Gadgets

SteelSeries APEX 5 Hybrid Mechanical Keyboard Review

The Steelseries Apex 5 offers a lot in its price range that are otherwise only found on much more expensive models.

The APEX 5 is the latest “Hybrid Mechanical” keyboard from the popular gaming accessory manufacturer, SteelSeries, featuring everything you could ever want from a high-end keyboard without breaking the bank.

The SteelSeries Apex 5 has it all, hybrid blue mechanical gaming switches, aircraft-grade aluminium frame, OLED Smart Display, magnetic wrist pad and a minimalistic design.

What exactly is a “Hybrid Mechanical” keyboard?

Hybrid-mechanical keys are a combination of membrane and mechanical elements and support up to 20 million keystrokes. They use membrane-style buttons to actuate the keys, and incorporate mechanical elements so you get the sound, feel and touch of a mechanical switch.

The new hybrid switches in the keyboard, like other fully mechanical switches, use a spring to provide resistance when you press the key. The difference is in how the signal is processed: SteelSeries uses the membrane technique for this, where the key presses the membrane against the printed circuit board to send a signal.

The Apex 5 combines the smoothness of a membrane switch with the higher durability, performance and the satisfactory tactile click of a mechanical blue switch, thus offering a premium gaming experience.

Specifications

MaterialAircraft Grade Aluminum Alloy Frame
LightingDynamic Per Key RGB Illumination
Weight0.92kg
Dimensions442.8 x 40.5 x 139.2 mm (w*h*d)
Switch Actuation2 mm
Total Travel4 mm
Force50cN
Cable1.90 m, USB 2.0

Packaging

The packaging is a white-orange carboard box, standard for most SteelSeries products, with photos and specifications. The box is very durable, and the keyboard is well protected.

Inside the box, we find the APEX 5 keyboard, the magnetically attachable wrist rest and manuals. You have to download the SteelSeries Engine software manually, although that has become the standard these days.

SteelSeries APEX 5 Hybrid Mechanical Keyboard Review
Packaging | SteelSeries APEX 5 Hybrid Mechanical Keyboard Review

Design & Features

The Apex 5 looks beautiful, simple and well built, which is also due to the choice of materials. The top of the keyboard is completely covered by a single piece of aluminium, which gives it an elegant look. The rest of the frame and the underside are made of plastic, which is almost invisible from the user’s point of view. The keycaps are also made of plastic with a rubberized matt finish.

SteelSeries APEX 5 Hybrid Mechanical Keyboard Review

The keys are placed rather high, which means you don’t have to bend your wrist too much during use. They also have a slight dip on the surface, so that the fingers are always centered on the keys and feels very comfortable when typing.

Magnetic Wrist Pad

SteelSeries includes a magnetic wrist pad, which attaches very firmly to the keyboard. It is easy to attach and detach, but it even holds when the keyboard is moved. The matt black soft-touch plastic surface feels pleasant, but not easy to clean.

Cable Routing

At the bottom, the cables are nice routed to avoid stretching, pulling, and getting in the way. You can choose from one of three possible places for the cable to exit. In addition, there are two flip stands that can be folded out.

OLED screen

The keyboard is equipped with an OLED with a resolution of 40×128 pixel OLED display on the upper right side. The OLED can be used to display your favorite gifs, view game info, incoming Discord messages, song information, settings, and more.

SteelSeries APEX 5 Review
OLED Display | SteelSeries APEX 5 Hybrid Mechanical Keyboard Review

Media Buttons

Next to the OLED display are the multifunctional volume wheel and a button for multimedia controls. The volume wheel but can also be pressed to immediately mute the audio output.

The media button has several functions. One click starts or stops media playback, a double click jumps to the next title, three clicks lead to the last one played. If you hold the button down for four seconds, you can also make various keyboard settings via the OLED display, without using SteelSeries Engine such as changing the keyboard lighting, profiles and, among other things, perform a factory reset.

RGB Lighting

The keys on the SteelSeries APEX 5 are all equipped with their own individual LEDs. There are a few default lighting profiles which can be controlled by the media button.

You also have the complete freedom in creating custom lighting profiles via the SteelSeries Engine software. The LED lights for each key that can be individually controlled via the SteelSeries Engine software.

SteelSeries APEX 5 Review
RGB Lighting | SteelSeries APEX 5 Hybrid Mechanical Keyboard Review

The glow effect is pleasantly bright and visible under daylight, but unfortunately the keys are not evenly illuminated. You can see this especially in the larger symbols such as the SteelSeries or the Windows logo.

