Design and features
The first thing that most people will notice about the APEX 3 TKL, is the compact design. SteelSeries have clearly aimed this keyboard specifically for gamers (the TKL in the title stands for TenKeyLess), by getting rid of the numpad which has enabled a smaller form factor. This smaller design takes up less space on a gamers desk, giving them more room for mouse movement.
A second less noticeable, but arguably just as important feature is the three-way cable routing. Although this may be unimportant to many gamers, the ability to determine the output location of the cable can often be a major bugbear. The APEX 3 solves this issue by allowing gamers to divert the 1.8m cable to the right, left or middle of the rear of the keyboard.
Another design feature is the clickable multimedia scroll wheel and button. The scroll wheel is used to increase and decrease volume, whilst a push of the scroll wheel will mute the volume. The wheel has a tactile feel as you scroll, giving an indication that the volume is changing. Below the scroll wheel is the multimedia button, which allows gamers to play, pause, fast forward, rewind or skip tracks, depending on the number of presses. The combination works well for streaming videos and music.
One design feature that isn’t so functional is the indicator lights for the Caps Lock and Windows Lock. These lights are positioned behind the Macro keys but unfortunately this has been done in such a way that users would not be able to tell if they’ve been activated from their normal typing position. Gamers would need to look over the top of the macro keys just to see if they are lit. With the smaller form factor, there are limited places where the indicator lights could go, but It is an awful placement nonetheless. Below the macros keys or above the SteelSeries logo would have been far better options.
The RGB customization is also a little strange. The whole keyboard has RGB capability but is split up into eight zones. Each of these zones is a vertical section of the keyboard and these can be customized however you like. There is a caveat on this however - the customization is not on an individual key level, and so if you’re a gamer who likes to have the WASD lit up in a different colour to the rest of the keyboard, then you’re out of luck.
The APEX 3 TKL keyboard is designed to be water resistant. I didn’t test this fully, nor did I want to test this out with my usual fizzy drink, as I was not sure if the water resistance translated to Coke resistant as well. But it is nice to know that your keyboard is not going to stop working just because of a light spillage, especially when you have kids living in the same household.
Other gaming keyboards I have reviewed have featured numerous mechanical gaming switches, each with their varying degree of loudness – which can be annoying to those around you, particularly if you’re using the keyboard in an office environment during your non-gaming hours. This becomes null and void with the APEX 3 TKL, as the SteelSeries Whisper Quiet gaming switches create next to no sound, giving those in the room some peace. These Whisper Quiet switches have been designed to handle over 20 million key presses, so that will give gamers plenty of game time before they need to replace the keys (or keyboard).
Speaking of keys, the combination of the SteelSeries key and the Macro key (F10) allows on-the-fly recording of macros. This works amazingly well, with the execution allowing gamers to create intricate combos with ease. The SteelSeries software allows further macro recording as well as the RGB customisation. As mentioned earlier, the customization is zone controlled, so that gamers can have different colours for each of the eight zones or allocate a single colour across the entire keyboard. Effects such a Multicolor-breathe and ColorShift allow the keyboard to come to life.
The SteelSeries APEX 3 TKL Gaming keyboard certainly has several features and functions that make it a handy gaming peripheral. The compact design allows for portability as well as allowing more room for mouse movement, but it does have the problem that it may not be an ideal keyboard for other uses. If you’re someone who likes to use their keyboard for work and play, then the APEX 3 may fall short of your needs due to the lack of the numpad. RGB lovers may also find the lack of options somewhat disappointing. However, the multimedia scroll wheel and button and the on-the-fly macro recording work amazingly well, giving gamers everything they need at their fingertips.
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