Steelseries' New Keyboard Is Actually Amazing

Image: Alex Walker (Kotaku)

It's difficult to get excited about keyboards at the best of times, which is why it's neat when someone does something that's not only cool, but genuinely helpful.

The problem with most mechanical keyboards is that once you buy a keyboard, you'd better hope it's the perfect one. The hardware in keyboards can't generally be changed or swapped out — you can adjust what the keycaps look like, give it a speck of paint here or there, but if you bought something with clacky blue switches and then decided it wasn't that useful for gaming, too bad. That's what you've got.

The Steelseries Apex is trying to change that.

Unveiled at the company's Computex suite, the Apex is a mechanical keyboard with OmniPoint adjustable mechanical switches. They're not adjustable in the sense that you can swap them out, but what you can do is change the actuation point for every single key on the keyboard, from 0.4mm to 3.6mm.

A shot of the configuration software, showing the actuation point (ordered by 1-10, rather than in specific mm) for each key on the keyboard.

For reference, 0.4mm is absurdly fast. Most keyboard makers have talked about getting their switches to actuation points of 1.8mm or 2mm, so they're not even close to the same territory as the Steelseries Apex. You can set profiles to adjust the whole keyboard — or regions of the keyboard — in one go, so if you want something firmer for general typing, and something softer for Counter-Strike or Overwatch, then you can do that.

One example given at the booth was setting the lightest possible actuation force for the WASD keys in Overwatch, but having a much higher actuation point for your ultimate key (typically Q), guarding against the chance that you might hit your ultimate by accident. Another example floated was adjusting the actuation point of the SHIFT and CTRL keys to be a little lower, as they're keys that you would usually hit with your pinky finger. The pinky won't hit the keyboard as hard as your index/middle/ring fingers, so by adjusting that area of the keyboard down, you get the same feeling across the keyboard.

You can even adjust the actuation of keys via the small LCD panel at the top right of the keyboard, and there's a little prompt showing you how much actuation force you're currently using, and what the actuation point is. It's real neat.

The keys themselves are modelled off Gatreon Reds, although they're a little more linear than what you would get with the Gatreons. Steelseries do sell full-sized and tenkeyless models with the standard Gatreon Red/Blue/Brown switches, but it's only the Apex Pro and Apex Pro TKL (TKL for tenkeyless) that have the adjustable mechanical switches.

Local pricing isn't available yet, but Steelseries said the Apex Pro and the TKL model would most likely land in Australia sometime in September. It's being priced at $US199, so I'd expect something around the $300 mark. It's the fastest keyboard in the world right now though, so I wouldn't be surprised if a few CS:GO teams are happy to pay that premium.


The author travelled to Computex as a guest of ASUS and Intel.

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