SteelSeries Apex 5 Hybrid Mechanical Gaming Keyboard Keyboard Review

Tested using Methodology v1.0
Reviewed Feb 14, 2020 at 07:39 am
SteelSeries Apex 5 Hybrid Mechanical Gaming Keyboard Picture
9.1
Gaming
3.0
Mobile/Tablet
7.6
Office
7.8
Programming
5.5
Entertainment / HTPC
Connectivity Wired
Size
Full-size (100%)
Mechanical
Yes

The SteelSeries Apex 5 Hybrid Mechanical Gaming Keyboard is a feature-rich keyboard with proprietary hybrid mechanical switches. These switches have a short pre-travel distance and light operating force, and they provide satisfying tactile and audio feedback, similar to Cherry MX Blues. However, despite having responsive switches, its latency is quite high for a wired keyboard and might be a dealbreaker for serious gamers looking for the lowest input lag. Like other keyboards of the same lineup, it has an OLED screen that you can customize to show almost anything you want, and its software is intuitive and user-friendly. Every key is macro-programmable, and there's full RGB backlighting for those who like to game in the dark. 

Our Verdict

9.1 Gaming

The SteelSeries Apex 5 is an outstanding gaming keyboard. However, even though the hybrid switches have a short pre-travel distance and light operating force, the latency is quite high for a wired keyboard, which might be a dealbreaker for some gamers. Every key is programmable, but the absence of dedicated macro keys may be disappointing for some MMO players. On the plus side, it has excellent build quality, and its RGB backlighting is great for gaming in the dark.

Pros
  • Excellent build quality.
  • Good typing experience.
  • Outstanding software support.
  • Macro-programmable keys.
Cons
  • No dedicated macro keys for MMOs.
  • High latency.
3.0 Mobile/Tablet

The SteelSeries Apex 5 is a wired-only keyboard and can't be used with mobile devices.

7.6 Office

The SteelSeries Apex 5 is good for office use. It provides a good typing experience, and it comes with a nice wrist rest for extra support. However, typing noise is loud, so it may not be suitable for noise-sensitive offices. It's compatible with all desktop operating systems, but some keys don't work on macOS.

Pros
  • Excellent build quality.
  • Good typing experience.
  • Outstanding software support.
Cons
  • Loud typing noise.
7.8 Programming

The SteelSeries Apex 5 is a great keyboard for programming. Typing on this keyboard feels good and shouldn't be fatiguing, and you can reprogram or set macros to any key on the keyboard. It's compatible with all desktop operating systems, but Linux users can only reprogram keys using the keyboard's hotkeys, as the customization software is only available for Windows and macOS.

Pros
  • Excellent build quality.
  • Good typing experience.
  • Outstanding software support.
  • Macro-programmable keys.
Cons
  • Wired-only.
  • No multi-device feature.
5.5 Entertainment / HTPC

The SteelSeries Apex 5 is inadequate for use with a home theater PC. It's a wired-only keyboard with no trackpad, so not only do you need to run a cable from the couch to the computer, but you also need a separate mouse to navigate. On the upside, it has dedicated media controls and backlighting.

Pros
  • Good typing experience.
  • Outstanding software support.
Cons
  • Wired-only.
  • No trackpad.
  • 9.1 Gaming
  • 3.0 Mobile/Tablet
  • 7.6 Office
  • 7.8 Programming
  • 5.5 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
5.6" (14.1 cm)
Depth With Wrist Rest
8.3" (21.2 cm)
Weight
1.98 lbs (0.900 kg)

The SteelSeries Apex 5 is a large, full-size keyboard. It'll take up even more space if you choose to use the included wrist rest.

8.5
Design
Build Quality
Keycap Material ABS

The build quality is excellent. The bottom is plastic, but it has an aluminum alloy top to provide rigidity. It uses doubleshot ABS keycaps, which is great for the longevity of the key legends, and the keys are very stable. It comes with a wrist rest that attaches to the keyboard magnetically.

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

The keyboard comes with a magnetic wrist rest, similar to the SteelSeries Apex Pro and SteelSeries Apex 7 TKL, but it feels a bit more plasticky.

10
Design
Backlighting
Backlighting Yes
Color
RGB
Individually Backlit Keys
Yes
Color Mixing
Great
Effects
Yes
Programmable
Yes

The SteelSeries Apex 5 has full RGB backlighting, and it can be customized using SteelSeries' Engine software. The backlight of each key can be set individually, and there are brightness settings on the keyboard itself.

