At the start of the year, during CES, SteelSeries announced a couple of dapper input solutions, which offer up a slightly different take on how gamers might take control of their games. We couldn’t wait to get our greedy mitts on the boards, and the first of that ilk is here. Today we’re reviewing the SteelSeries Apex [RAW]. This is the feature-trimmed little brother of the upcoming and brightly illuminated Apex gaming keyboard. For more gaming accessories, check out this list of the best gaming keyboards.
The [RAW], like its bigger brother, comes in a very sleek design with handsome contours and glossy sci-fi appeal. The wrist rest is built into the design with a matte surface. It’s hard plastic but sufficient. The spacebar is twice the width but half the length of a traditional spacebar. It doesn’t seem to enhance or detract from general use at all. But it does look cool. This is a membrane keyboard and a departure from the many mechanicals we’ve reviewed. The key switches actuate on rubber domes. All the keys illuminate with a white glow with 8-level adjustments. There are 17 programmable macro keys. You can also use the SteelSeries Engine software to double that by giving each macro key a dual function across 2 layers. That’s a total of 34 macros. Pretty slick. By comparison, big bro will offer 22 macro buttons and 4 layers for a total of 88 macros. Whoa!
Related: Read our ROCCAT ISKU Illuminated gaming keyboard review
Unfortunately, the Apex [RAW] is hit with a dearth of USB ports. Not a single one is anywhere to be found. This is yet another feature found on the flagship Apex still yet to ship to retailers. There are also no dedicated media keys. Keys F9-F12 will control your media just fine with the FN key as a modifier. But I hate performing finger acrobatics just to mute the volume on a YouTube video. If you can’t live without these necessary features, you’ll want to check out the MadCatz S.T.R.I.K.E. 7 touchscreen gaming keyboard instead.
Despite its weighted bag of omissions, the Apex [RAW] is a really good keyboard. The keys are raised for easy access and spaced apart well. But the actuation point is low profile, so a single key press bottoms out quicker than the raised key appearance would suggest. The result is a great speedy response that most users could easily mistake for the work of a mechanical. Also, there are a couple of slight bumps on the W-key to help gamers find their default movement keys (WASD).
The Apex [RAW] is one of the only keyboards better suited for flying or racing games. There are 6-direction keys. Most boards feature up, down, left, and right. But the Apex adds two additional directional keys. There is one for diagonal-right and diagonal-left. It’s a simple addition I’m surprised more manufacturers have not implemented. It makes movement so much more intuitive.
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The Apex [RAW] is a very good keyboard. I can’t wait to see what big bro has to offer. But as it stands, the Apex [RAW] is comparable to the Razer Black Widow Ultimate we reviewed a few months back. Its performance and features set are similar. Where the Blackwidow offers USB, headphones, and mic ports, the Apex [RAW] showers you with macro options galore. Alternatively, if you just need a gamepad, you’ll like our Gadget Review G13 Gameboard by Logitech.
Bottom Line: The SteelSeries Apex [RAW] puts up quite a fight for such a low-cost keyboard and still manages a few new tricks to enhance gaming sessions.
· Sleek and elegant
· 17 macro + 2-layers = 34 possible macro configurations
· Enhanced direction key setup
· Works plug and play or SteelSeries Engine software
· Adjustable illumination
· No USB port
· No audio jacks
· No dedicated media keys
The SteelSeries Apex [RAW] gaming keyboard is available on Amazon for $69.99