When I stopped playing music so religiously I’d figured that would’ve been the end of me using so many keyboards, yet here I am with another keyboard (of a different persuasion) review. If you read my review for the SteelSeries Apex 3 (which you can read here), you’d know that I now hold SteelSeries in pretty high regard having now used some of their peripherals. After many, many hours of using the Apex 5 mechanical keyboard, this continues to be true. The Apex 5 is tactile, precise and flexible, and fits the higher price of entry due to its comfortable switches and surprisingly useful OLED screen which can most definitely be used for displaying your favourite memes.
In contrast to the Apex 3, which featured quiet mechanical keys, the Apex 5 makes no such compromises and willfully treats your ears to the cacophony of clicks that are mechanical keys. In saying that, the keys aren’t intrusively loud, but have that satisfying clack that’ll make you feel like Jack Torrance from The Shining. This is thanks to SteelSeries implementing custom, hybrid keys which are based on Cherry MX Blues, where an audible response and satisfying tactile feedback are characteristic of the key switch itself. The Apex 5 is still your standard keyboard size and features all the bells and whistles, including the tactile volume wheel and media key that were so detrimental to my productivity with the Apex 3. Unlike the Apex 3, however, the RGB illumination on the Apex 5 is much better. I’ve always been a fan of per-key illumination and it was probably one of my bigger personal gripes with the Apex 3 (though not a fundamental fault with the keyboard itself). Also, for a keyboard that doesn’t feature a recessed illumination plate, the light spill is actually pretty minimal. Where a lot of keyboards just have their RGB lighting bleed all over the place, the lighting method implemented by SteelSeries here is still quite neat and that fact that this is all still while affording per-key illumination makes it all the better.
On to the build quality, and this is where SteelSeries find themselves being incredibly consistent. Much like the Apex 3, the Apex 5 has a durable top plate to protect the keyboard from you dropping your phone on it like a dud. Unlike the Apex 3, the keys sit in the top plate and not in a recessed panel. This makes cleaning and keycap switching much easier. I much prefer this as you’d be amazed at how quickly keyboards can get hair and dust all throughout them, the ability to easily clean your keyboard is great for wanting to make it last as long as possible. There are also exposed screws on the top plate which means you theoretically could replace the top plate but there aren’t any Troll and I top plates so I have not bothered.
Now, let’s move on to the OLED display. When I first started using this keyboard I found it pretty pointless. I installed the SteelSeries engine and there were some pretty cool little apps that worked with it, like Tidal (who uses Tidal?) and Discord, sadly no Spotify…yet. I was pretty underwhelmed until I saw that you could actually make your own apps for it. Given how I love spending time on pointless things, I immediately tried to get a Spotify app working on the OLED screen…and it worked (for about 20 minutes then some of the scriptings got borked and I never bothered to fix it). Regardless, it is really cool that SteelSeries allows you to make your own applications for the OLED display. You can also have system monitoring displayed as well as the most important of them all, memes. There’s nothing else to say here. You can display memes on the OLED display (just not in full colour).
There isn’t a whole lot else to say about the SteelSeries Apex 5. It’s rigid, tactile, satisfyingly sleek and simple. It does away with a lot of bells and whistles that can make some higher-end keyboard clunky and confusing and instead refines the standard keyboard experience while also giving the user the freedom to customise nearly everything on a software level. Ranging from custom blue mechanical key switches (which feel great to use) to putting your favourite shocked Pikachu on the included OLED display, the SteelSeries Apex 5 has to be my favourite keyboard to date.