SteelSeries Apex 3 Keyboard Review

Tested using Methodology v1.0
Reviewed Feb 17, 2020 at 08:53 am
SteelSeries Apex 3 Picture
7.7
Gaming
3.2
Mobile/Tablet
7.6
Office
7.0
Programming
4.6
Entertainment / HTPC
Connectivity Wired
Size
Full-size (100%)
Mechanical
No

The SteelSeries Apex 3 is a decent gaming keyboard with rubber dome switches and RGB backlighting. It has a good build quality despite its budget price, and it also comes with a nice magnetic wrist rest. Its rubber dome switches may not be the best option for a responsive gaming experience; however, their quiet typing noise makes it suitable for any office environment. Every key can be reprogrammed, but sadly, the RGB backlight is zone-lit, though there's still a decent amount of customization options through SteelSeries' great software. Overall, it's a good option for those on a budget or just don't like mechanical keyboards.

Our Verdict

7.7 Gaming

The Apex 3 is a decent gaming keyboard. The keys are easy to press, but the rubber dome switches have a high actuation point, making it feel unresponsive. Using this keyboard for long gaming sessions can be tiring for some, but it does come with a wrist rest if you need it. Although you can set macros to any key, it doesn't have dedicated macro keys for MMO players. Additionally, the RGB backlight is zone-lit, so you won't be able to customize each key individually.

Pros
  • Good build quality.
  • Great software support.
Cons
  • No onboard memory.
  • No dedicated macro keys.
3.2 Mobile/Tablet

The Apex 3 is a wired-only keyboard and can't be used with mobile devices.

7.6 Office

The Apex 3 is a good office keyboard. The rubber dome switches offer a decent typing experience, though some may find it a bit tiring. Typing noise is minimal, so it shouldn't bother your surrounding colleagues, even in the most noise-sensitive environments. Build quality is good and shouldn't cause any issues in the long run, and it's compatible with all desktop operating systems, though some keys don't work on macOS.

Pros
  • Good build quality.
  • Great software support.
Cons
  • No onboard memory.
  • No dedicated macro keys.
7.0 Programming

The Apex 3 is an acceptable keyboard for programming. The typing experience is decent, but it can be tiring after a while. Every key can be reprogrammed, though it's limited to Windows and macOS users only, since its customization software isn't available for Linux and there is no onboard memory.

Pros
  • Good build quality.
  • Great software support.
Cons
  • No onboard memory.
  • No dedicated macro keys.
4.6 Entertainment / HTPC

Pros
  • Good build quality.
  • Great software support.
Cons
  • No onboard memory.
  • No dedicated macro keys.
  • 7.7 Gaming
  • 3.2 Mobile/Tablet
  • 7.6 Office
  • 7.0 Programming
  • 4.6 Entertainment / HTPC
  1. Updated Feb 04, 2021: Converted to Test Bench 1.0.

Test Results

perceptual testing image
Design
Design
Dimensions
Height
1.5" (3.7 cm)
Width 17.5" (44.4 cm)
Depth
5.9" (15.0 cm)
Depth With Wrist Rest
8.8" (22.3 cm)
Weight
1.76 lbs (0.800 kg)

The Apex 3 is a large, full-size keyboard. It'll take up significantly more space if you choose to use the included wrist rest.

7.5
Design
Build Quality
Keycap Material ABS

Build quality is great. It has a fully plastic frame that exhibits a decent amount of flex, and the keycaps are made of ABS plastic with a soft finish. The overall build quality feels slightly worse than the rest of the Apex lineup. SteelSeries advertises this keyboard as having an IP32 water and dust resistance, though this isn't something we test for.

7.5
Design
Ergonomics
Board Design
Straight
Minimum Incline
4 °
Medium Incline
N/A
Maximum Incline
9.5 °
Wrist Rest Detachable

The ergonomics are good. The keyboard doesn't have a particularly high profile, but if you need the extra support, it does come with a wrist rest that attaches magnetically.

