SteelSeries Apex M500 Keyboard Review – Best Mechanical Under $100?

Since I reviewed the Rival 500 mouse a few months back, I’ve been very excited to cover a keyboard from them.  After trying many different brands of peripherals, it seems that SteelSeries has been making exactly what I want lately.  The Apex M500 is no different, and here’s why…

Aesthetics: Some may say it’s plain looking but to me it’s damn near perfect.  The matte black finish hides fingerprints and dust well, while the keys themselves have the tiniest amount of sheen to them.  Couple that with extremely bright backlighting, and you have a kick ass keyboard.  To maximize compactness, there is almost nothing surrounding the outside keys when it comes to bezels.  This makes the keyboard appear very tight and compact, even though the key spacing is normal.  The backlight can be adjusted to four different levels by either using a key combo on the board itself, or the SteelSeries Engine software.  It can also be fully disabled if you want to go stealth mode.  The Cherry MX Reds are a bit loud but provide a consistent linear response.  With 45 cN of actuation force (right about the middle for Cherry MX stiffness range), typing and gaming is effortless and reliable.  I wouldn’t go any lighter in stiffness, as it will make the key rebound slower which could cause missed key strokes in a clutch gaming moment (double tap).  Personally I love the Reds but would like it to be slightly quieter out of the box (personal preference).

The Build: General construction and build quality is excellent.  There is a steel back plate which makes every key press feel solid regardless of what location of the board you type on.  The combination of metal and thick plastic makes the M500 a bit heavy, but highly durable.  On the back side of the keyboard you’ll find three paths you can run the USB cable through, which is nice for wire management options.  There are three large rubber pads on the base of the keyboard which do not look like they’ll easily fall off down the road.  The two feet at the top that can flip out to increase the keyboard angle are also rubber coated which means the keyboard feels firmly anchored to your desk.

Gamers Rejoice: If all the other features of the board weren’t good enough, there is full 104 key rollover support.  You get anti-ghosting with up to 24 keys at once.  This means the only limitation to simultaneous keystrokes are your hands themselves.  The SteelSeries Engine 3 software allows you to record and create custom macros, reassign keys, change brightness, and create custom profiles.  Even though RGB isn’t an option, you still customize just about everything else.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home Run:  This is easily my favorite board in the past decade worth of keyboards I have used.  This includes boards from Razer, Logitech, the Alienware TactX, and more.  For $100, it just does everything right.  MX Reds are one of the best key switches bar none, and it’s all wrapped in a sleek black keyboard with excellent backlighting.  The SteelSeries Engine 3 software works with most other SteelSeries products including headsets, mice, mousepads and more.  This means you have less software to worry about installing, as it all ties together quite nicely.  The build quality of this board punches way above what its price tag would suggest and I still haven’t seen a single board feel this solid and reliable (because drivers and software are important too).  This has my strongest recommendation of any product I’ve covered in a long time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Specs:

Color: Black
Key caps: ABS
Cord: Rubber w/SteelSeries velcro cable wrap
Switches: Cherry MX Red
Key force: 45 cN
Actuation Point: 2mm, Linear
Travel: 4mm
Backlit: Yes – Blue Only
Macro support: Yes
OS: Windows/OSX
Price: $99 USD

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