Steelseries Apex 5 gaming keyboard review - Budget doesn't mean bad

SteelSeries recently released its budget-friendly line-up of PC gear, but is the Apex 5 gaming keyboard worth the purchase? Our review.


SteelSeries has been a staple in my collection of gaming peripherals for a while now. In fact, the Rival 500 has been my go-to gaming mouse for a long time now. When I learned that SteelSeries was putting together a bundle of “budget-friendly” gear, I was excited to see what it had to offer. After a week and a half with the SteelSeries Apex 5 keyboard, I’m more than happy to say that the standard SteelSeries quality runs rampant in the new keyboard, and it offers a slick and responsive experience all without charging you an arm and a leg.

The true meaning of budget-friendly

SteelSeries Apex 5 gaming keyboard review

While $100 might still seem a bit expensive for a keyboard, when it comes to mechanical keys and gaming keyboards in general, you’re usually looking to spend upwards of $150 to $200. In fact, other keyboards from SteelSeries like the Apex Pro cost upwards of $199.99, whereas keyboards from competitors range around the same price.

Being able to pick up a keyboard that acts like a $200 piece of equipment for half the price is kind of a big deal. That’s where the Apex 5 shines. While there’s nothing outwardly special about the keyboard, the price along with the overall responsiveness makes it a fantastic pick for anyone looking to update from their old keyboard without breaking the bank.

Quality at a sustainable price

steelseries apex 5 gaming keyboard review - switch view

Instead of cutting down on quality like some manufacturers, SteelSeries has put together a set of hybrid blue switches on the Apex 5, giving it that satisfying clicky noise that comes with each keypress of a good mechanical keyboard. It’s a great noise, especially to work along to, but it can be a bit loud. If you’re not a fan of louder keyboards, then you’re probably not going to like the Apex 5. I don’t mind the noise so much, though, which meant it was a perfect fit for my office.

The Apex 5 also includes support for multiple profiles, full RGB support via the SteelSeries Engine 3 application as well as a small OLED display above the Numpad. You can customize the OLED display to show off your profiles, images or gifs, and even things like Discord messages. The keyboard also comes with a magnetic wrist rest that fits right up against the base of the board. It’s not the most comfortable wrist rest ever, but it does the job well enough.

The Apex 5 feels solid under the weight of your hands as well, sporting an aluminum alloy frame built to take a beating. I still wouldn’t recommend smashing your keyboard against anything, but it’s good to know that the Apex 5 will stand the test of time and you won’t have to worry about replacing it after 6 months of use. It’s got a nice weight to it, too, which means you won’t have to worry about it sliding around too much during normal sessions. I’ve been working off of the Apex 5 for the past week and a half and haven’t had any hiccups with the software or keys in any way.

On a different level

steelseries apex 5 keyboard review - OLED display

When it comes to budget-friendly keyboards, there are quite a few options. Companies like HyperX have specialized in offering more budget-worthy items like keyboards and mice, but SteelSeries brings things to a different level with the Apex 5. For only $100, you get a set of beautiful and satisfying hybrid membrane and mechanical blue switches. This gives the keyboard a smooth feeling, while also offering the same tactile responsiveness you’d expect from one of the company’s more expensive keyboards.

The fact that SteelSeries hasn’t cut corners with the RGB is also something that many might find interesting, as the keyboard offers RGB colors and customization on the same level of $200 keyboards. This is especially nice in a world where budget-friendly keyboards often come with just one color or a limited amount of customization options. I do wish that getting the OLED display set up was a bit easier, as it can be confusing getting game info and Discord stuff to show up on there. But, if you’re not really looking for anything other than a gif, you can set that up fairly easily.

Getting the keyboard setup initially is as simple as plugging it in and updating the firmware. I didn’t have any issues with the download or installation, and I was ready to get started using it in a matter of minutes. Everything is handled by the SteelSeries Engine 3, something that I’ve always liked about SteelSeries products. You can even set up a series of macros pretty easily, which is a standard feature we often see missing from budget keyboards. The only downer with the macros is that there aren't any dedicated macro buttons. I also wasn't happy about the Lock keys not having any kind of visual notification that they are on, which led to me trying to type numbers without Num Lock on a few times.

The Takeaway

If you’re looking for a new keyboard but aren’t willing to break the bank, then the Apex 5 from SteelSeries is one I’d recommend checking out. For $100, you get the same quality and function of a more expensive keyboard without having to dish out the extra cash. Sure, it’s not as cheap as some budget-friendly keyboard options out there, but if you really want to pick up a keyboard that’s going to last and offer a smooth and responsive experience, the Apex 5 is at the top of its class. It pairs perfectly with any SteelSeries mouse, and the SteelSeries Engine 3 application makes it easy to customize and set your keyboard up just the way you want.

This review is based on a product provided by SteelSeries. You can purchase the SteelSeries Apex 5 Hybrid Gaming Keyboard for $99.99 from SteelSeries and participating retailers.

Guides Editor

Joshua holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and has been exploring the world of video games for as long as he can remember. He enjoys everything from large-scale RPGs to small, bite-size indie gems and everything in between.

  • Tons of customization and color options
  • Easy to setup and get started using
  • Satisfying mechanical click combined with the smoothness of membrane switches
  • SteelSeries Engine 3 makes it easy to customize and change things
  • OLED display adds a nice bit of flair to the keyboard
  • Full macro support
  • OLED screen can be a pain to set up
  • Keys could be too loud for some
  • No real way to tell if Lock keys are activated
  • No dedicated macro keys
From The Chatty
  • reply
    February 7, 2020 2:30 PM

    Josh Hawkins posted a new article, Steelseries Apex 5 gaming keyboard review - Budget doesn't mean bad

    • reply
      February 7, 2020 2:45 PM

      I can't get behind calling this a "budget" keyboard. There are mechanical keyboards on Amazon for $50 or less. $100 is easily mid or even trending toward upper range for mechanical keyboards.

      • reply
        February 7, 2020 4:34 PM

        Sure, there are cheaper options. But I usually consider up to $100 a budget price for something like a keyboard, to be honest. Especially with out many of the other options out there can cost upwards of $170-$200 for the same features.

        Sure, it's not a $50 keyboard, but I think it's still fine to consider it a budget keyboard at $100.

      • reply
        February 8, 2020 12:03 PM

        agreed. especially hybrid mechanical.

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