The SteelSeries Apex 3 is one of the most affordable mechanical keyboards with tons of functionality out there. However, just because a new shiny gadget seems like a good deal doesn’t always mean it is. With that said, is the SteelSeries Apex 3 worth it? Here’s our take on the new silent gaming keyboard and why you might want to check it out.
Overview: What Is the SteelSeries Apex 3?
Whenever a reputable brand releases a new keyboard, people flood the conversations around them with questions. Is the SteelSeries Apex 3 mechanical? What does the SteelSeries Apex 3 does better than others in its line? Moreover, does it have any advantage over other alternatives, and what makes it worth purchasing?
Of course, we’ll answer all of these questions by tackling each aspect of the SteelSeries keyboard in the review below. However, before we dive into all the details, let’s find out what type of keyboard it is.
Firstly, the SteelSeries Apex 3 keyboard is a non-mechanical gaming keyboard aimed toward budget-conscious consumers. The keyboard costs less than $60 (TKL) or less than $70 (full-sized) on the SteelSeries official website. Looking at other retailers, you might even get either keyboard for only $40 to $45.
Apart from the price, the SteelSeries Apex 3 also has other standout features that make it compelling. For example, the keyboard is lightweight so it’s portable enough if you ever need to bring it while traveling. Moreover, it has beautiful RGB backlighting and is even water-resistant.
However, because it’s so affordable, SteelSeries did cut a few corners here and there. For instance, the keyboard doesn’t have a USB passthrough and doesn’t use mechanical keys. In addition, its cable is permanently attached, and the keyboard is built with non-premium materials. With all that said, is the SteelSeries Apex 3 worth it despite its downsides? Let’s find out.
SteelSeries Apex 3 Specs
|Keys/Switches||SteelSeries Whisper-Quiet Switches (non-mechanical); rated for 20+ million keypresses|
|Lighting||Customizable RxGB; no per-key lighting|
|Onboard storage||1 Profile|
|Media Keys||Available + Dedicated Wheel|
|Connection||6-feet rubber USB-A cable|
|Size||TKL: 365mm x 150mm x 40mm
Full-size: 444mm x 150mm x 37mm
|Water Resistance||IP32 (spill-resistant)|
|Languages||US English, UK English, French, German, Korean, Japanese, Italian, Russian, Taiwanese, Nordic, Thai, Turkish|
|Compatibility||Full compatibility with Windows OS
Partial compatibility with macOS and Linux
Incompatible with mobile operating systems
SteelSeries Apex 3 Review
Design & Keyboard Layout
The Apex 3 SteelSeries has two versions: TKL and full-sized. As you would expect, the larger version is more expensive and costs about $10 more. Either way, however, you’ll be getting more or less the same design and overall look. With that said, how does the design fare, and is it worth the price?
If you’re like most people, then you might assume the SteelSeries Apex 3 would have terrible build quality. After all, it can cost as low as $40, so it must be pretty subpar, right? Thankfully, SteelSeries manages to prove people wrong with the surprisingly impressive Apex 3 design.
Sure, the SteelSeries Apex 3 might not provide a metal frame. Nonetheless, while the plastic it uses is glossy, it isn’t a magnet for fingerprints. That’s better than keyboards like the Wooting Two HE which attracts a ton of fingerprints and is double the price. Apart from this, the Apex 3 also has a nice build quality overall. The polymer it uses is durable, so it should last a fairly long time.
Unfortunately, where the SteelSeries Apex 3 does go wrong is its weight. That’s because it weighs just 1.41 pounds. While this might be good for portability, it’s not ideal because the keyboard can sometimes move while in use. Of course, it does have two flip-up feet underneath, which might ease the problem and provide a better angle. Regardless, we would have appreciated a heftier weight.
Apart from this, the SteelSeries Apex 3 is only decent in terms of its cables and cable routing. Underneath the keyboard, you’ll find a lot of cable routing trenches that help with cable management. However, it does have a non-detachable USB-A cable, so you’ll have to deal with that inconvenience.
Is the SteelSeries Apex 3 loud? One of the most notable things about the SteelSeries Apex 3 is the keyboard’s Whisper-Quiet keys that produce silent strokes. Yes, that’s partly because it uses membrane switches and not mechanical ones. However, even other membrane switches aren’t as quiet as the Apex 3.
