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 good gaming keyboard with rubber dome switches. It has a good build quality despite its budget price, and it also comes with a nice magnetic wrist rest. It provides a decent typing experience that isn't fatiguing, but some people might find the keys slightly mushy and that they lack distinct tactile feedback. Unfortunately, its latency is a bit high for a wired keyboard, and its rubber dome switches have a long pre-travel distance, so it's not the most responsive. The RGB backlight is zone-lit, although there's still a decent number of customization options through SteelSeries' Engine 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 SteelSeries Apex 3 is a good gaming keyboard. However, even though the keys are relatively easy to actuate, the rubber dome switches have a long pre-travel distance, and the keyboard's latency is fairly high, making it feel a bit unresponsive. You can set macros to any key, but 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.
  • Decent typing experience.
Cons
  • High latency for a wired keyboard.
  • Zone-lit backlighting.
3.2 Mobile/Tablet

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

7.6 Office

The SteelSeries Apex 3 is a good office keyboard. The rubber dome switches offer a decent typing experience, though some may find it a bit mushy. 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.
  • Decent typing experience.
Cons
  • Keys feel a bit mushy and lack distinct tactile feedback.
7.0 Programming

The SteelSeries Apex 3 is a decent keyboard for programming. Every key is macro-programmable, although it's limited to Windows and macOS users only because its customization software isn't available for Linux, and there's no onboard memory. Typing on it feels decent, but some people may find the rubber dome switches a bit mushy, and the tactile feedback isn't as obvious.

Pros
  • Good build quality.
  • Great software support.
  • Decent typing experience.
Cons
  • Zone-lit backlighting.
  • Wired-only.
  • Keys feel a bit mushy and lack distinct tactile feedback.
4.6 Entertainment / HTPC

The SteelSeries Apex 3 is bad for use with a home theater PC. You can only use it wired, so you need to run a cable from the couch to the computer, which isn't ideal if you have kids or pets. Also, it lacks a trackpad, so you'll need a separate mouse to navigate. It has backlighting for those who like to watch TV in the dark, but the keys aren't individually-lit.

Pros
  • Great software support.
  • Decent typing experience.
Cons
  • No trackpad.
  • Zone-lit backlighting.
  • Wired-only.
  • 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 SteelSeries 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 good. 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
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 SteelSeries 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 Hybrid Mechanical Gaming Keyboard.

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 SteelSeries 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 your 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 SteelSeries Apex 3 uses rubber dome switches. They have 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. It requires a moderate amount of force to get over the tactile bump, but not to the point that we would consider them heavy. 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

The typing experience is decent. The keys are very stable and don't wobble at all, but they do feel a bit mushy, and it can be difficult to tell if a keypress was registered at times because the tactile feedback is not as obvious. The wrist rest helps a lot in preventing fatigue. It's a better typing experience than on other membrane keyboards like the Razer Cynosa Chroma.

Typing Experience
Typing Noise
Noise
Very Quiet

Typing noise is very quiet, making this keyboard suitable for quiet office environments.

7.4
Typing Experience
Latency
Latency Wired
10.7 ms
Latency Receiver
N/A
Latency Bluetooth
N/A

The SteelSeries Apex 3's latency is decent, a bit high for a wired keyboard. It should be fine for most people, but it might not be good enough for competitive gamers. If you want a non-mechanical board with lower latency, check out the ROCCAT Magma. If you want an exceptionally low latency and don't mind a mechanical board, check out the EVGA Z20.

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 good. 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. There's a cloud sync option, though it requires an account. If you're interested in a keyboard with onboard memory for settings, check out the Corsair K55 RGB PRO XT.

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

The SteelSeries 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.

Differences Between Sizes And Variants

We tested the SteelSeries Apex 3 in black, and there are no other variants. However, there are many keyboards with various configurations in the Apex lineup, like the Apex 5 Hybrid Mechanical Gaming Keyboard, the Apex 7 TKL, and the Apex Pro.

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

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, while the SteelSeries has 10-zone backlighting. The SteelSeries has a 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. Also, its build quality is much better than the Razer.

SteelSeries Apex 5 Hybrid Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

The SteelSeries Apex 5 Hybrid Mechanical Gaming Keyboard and the SteelSeries Apex 3 are very different despite being from the same lineup. In terms of gaming performance, the Apex 5's hybrid mechanical switches have a shorter pre-travel distance and a slightly lower operating force than the rubber dome switches on the Apex 3, making them more responsive and easier to actuate. However, the Apex 5's latency is much higher than the Apex 3's and likely a dealbreaker for some. Other than that, the Apex 5 has an OLED screen, individually-lit RGB backlighting, and onboard memory, all features that the Apex 3 lacks.

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 PRO XT

The Corsair K55 RGB PRO XT and the SteelSeries Apex 3 are non-mechanical gaming keyboards with comparable performance. The Corsair has significantly lower latency, individually-lit keys, but only five lighting zones, and its companion software has onboard memory, but you can't sync settings to the cloud. On the other hand, the SteelSeries has ten zone RGB backlighting, but the keys aren't individually backlit. That said, it feels sturdier, it has a wheel on the top right, and it has more stable keys that offer a better typing experience than the Corsair.

Corsair K55 RGB Gaming Keyboard

The SteelSeries Apex 3 and the Corsair K55 RGB Gaming Keyboard are both full-sized gaming keyboards with rubber dome switches. The SteelSeries has a sturdier-feeling build quality and keystrokes that require less operating force. The Corsair has substantially lower latency, and though its keystrokes require a higher operating force, they also have better tactile feedback, although that can tire your fingers more quickly.

HyperX Alloy Core RGB

The SteelSeries Apex 3 is much better than the HyperX Alloy Core RGB. The SteelSeries 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 has software support, which the HyperX doesn't have.

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 SteelSeries, and it comes with a wrist rest for better comfort. However, the Razer 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.

Redragon K552-RGB

The SteelSeries Apex 3 and the Redragon K552-RGB are very different keyboards. The SteelSeries is a full-size membrane keyboard, while the Redragon is a TKL mechanical keyboard. The SteelSeries is more comfortable to type on because it has a lower profile and comes with a wrist rest. The typing experience is also very different. The SteelSeries' rubber dome switches feel a bit mushy, and the tactile feedback doesn't feel as distinct as on the Redragon's Outemu Blue switches. The Outemu switches have a shorter pre-travel distance but require more force to actuate. While the SteelSeries has lower latency, it's still relatively high for a wired keyboard and might not be ideal for serious gamers. You can't program any macros on the Redragon, and customizing the RGB backlight can be somewhat complicated because there's no software.

ROCCAT Magma

The SteelSeries Apex 3 and the ROCCAT Magma are both similar-performing non-mechanical gaming keyboards. They use rubber dome switches, which feel light, but they require some force to get over the tactile bump. Both have customizable RGB backlighting with only five zones, but the ROCCAT has a semi-transparent base plate that lets more lighting through. The ROCCAT also has a much lower latency and onboard memory, but it lacks the dedicated media keys and volume control wheel that the SteelSeries has. Also, you can only set macros to certain keys on the ROCCAT, while you can set them to any key on the SteelSeries.

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.

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 SteelSeries. Also, the SteelSeries is a full-size keyboard with a NumPad, and it comes with a nice wrist rest.

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 SteelSeries has a better typing quality since the keys are lighter to press. The SteelSeries is also better built, and its software offers a cloud sync feature. 

+ Show more

Discussions