Right off the bat, taking the Apex 7 out of the box I could feel that this was going to be a pleasant experience. The SteelSeries Apex 7 TKL Compact Mechanical Gaming Keyboard body was very ridged and had a very premium look and feel. You here the term aircraft-grade aluminum all the time with gaming products, another good one is MSI’s love of military-grade capacitors. This is obviously the work of every marketing team to ever work on any similar product but in this case its something tangible at least. I couldn’t tell by feel that it was made with aircraft-grade aluminum but it did feel nice in the hands as I removed it from its plastic packaging.
Per Key illumination
The per-key illumination is nicely done, with no oddities that I could find. Everything lights up evenly and how you would expect them to. I love how the lights react to your keypresses. I feel like I am in an 80’s Star Trek movie or something.
My model of the Apex 7 TKL came with brown switches, they have just enough of a tactile feel that its good but not overdone. Coming from an old mem-chanical keyboard I have noticed that the action time is much quicker and I have been typing faster on this keyboard. The only slight downside to this keyboard is that the keycaps aren’t double-shot PBT keys. A small gripe as the keys look and feel nice as they are but at this price point you may be expecting that they are PBT keys, so I figured I should mention that.
As for the type of switches, the Apex 7 comes in the brown key switches (tactile, quiet) I got and feel they’re a great choice if you like to game as well as do quite a bit of typing. You can also choose red switches that are linear and quiet or blue switches that are tactile and clicky.
At first glance, the OLED display may be dismissed as a gimmick or a marketing fad which may be partially true, however after taking a closer look, it does have some purpose. You can access many of the keyboards’ key features by navigating the settings menus right on the keyboard via the OLED screen and the two media keys next to it. I haven’t gotten a chance to test it with Linux yet but I imagine having the ability to access the keyboard’s features without the SteelSeries Engine 3 software could be a godsend.
The wrist rest is firmer than some other wrist rests I have tried but I prefer this design. It is well designed and offers great support while typing or gaming. I prefer this style of wrist rest over some of the softer memory foam or plushy ones. The angle is perfect for me when typing and it’s just soft enough to be very comfortable without being mushy or under supportive. It has a rubber coating on the top of it that feels good on the wrists.
USB Pass-Through Port
The SteelSeries Apex 7 Keyboard comes with a USB pass-through port on the back left side of the keyboard. The rear pass-through port also has RGB lighting, making it easier to use at night or in a dimly lit room. The illumination of the port is very clean and well implemented and matches well with the rest of the lighting on the keyboard.
SteelSeries Engine 3 Software
The SteelSeries software is among the more polished software for keyboards and peripherals. It’s been around a long time and for as long as I have been using it I have never noticed any glaring flaws. In my experience, it has performed as intended without causing conflicts with other software.
The Engine 3 software is a convenient way to set up all your macros, lighting effects, key bindings, meta bindings, and the OLED display settings. You can customize the OLED display with your logo or something from your favorite game; the choice is yours.
When it comes to customizing the lighting effects, you could spend quite a bit of time on this as there is much to chose from. You could just go basic and choose one solid color to display and maybe choose no color when your keyboard goes to away mode. Or you could go all out and choose the main color (base effect color) with a different reactive layer; meaning when you strike a key an effect happens.
The reactive layer options are off, line, ripple or fade.
The Base effect color options are single color, color shift, gradient, or breath. There are also sub menu options under the base effect for even more customization. Those options are chasing ghosts, electric orange, haze, prism, vapor dreams, warp drive, and west coast.
There is also effects for when your keyboard goes into away mode.
The AFK effect options are off, single color, color shift, gradient, and breathe. There is also a set of sub-menu options under the AFK effect and those are chasing ghosts, electric orange, haze, and prism.
- Tactile Brown switches – for 50 million key-presses, Brown switches have a soft tactile feel, so you can gently feel when an input is made
- OLED smart display – an integrated command center for adjusting settings and tracking on-the-fly info straight from your game, Spotify, Discord, and more
- Aircraft-grade aluminum alloy – Built for a lifetime of durability stability
- RGB Illumination unmatched customization with 16.8 million colors per key
- Premium Magnetic Wrist Rest provides full palm support and comfortable, ergonomic feel
Aircraft Grade Aluminum Alloy Frame
N-Key Roll Over
Dynamic Per Key RGB Illumination
The SteelSeries Apex 7 delivers on its branding when it comes to gaming. I may not have gotten more kills in games like BF5 but dying never felt better. The wrist rest provided excellent support while gaming, leaving my left hand still intact and good as new after a long gaming session. The key switches were great during gaming. I was pleased with how they handled my mashing of keys as I fought for my life in epic battles.
The SteelSeries Apex 7 keyboard is also great for long sessions of typing. The brown switches in my model provided an excellent typing experience. It didn’t take me long to get used to after making the switch. I am already typing equally as fast as on my old keyboard maybe even faster now. The keys are slightly closer together than my old keyboard leaving less space between keys as well as being a little flatter on top. This combination of improvements over my old keyboard as well as having much better switches is no doubt why I feel I am able to type faster now.
The gaming mechanical keyboard market is saturated, like everything else with gaming branding slapped in its name or the marketing. Does the Apex 7 mechanical keyboard find a way to stand out? I honestly think that is mostly subjective. It ticks a lot of boxes and has a clean modern look, feel, and has high quality components with a trusted name brand. I love the overall look and feel of this keyboard and would have no issue recommending it to a friend or family member who was in the market for a mechanical keyboard or even just a good solid keyboard in general.
The TKL version I reviewed isn’t targeted towards productivity users as the lack of number pad is intended to give gamers an edge while allowing for a more natural ergonomic posture during long gaming sessions. It also performs well for someone like me who doesn’t require the number pad but does a lot of typing in general. I have enjoyed my time typing on this keyboard and look forward to doing so for many years to come.