Constant chatter with your friends during extended gaming sessions or Zoom meetings calls for proper hydration, but every time we bring liquids to our desks, we run the risk of wrecking our keyboards with a small spill. Fortunately, SteelSeries eliminates that risk with its new Apex 3 TKL gaming keyboard, which is IP32 water resistant.
This keyboard also has shockingly good Whisper-Quiet membrane switches, and it’s rare to find a typing experience you love for just $45.
SteelSeries Apex 3 TKL Keyboard
|Switches||SteelSeries whisper quiet switches|
|Storage on board||1 profile|
|Cable||6 feet, rubber|
|Dimensions (LxWxH)||364mm x 150mm x 40mm|
When I first sat down at the? Apex 3 TKL (opens in new tab)I wasn’t sure what to expect given the $45 price tag. I thought it would either be hot crap or, at best, good but not great. But the design of this keyboard proved to me that the best gaming keyboards don’t have to cost an arm and a leg.
This entire keyboard is made of slightly glossy plastic, but it attracts fewer fingerprints than competitors like the Wooting Two HEwhich is impressive considering it costs less than half the cost of Wooting’s board.
The plastic construction is light as a feather. Weighing in at just 639g, it’s a bit too light for its own good, as the lack of weight caused the tiny ten-keyless frame to occasionally move on my desk during use.
There are slots for cable routing on the bottom, which I really appreciated because Apex’s USB-A cable is non-removable. The Apex 3 also has two flip-up feet on the bottom for a comfortable typing angle. I appreciated that these were rubber, but while that gives them some extra grip, it’s not enough to counteract the keyboard’s lightness.
I was a little annoyed at first that the Apex 3 didn’t have a detachable cable, but that could be because the keyboard is IP32 water resistant and a detachable cable could be another way to get water in.
To test the waterproofing of the keyboard, I filled a cup of water and with the Apex 3 connected to my laptop, I spilled water on the keyboard. After you quickly wiped the Apex 3 with a napkin, it worked as usual, which is very cool and can be very practical if you are clumsy.
There’s not much I don’t like about the Apex 3’s design, but I didn’t appreciate the company turning around some legends. For example, the 1 is above the exclamation mark, where it is usually below it.
Unlike too many gaming keyboards, here we have dedicated media keys. While they are a little fiddly to operate, they are better than nothing.
At the top right of the keyboard is a notched volume wheel and a small black square that controls your media. Once you press the square, your media will be paused; a double press will skip a track and a triple press will go back to the previous track.
I will say the media “square” works fine until you have to press it three times to go back to a previous track. I can handle two presses, but three clicks felt very clunky.
Typing experience on the Apex 3 TKL
The SteelSeries Apex 3 TKL features the company’s Whisper-Quiet gaming switches rated for 20 million keystrokes, which is quite a bit less than the other switches we tested. But for $45, I think 20 million strokes is more than enough.
As their name implies, these switches are silent, which is partly due to the fact that they are diaphragm rather than mechanical. Before you disembark, let me tell you that I really, really enjoyed these switches, and I’m not usually into tactile bumps.
Typing with the Apex 3 was relaxing; I’m so used to thick tactile bumps and ASMR-style linear switches that the feel of membrane switches feels strange. Unlike most membrane switches, however, the Whisper-Quiet switches have some tactility, which made the typing experience feel elegant and responsive.
The only unpleasant noise I experienced with this keyboard was with the stabilizers, and to be honest they didn’t sound that bad. It’s just that because the switches are so quiet, the stabilizer chatter on this board is more noticeable than on most other boards. But for $45, what do you expect?
Game experience on the Apex 3 TKL
SteelSeries has proven itself when it comes to gaming peripherals, so even though the Apex 3 TKL costs $45, I had relatively high expectations when it came to in-game performance.
The funny thing is, I performed better with the Apex 3 in-game than any other keyboard I’ve tested. On Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold WarI made it to round 50 on Firebase Z, and just to give some perspective, round 40 is where the extra powerful Wonder Weapons barely become more effective than a regular rifle. I’m sure my friend and I could have at least made it to lap 55, but it was over two hours and we hit our record, so it was time to exfiltrate.
The Apex 3’s membrane nature didn’t detract from its battlefield capabilities, even though I had become so used to mechanical switches, which is evident in my performance in Zombies. If I were to compare the Whisper-Quiet switches to mechanical switches I would say they are a bit on Zeal Zilentswhat are silent tactile switches.
SteelSeries’ Apex 3 TKL runs on its SteelSeries Engine and I noticed right away that it’s almost too much like the Epic Games software.
This keyboard’s software is very similar to Razer’s Synapse software in that you can add some apps to it, such as PrismSync, which can be used to match your Apex 3’s lighting to compatible SteelSeries peripherals and even some motherboards. Unfortunately my motherboard wasn’t cool enough to work with PrismSync, but that’s okay.
The Apex 3 has six macro keys on board. I set up one of them to start up OBS studio, making the trek to round 50 with ease. could stream Cold WarI
You can adjust the RGB on this board, but you can’t do that per key. Instead, it’s based on eight zones, like a pizza! There are eight segments on the Apex 3 where you can adjust the RGB, and I think this is fair and looks great.
In addition, SteelSeries Engine allows you to remap any key you want and has many other features such as System Monitor which provides real-time thermal measurements but is more suitable for more expensive boards like the Apex ProI
I was at Staples a few days ago to pick up overpriced printer ink, and on the way out I looked at the prices of the standard membrane keyboards they had. And many of those matched the Apex 3 price or were more expensive.
After reviewing these keyboards, I realized that the Apex 3 would be a great keyboard to take to work, even if you’re not a gamer, because it’s extremely quiet, dirt cheap, and water resistant.
The SteelSeries Apex 3 is ultimately a very humble gaming keyboard because it doesn’t try to do too much and add nothing groundbreaking to your battlestation. But it does more than I expected, and I love that. The Whisper-Quiet membrane switches are very relaxing to type with, the plastic construction is very solid and doesn’t creak like a horror movie door like in other boards I’ve used.
If SteelSeries just adds a little weight to it and comes up with a better implementation of media keys, then we could have the perfect budget gaming keyboard.