There are two aspects of this keyboard that truly sell it. One is the Apex series' classic OLED display and the other is Steelseries' version of the hybrid switch, a switch that's neither diaphragm nor mechanical, but a mix between the two. It really seems to be the kind of switch that serves as a nice middle-ground for those who aren't ready to jump on the mechanical key train but who still want to dabble in the idea of the switch type. At first, we didn't realise that this group existed, but once more and more people at the office stated that they preferred the hybrid switches, we got a little wiser.
SteelSeries has chosen to base its keys on the Cherry clicking blue switch. It clicks like a Cherry Blue switch and feels like one for the most part, but the bottom of the switch and the activation point are not the same. We're actually big fans of the type, both for gaming and writing.
Steelseries, in its marketing, strongly insinuates that several competitors have cheated by making reinforced membrane switches where a small piece of plastic gives off a mechanical click. We didn't try to bust this myth by cutting open a bunch of keyboards, but we can actually see that being true. Steelseries' contact is, of course, "real" and sits on a metal spring and the manufacturer has revealed that it may have gone a little too far towards the full-mechanical approach. It takes a two-millimetre press to start walking, four millimetres to push it all the way down, and it gives you the ability to change the keys. However, the bottom of the switch isn't made of metal. It's a membrane, and thus, SteelSeries is most likely right to call the keyboard a hybrid since it's clearly using a combination of both contact types. SteelSeries also calls the keyboard "affordable", which we don't agree with as much.
The body of the keyboard is made up of aluminium alloy. It's sleek, it's solid and feels high-quality with its magnet-connected wrist rest. It's rather hard to rest one's hands on but it's not uncomfortable.
The design of the keyboard is a favourite of ours, the skeleton with the exposed bottom and "floating" keys especially. It's absolutely beautiful and easy to clean.
The underside of the keyboard houses cable ducts for the rubber-wrapped cable and it works brilliantly, providing just the right level of customisation one would expect from a premium product.
Of course, being a gaming keyboard, each key has individually programmable RGB lighting. SteelEngine 3 is still a great tool and even some of the pre-programmed effects are surprisingly good. The lighting is solid and all the light is indirect, meaning it's reflected from a different surface so as to not shine in the face of whoever is using the keyboard. The SteelEngine driver is simple and advanced at the same time. It's easy to use, especially if one has several SteelSeries devices connected at the same time.
We adore the OLED display in the upper-right corner as well as the scroll wheel, but that's most likely due to us using Tidal which supports the keyboard features and the fact that we love having the option to adjust the volume directly through the keyboard. It's really unfortunate, however, that no more than a handful of games and applications are supported because the idea of having messages and voice identification notices from Discord is great.
We have no complaints about the feel of the keyboard. It's nice to use for writing, even for longer periods of time, and the response and resistance in the switches are excellent when gaming.
The one thing that we find to be an issue is the price of the keyboard. £110 for a hybrid contact keyboard is a lot of money, especially considering the fact that it's marketed as having a "mechanical feel for half the price". We'd say that a price of £75 would have been a bit more fair for consumers and more competitive for SteelSeries.
We're aware that the hybrid keys and the OLED display are what make the Apex 5 more expensive than, for example, the Razer Ornata, but £110 is still too much. A consolation, however, is the fact that SteelSeries' products often go on sale as the competition is so fierce.
If you can find this excellent keyboard on sale, you'll get yourself a keyboard that has the best of both worlds, and for those who both write and play games regularly, the Apex 5 is fantastic.
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