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SteelSeries Apex 5 Hybrid Mechanical Gaming Keyboard Keyboard Review

Tested using Methodology v0.8
Reviewed Feb 14, 2020 at 07:39 am
SteelSeries Apex 5 Hybrid Mechanical Gaming Keyboard Picture
7.8
Mixed usage
9.4
Gaming
1.8
Mobile/Tablet
7.4
Office
8.0
Programming
Connectivity Wired
Size
Full-size (100%)
Mechanical
Yes

The SteelSeries Apex 5 is an exceptional gaming keyboard with great features and proprietary hybrid mechanical switches. These switches have a satisfying tactile bump and an audible click that's comparable to Cherry MX Blues. Like other mechanical keyboards of the same lineup, it has an OLED screen that can be customized to show almost anything you want. The keyboard is highly customizable and its software is intuitive and easy to use. There aren't any dedicated macro keys for MMO players, but most gamers should be satisfied with the keyboard's overall performance.

Our Verdict

7.8 Mixed usage

The Apex 5 is a good keyboard for most uses. Typing on this keyboard doesn't feel tiring, but its typing noise is quite loud, making it less ideal for office use. Every key can be reprogrammed, which is great for programmers and gamers; however, it lacks dedicated macro keys for MMO games.

Pros
  • Excellent build quality.
  • Good typing experience.
  • Outstanding software support.
Cons
  • No dedicated macro keys.
9.4 Gaming

The Apex 5 is an exceptional keyboard for gaming. The keys are easy to press and the hybrid switches react very quickly, but the absence of dedicated macro keys may be disappointing for some MMO players. The keyboard has an excellent build quality that feels durable, and the RGB backlighting is great for dark room gaming.

1.8 Mobile/Tablet

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

7.4 Office

The Apex 5 is a decent office keyboard. The hybrid switches let you type for a long time without any fatigue, and the keyboard comes with a nice wrist rest for extra support. Typing noise is loud, so it may not be suitable for noise-sensitive offices. The keyboard is compatible with all desktop operating systems, but some keys don't work on macOS, and its customization software isn't available for Linux users.

8.0 Programming

The 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.

  • 7.8 Mixed usage
  • 9.4 Gaming
  • 1.8 Mobile/Tablet
  • 7.4 Office
  • 8.0 Programming

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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)
Weight 2.0 lbs (0.9 kg)

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

8.5
Design
Build Quality

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
Incline Settings
1
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
Brightness Settings
Yes
Individually Backlit Keys
Yes

The 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
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
Proprietary Receiver
No
Multi-Device Pairing
No
Battery Type
No Batteries

This is a wired-only keyboard.

Design
Extra Features
Media Keys
Dedicated
Macro Programmable Keys
All
Extra Controls
Wheel
USB Passthrough
No
Numpad Yes
Windows Key Lock
Yes

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
Actuation Force
42.1 gf
Pre-Travel
1.82 mm
Total Travel
3.95 mm

The Apex 5 uses proprietary hybrid mechanical switches. These switches provide a tactile feedback as well as an audible click 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 lower 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 a 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.

Software and Operating System
10
Software and Operating System
Software
Software Steelseries Engine
Account Required
No
Profiles
6+
Onboard Memory
Yes
Cloud Sync
Yes
RGB Programming
Yes
Macro Programming
Yes
Software Windows Compatible
Yes
Software macOS Compatible
Yes

The 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 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.

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 them. 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 a satisfying tactile feedback and an audible click that should satisfy most enthusiasts of Cherry MX Blues.

SteelSeries Apex 7 TKL
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The SteelSeries Apex 7 TKL is better than the SteelSeries Apex 5 Hybrid Mechanical Gaming Keyboard. The Apex 7 is a TKL keyboard that you can get with clicky, tactile, or silent switches, depending on your gaming needs. They require less actuation force than the hybrid switches on the Apex 5, which are a mix between rubber dome and mechanical switches, and could get tiring to use. The features between the two are the same, so the difference comes down to your size and switch preference.

SteelSeries Apex 3
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

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.

SteelSeries Apex Pro
SEE PRICE
BestBuy.com

The SteelSeries Apex Pro is a higher-end keyboard than the SteelSeries Apex 5 Hybrid Mechanical Gaming Keyboard, but their differences come down to their switches. The Apex Pro has linear switches which you can customize the pre-travel distance on a per-key basis, ensuring a quick gaming experience. The Apex 5 has hybrid switches, which are a mix between mechanical and rubber dome, but still provide a low actuation force. Both keyboards are very well-made, have full RGB backlighting, and come with a wrist rest.

Razer BlackWidow Elite
SEE PRICE
BestBuy.com

The Razer BlackWidow Elite is better than the SteelSeries Apex 5 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard. It's available in a variety of mechanical switches, including linear, clicky, and tactile, providing a much better typing experience. The Apex 5 has hybrid switches, which provide good feedback but could get tiring to type on. The SteelSeries Engine software is available on macOS while the Razer Synapse 3 isn't.

HyperX Alloy Origins
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The SteelSeries Apex 5 Hybrid Mechanical Gaming Keyboard and the HyperX Alloy Origins have very similar performance in most uses. They both have excellent build quality and outstanding RGB backlight, but the Alloy Origins' linear switches might be better for gaming for some and they make less noise. However, the Apex 5 has some extra features like its OLED screen, and its customization software is compatible with macOS, while the NGENUITY software is only available for Windows users.

Razer BlackWidow Lite
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The SteelSeries Apex 5 Hybrid Mechanical Gaming Keyboard is slightly better than the Razer BlackWidow Lite in most uses. The Apex 5 has a full RGB backlight and more customization options, while the BlackWidow Lite is limited to a single white color. Typing quality is better on the BlackWidow Lite, but unlike the Apex 5, it doesn't have onboard memory and its software is not compatible with macOS.

Razer Ornata V2
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The SteelSeries Apex 5 Hybrid Mechanical Gaming Keyboard is better than the Razer Ornata V2 if you like the feeling of mechanical switches. The Razer's switches feel a lot more like rubber domes than actual mechanical switches and SteelSeries' actuate quicker, which is great for gaming. The SteelSeries is also noticeably better built and feels more durable.

Logitech G815 LIGHTSYNC RGB
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The SteelSeries Apex 5 Hybrid Mechanical Gaming Keyboard is significantly better than the Logitech G815 LIGHTSYNC RGB. The Apex 5 has a much better build quality and it comes with a wrist rest for better comfort. Typing on the Apex 5 is also much better and every key can be reprogrammed, but the G815 has a column of dedicated macro keys for MMO games.

Ducky Shine 7
SEE PRICE
Amazon.com

The Ducky Shine 7 is a bit better than the SteelSeries Apex 5 Hybrid Mechanical Gaming Keyboard. Build quality is significantly better on the Shine 7, and the same can be said of the typing quality when compared with the Cherry MX Brown switches on our unit. The Apex 5's software has more features, though, and it has other features like its OLED screen and dedicated media controls.

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