Steelseries APEX 9 TKL Gaming Keyboard
Design and functionality
The Steelseries Apex 9 TKL is a mid-size form factor keyboard specially designed for gamers in mind. Apart from the usual QWERTY keyboard, the Apex 9 features arrow keys, function keys and two rows of three movement keys (Page Up, Page Down etc). Although those six keys won't normally add much in terms of gaming in their normal form, all keys can be configured for macros or other functionalities within games. But those extra keys do come in handy when using the keyboard in an office environment.
The keyboard comes with a multi-function multimedia wheel situated on the top right of the device. By default, this is for volume, but has a press function, which will mute the currently playing media. However, as with all the keys, this can be customised for other functions if you so desire. There is also a multimedia button right below the scroll-wheel which can be used to pause, play, fast forward or rewind media. This is handy, although you will need to remember the number of presses required for each function.
This layout is similar to the Apex 3 TKL as you would expect by the similar sized keyboard. One thing that annoyed me about the APEX 3 TKL however was the positioning of the Caps Lock and Windows Lock indicators. Steelseries have fixed this issue by highlighting the Caps lock a different colour when activated. – no more tiny lights that cannot be seen without peering over buttons.
The APEX 9 TKL has a USB braided cable with the input positioned to the left of the keyboard. I did prefer the option on the Apex 3 TKL that allowed the USB cable to be position in one of three locations on the rear of the keyboard, allowing gamers to plug it in depending on their setup. Being that my mouse is positioned to the right of the keyboard, it does make sense to have the cable away from the mouse, reducing the chance that those large mouse swipes across the desk won't be hindered by a cable.
The APEX 9 can be tilted to suit, with two adjustable legs on each side. The tilt legs actually allow three height options – flat, half and full allowing gamers (and those in the office) to optimise their typing comfort over long gaming sessions (or work days).
The Apex 9 has an aluminium frame, which gives it a feeling of sturdiness. The streamlined nature of the keyboard means that it isn’t overly heavy though. Adding to the sturdiness is the OmniPoint optical switches. These switches have been rated to 100 million key presses, which would take someone typing 100 words per minute non-stop for half a year to eventuate. That person would likely break before the switches do. The switches can easily be swapped out if you so decide, with an inbuilt keycap puller (hidden in the base of the keyboard) to allow gamers to remove the caps and access the switches. The key caps themselves are Doubleshot PBT caps, further giving the keyboard some added reliability.
With the OmniPoint switches being optical switches, this allows dual actuation for key presses. This feature allows users to have one key represent two different functions. However, this can be difficult to get used to, especially if you are the type of person who generally presses all the way down on a standard mechanical keyboard.
The Steelseries APEX 9 TKL uses the Steelseries GG Engine software to allow user customisations. For gamers who like to customise their colours, the APEX 9 keys can be customised on a per-key basis. With a range of static and dynamic options, there will surely be something for every taste. As well as the RGB customisations, the software can also be used to remap keys, create macros, and set up new profiles. Indeed, the Steelseries GG software allows two separate key binding sets – one for Gaming Mode and one for Typing Mode so that gamers can feel comfortable using the keyboard in an office environment. And all these functions are all reasonably simple to perform with the software.
The Steelseries APEX 9 TKL is a great all-rounder. Although it does not have a keypad and would not suit someone who uses numbers in their daily life, it has everything a gamer would require from a keyboard. I particularly like the feel of the OmniPoint optical switches which are not as loud and clicky as some mechanical switches, but still provide some feedback when pressed. And the ability to customise each key (both in RGB and functionality) gives gamers the chance to tailor the keyboard to their needs. And the mid-size frame takes up less real estate on your gaming desk than a standard keyboard allowing for greater space for those sweeping mouse movements.
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