SteelSeries APEX M800 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

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Product: SteelSeries APEX M800 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard
Provided By: SteelSeries
Price: $199 MSRP at time of publication

 

Introduction:

I just love mechanical keyboards. The diversity in switches and the general quality that comes with most of them just make me giddy. I am particularly filled with glee that I get to review SteelSeries’ Apex M800 mechanical gaming keyboard! I have been using this board for a good three weeks and have to say, I like it more each day that I use it.

Now just a quick introduction to SteelSeries for those of you not familiar with the brand; they are an electronics company that makes devices varied from controllers to mice, keyboards and audio devices. At CES 2015 we saw a bit of a demo of their new eye-tracking device that really could revolutionize pro gaming and game streaming.

 

First Look:

Upon gazing at the box for the first time we will notice that SteelSeries did a great job with packaging design. The outside shows off the keyboard in nice color, and shows off a lot of the design features throughout. The name of the keyboard is done in a nice high gloss wording to make it really pop.

M800 Bottom Box

 

Once the box has been opened you can see the excellent job they did securing this device so it would remain intact. After you get inside, you will find the owner’s manual, taller rubber feet for the Apex and replacement keys for use with Apple Computers.

In Box

As the pictures suggest, this is a gorgeous board, with its sleek and horizontally stretched design. On the face you will find all of the common keys with the addition of six macro keys and one out of this world huge spacebar! Near the top right corner is a SteelSeries logo that lights up if desired.

Top Profile Bottom's Up

 

A closer look at the ends of the M800 reveals that it is slightly wedge-shaped to lend itself to a nice raised stance. It also has very stylish areas for light to shine through and just make those tears of joy well up in your eyes.

Wedge-Shaped

 

Turning it around to the back edge you will find two USB ports and the 6.6 ft. nylon sheathed USB cable. The overall look of the front is nice and stylish to go with the rest of the board. The cable has two USB plugs on it to power all this bad boy has to offer.

Flipping over the M800 will reveal another world of awesome! We find the interchangeable rubber foot-pads as well as a pathway for one to route cables under the keyboard. The area is a bit shinier than the others, and that is kind of a nice touch and has a divider as well to keep things separate. Also on the bottom you will find the product sticker with the model, serial number and such along with company and product names.

On the next page, we'll cover the features and specifications of this keyboard as we share a few more pictures of this board.


 

Features:

NEWLY-DESIGNED SWITCHES
We partnered with experts in switch technology to create the perfect switch for the M800. The result is the incredible QS1 switch. With a smooth linear action and 25% faster actuation than the traditional mechanical switch, the QS1 is built for pure speed (see comparison). QS1 switches have a 3mm throw depth, a 1.5mm actuation and only require a 45cN actuation force. All of the design choices in the QS1 switch specifications were made with two goals in mind: React faster and spend less wasted effort as you destroy your competition!
 
LOW-PROFILE LAYOUT
The keyboard is built at a low angle and with an optimally designed linear key layout that cuts down on finger travel distance. This allows for seamless, quick transitions between keys and across the keyboard for less fatigue on your fingers no matter how furiously they fly.

GUARANTEED PERFORMANCE WITH DUAL PROCESSORS
Your 600 APM would go to waste if the brains of the keyboard couldn’t keep up. That’s why we added an additional CPU inside the M800 that is dedicated only to processing key presses. No lag, no excuses. And when the gaming gets hectic, N-key rollover allows up to 256 key presses at once with zero issues.

LIGHTING PATTERNS
We built in some incredible pre-configured lighting options, like Breathe, Wave and Trigger that highlight the keyboard’s vibrant and crisp illumination. Further personalize Apex M800 by creating, programing and sharing your own illumination designs.
 
PLAY SMARTER WITH POWERFUL MACROS
Our feature-rich macro editor is incredibly easy to use, for both casual and advanced users. We even include powerful text-based macro capabilities, for unlimited macros from SteelSeries Engine to the in-game console. M800 can also record macros on the fly with a simple button press. To top it off, every key on the Apex M800 is individually programmable to any keyboard key, mouse button, media control, application or macro.
 
CUSTOM PROFILES FOR ALL SCENARIOS
We broke the mold with the M800, ditching the typical limits on customized profiles. Configure and save as many variations in your keyboard’s lighting and programming as you want and instantly remap them with the touch of a button. Fire up a game and SteelSeries Engine recognizes that, instantly changing settings for you. When you change over to a different game your fine-tuned settings will switch right along with you.
 
INCREDIBLE FEATURES VIA STEELSERIES ENGINE
SteelSeries Engine software is your control center to the M800, giving you access to features like individual key programming, CloudSync and profile switching across all your SteelSeries devices. It is both extremely powerful and simple to use – things our competition has every right to envy.
 
