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CES 2013: SteelSeries

Posted by: John at 1/8/2013 10:32 PM
My annual trip to SteelSeries’s suite yielded two new keyboards that they just recently announced. The Apex and the Apex [Raw] are new membrane keyboards coming from SteelSeries that are geared towards gamers, of course. Let’s start with the more feature packed Apex.
 
The Apex is a low profile keyboard priced at $99.99. Any of the 504 keys can be programmed, giving you plenty of flexibility in how you want to setup the keyboard. You can see from the images that the Apex has a very oversized space bar. It’s actually a nice design as you have a large area for your thumb to press. There’s a set of macro keys on the left side as well as above the function keys. The ones above the function keys are slightly angled to you so you can tell that you are pressing a macro key instead of a function key.
Now, many gamers want mechanical keys, but SteelSeries decided to go with membrane here to keep costs down and they will see if in the future there’s a market for mechanical keys in the Apex line. Personally, I don’t mind membrane keyboards and can do with either or when gaming and working.
 
An emphasis on the Apex is the 5 zones of colors you can program. Say you got some different profiles for your character in a game. You can setup profiles on the keyboard to match them and select a color so you can visually see when you change a profile and to what profile you have decided upon. As with most color changing keyboards, you get access to 16.8 million colors to choose from. Also, you have 8 levels of brightness along with the amount of colors selectable.
 
On the bottom are large rubber feet that can be interchangeable with feet at different angles. Two sets of feet, set at 7 degree tilt or 10 degree tilt are available and provided over the plastic clips that pop down as they are more robust and won’t break. 
 
The Apex also features two additional USB ports if you would like to plug some USB devices there rather than in the computer itself.
 
SteelSeries has also designed some nice software to help improve your gaming. The SteelSeries Engine has a cool recording capability that will keep track of all the keys you press. It will then generate a heat map to show you which keys you press a lot in the game you play. With the visual cues, the software can recommend some setups or you can use the heat map to create setups that you are more comfortable with. This is an example of how SteelSeries is trying to improve your gaming in not only making products easy to use, but to use software to provide information that maybe beneficial in improving your gameplay.
 
 
For those that want to spend a little less and get a few features removed, the Apex [Raw] is the keyboard for you. At $69.99, the [Raw] only shines white and has five less macro keys as well as two less profiles. Also missing are the additional USB ports and no dedicated media keys. The rest is pretty much the same and you do get support of the SteelSeries Engine as well.
 
Both keyboards seem well designed in both the hardware and software department. It’ll be interesting to see if gamers call for a mechanical keyboard option of the Apex, but SteelSeries believes that they have a great price point for a feature rich keyboard even without the mechanical key setup. We’ll be sure to have a review up once we get some time with the final unit.