Mar 15 2020

Late Keyboard Review – SteelSeries Apex 300

Very basic and cheapish gaming keyboard, which for 30 quid at the time, having dropped from 60, can’t really complain when you’re getting a backlit keyboard with a plethora of macro keys.

Now my requirements for a gaming keyboard are that the keys are low profile, backlit and membrane switch, hence why I went with this keyboard as my daily driver. I also want soft, smooth and quiet operation whilst being immersed in my games. I wouldn’t really say this keyboard has any of these qualities. Whilst the keys are membrane, it takes quite a bit of driving force to get the key to go down, with the angle that your finger attacks the key not helping, such as for some reason the keys higher up the rows feeling exponentially more resistance to going down, which results in a hard whack agaist the shield underneath, causing noisy feedback. It also hasn’t helped that at some point I spilt sugar-free coke on the keyboard, after which having given a thorough clean, has caused a few keys to stiffen up even more, which I have had to revisit with a wet wipe a few times and should probably apply some lithium grease.

The keyboard is black in colour, with a matt frame and glossy inner surface between the key sections. The backlight comes in only one colour, white, which is fine I guess for the price, though the rest of my PC setup is accented orange, so it does ruin my style slightly that I can’t set the colour, even from a choice of 7, which even the cheap RGB keyboards on the market atleast provide. You can atleast control the brightness of the light.

The keyboard comes with a multitude of macro keys, customisable via the SteelSeries Engine software for any shortcut or text. Multiple profiles can also be setup to allow additional functions of the macro keys. Even the standard keys on the keyboard are programmable. One of the major issues I did have with the software though, was that whilst it was running, my keyboard would all of a sudden have a wobble, with the backlights flickering, and the keys becoming completely unresponsive. The keyboard would then no longer work, even on another PC, until the firmware via the software was reinstalled. This happened very often, and became a concern of whether the keyboard would always come back on, due to the fact that firmware installs can be risky due to the chance of it bricking devices if certain recovery options are not in place.

There are also media keys accessible by holding down the steelseries branded fn key and tapping the relevant function key. The arrow keys have two additional keys, up-left and up-right, which do actually work in text documents etc, but I’m not sure of use in a game these days unless altered within some function perhaps in the Engine software. I understand this was mass-user requested after omitting it from previous keyboards, but not for me I’m afraid unless there had of been a down-left, down-right key aswell, though at that point, may as well just install an analogue stick for full 360 motion.

Build is strong, with large rubber feet underneath for grip. If you do want the keyboard raising at an angle, you have to swap the rubber feet for taller ones. The macro keys that are found above the function keys are raised high, and easily identifiable under the finger, and the remainder of macro keys are again as easily accessible to the side.

As the keyboard currently stands, with the software and feel of the keys, plus lack of RGB, I do struggle to recommend the keyboard, though it is of good value at the entry level point with the additional macro keys. I would say it could appeal to MMORPG gamers, and for my own purposes of controlling streamlabs, as I attempt to break into Twitch streaming, the functionality of the keyboard is fine. For typing and usual keyboard & mouse gameplay, I feel the keyboard isn’t the most comfortable or effective, reducing my usual touchtype speed score of 80 to 65 due to certain key presses just not feeling as though they’re registering properly in the heat of the moment.

Now that’s not the end of the story. Seeing as this is a keyboard from around 2014, there was a relevant revision released at the time with RGB and even more macro keys, the Apex 350. I’m hoping that they had enough time to realise any issues with the 300 and hopefully make the key presses just that little better in feel of actuating, so having purchased a used one from CEX, which normally I’m completely aghast second-hand keyboards due to how disgusting they can get but I find CEX are good for storing well maintained stock, I’ll have to see if there are any performance upgrades, including the keyboard hopefully no longer spazzing out when using the Engine software. Hopefully if the condition is perfect enough that I’ll be happy to use it after a deep clean, then if all I get out of it is just RGB zones, then I’ll take that atleast. So stay tuned for part 2.

Apex 300 Keyboard

Apex 350 Keyboard

Permanent link to this article: https://www.thelategamer.com/professional-reviews/hardware/late-keyboard-review-steelseries-apex-300/

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