A few months ago SteelSeries launched the Apex Pro Mini, an ultra-compact and highly customizable gaming keyboard. It may also be one of the best gaming keyboards on the market, but frankly, it’s too compact and too customizable for the vast majority of gamers. ) return the dial.
The Apex 9 Series comes in two layouts: TKL (Tenkeyless) and Mini (60%). Although this review will focus on the Apex 9 TKL, the keyboard is pretty much the same (except for the layout). Both the Apex 9 TKL and Apex 9 Mini are wired keyboards featuring SteelSeries’ new hot-swappable OptiPoint linear optical switches. These switches have two points of actuation. That means it has two points of actuation (1mm and 1.5mm). 0.1mm to the nearest.
The SteelSeries Apex 9 TKL and Apex 9 Mini are available now for $140 and $130 respectively. These keyboards aren’t as customizable as the Apex Pro Mini, but they’re also less expensive. At this time, the Apex 9 TKL and Apex 9 Mini can only be used with linear switches. SteelSeries plans to offer both click and tactile versions of OptiPoint switches in accessory packs in the future, but at this time there is no information on pricing for these or whether the keyboard will include click/tactile switches. future.
|switch||OptiPoint Linear Optical Switch|
|lighting||RGB per key|
|media key||1 multifunctional, clickable volume roller|
|connectivity||Wired – USB-C|
|key cap||DOUBLE SHOT PBT|
|construction||Aluminum alloy frame and top plate, plastic chassis|
|software||Steel Series GG|
|Dimensions (LxWxH)||14 x 5.04 x 1.65 inch/355 x 128 x 42mm|
|weight||1.4lbs / 635g|
Apex 9 TKL Design and Manufacturing
The Apex 9 TKL has a tenkeyless layout with navigation and arrow keys and no number pad (the Apex 9 Mini has a 60% layout with no number pad, navigation keys or arrow keys). The keyboard is solidly built, with a “series 5000” aircraft-grade aluminum metal frame and top plate (although the chassis itself is plastic), and double-shot PBT keycaps.
The Apex 9 Series features the same minimalist and elegant chassis design we first saw with the Apex Pro Mini. In fact, the Apex 9 Mini looks identical to his Apex Pro Mini.
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The Apex 9 TKL is a bit more roomy, with multi-function media buttons and a textured, clickable metal volume roller in the upper right corner.
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On the back of the Apex 9 TKL are two sets of flip-out feet for height adjustment and an orange plastic SteelSeries keycap puller stored under a silicone flap. The keyboard is wired via a detachable USB-C cable (a 7-foot braided USB-C to USB-A cable is included), with a USB-C port in the upper left corner. I know SteelSeries tries to keep the chassis streamlined, but it would be nice to see a passthrough port or two (or even multiple USB-C input ports for cable management).
Typing and Gaming Experience with Apex 9 TKL
The Apex 9 comes with SteelSeries’ new OptiPoint optical switches. It is hot-swappable and features two points of actuation (not to be confused with dual actuation, a feature currently only present on the Apex Pro Mini).
The Apex 9 has hot-swappable switches, but only optical switches are compatible, not mechanical switches. The company also says that the keyboard officially only supports its own OptiPoint switches. Third-party optical switches will fit on the board, but black-bottomed switches absorb too much light to work properly (OptiPoint switches have a white bottom).
The Apex 9’s switches feature two points of actuation. That is, he can adjust the actuation at two levels: 1mm (“game mode”) and he 1.5mm (“typing mode”). These two modes can be switched using SteelSeries’ his GG software or a keyboard shortcut (SteelSeries key + I/O). Initially, I was concerned that the distance between these two actuation points wasn’t changing enough, but using the keyboard in both modes (both typing and gaming) cleared it up.
Typing on the Apex 9 is pretty comfortable, considering it has linear optical switches instead of my preferred ticky mechanical switches. The Apex 9’s switches have both light actuation force (35g) and short travel (3.4mm) compared to standard Cherry MX Red mechanical switches, so typing on the Apex 9 is a little too fluttery and may take some time to retrieve. Familiar — especially if you come from a background of heavier, non-linear, mechanical switches.
Gaming on the Apex 9 felt more comfortable than typing. Naturally, linear switches, light or otherwise, usually offer a better gaming experience than typing. SteelSeries says the switch has a 0.2 millisecond response time and zero debounce, making it feel very fast, especially in game mode, with very light and quick keypresses.
Apex 9 TKL Features and Software
Apex 9 TKL works with SteelSeries Engine, part of the SteelSeries GG software suite. However, the keyboard has functions for switching between gaming and typing modes (SS key + I/O), switching onboard profiles (SS key + F9), recording macros (SS key + F10), and adjusting brightness. Comes with preset shortcuts. Software doesn’t matter because it’s per-key RGB (SS key + F11/F12).
SteelSeries Engine allows you to remap your keyboard’s primary and secondary (SS key) bindings and set up 5 onboard profiles for your keyboard. Oddly enough, you can remap almost any key, including the SteelSeries function keys, with the exception of the multifunction media keys and the clickable volume roller. Also, you can’t adjust the actuation point of each key individually (like you can on the Apex Pro Mini). You can only switch the entire keyboard between game mode and typing mode.
You can also change the Apex 9 lighting in SteelSeries Engine. Each key can be individually customized with different colors and effects for three different layers (active, reactive, and idle). You can save different lighting profiles in SteelSeries Engine, but you cannot link them to onboard profiles.
In fact, the SteelSeries Apex 9 TKL is a very compelling offering for those interested in optical switches with adjustable actuation, but the 0.1mm per key excess adjustment offered by the Apex Pro Mini is necessary. There is none. The Apex 9 TKL’s larger layout is definitely a plus for those who find 60% layouts too small. For those who don’t, the Apex 9 Mini is also available. His keyboard’s hot-swappable PCB is interesting, but not as versatile as it sounds, considering it’s only truly compatible with SteelSeries’ own, yet-to-be-released, optical switches.
Both the Apex 9 TKL and Apex 9 Mini are significantly cheaper than the Apex Pro Mini, but that doesn’t mean they’re cheaper. If you don’t want the Apex 9’s two-point actuation hot-swappable optical switches, we recommend looking for something less expensive, such as the TKL Redragon Vishnu K596 or the 60% Corsair K65 RGB Mini.