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

The cable is rubberized and isn't 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

Like the Apex Pro, this keyboard has a good number of extra features. It has an OLED screen that can be customized to show virtually anything you want. You can access the screen's menu by long-pressing the OLED menu button situated next to the screen, and this button also allows you to control media playback.

There are hotkeys that let you control the backlight's brightness, record macros, and change profiles. These can be accessed by pressing the SteelSeries key and the corresponding hotkey (F9-F12). You can lock the Windows key to prevent accidentally minimizing your game by pressing the SteelSeries key and the Windows key.

Design
In The Box

  • SteelSeries Apex 5 keyboard
  • User guide
  • Wrist rest

Typing Experience
Typing Experience
Keystrokes
Key Switches
Hybrid Blue Mechanical
Feel
Clicky
Operating Force
54 gf
Actuation Force
50 gf
Pre-Travel
1.8 mm
Total Travel
4.0 mm

The SteelSeries Apex 5 uses proprietary hybrid mechanical switches. These switches provide tactile and audio feedback to indicate the actuation, similar to Cherry MX Blues. They don't require a lot of force to press and their pre-travel distance is slightly shorter than standard Cherry MX switches.

7.5
Typing Experience
Typing Quality

Typing quality on this keyboard is good. The hybrid switches feel very much like Cherry MX Blues. Typing feels light and responsive but can be tiring over time if you don't use the wrist rest. The keys have fairly standard spacing, which is great for typing accuracy, and the keys are stable, with no sign of wobbling.

Typing Experience
Typing Noise
Noise
Loud

Typing noise on this keyboard is loud, as there's an audible click with each keypress, so it may not be ideal for quiet office environments. If typing noise is a concern, the SteelSeries Apex 3 can be a good option, though it uses rubber dome switches.

6.5
Typing Experience
Latency
Latency Wired
24.4 ms
Latency Receiver
N/A
Latency Bluetooth
N/A

The latency is quite high for a wired keyboard, even higher than some Bluetooth connections. It should be fine for general desktop use and slower-paced games, but it isn't ideal for fast, reaction-based games.

Software and Operating System
10
Software and Operating System
Software & Programming
Software Name Steelseries Engine
Account Required
No
Profiles
6+
Onboard Memory
Yes
Cloud Sync
Yes
Macro Programming
Software and Onboard
Ease Of Use
Easy
Software Windows Compatible
Yes
Software macOS Compatible
Yes

The SteelSeries Apex 5 uses SteelSeries' Engine software for customization. Using this software, you can customize the backlight of each key individually, as well as reprogram keys, set macros, and save profiles. The keyboard has onboard memory to store profiles and key assignments, but not macros. There's a cloud sync option too, but 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 SteelSeries Apex 5 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; however, since the customization software is only available on Windows and macOS, Linux users won't be able to customize it.

Differences Between Sizes And Variants

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

Compared To Other Keyboards

The SteelSeries Apex 5 is part of a new breed of hybrid mechanical keyboards on the market. There are only a handful of them at this time, such as the Razer Ornata Chroma and the Cougar 450K, though we haven't reviewed the latter. In terms of typing quality, the Apex 5 feels much more like a mechanical keyboard than one with rubber dome switches. Its clicky switches provide satisfying tactile feedback and an audible click that should satisfy most enthusiasts of Cherry MX Blues. For other options, check out our recommendations for the best gaming keyboards, the best mechanical keyboards, and the best keyboards.

SteelSeries Apex Pro

The SteelSeries Apex Pro is a better gaming keyboard than the SteelSeries Apex 5 Hybrid Mechanical Gaming Keyboard, mainly because it has significantly lower latency. The Apex Pro has linear Omnipoint switches and allows you to customize the pre-travel distance on a per-key basis to suit your preference. It provides a better typing experience overall, but its switches don't give tactile feedback, which the Hybrid Blue Mechanical switches on the Apex 5 do. That said, the Apex 5 is much louder and might not be ideal for quiet offices. Both keyboards have excellent build quality, full RGB backlighting, and include a wrist rest. The only other difference is that the Apex Pro has a USB passthrough, which the Apex 5 lacks.

SteelSeries Apex 3

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.

