Report Card: SteelSeries Apex Pro TKL (Review)

SteelSeries recently released their newest keyboard iteration in the form of the Apex Pro TKL, a compact version of their already popular Apex Pro. The winner of several hardware awards from PCGamer, Engadget, and tom’sHARDWARE, the Apex Pro TKL is a wholly unique keyboard designed for gamers and office workers alike. Equipped with SteelSeries’ proprietary “OmniPoint” switches, users of the Apex Pro keyboards can adjust, on a per-key basis, the actuation point of each of the primary keys. The OmniPoint switches are the defining trait of the Apex Pro lineup, but the rest of the feature set is just as impressive.

Built on an aircraft grade aluminum frame, the Apex Pro TKL is as sturdy of a keyboard as they come, and the included magnetic wrist rest is comfortable without the need for added padding. Like other premium keyboards, the Pro series includes per-key lighting, customizable through SteelSeries’ all-in-one software package, Steel Engine 3. Also included is a USB 3.0 pass through, which is a feature I wish more keyboards made use of. By putting an extra USB port on your keyboard, it can make connecting things like wired game controllers, USB headsets, thumbs drives, or other frequently removed USB devices easier and more convenient. Rounding out the feature set is the dedicated multimedia wheel and a small OLED display used to navigate menus, swap profiles, and more. A fun, but ultimately limited feature is the fact the OLED display can be customized to show a custom GIF or static low-quality image to bring some further personalization to the keyboard. For those with the desire to see hardware information, the small screen can also display GPU and CPU utilization and temperatures, which is exactly what I have mine set to, which I guess is pretty neat.

The star of the show is the OmniPoint switches, and it’s these custom switches that separate the Apex Pro and TKL variant from every other mechanical keyboard on the market today. By harnessing the power of tiny magnets and dark magic, SteelSeries allows keyboard warriors like myself to adjust the actuation point of each individual key “on-the-fly”. The actuation point can be set anywhere between 0.4mm and 3.6 mm. The actuation point doesn’t change the travel distance of the key, but instead adjusts where during the key travel that the press is recognized and the input is registered. At 0.4mm, it takes the lightest of touches to activate a key, which when combined with a spammable weapon ability, can quickly come in handy.

The ways in which this can be useful are numerous, but a great example can be garnered from FPS games. Set the “WASD” keys to 0.5mm for quick turns and split second direction changes while setting your grenade key to something higher like 2.5 or 3.6mm to prevent accidentally spamming grenades if you brush your fingers over the wrong key by mistake. Playing a game where you need to consistently spam a series of keys, drop the actuation to 0.4mm and be limited only by your own muscle-memory. Do you need to take a break from racking up kills in Overwatch long enough to write that college essay, crank up the actuation point to help prevent massive spelling errors as your fingers race across the board. What makes this so great is that these changes can be done on the fly by setting up different profiles that can be loaded directly from the on-board memory via the OLED screen.

After putting this keyboard through a quick, but thorough battery of gaming/typing tests, I can tell you that while the benefit of the OmniPoint switches are noticeable, they’re definitely niche and won’t appeal to most casual gamers. Being able to adjust actuation points of individual keys did make those twitch reaction keys noticeably quicker to perform, but as someone who isn’t competing on a high level, I don’t know that it gave me any sort of advantage. Taking the OmniPoint switches out of the equation, this keyboard is essentially the Apex 7 TKL with extremely linear and smooth custom switches, and that’s a good comparison because the Apex 7 is an amazing keyboard.

SteelSeries is rightfully charging a premium for the ability to adjust your actuation point, and if you’re a gamer who wants total control over their keyboard, I can’t think of any reason to pass on the Apex Pro TKL, but if swapping back and forth between actuation points for different tasks doesn’t appeal to you, save yourself the $50 and go with the Apex 7. That said, with an MSRP of $179, the Apex Pro TKL is well worth the investment, and I believe that with more time and practice of my own, I may have a hard time going back to a standard switch ever again. I give the SteelSeries Apex Pro TKL a 4 out of 5.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: