Style and Design
Of course, the first thing gamers will notice once they open the box, is the small frame, measuring in at a width of just 29cm and a depth of under 10cm and just five rows of keys in the 60% form factor keyboard. The compact size does mean that the designers at SteelSeries have had to leave a few things out – well, at first look anyway. The five rows are missing arrow keys, function keys and media keys that many gaming keyboards possess.
However, on second glance, users will notice that on the front side of many of the keys have other secondary functions printed on them. These alternative hotkey indicators are positioned on the front and are rather small and some can be difficult to read, particularly if you’re not in a well-lit room. Unlike the top-facing indicators, the front facing key indicators do not have RGB functionality, so you will need a proper light source – or a good memory - to see each of the alternate keys. Also, for gamers wanting to customise the keycaps, the Apex Pro Mini comes with a compartment underneath that stores a keycap remover – so changing keys is a cinch.
Despite the compact nature of the Apex Pro Mini, the keyboard is surprisingly weighty due to the aluminium frame. This gives the keyboard a sturdy feel and reduces movement. This lack of movement will certainly be a boon for gamers. Another feature that will suit gamers are the adjustable feet. The device has rear feet that allow the keyboard to be inclined to two different angles. The keyboard comes with a braided USB-A to USB type-C cable that is over two metres in length, which is more than enough for most gamers.
Performance and software
Although the keyboard is compact, the keys are regulation size and the Omnipoint switches make typing a joy. The keys are ultra-responsive, which probably comes about from the dual actuation ability of the keys. The Omnipoint switches are reasonably quiet when compared to other mechanical switches.
As mentioned earlier, the keyboard comes without many of the standard keys that most gaming keyboards possess – and in a way, limiting the usefulness of the keyboard purely to gaming. However, holding down the SteelSeries key highlights several keys that have been given default dual uses. For example, the arrow keys have been assigned to the WASD keys and are highlighted in red once the SteelSeries key is depressed. Other keys such as the Function keys and multimedia keys are also accessible in this manner by default.
The downloadable SteelSeries Engine software, however, gives the keyboard much more features. As well as being able to customise the backlighting on a per-key basis, users can also rebind keys and program macros for each key. The software is relatively simple to use but gives the keyboard a heap of extra functionality for people who lie to use macros. Indeed, this can even be handy in a non-gaming perspective.
The software can also be used to adjust the actuation points for each key, meaning that each key can be assigned two inputs, one for a light press and one for a harder press. For instance, pressing one key in a game can be used for walking with a light press and running with a harder press.
The Apex Pro Mini is a sleek device that will suit gamers on the go. Although it is lacking a few key aspects, it certainly does its best to overcome those shortcomings. The lack of a numpad ensures that those who frequently use numbers in an office environment will unlikely have a favourable attitude towards the compact keyboard, and although other keys can be configured to act as a pseudo-keypad, it just isn’t the same. But for everyone else, it can be suited to all functions. The lack of arrow keys will be default make life more difficult, but the per-key macros, and dual actuation for each key gives back much of what is lost. The key feel is just right though, and makes typing a joy, with the Omnipoint switches providing accurate and responsive keystrokes. The level of customisation with key-binding, macro programming and RGB on a per-key basis certainly makes the Apex Pro Mini my favourite portable keyboard.
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