I recently reviewed the Steelseries Apex 5 Hybrid mechanical keyboard and while I loved most of it, I honestly couldn’t get past the absurdly loud keys. After two weeks of typing up a racket, I packed it away and put the Apex 3 in its place. It’s not fair to pit the Apex 3 against something that’s double its price but which of you has never heard the phrase “why can’t you just be like your brother/ sister”?
I’ll be referring a lot to the Apex 5 so you should definitely go check out that review as well.
From the moment you unbox the Apex 3, there’s a noticeable difference in the feel and finish. Even though they look fairly similar, the Apex 3 just feels cheaper. Gone are the mechanical switches, the aircraft grade metal alloy deck or the novel OLED display in the top right corner.
Instead, you get what Steelseries calls, ‘Whisper Quiet Gaming Switches’, a polymer chassis and only 10-zone RGB lighting. But there are also some good things here that buyers can appreciate. The keys are much quieter, the keyboard is also water-resistant and it costs half as much.
So let’s dig into the Apex 3 and see how it fairs, shall we?
Steelseries Apex 3 RGB GaminReview
As I’ve alluded to already, the Apex 3 is more like a stripped-down version of the Apex 5. The two keyboards share a lot of similar visual cues like the key layouts and the tactile volume dial and media controls. The Apex 3 is almost exactly the same dimensions as its older sibling but it does weigh a smidgen lighter at 1.8Lbs. This is likely due to the lighter polymer chassis and membrane circuitry.
As if to prove the point, I am using the same magnetic wrist wrest from the Apex 5 review sample and it works seamlessly with the Apex 3. It also has the same handy, three-way cable routing channel that I really like and the same height-adjustable stands and rubber feet. It makes perfect sense for Steelseries to save money by using the same moulds, caps and cables so that you end up with a more affordable but quality device.
The Apex 3 doesn’t retain the OLED screen but you aren’t really missing anything. In saying that, I feel that the volume dial is much too small and you often have to fumble around the edge of the keyboard to find it. I’d love for Steelseries to make the dials much wider and easier for the hand to find.
Waterproof disco lights
The Apex 3 has an IP32 water and dust resistant rating which means it can withstand accidental spills of water or non-sticky liquids. The rubber membrane fully seals the keyboards internals from the outside world. The rubber membrane — which appears translucent white color when powered down — lets the RGB backlighting lighting shine through quite brightly.
It reminds me of the disco floor from that scene where John Travolta was dancing in Saturday Night Fever (I swear I’m not that old). Unfortunately, you can never get the Apex 3 to look as cool because it uses a rather limited 10-zone lighting system, unlike the Apex 5’s per-key lighting. So, people who like to create elaborate lighting profiles for each game and app they use will be out of luck here.
That’s not to say the lighting is bad. Far from it. It’s bright and punchy. You can adjust it using the Steelseries Engine software. This is the hub where you can adjust the different lighting profiles as well as assign button macros.
Whisper quiet(ish) typing
The Apex 3 uses Steelseries Whisper Quiet Gaming Switches. The keycaps sit on short rubber stems emanating from a rubber membrane. This gives the Apex 3’s keys a similar floating look and can fool you into thinking they are mechanical. They’re not and therefore much quieter.
I’d never go so far as calling them ‘whisper quiet’ though. They are definitely audible but not in the same annoying clackety-clack way that the Apex 5 is. People will still hear you typing but it will be far less annoying for them. It’s safe to say the Apex 3 is a much more office-friendly keyboard than its sibling.
However, these quieter keys can’t compete with the responsiveness and tactility of the Apex 5’s hybrid mechanical switches. The Apex 3’s keys are softer, almost mushy. If it wasn’t for the quick elastic snap back from the membrane, this would be a terrible keyboard.
Thankfully, it’s not terrible. It’s very decent. I experienced only the slightest degradation in my typing speed and accuracy compared to the mechanical switches.
Sadly, gaming on the Apex 3 was less than I’d hoped it would be. The keys were not as responsive which led to a lot more hard presses which in turn fatigued my arm. After just an hour of gaming. With Apex 5, I felt a real and discernible improvement in my keyboard gaming experience. The Apex 3 made me work even harder and I was left feeling disappointed enough to jump back to my trusty Razer Wolverine controller.
I opened by saying the Steelseries Apex 3 is a stripped-down version of the Apex 5. It sells for about $130 AUD at JB Hi-Fi but you can find it for under $100 on Amazon. The Apex 3 is a good looking keyboard with a durable and solid build that will keep it safe from the ravages of water and dust.
However, a keyboard isn’t just about how it looks but more about how it feels to use and the Apex 3 doesn’t feel great to use. It’s much better than your standard OfficeWorks keyboard but still leaves a lot to be desired in both gaming and typing.
At this price, the Apex 3 faces some serious competition from the likes of Razer Cynosa Chroma and the Corsair K55 RGB which are both cheaper and offer similar specs.
Hell, there’s even the Alienware Advanced Gaming Keyboard with its mechanical brown switches which feel better than the Apex 3. In light of the competition, the Apex 3 doesn’t stand out enough to warrant its asking price.
The Steelseries Apex 3 was loaned to PowerUp by Steelseries Australia for the purpose of this review.
Product Name: Steelseries Apex 3 RGB Gaming Keyboard
Product Description: RGB Gaming keyboard
Offer price: $129