5.4
Design
Backlighting
Backlighting Yes
Color
RGB
Individually Backlit Keys
No
Color Mixing
Ok
Effects
Yes
Programmable
Yes

The Apex 3 has a 10-zone RGB backlighting. It can be customized through SteelSeries' Engine software, and you can control the brightness directly on the keyboard. There are a few lighting presets that you can choose from, as well as a rainbow effect that doesn't show where each zone starts and ends. If you want individually-lit keys, check out the SteelSeries Apex 5.

Design
Cable & Connector
Detachable
No
Length 5.9 ft (1.8 m)
Connector (Keyboard side)
Not Detachable

The cable is rubberized and it's not detachable.

0
Design
Wireless Versatility
Bluetooth
No
Bluetooth Multi-Device Pairing
No
Proprietary Receiver
No
Battery Type
No Batteries

This is a wired-only keyboard.

Design
Extra Features
Media Keys
Dedicated
Macro Programmable Keys
All
Trackpad / Trackball No
Wheel Yes
USB Passthrough
No
Numpad Yes
Windows Key Lock
Yes
Lock Indicator Caps, Scroll & Num lock

The Apex 3 has dedicated media controls. The button located below the volume wheel lets you play, pause, skip tracks, or go to the previous track. There are hotkeys that allow you to control the brightness of the backlight, set macros, and change profile. You can also lock the Windows key to prevent accidentally minimizing your game by pressing the SteelSeries key and the Windows key at the same time.

Design
In The Box

  • SteelSeries Apex 3 keyboard
  • Wrist rest
  • User guide

Typing Experience
Typing Experience
Keystrokes
Key Switches
Rubber Dome
Feel
Tactile
Operating Force
56 gf
Actuation Force
31 gf
Pre-Travel
2.4 mm
Total Travel
3.9 mm

The Apex 3 uses rubber dome switches. They have a tactile bump to indicate the actuation and a fairly high pre-travel distance, which can lead to better typing accuracy, as there's less of a chance for unintended keystrokes to be registered. If you want a mechanical keyboard that's affordable like the Apex 3, check out the AUKEY KM-G9 or the Redragon K552-RGB.

7.0
Typing Experience
Typing Quality

Typing on this keyboard is decent, though it can be difficult to tell if a keypress was registered at times, as the tactile feedback is not as obvious. The keys are very stable and don't wobble at all, but they do feel a bit mushy. The high actuation force to get over the tactile bump can be fatiguing for some, but it's better than the typing experience on the Razer Cynosa Chroma.

Typing Experience
Typing Noise
Noise
Very Quiet

Typing noise is very quiet and is suitable for any office environment.

7.4
Typing Experience
Latency
Latency Wired
10.7 ms
Latency Receiver
N/A
Latency Bluetooth
N/A
Software and Operating System
7.8
Software and Operating System
Software & Programming
Software Name Steelseries Engine
Account Required
No
Profiles
6+
Onboard Memory
No
Cloud Sync
Yes
Macro Programming
Software and Onboard
Ease Of Use
Easy
Software Windows Compatible
Yes
Software macOS Compatible
Yes

The SteelSeries Engine software is great. It lets you customize the backlight, set macros, and save profiles. The keyboard doesn't have onboard memory, which makes it harder to switch to another computer. However, there's a cloud sync option, though it requires an account.

7.2
Software and Operating System
Keyboard Compatibility
Windows Full
macOS Partial
Linux Partial
Android No
iOS No
iPadOS No

The Apex 3 has decent compatibility. It works fully on Windows, but Scroll Lock and Pause/Break don't work on macOS. All keys function properly on Linux, but since there's no software for that platform and there's no onboard memory, Linux users won't be able to customize the keyboard.

