Looking for a gaming keyboard that doesn’t look like a gaming keyboard? Looking for a high-quality piece of gaming hardware that won’t blast your wallet to smithereens? The search might just be over! So put away your wallet and your preconceived notions about how gaming keyboards should look and allow me to tell you why SteelSeries‘ Apex [Raw] gaming keyboard is the one for you.

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Specs

  • Interface: USB
  • White LED w/ 8 brightness levels
  • Anti-ghosting: up to 20
  • 17 macro keys + 2 macro layers = 34 total macros
  • Media keys
  • Unlimited creation
  • Unlimited profiles support
  • Complete button remapping
  • 1000Hz polling rate; 1ms response time
  • Dimensions: 20.5 inches by 8.7 inches by 2 inches; 2.7 pounds

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Sleek, Sexy and Fully Operational Design

Most gaming hardware (keyboards, mice) have a tendency to, well, look like gaming hardware. Whether its the ridiculous amount of programmable keys hanging precariously off the side of a mouse, or the copious amounts of customizable wrist-rests that are some how attached to a bunch of desk-sized keyboard modules, you know gaming hardware when you see it. While these have their place in the gaming world for sure, there are some of us out there that aren’t keen on having huge robots-in-disguise (Yep, Transformer reference) looking gaming hardware taking up our precious desk space.

The Apex [RAW] is the polar opposite of the stereotypical bulkiness that we have come to expect from gaming keyboards in general. Upon pulling it out its box, I couldn’t believe how thin it was.

The wonderful thing about the Apex[Raw] is its design. Before I opened the packaging, I looked at the photo on the box and paused a moment to wonder if I had received the wrong product. Expecting a ‘gaming keyboard’, I looked a little closer to discover that the super slim and sleek keyboard featured on the box was, in fact, meant for gaming!  The minimalist design includes everything you look for in a gaming keyboard with none of the fluff (or obtrusive angular plastic). I was please to find that, while there were no blatant wrist rest modules, the front edge of the keyboard tapers all the way down, nearly flush with my desk surface. SteelSeries has managed to create a wrist rest without actually putting one on the keyboard. It is ergonomic enough to physically help out my wrists without being insanely huge or space-mongering. Simple is the name of the game with this SteelSeries keyboard and it is both refreshing and fully functional.

Apex (Left) and Apex [RAW] (Right)
Apex (Left) and Apex [RAW] (Right)

The Difference Between Apex and Apex [RAW]

While the colorful keys may seem to be the only obvious difference, the Apex [RAW] is more of the minimalist version of the Apex. Less bells and whistles isn’t always a bad thing, as the Apex [RAW] is not lacking anything integrally important to hardcore gaming. Here is a quick rundown on the differences between our review model and its more colorful big brother.

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Features

Raised Macro Keys
Raised Macro Keys

Raised Macro Keys- Unless you have been using your own gaming keyboard for quite a while, it is difficult to be able to put your finger on every macro key without having to look down. Every gaming keyboard is different and getting adjusted to macro key locations can hurt your game in the time it takes to acclimate. I was pleased to find that SteelSeries had the foresight to give the macro keys, that are located above the ‘F’ keys, a raised feel that makes them exponentially easier to locate without stopping to look. By touch alone, I was able to locate and use the macro keys without missing a beat. The proximity to the ‘F’ keys also makes key combinations significantly easier.

Illuminated Keys- Having keys that light up is definitely a huge plus for any gaming keyboard. The ability to see the keys in the dark is a necessity and key illumination has become expected in any high-end gaming keyboard. The Apex [RAW] is no different from most gaming hardware in its light-up capabilities, however the 8 levels of light intensity really set it apart. It was extremely helpful to have the option to dim or brighten the keys as levels of lighting in the room changed. Note that the Apex [Raw] back-lighting is white light only and not colors like its brother keyboard the Apex.

Additional Directional Arrow Keys
Additional Directional Arrow Keys

Additional Directional Keys- If you play a lot of games that require directional arrow-guided movement, then this is for you! No more weird, angular walking in WoW because Steel Series has provided two additional arrow keys for forward-diagonal walking or running (or flying or fighting), and they ROCK. It has always been a personal pet peeve of mine that keyboard navigation hasn’t made more strides by now in the PC gaming arena, and this totally fixes it for me. THANK YOU!

34 Macro Keys- The Apex [RAW] has 17 independent macro keys that each have 2-layer capabilities, making for 34 possible macro keys! There are also 2 layer-select buttons in the top left corner that allows the user to select their desired macro layer. While I was never a fan of layered macro buttons, these seem to function properly and aren’t confusing or hard to use.

SteelSeries Key- This keyboard comes equipped with a ‘SteelSeries’ key that allows the user to perform special functions. These functions include the ability to disable the Windows key by holding down the SteelSeries key and then tapping the Windows key. This is great because, well, who wants to download additional software if they don’t have to?

Interchangeable Feet-  The Apex [RAW] includes swappable rubber feet that allows the user to customize the angle at which the the keyboard sits while gaming. This is especially helpful for really long gaming sessions where comfort is of the utmost importance.

 

The Bottom Line

As a product reviewer, I try to remain unbiased and fair in every review. That said, I had a really hard time finding something that I didn’t like about the Apex [RAW] gaming keyboard. It was slightly pricey, coming it at around $70, but not more pricey than other keyboards of the same caliber. In comparison with its sibling the Apex, I would venture to say that the Apex [RAW] is the better value for the budget-conscious gamer.  It is clearly a no nonsense high-end gaming keyboard that avoids frivolous extras and becomes a minimalist masterpiece.

What I Loved – The design (in case you had not noticed), the AWESOME space bar (nice and big, you’ll hit it every time), and the back lighting.

What I Didn’t- I’m not a huge fan of membrane keys. This isn’t a flaw, just a personal preference, but I prefer mechanical over membrane any day.

The Apex [RAW] performed very well for the 3 hours of heavy game play in which I conducted my review. I never ran across any flaws in the hardware and the design is simply decadent. I have finally found a gaming keyboard that looks and feels like the sophisticated beast that it is. Not only is it sleek and elegant, but when it comes down to the nitty-gritty of hardcore gaming, the Apex [RAW] from SteelSeries performs just as beautifully as it looks.