SteelSeries Apex Pro Mini Wireless Review – Size matters not

It feels like mainstream gaming keyboards are really struggling to stand out from the crowd — often resorting to some schtick or gimmick. For the new SteelSeries Apex Pro Mini Wireless, the schtick is optical mechanical switches whose actuation can be adjusted from 0.2mm to 3.8mm. And if that wasn’t enough, you can also assign two actions to the same key but with different actuation points. The use case for this can be truly wild in gaming where you can assign run and walk to the same key. 

But schtick aside, the thing that makes the Apex Pro Mini Wireless truly stand out is its eye-watering MSRP of $360. This is an exorbitantly expensive proposition for a 60% board. There’s also a wired version that’s about $100 cheaper, but that’s still quite expensive. However, Steelseries believes that its fast, adjustable switches, Quantum 2.0 wireless and customisation is enough to convince buyers. 

I’ve used the Apex Pro Mini Wireless for a few weeks and while it’s a truly fascinating keyboard, I’m convinced that it’ll appeal to a very small niche of gamers.

Steelseries Apex Pro Mini Wireless Review

As a 60% keyboard with a footprint of just 11-inches wide and 4-inches deep, this is a comically small piece of kit. Pick it up though and the heft of the aluminium alloy quickly dispels any notion that this is a toy. At 543g, it’s heavy but not so much that you can stash into a backpack to carry for use on the go.

There’s also barely any space for any distinctive design touches so the Apex Pro Mini doesn’t look much different from all other 60% boards. Only the logo on the back next to the main power toggle and USB Type-C charging point tells you whose board this is. Underneath the board are two height adjustable feet and some truly grippy rubber feet that stick the keyboard to surfaces like glue.

Being a 60% board, you lose the number pad, home/ arrow keys and function keys. Most of those functions can still be accessed by pressing the special Steelseries key in combination with many of the keys which have the secondary function labelled on the side. For example, the WASD keys become your arrow keys while the number keys become the Fn keys.

Most people will likely miss the arrow keys especially for spreadsheet and coding work. Using the modifier key is fine but requires mental remapping and I honestly found it faster to just use the mouse to move my cursor. It also doesn’t help that the secondary function legends aren’t illuminated which makes them hard to read even in daylight. 

The Apex Pro Mini uses Doubleshot PBT caps which are chunky and durable. You can swap the caps for aftermarket ones of your liking too — Steelseries includes a keycap puller in the box. Underneath those caps are the star of the show — the OmniPoint 2.0 adjustable switches. 

These patented switches are linear but use the power of magnets allowing them to have variable actuation distances. They go as low as 0.2mm which can actuate at the slightest tap or 3.8mm which requires a stronger, more deliberate key press. And you can adjust the stops by 0.1mm so if you find 1.9mm to be better for you than 2.0mm, you can have that. 

I found my sweet spot to be at the 2.8mm mark where the keys were responsive enough without actuating with every clumsy brush of mine. You can adjust the actuations for the whole board or individual keys using the SteelSeries Engine software. Its pretty straightforward with distinct tabs for bindings, actuation as well as dual bindings and dual actuations. You can also change up the RGB lighting and create custom profiles for different scenarios.

For gamers, you can set your W key to walk on 1.0mm actuation and then run at 3.8mm. In theory, it makes sense but in practice, getting used to the minute pressure changes in the heat of the game is a lot harder than it sounds. This is still something that analog switches can do much better. Nevertheless, serious gamers can find a wealth of ways to employ this wizardry to their advantage.

Game genre isn’t a concern with this board since you can use it for twitch shooters as easily as MOBA’s. They can be as fast, slow or responsive as you want them to be. Playing Apex Legends? Make them faster. Playing Diablo, have multiple bindings. Typing up that school work, set it to a comfortable typing actuation. The limit is your imagination and patience to learn how to use the board. Having configurations that can are accessible with a click is super handy.

For more everyday circumstances, you can also dual-bind common actions like copy pasting or printing. Take a bit of time and you’ll find plenty of useful ways to use this feature. Once you’re satisfied, you can save these configurations to the on-board memory and easily swap between them later.

But yet again, the challenge remains in muscle memory. We are all so used to certain key combinations and placement that it takes considerable mental effort to use the Apex Pro Mini to its full potential — something that quite frankly, not many people will do.

Some other things to note is the wireless in the name. The Apex Pro Mini uses Steelseries Quantum 2.0 Wireless which is their version of 2.4Ghz and Bluetooth 5.0 wombo-combo. It works great with excellent connectivity and stability. The keyboard comes with a small USB-C dongle and a USB-A extension Adapter which helps keep precious Type-C ports free and position the receiver away from potential interference.

Bluetooth works well and you can pair three different devices to the board. A simple key combo activates pairing and you can switch devices seamlessly. This is actually the preferred connection for most things since Bluetooth is far more frugal with battery life than 2.4Ghz. You should get about 40 hours with lighting on compared to 30 hours on 2.4Ghz. That’s okay but far from impressive; especially considering how expensive this board is.

I also never really noticed any difference in latency while playing on Bluetooth compared to 2.4Ghz but then again, I’m an old fuddy duddy. You CoD Warzone prodigies might feel the difference. Pro’s will likely just plug the Apex Pro Mini via the included and detachable USB-C to A cable.

Verdict

Look, I really like the Steelseries Apex Pro Mini Wireless. Mostly because I love 60% boards and wireless peripherals that are well built, good battery life and stylish. The OmniPoint switches are very impressive and all the different ways you can use them equally so. However, this will definitely be a very niche thing. For most people, myself included, adjustment to variable actuations and dual bindings is quite simply, too much of a bother. 

Beyond testing the keyboard for this review, I quickly lapsed into using it like any other 60% board. If you are like me, there are certainly far cheaper alternatives that will scratch your itch. But for that very special segment of users who want all this customisation, then this is a fantastic board — but it’s certainly won’t be for everyone.

Steelseries Apex Pro Mini Wireless
LIKES
OmniPoint 2.0 switches
Both 2.4Ghz and Bluetooth connections
Impressive customisation
Excellent build
DISLIKES
Way too expensive
Battery life is average
9

Related articles

Kizito Katawonga
Kizito Katawongahttp://www.medium.com/@katawonga
Kizzy is our Tech Editor. He's a total nerd with design sensibilities who's always on the hunt for the latest, greatest and sexiest tech that enhances our work and play. When he's not testing the latest gadgets or trying to listen to his three whirlwind daughters, Kizzy likes to sink deep into a good story-driven single player game.

Share article