Razer BlackWidow Elite

The Razer BlackWidow Elite is much better for gaming than the SteelSeries Apex 5 Hybrid Mechanical Gaming Keyboard, mainly due to the SteelSeries' high latency. The Razer provides a better typing experience overall, and it's available in a variety of mechanical switches, including linear, clicky, and tactile options. The SteelSeries has hybrid switches that also provide a good typing experience, but they're louder, which isn't ideal for quiet office environments. Feature-wise, the SteelSeries has an OLED screen, while the Razer has a USB passthrough.

SteelSeries Apex 7 TKL

The SteelSeries Apex 7 TKL and the SteelSeries Apex 5 Hybrid Mechanical Gaming Keyboard are wired mechanical keyboards with similar features but a few important differences. The Apex 7 we tested is a TenKeyLess keyboard, though there’s also a full-sized variant. It’s available with tactile SteelSeries Brown, linear SteelSeries Red, or clicky SteelSeries Blue switches. On the other hand, the Apex 5 is a full-sized keyboard without any smaller variants and is only available with clicky Hybrid Blue Mechanical switches that feel similar to Cherry MX Blue switches. Unfortunately, it also has extremely high latency, which likely won't be a problem for slower-paced gaming, but it's less suitable for competitive and reaction-based games.

HyperX Alloy Origins

The SteelSeries Apex 5 Hybrid Mechanical Gaming Keyboard is better than the HyperX Alloy Origins for gaming, mainly because the SteelSeries has much higher latency. The HyperX's linear switches are easier to actuate and provide a better typing experience. However, the SteelSeries has some extra features like its OLED screen and volume wheel. Also, its customization software is compatible with macOS, while HyperX's NGENUITY software is only available for Windows users.

Razer Ornata V2

The SteelSeries Apex 5 Hybrid Mechanical Gaming Keyboard is better than the Razer Ornata V2 if you like the feeling of mechanical switches. The SteelSeries is noticeably better built and feels more durable. The Razer's switches feel a lot more like rubber domes than actual mechanical switches, and the SteelSeries' actuate quicker. However, the Razer has much lower latency, which is great for reaction-based games.

Logitech G815 LIGHTSYNC RGB

The SteelSeries Apex 5 Hybrid Mechanical Gaming Keyboard and the Logitech G815 LIGHTSYNC RGB are quite different. The Logitech is a low-profile mechanical keyboard that's available in various switch types, while the SteelSeries has a fairly standard height and only comes in one switch type. Gaming-wise, the Logitech is better simply because it has much lower latency. However, the SteelSeries provides a better typing experience, albeit a louder one, so it might not be ideal for noise-sensitive offices. Every key is macro-programmable on the SteelSeries, but on the Logitech, you can only program the dedicated macro keys.

ROCCAT Pyro

The SteelSeries Apex 5 Hybrid Mechanical Gaming Keyboard and the ROCCAT Pyro are wired full-size gaming boards with customizable RGB backlighting. The SteelSeries has a dedicated media button, and all of its keys are macro-programmable. It also has an OLED screen that you can set to display almost anything. On the other hand, the ROCCAT has much lower latency than the SteelSeries. While the ROCCAT can also have macros, you can only set them on certain keys.

Ducky Shine 7

For gaming, the Ducky Shine 7 is better than the SteelSeries Apex 5 Hybrid Mechanical Gaming Keyboard, mainly because it has much lower latency. The Ducky also provides a better typing experience, and it's available in various Cherry MX switches, whereas the SteelSeries only has one option. The SteelSeries has more features, though, like a customizable OLED screen and dedicated media controls, and it comes with a wrist rest. Also, it has software support for macOS, which the Ducky lacks.

Razer BlackWidow Lite

The SteelSeries Apex 5 Hybrid Mechanical Gaming Keyboard and the Razer BlackWidow Lite are quite different. The SteelSeries is a full-size keyboard with hybrid mechanical switches, while the Razer is a TenKeyLess keyboard with Razer Orange (tactile) switches. Although both switches have similar pre-travel distance and operating force, the Razer is better for gaming because it has lower latency. That said, the Razer's latency is still a bit high for a wired keyboard. The Razer provides a better and quieter typing experience, so it's a better choice for office use. On the other hand, the SteelSeries has more features, like an OLED screen, onboard memory, and a wrist rest. It also has full RGB backlighting, whereas the Razer is limited to a single white color.

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