Compared To Other Keyboards

Since the SteelSeries Apex 3 is a membrane keyboard, it can be difficult to compare it to mechanical gaming keyboards, as the latter are much more responsive due to their shorter pre-travel distance. However, compared to a similar keyboard such as the Razer Cynosa Chroma, the SteelSeries has a much better typing experience, though the Razer has a more customizable RGB backlight, as it's individually lit. For other options, check out our recommendations for the best keyboards for writers, the best RGB keyboards, and the best gaming keyboards

SteelSeries Apex 5 Hybrid Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

The SteelSeries Apex 5 Hybrid Mechanical Gaming Keyboard is much better than the SteelSeries Apex 3. Both have a very similar build and features, but the Apex 5 has hybrid switches, which offer tactile feedback with the feel of a membrane switch. It also has individually-lit keys, while the Apex 3 has zone backlighting with rubber dome switches that feel heavy to press.

Razer Ornata Chroma

The Razer Ornata Chroma is a better keyboard than the SteelSeries Apex 3. The Razer uses hybrid membrane switches that give you the clicky feedback of a mechanical switch with the feel of a rubber dome switch. It has a better overall typing experience and the keys are individually lit. On the other hand, the SteelSeries uses typical rubber dome switches that are quiet to use in an office, and the keyboard has a better build quality.

Razer Cynosa V2

The SteelSeries Apex 3 and the Razer Cynosa V2 are both full-size membrane gaming keyboards. While the Razer scores higher for gaming, it's only so because it has individually-lit keys, whereas the SteelSeries has 10-zone backlighting. The SteelSeries has lower input lag, and its keys are a bit easier to actuate because they require less force. It allows for higher incline settings and includes a wrist rest to provide a more comfortable typing experience, and its build quality is much better than the Razer's.

Logitech G213 Prodigy

For most uses, the SteelSeries Apex 3 is significantly better than the Logitech G213 Prodigy. The SteelSeries' build quality is much better, it has full RGB backlighting with brightness control, and every key is macro-programmable. The SteelSeries also provides a better typing experience, it produces less typing noise, and the included wrist rest is detachable if you don't want to use it.

Corsair K55 RGB Gaming Keyboard

The SteelSeries Apex 3 is much better than the Corsair K55 RGB Gaming Keyboard. They both have rubber dome switches, but the typing quality is much better on the Apex 3 because it requires much less actuation force. The Apex 3 also has a significantly better build quality than the K55.

Razer Cynosa Chroma

The SteelSeries Apex 3 is significantly better than the Razer Cynosa Chroma in most uses. The typing experience and build quality are much better on the Apex 3, and it comes with a wrist rest for better comfort. However, the Cynosa has individually lit RGB backlighting, but its customization software is only available for Windows users, while the SteelSeries Engine software is available for Windows and macOS.

HyperX Alloy Core RGB

The SteelSeries Apex 3 is much better than the HyperX Alloy Core RGB. The Apex 3 has a significantly better build quality, typing experience, and ergonomics. Also, it comes with a wrist rest and the keyboard is much more customizable, since every key can be reprogrammed and it has software support, which the HyperX Alloy Core doesn't have.

Redragon K552-RGB

The SteelSeries Apex 3 is significantly better than the Redragon K552-RGB in most uses, though the K552 is mechanical, while the Apex 3 uses rubber dome. They both have a great build quality, but the Apex 3 is more comfortable to type on, as it has a lower profile and comes with a wrist rest. The K552 feels more responsive for gaming, but it also makes a lot more noise and you can't program any macros. The Apex 3 has software support for customization; however, the K552 has individually-lit RGB backlight, even though the customization can be somewhat complicated, as it needs to be done on the keyboard itself.

Corsair K57 RGB Wireless Gaming Keyboard

The Corsair K57 RGB Wireless Gaming Keyboard is slightly better than the SteelSeries Apex 3. The Corsair is wireless, has dedicated macro keys, and has individually-lit keys, while the Apex 3 has a better typing quality since the keys are lighter to press. The Apex 3 is also better built and its software offers a cloud sync feature. 

AUKEY KM-G9 Mechanical Keyboard

The AUKEY KM-G9 Mechanical Keyboard is pretty different than the SteelSeries Apex 3. While both keyboards are very affordable, you have to choose between the mechanical clicky switches of the AUKEY, or the RGB lighting and the rubber dome switches of the Apex 3. Also, the Apex 3 is a full-size keyboard with a NumPad, and it comes with a nice wrist rest.

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