INDIVIDUAL KEY ILLUMINATION
All of the LEDs on the M800 are individually customizable and feature a centered LED and a clear switch housing. The new keys are the perfect solution to show off your keyboard’s 16.8 million colors and 8 brightness levels with crisp illumination and minimal light bleed.

 

Specifications:

Specs

 

 

Installation:

Installation is a snap - simply download the proper software; a link is provided in the owner’s manual. Once you install the software and plug in the two USB plugs, off you go to euphoria! (One side note; make sure you have the software first, as it is a bit of a pain to use this keyboard initially without it.)

 

On the next page, we'll cover testing and wrap things up with our final thoughts.


Testing:

Now to my all-time favorite part of any review; the testing!! This is where I will get into the nitty gritty pros, cons and truths behind the SteelSeries Apex M800 gaming keyboard.

First of all, appearance. Where do I even begin? The keyboard looks absolutely splendid and only get more gorgeous when you turn on the back lighting. The wedge shape of the board lends itself to gaming and typing comfortably, while the thinness and narrowness of the M800 leaves a nice amount of real estate for your mouse and beverage on the desk. The keyboard is long but doesn’t eat too much space on your desk.

The entire board has the feeling and look of heavyweight, durable, quality and I must say that it is an accurate summation.

Moving on to the lighting. I am super impressed with the vast majority of options available to one’s whimsical imagination. From just having the standard back lighting, to breathing as well as reactive keys, (once pressed the keys will change color or just go out for the time of your choosing). Since each key can be programmed individually, there is no end to the possibilities, especially with a 16.8 million color spectrum. There are some preset designs to help you with ideas, but in no time you will be going nuts, creating your own personal theme. The SteelSeries logo also lights up and can be used in conjunction with cool down timers for certain games or simply for some added effect. The sides of the board also light up the same color and way as the logo. One difference to mention about the lighting of the M800 as opposed to other mechanical keyboards is that the LEDs are placed in the center of the keys not offset to the top, so it provides even lighting.

 

The keys are also great and they are shorter and very catching to the eye. The short keystroke almost makes the keyboard look like less of a monster, but don’t let that fool you, inside the Apex is a roaring lion. The new mechanical switches by SteelSeries are wonderful. They require very little pressure to set them off; which I personally like, so I don’t miss a letter due to too stiff a key-press. The switches also don’t make too much noise, unlike some of the other types. On the topic of keys, I must mention that that overly large space bar is great! Another key worth the mention is the ‘W’ key, it has two raised bumps on it so it will be quickly recognized more maximum effect. From simple typing to hardcore gaming it is the right size to never be missed.

One of my favorite features is quite a simple one, but nonetheless valid; and that is the interchangeable rubber foot-pads. The M800 comes with two sets of foot-pads for the top - one short, the other taller. Now let me explain why I like these. One; these won’t break like the plastic flip types will, and two; they add more grip and are easier on your work surface.

The USB ports work well and are useful due to the loss of two ports on your rig once the Apex is plugged in. Thanks to the dual headed braided cable (which is an excellent length) they provide enough power and work excellent with any peripheral I plugged into the keyboard. Thanks to the wonderful work of the designers there is a divided space to route cables under the board!

USB Ports USB Cables

 

The software with the board is phenomenal; the profiles work great and are easy to create. The color options are easy to get the hang of and macro making is a snap. Any key can be macro’d, and I found this exceptionally useful when playing games like Diablo 3. This program starts with opening the SteelSeries 3 engine and then going to the Apex M800 software. From the SteelSeries 3 engine you can change the profiles so you don’t have to go into the whole software suite.

Keybindings

I have to also mention the great work the two processors do in the keyboard to keep all of the splendid feature that the Apex M800 has to offer up and running smoothly.

Now to the short list of things I would have changed about this SteelSeries device. The first is that it does not have a wrist rest. This is not paramount and including a rest would indeed eat up your desktop real estate, but it is a feature I personally like to see.

The second is that there is not a method to switch profiles from the keyboard itself, and I would have found that most helpful.

 

Conclusion:

At the end of the day, I found this keyboard to be built well and to perform flawlessly. The couple of inconveniences that I experienced are little more than nothing and would not affect my decision to purchase this fine product. The price is a bit hefty, weighing in at $199.99, but I think the price is worth it when you look at what you get. The software works great, the lighting options are near endless and the macros are easy to set up and implement.

LightsInDark

 

Pros:

  • Vast lighting options
  • Easy macro setup
  • Individual key customization
  • Good key sensitivity
  • Quality look and feel
  • Swappable feet

 

Cons:

  • No wrist rest
  • No profile change keys on the keyboard

 

Overall, this board scores a 9.6/10 as it has great performance, build quality, compatibility and features. While it lacks a few accessories that I like to see, the value still remains high as you can't get a better keyboard for any money. It's solid.

I'd like to thank SteelSeries for sending over the Apex M800 for us to review. If you have any questions, comments or general feedback, please feel free to post it in the forum here.