In addition, the silence of the SteelSeries Apex 3 doesn’t compromise the typing experience, and it’s still tactile and responsive, so it doesn’t sacrifice the overall quality. Of course, if you’re used to the tactility mechanical keyboards provide then it might feel weird at first. Nonetheless, once you get used to using the Apex 3, it’ll eventually feel elegant and relaxing to type on.
With that said, this silent keyboard is certainly one of the best things you could buy for quiet environments. Whether you need something silent for your office, shared dorm, or any other place, it’s a good choice. The only downside is that it does produce sound – not because of its switches but because of its stabilizers. They don’t sound too terrible, but they are somewhat noticeable because the keys are so quiet.
What are the SteelSeries Apex 3 switches like? Firstly, the SteelSeries Apex 3 switches are only rated for 20 million keystrokes. Now, that doesn’t seem like a lot, especially if you’re used to keyboards with higher ratings. However, if you look at it with the price-to-performance ratio in mind, it’s pretty decently rated.
Apart from the number of keystrokes, the overall switch quality on the SteelSeries Apex 3 is good. For the most part, it can perform almost as well as other keyboards when it comes to gaming. The non-mechanical switches aren’t distracting and feel decently tactile.
However, we will admit that sometimes it lacks the kind of feedback you get from mechanical keys. Moreover, while the keys aren’t heavy, they do require more force to generate a stroke compared to more premium keyboards. It’s also a little more spongy – but that’s the trade-off SteelSeries made to make it more silent and affordable.
The Apex 3’s keys themselves feel relatively stable. None of them wobble so instability isn’t something you should worry about, even with heavy use. Furthermore, if you get the full-sized keyboard with the wrist rest, the overall experience feels fairly comfortable.
Lastly, we’d like to mention that the symbols on the keys are slightly confusing. That’s because SteelSeries chose to switch the places of some of the legends on its keys. For example, the hashtag (#) symbol is underneath the number 3, when normally it would be the other way around. While this isn’t a dealbreaker for most people, it’s a little annoying if you’re particular about the layout.
The SteelSeries Apex 3 is marketed as a budget gaming keyboard, so it has to have lower latency, right? Unfortunately, while the Apex 3 is good enough for most people, it isn’t ideal for competitive gaming. That’s because its wired latency is 10.7ms – pretty substandard if accuracy and speed are of utmost importance. With that said, you’re better off with the ROCCAT Magma (non-mechanical) or EVGA Z20 (mechanical) if latency is the priority.
One of the best things about the SteelSeries Apex 3 is its IP31-rated dust and water-resistant build. Why is it so noteworthy? That’s because waterproofing is usually something only premium keyboards – and gadgets in general – have. Somehow, SteelSeries managed to include it in the Apex keyboard while keeping the price down.
With that said, the water resistance on the SteelSeries Apex 3 is pretty impressive. Of course, you can’t fully submerge the keyboard underwater and use it while in the pool. However, spilling a glass of water shouldn’t damage the keyboard. If you ever do have an accident, the keyboard is not only water-resistant but also has a built-in drainage system that makes clean-up easier.
When it comes to performance, the SteelSeries Apex 3 is pretty good overall. It’s responsive and tactile – although it does lack some tactility because it’s a membrane keyboard. With that said, we wish it could produce more feedback so that it’ll perform better in precise gaming environments. Nonetheless, the keyboard operates well enough for most use cases (games or otherwise), especially for the price.
One thing is for sure: the SteelSeries Apex 3 is a robust keyboard when it comes to controlling media. That’s because it has dedicated media keys – something many gaming keyboards don’t have – so it’s great for watching content. It even has a notched wheel/button at the top-right that you can use for easy volume control. Meanwhile, the button underneath the scroll lets you play, pause, or skip/go to previous tracks. With these dedicated keys, you can adjust the volume, playback, or any other media setting on your device with ease.
In addition, the SteelSeries Apex 3 also operates using fairly robust software called the SteelSeries Engine. Through this, you can add apps to the keyboard and adjust the lighting to customize the overall aesthetic and experience. You can also use SteelSeries Apex 3 macro keys that can conveniently be set up to speed up certain actions.
Speaking of backlighting, the RGB on the SteelSeries Apex 3 is not bad. Unfortunately, there’s no individual backlighting on each key so it’s not as customizable as other keyboards. Instead, it uses a zone-based RGB setup that lets you customize each zone. It’s not bad but we would have loved it if you could customize each key. Apart from this, the RGB settings are pretty good on the Apex 3. You can adjust the brightness, choose presets, and even use a rainbow effect that hides zone barriers.
