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SteelSeries Apex 150 Gaming Keyboard Review
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By Matt Clark

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SteelSeries has a number of gaming keyboards rocking the Apex moniker, and the Apex 150 (See it on Amazon) is the second-most affordable of the bunch. It’s a $50 membrane keyboard with a stylish finish, RGB illumination, and the lighting even works with Discord. Let’s see how it stacks up against the competition.

Design and Features

Despite its plastic facade, the Apex 150 is a hefty, solid keyboard. Right out of the box, the weight of the board is immediately noticeable, as is the quality finish. SteelSeries has offset the matte black deck with glossy, plastic accents around the perimeter. The result is subtle, but the Apex 150 is a really handsome looking keyboard that honestly looks more expensive than its “budget” price tag would suggest.

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The overall design has an angular, almost blocky appearance which extends even to the keycaps. While the keys are bit small in size, the slightly tapered and concave surface of the keycaps feels excellent while typing.

Like most (if not all) membrane keyboard it offers “splash resistance,” and while it’s not quite as unique a feature as it once was with keyboards, it’s a nice touch if you’re grinding through an RPG with a Big Gulp next to the keyboard.

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SteelSeries has installed “quick tension” membrane switches, which are designed to mimic mechanical switches. According to SteelSeries when you press the key down halfway the membrane will pull the key into actuation, resulting in a faster response. To my fingers they offered swift keystrokes and a surprisingly tactile feel. There’s not quite as much pleasing feedback—in comparison to the similarly priced Corsair K55, for example—but each keystroke lands with a satisfying bounce while typing. Overall, the typing experience is quiet and you won’t need to worry about waking a roommate with overt click noises while writing or gaming.

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The Apex 150 has five zones of RGB lighting; pretty standard for a keyboard in this price range. The lighting is vivid, although even at its brightest setting, I wanted it to be a little brighter. Each zone is fully customizable in hue in addition to a handful of color-change presets via the expansive SteelSeries Engine software. The function keys let you change effects and brightness, but oddly those same function keys can’t be used to change the actual colors on the fly, as that has to be done in software. But as I’ll discuss later, the software is actually pretty great and makes up the difference.

Media keys, including track change and volume, are also assigned to function keys across the top of the Apex 150. While they certainly get the job done just fine, I would have preferred dedicated media keys on the right side of the keyboard. Instead, SteelSeries chose to place its logo in that spot, which seems like a waste of real estate. There’s also no dedicated macro keys, although it is possible through the software to assign macros to virtually any key and their absence saves some desk space.

mediakeys

There’s no wrist rest included with the Apex 150, which is a shame but not uncommon at this price. Also, since the keyboard is kind of thick and doesn’t slope gracefully to the desktop, the absence is definitely noticeable while typing for an extended period of time.

Software

The SteelSeries Engine 3 software, which supports not only the Apex 150 but other SteelSeries peripherals, is actually a competent program. That may sound like a backhanded compliment but it’s not; keyboard software can be fairly hit or miss and it’s usually a miss. But the SteelSeries Engine offers more than just the ability to customize your lighting effects and macros (which it of course does); it also plugs in other compatible programs. There is a dedicated menu for apps which can sync with the Apex 150, including configurable lighting options for Discord, for example.

Apex150Software

That customized lighting extends to games, too. SteelSeries’ GameSense turns in-game activity into color coordinated effects and tones on the keyboard. While only a handful of titles are currently supported, including Minecraft and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, the in-game effects are cool. GameSense draws to mind Alienware’s AlienFX system, albeit in a much earlier stage. There’s also an option to sync those color schemes across all of your SteelSeries devices, which is a nice touch.

Gaming

The keys on the SteelSeries Apex 150 are quick and responsive, providing just enough feedback to add some confidence to keystrokes when mashing your way through a game. And thanks to the membrane switches, it’s especially quiet if you’re the type of gamer who is easily irritated by the noise generated by loud mechanical switches. The keycaps could be a little wider, as they led to the occasional errant key-press. But overall the Apex 150 is a delight for gaming.

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As previously mentioned, the GameSense mechanic is still limited in terms of compatibility. But playing Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, there’s some cool synced effects to enjoy like red tinted keys after a kill. Clearly, higher-end switches like Cherry MX or even proprietary switches like those found on Razer keyboards could offer an advantage in twitchier games. But for the price difference and the reliability of the keys on the Apex 150 it’s a fair tradeoff.

Macros are an especially important feature to MOBA and MMO gamers, and once they’re set-up on the Apex 150, they’re easy to use. Personally, I would prefer dedicated keys like those found on the Corsair K55, but there’s a great appeal to the sheer volume of assignable macros one can create given the ability to use any key on the board to instigate a macro string. Setting nine macros to the numpad, for example, is a decent compromise to having dedicated keys.

Purchasing Guide

The SteelSeries Apex 150 normally sells $50. Once in a blue moon it can be found for $40, but that isn’t typical:

  • See the SteelSeries Apex 150 Gaming Keyboard on Amazon
  • See the SteelSeries Apex 150 Gaming Keyboard on Amazon (UK)

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