60 million cycles. This is quite a bit compared to say the dome-switch keyboards which are rated for about 5 million cycles. Because of the dual processors within the Apex M800 it is able to capture every key press with a 256 key rollover with full anti-ghosting. This is a little over the top but essentially, you could press 256 keys (with the help of macros) and it would register every single one of them without any issues. This is compared to the average USB N-key rollover of six.  Speaking of these keys, they are very low profile, enough so that when you switch from a standard keyboard to the Apex M800 you’ll notice an immediate difference and you’ll find that your fingers can travel the keyboard without raising up as high, and when you go back to a standard keyboard you’ll find yourself stumbling over the height of these keys. The keys themselves are also low profile and looks very similar to say a snowboard where only the middle of the key is flat with a tiny bit of rise on the left and right sides. This is true for every key that is barely noticeable except for the keyboard which is one thing you’ll notice almost immediately. Plainly put, the space bar is GIANT. It is about the standard length of a space bar, but it is at least double the width of your standard space bar. Because of the size of this space bar you don’t really notice the slightly raised edges which is extremely important because getting “stuck” moving between keys is not something you want to be feeling when you’re typing a lengthy document so these low profile keys are perfect. The entirety of the Apex M800 is very low profile, the Apex M800 comes with rubber feet that are removable and leave the keyboard sitting just slightly tilted towards you. This is great for those who like a more flat surface to type on, but just switch out the current set of rubber feet for the other ones and you’ve got a more raised surface. These feet allow the keyboard to remain fully connected to your table and absorb some of the noise that comes with owning a mechanical keyboard.

SteelSeries Apex M800 Angled Closeup

Moving on to the versatility of this product, the SteelSeries Apex M800 has so much utility and versatility when it comes to actual function as well as aesthetics. On the back portion of the keyboard you’ll notice that joining the permanently attached braided USB cable are two powered USB ports. This is wonderful for when you need quick access to some USB ports and don’t want to search for an open port on your tower. Now on the aesthetics front the Apex M800 has the ability to look like your standard keyboard. Nothing signifies that this is anything but an ordinary keyboard but that’s where the software comes in. With the help of the SteelSeries Engine 3 you can customize each and every one of the individually illuminated keys in 16.8 million different colors with 8 levels of brightness, and yes this includes the six macro keys. The SteelSeries Engine 3 is one of the most robust and easy to use software I’ve encountered. You can either select from a few presets for lighting options including my favorite the United States flag, or even a full on disco mode where each key changes colors constantly. You can also customize what the keyboard does when it is active or idle. So for my current setup I use the blue backlighting on all your standard keys with a trail of white whenever you press a key down while having the macro keys blacked out, and white for the SteelSeries logo. But this is just my active setting, for the idle setting which comes after not touching a key for at least 60 seconds the keyboard reverts to an American flag. This was all able to be setup within 5 minutes of tinkering with the powerful SteelSeries Engine 3 software. Through this you can also customize what each button does, including adding functionality to the macro keys. This was extremely important because my last keyboard had volume control, so I just made a macro to control the volume as well as one to close tabs in Google Chrome. You can even setup things for games including cooldown timers which is especially cool because you can make your entire keyboard (or a specific set of keys) light up when your spell is ready with one button press. The software goes into much more depth than I’ll explain here so there will be tons of little goodies to discover.

SteelSeries Apex M800 Top

The SteelSeries Apex M800 is one of the best keyboards that I’ve owned, it performs extremely well and has become my daily driver. I love the ability to customize every single key as well as program the most complex macros with ease using the SteelSeries Engine 3 software. The Apex M800 is extremely solid and it feels like it could be the last keyboard you’ll need for quite a while. The low profile is absolutely what makes this keyboard, it allows me to use my keyboard for over nine hours a day without any issue of fatigue. Now it is not without issue, the Apex M800 does not come with a wrist rest which while not an issue for me, is an issue for other keyboards without an included wrist rest. The second issue is the lack of a removable cable; most high end mechanical gaming keyboards are going to be transported around and a removable USB cable is almost necessary. Finally the price, at $199.99 this keyboard is at the top of the mechanical gaming keyboard market and while the features and specs are all there, I’m not sure people will be willing to spend so much on a keyboard without some basic things most gamers have come to expect on high end peripherals. Only time will tell I suppose; The SteelSeries Apex M800 goes on sale on Newegg on April 12th and Amazon May 1st.

SteelSeries Apex M800 Review

Build Quality & Design9.0
Ergonomics & Comfort10.0
Performance9.5
Configurability & Software10.0
Price8.0
9.3

Unacceptable |Not Recommended | Acceptable| Recommended | Highly Recommended

Highly Recommended

The SteelSeries Apex M800 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard was reviewed using a review unit provided by SteelSeries.

Reader Rating: ( 3 votes ) 7.8

About The Author: Dan

I'm Dan, and i'm the Editor-In-Chief for New England Gamer. I have a passion for gaming, and hockey and I strive to bring you guys the best news, previews, and reviews on the net.