How to Add More Functionality to SteelSeries Apex 3
Keyboards like the SteelSeries Apex 3 are already great out of the box. However, these kinds of keyboards with accompanying software get even better once you start customizing them. How exactly do you do this? Here are our tips on what to do to make the most out of your Apex 3.
Changing Keyboard RGB
The RGB lighting is one of the many ways keyboard enthusiasts and gamers alike can express their individuality. Thankfully, the SteelSeries Apex 3 software also has this capability and lets you create custom settings. However, do note that it isn’t as robust as its competitors because you can’t adjust the lighting per key. Instead, the Apex 3 has eight different “zones” that have adjustable lighting.
You can also program the six SteelSeries Apex 3 macro keys using the software. Through these macro keys, you can create shortcuts and bind actions to certain keys for activities you do often. Moreover, you can even remap any key on your keyboard through the SteelSeries Engine if you so desire.
SteelSeries Apex 3 vs Other Gaming Keyboards
If the Apex 3 doesn’t suit your tastes, no worries. There are plenty of other good gaming keyboards out there for you to try. With that said, here are some alternatives you might want to check out.
Corsair K55 RGB PRO XT
If you liked the non-mechanical design of the SteelSeries Apex 3, we recommend the Corsair K55 RGB PRO XT. Like the Apex 3, it performs fairly well and has pretty low latency. However, what makes it different is that its RGB backlighting can be customized on a per-key basis.
Keep in mind that it does only have five lighting zones while the Apex 3 has 8-10. Moreover, while the Corsair types in a similar way, it feels less sturdy compared to the SteelSeries. Nonetheless, it’s a decent choice if you want a similarly non-mechanical and affordable – but more customizable – alternative.
Razer Cynosa V2
If you want a reputable alternative to the SteelSeries Apex 3 then we recommend the Razer Cynosa V2. Like the Apex 3, this keyboard has non-mechanical membrane keys and sports a full-sized layout. It also has a fully programmable keyboard, dedicated media keys, and cable routing options built-in. Above all, it costs less than $60 – not a bad deal for what it can do.
With that said, the Cynosa V2 is fairly similar to the SteelSeries Apex 3 in many aspects. However, it does have a competitive advantage: per-key backlighting. This is the reason why many people might consider it over the Apex 3 despite its slower actuation rate. If lighting is your main concern then we recommend checking it out.
Razer Ornata Chroma
The SteelSeries Apex 3 might be a good gaming keyboard. However, if you want something more robust and provide a better typing experience, we recommend the Razer Ornata Chroma.
Why is it better? For one, the Chroma uses hybrid membrane keys instead of regular ones. Now, while this keyboard may retain its membrane identity, its hybrid nature lets it feel clickier than most. As a result, you’ll get more feedback every time you type something using Chroma, similar to a mechanical keyboard.
Of course, this also means that the Chroma isn’t as silent as the Apex 3. Nonetheless, it’s the better option if you want a better typing experience overall. What’s more, the Razer has per-key backlighting allowing for full-blown customization.
SteelSeries Apex 5 Hybrid Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
The Apex 3 isn’t the brand’s only robust gaming keyboard on the market. That’s because alternatives like the SteelSeries Apex 5 Hybrid Mechanical Gaming Keyboard also exist. Of course, these two models are vastly different despite being under the same product line.
That’s because the Apex 5’s focus is on gaming performance, employing mechanical switches with shorter travel. It also has a lower operating force than the Apex 3 so it’s more responsive overall. What’s more, it has more robust features like per-key backlighting, onboard memory, and an OLED screen. On the other hand, the Apex 3 has lower latency than the Apex 5 and is more silent. Both of them might be good for gaming but they target different wants and needs.
Try Out the SteelSeries Apex 3 Today!
The SteelSeries Apex 3 is one of the best silent gaming keyboards you can buy today. It has all the perks you’d want in a competent typing machine: water resistance, a tactile feel, and silent keys. Of course, the Apex 3 does have flaws. For one, it’s a little too light so it might move around on your desk.
Moreover, while the keys are responsive, they could provide more feedback as you’re typing on them. Nonetheless, these flaws are more than easy to put up with considering the low price. Whether it’s for gaming or the office, it’s certainly worth your while especially if you’re on a budget.