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Steelseries Apex Pro

Steelseries has created a magnetic switch with variable resistance - but does it work?

The Apex Pro is very much its own thing and that applies in a number of ways. Sure, it shares some features with its little brother (the Apex 7), but it's also obvious that the Pro was designed to be a flagship model from the get-go.

The chassis itself is made with an exposed base. Above the numeric keypad is the Apex Series feature, a single-button OLED display and a volume wheel located above it. The keyboard comes with a magnetic wrist rest described by Steelseries as a "soft touch" wrist rest, but it's in no way comparable to the fantastic rubber wrist rests that the company sells separately. It's still made of a solid material though and has a coating, which is something.

Steelseries Apex Pro

First, let's look at the mechanical contact - the 'Omnipoint' - which is actually not a trace mechanical contact but rather a magnetic one.

Of course, each key has RGB lighting, but each switch also has individually adjustable resistors that are controlled through magnetism and the primary area of the keyboard itself. The sensitivity of each key can be adjusted from a contact point (i.e. when the keyboard senses that you've pressed a key) of 0.4 to 3.6mm. There are five profiles to switch between too so you can, for example, use Profile 1 for gaming, Profile 2 for office work, and then use Profiles 3 and 4 to emulate your two favourite switches such as Cherry Reds or mix and match input sensitivity (for example, if you want grenades to require more pressure on the keys).

0.4mm isn't much. In comparison, a Cherry MX Speed is a 1.2mm switch with a response time of 5.0ms (with SteelSeries claiming the OmniPoint has a response time of 0.7ms). Like most other media, we have no way of verifying this claim, but they both activate very early on during a keypress and the response time feels really quick.

That's not what truly sets the Apex Pro apart from its predecessor, though. Normally, in a mechanical switch, you will find two pins that touch each other when the switch under the key is pressed in and a signal is sent. Different types of contacts are then activated at different levels of pressure, thus making different switches have different activation points. Most people want a low activation point where the key migrates well into the keyboard as you type. For gaming, on the other hand, it's better to activate the switch as soon as possible. With an early-activated switch, however, you risk errors in terms of reliability.

Steelseries Apex Pro

The Omnipoint switch is, as the name implies, capable of activating in every position, from its initial position and then until it's completely pushed down. This is done with the help of magnetism, where the distance between the top and bottom of the switch determines how powerful the magnetic force is, and from that, it can tell how close the two magnets are to each other, and thus how far the key has travelled down the keyboard chassis. This magnetic solution makes the keyboard's switches feel incredibly fast.

Since there's no mechanical resistance, the switch acts like a linear switch, which is probably the reason for the Apex 7 being equipped with true Cherry Red switches. Apart from this, since there's also no physical contact, the durability is also increased and SteelSeries guarantees a 100-million click estimate.

Apart from the aforementioned features, most other aspects of the keyboard are as expected from a premium product. The company has, however, chosen to drop the dedicated macro keys and the UI. In addition, there's a USB hub on the chassis. Speaking of which, the chassis itself is made out of aluminium, is very lightweight yet still quite strong, and has a three-part cable duct running underneath. The build quality is fine but the media wheel could have been given some more love.

The OLED display works surprisingly well and it's easy to both read and to operate features such as sensitivity and brightness. In addition, there are third-party apps, in our case Tidal, that work quite well with the keyboard. There are a lot of custom options to tweak as well for those looking for that kind of thing.

Steelseries Apex Pro

The price is close to £200 - which is a huge amount of money for a keyboard. That being the case, we're somewhat divided, because the keyboard itself, the keyboard experience and especially the customisation options, are really good as well as insanely fast. However, the wrist rest is too hard and feels cheap, and the price is way up there, even though it guarantees 100 million activations.

The light in the USB port is fine but both the volume wheel and the feet below don't feel as solid as one would like. The OLED feature is absolutely fantastic but there should be additional support for popular titles (other manufacturers have made that happen in the past, after all). The idea that it controls external software so you don't have to alt-tab is really nice and it works well with both Discord and Tidal, but, once again, we'd like to see it support more programs.

The RGB options are really nice and the Engine program is actually very good at picking key activation points for you. However, ABS keys are used, which isn't good enough for a keyboard that costs £200.

All-in-all, SteelSeries has a great idea here, but some things just aren't good enough for such a steep price tag.

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HARDWARE. Written by Kim Olsen

Steelseries has created a magnetic switch with variable resistance - but does it work?



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