Macros

SteelSeries Engine also allows you to program macros. Every key can be programmed to run a custom macro, not just the functions keys on the top row or the keys above the arrow keys. The keyboard has a dedicated macro key, the one with the SteelSeries logo, and is used for activating macros.

Performance

SteelSeries APEX 5 uses hybrid switches. The keystrokes are clearly audible, the buttons are very stable and the spacing is just right. This also makes the keyboard wonderful to work on for a long time.

The Apex 5 combines the smoothness of a membrane switch with the higher durability and performance and the satisfactory tactile click of a mechanical blue switch, thus offering a premium gaming experience.

The new hybrid blue mechanical switches in the keyboard, like other fully mechanical switches, use a spring to provide resistance when you press the key. The difference is in how the signal is processed: SteelSeries uses the membrane technique for this, where the key presses the membrane against the printed circuit board to send a signal.

SteelSeries APEX 5 Review
Hybrid Switches | SteelSeries APEX 5 Hybrid Mechanical Keyboard Review

The feel of typing on the mechanical hybrid blue gaming switches is similar to that of Cherry MX Blue Switches. The triggering of the switches is accompanied by a loud click, and unlike pure rubber dome keyboards, it is not necessary to press the key fully, the trigger signal is transmitted beforehand – just like mechanical keys.

In real world usage, we didnt notice any difference when compared with an actual mechanical keyboard; thats how good these hyblue blue mechanical switches are.

However, the click sound is a little too loud and may not be a good solution for an office environment. When it comes to gaming and working alone, you will love these switches.

One of the best features of the APEX 5 is that the switches can be replaced with aftermarket keycaps. The APEX 5 stands out from other mechanical keyboards in this price range, because this something only found on high-end mechanical keyboards.

According to SteelSeries, this technique saves half the cost compared to a regular mechanical keyboard. In addition, you can feel and hear the completion of a keystroke via a tactile bump and audible click when it activates

The keyboard is not only made for use with PC. The keyboard can be connected to a PC, Mac, Xbox One or PS4

Software

As with most SteelSeries products, SteelSeries Engine is used for customizing the SteelSeries APEX 5. The software enables the creation of several profiles, five of which can also be saved on the keyboard. Profiles can be switched automatically depending on the game.

SteelSeries Engine
SteelSeries Engine | SteelSeries APEX 5 Hybrid Mechanical Keyboard Review

Except for the SteelSeries key and the media keys, each key can be reassigned with a macro. The lighting can be changed individually for each button, there are eleven selectable effects, but you can also create your own custom lighting profiles. Synchronization with other SteelSeries devices is also possible.

Using the SteelSeries Engine, you can also add an image or GIF to the OLED display or set it to display information applications such as Spotify, Discord, Tidal, CS:GO and more.

Verdict

Compared to most mechanical keyboards, the Steelseries APEX 5 feels better built and sturdy, thanks to the aircraft-grade aluminum alloy frame and high-quality switches. With the included wrist rest, the APEX 5 is comfortable work with all day.

The only real drawback is the coating on the buttons and palm rest. Even after an hour of usage, we found that the fingerprints and palm prints can be seen quite clearly on the keyboard and the wrist pad. If it were not so prone to fingerprints, I would call the APEX 5 perfect. However, they can be removed with some cleaning.

SteelSeries APEX 5 Review
SteelSeries APEX 5 Hybrid Mechanical Keyboard Review

The Steelseries APEX 5 offers a lot in its price range that are otherwise only found on much more expensive models such as the replaceable switches, programmable OLED display, media controls, the included wrist pad, aluminum frame and the RGB lighting.

Gamers who are looking for a mechanical keyboard with all the bells and whistles, the APEX 5 is a great fit!

9

SteelSeries APEX 5 Hybrid Mechanical Keyboard

The Steelseries Apex 5 offers a lot in its price range that are otherwise only found on much more expensive models such as the replaceable switches, programmable OLED display, media controls, the included wrist pad, aluminum frame and the RGB lighting. A great keyboard with all the bells and whistles of a flagship keyboard.

THE GOOD
  • Beautiful per-key RGB illumination
  • High-quality keys
  • Sturdy aluminum frame
  • Includes a wrist rest
  • Comfortable to work on
  • OLED Display
THE BAD
  • Fingerprint magnet
  • No USB passthrough
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