Between my own input device addiction and what we review here at TR, a plethora of peripherals passes over my desk. I try to review the best of them, of course. The majority of the devices I see either have some gimmick of questionable value or are just plain ill-conceived. I’m happy to report that neither of those problems happen to be the case with the latest input device up for my perusal, though. Meet the SteelSeries Apex M750.
Yep, it’s a keyboard. More specifically, it’s a programmable mechanical gaming keyboard with an aluminum frame and highly-configurable RGB LED lighting. To be honest, there aren’t many surprises here. The Apex M750 has a mostly-standard 104-key layout, save one change. The company has replaced the menu key with a SteelSeries logo key that triggers the Apex M750’s media and volume controls. I don’t really prefer function layers like this, but it’s better than not having those functions at all. The Apex M750 supports full n-key roll-over (NKRO), too.
Underneath the board’s ABS keycaps, you’ll find SteelSeries’ proprietary QX2 switches. These are Cherry MX-style switches manufactured in partnership with Gateron. They feel extremely similar to real Cherry MX Red switches. Like those clickers, the QX2s are linear switches with no tactile bump or auditory feedback. They require about 45 cN of force to actuate, and they have the same two-millimeter actuation point and four millimeters of total travel as the MX Reds, too. Under my fingers, these switches feel even more sensitive than the MX Reds in my Freestyle Edge, but I might chalk that up to the wildly different design between the two boards.
This is the first keyboard I’ve ever used with SteelSeries’ switches, and I have nary a nitpick about them. I’ve used Gateron switches before, and these actually feel better than those that I’ve used in the past. They may actually be even smoother in motion than real Cherry MX switches. The action from each key is downright silky, with none of the rough or “grainy” feeling we’ve felt in some other mechanical keyboards.
On the bottom of the keyboard there’s an odd glossy area in the middle, and rubber feet at each corner. Rather than the flip-down stands you’re probably familiar with on other keyboards, the Apex M750 uses replaceable rubber feet. The flat-ish foot in the shot above comes pre-installed, while two taller feet come in the box for those who prefer more elevation. The keyboard’s default angle is a little higher than I’d like, but removing the pre-installed feet doesn’t really shave off any of it due to the shape of the keyboard’s bottom cover. That’s just a nitpick, though.
Start your Engines
Our own Nathan Wasson has already covered this keyboard’s excellent SteelSeries Engine software in his review of the company’s Rival 500 and Rival 700 mice, so I won’t spend a lot of time talking about it here. It’s a fast and intuitive piece of software with an information-dense layout that doesn’t waste your time on a dozen tabs, flip-out panels, or fade-in animations.
You can use the Engine to program the Apex M750 with or without using the software’s powerful macro editor. However, this keyboard doesn’t have any dedicated gaming function keys, so programming macros will require you to give up a few standard key binds. That’s business as usual for this type of keyboard, so I’m not really dinging SteelSeries here. Still, as someone who uses every key on his keyboard, it’s always a little frustrating to give up any of the regular 104 clickers on a regular board to macro programming.
You can also use the Engine app to program the lighting on the Apex M750. This is arguably the keyboard’s only concession to flash, and if you’re into RGB LED lighting, this board delivers. You can program separate “active” and “reactive” lighting effects, configure the lighting on a per-key basis, or use SteelSeries’ “Engine Apps” to program specialized dynamic lighting effects.
Those special effects include an audio visualizer, lighting based on animated GIFs, or GameSense lighting based on in-game events for the few titles that support it. I tried out the GameSense lighting in CS:GO, and while it certainly does work, I can’t say it’s any easier to look down at my keyboard to see my health rather than simply checking the bottom of my screen. It’s still pretty cool, though. Folks who don’t rock multiple monitors might appreciate the ability to make the keyboard’s lights flash when they get Discord notifications, too.
This is my shortest device review ever, and that’s simply because there’s not that much to the Apex M750. It’s a solidly-built mechanical keyboard that has every feature a gaming keyboard should have, and it’s a pleasure to use. Even though I haven’t messed with its programmable functions much beyond making sure that they work, I’ve used SteelSeries’ macro editor quite a lot for my own personal Rival 500 mouse, and I think it’s one of the best in the business.
Ultimately, most of my nitpicks with the Apex M750 come down to personal preference. I’d have liked to have seen a regular Windows menu key on this board, but that’s probably used even less than Scroll Lock by most people. I’d also like the board more if it wasn’t so thick. More pressingly, I’d have liked some macro buttons. Even a row of five dedicated macro keys on the left side of the board would suffice. My keenest complaint with the Apex M750 is the lack of physical media and volume controls, something that we take for granted from other high-end keyboards.
Normally, I’d just dismiss all of those complaints, but SteelSeries asks $140 for the Apex M750. Make no mistake: this is a great keyboard. Is it a worth-$140 keyboard? That, I’m not so sure about. SteelSeries’ Gateron-built QX2 switches are fantastic, and the Apex M750 is surprisingly quiet. I just think SteelSeries was a bit proud of this board when it came time to put a sticker price on it. Folks who will make use of this keyboard’s advanced lighting effects might find a lot of value here, but we’ve reviewed keyboards that do most of what (or more than) this tastatur does for less money.
If you find one of these a bit closer to the $100 mark than not—especially if you already have some SteelSeries devices with which you can synchronize the M750’s lighting—I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it. Happily, the board has been hovering around the $120-ish mark of late at Amazon and at Newegg. So long as buyers can continue to find the M750 around that price in the near future, I’ll send it home with a conditional (but not too conditional) TR Recommended badge.