The problem with most mechanical keyboards is that once you buy a keyboard, you’d better hope it’s the perfect one. The hardware in keyboards can’t generally be changed or swapped out — you can adjust what the keycaps look like, give it a speck of paint here or there, but if you bought something with loud blue switches and then decided it wasn’t that useful for gaming, you’re typically out of luck.
The Steel Series Apex is trying to change that.
Unveiled at the company’s Computex suite, the Apex is a mechanical keyboard with OmniPoint adjustable mechanical switches. They’re not adjustable in the sense that you can swap them out, but what you can do is change the actuation point for every single key on the keyboard, from 0.4mm to 3.6mm.
Typically, most keyboard brands have talked about getting their switches to actuation points of 1.8mm or 2mm, implying that most tech brands aren’t even close to the same territory as the Steel Series Apex and the technology they’re releasing. With Steel Series, you can now set profiles to adjust the whole keyboard or regions of the keyboard in one go, so if you want something firmer for general typing, and something softer for games like Counter-Strike or Overwatch, then you can do that with a few easy set up options.
One example given at the booth was setting the lightest possible actuation force for the WASD keys in Overwatch, but having a much higher actuation point for your ultimate key (typically Q), guarding against the chance that you might hit your ultimate by accident. Another example displayed was adjusting the actuation point of the SHIFT and CTRL keys to be a little lower, as they’re keys that you would usually hit with your pinky finger. The pinky won’t hit the keyboard as hard as your fingers, so by adjusting that area of the keyboard down, you get the same feeling across the keyboard.
Mechanical keyboard enthusiasts often don’t need an excuse to buy new keyboards, but for those who do, there really hasn’t been a one-switch-fits-all solution to date. If you’re into competitive gaming, for example, you’ll probably want something like ultra-responsive red switches with low actuation points. But if you need something for long form writing, you’ll likely want a higher actuation point to provide more satisfying feedback and help prevent those pesky typos.
Steel Series’ latest keyboard, the Apex Pro, is designed to be the best of both worlds: a keyboard that both gamers and writers alike can use. (As someone who often writes about PC gaming hardware, I can’t deny that the idea is appealing.) It’s all down to the new switch design, which lets you adjust the actuation point on the fly to meet the task in hand.
Steel Series is calling this technology the OmniPoint switch. The bottom end of that scale would make it perhaps the most responsive gaming keyboard on the market while the top end would make it a crunchy typing keyboard that’d require quite a lot of force to use. Steel Series has developed its own customisation software for the keyboard, but you’re also able to adjust the settings directly through the use of a clicking scroll wheel, a secondary button, and a monochrome OLED display. The screen can be used to display things like Discord notifications and in-game stats.
Local pricing isn’t available yet, but Steel Series said the Apex Pro and the TKL model would most likely land in Australia sometime in September. It’s being priced at $US199, so I’d expect something around the $300 mark. It’s the fastest keyboard in the world right now though, so I wouldn’t be surprised if a few CS:GO teams are happy to pay that premium.