Steelseries Apex M800 keyboard review - A new alternative

First look

The packaging is flashy, though not necessarily unique. The front features the keyboard layout, an exploded key-switch architecture design, and even a smal window that invites you to "go ahead, touch awesome."

Inside, you get the mechanical, a quick-use leaflet, a number of stickers, and three replacement keys for CTRL, Shift and a Mac-friendly command key. Worth mentioning that despite these being present, the QS1 has an unique stem so removing the keycaps will always be a hassle. 

Apex M800 is not small or light. It weighs about 1.4kg, and measures 510mm in length, which makes it look massive compared to your standard 10-keyless. The reason for this large form factor is the large spacing between keys, and the added edges on either side (about 20mm). 

Accompanying the large form-factor is a solid feel, with proper quality plastic. If anything, the plastic used in the casing and keycaps reminds me of SteelSeries old-school mechs, the 7G and 6Gv2, which were'nt equipped with many features, but were built like tanks. Worth mentioning is that the plastic is dust magnet & fingerprint magnet, which means you'll have to clean it often to keep its sleek and polished look intact. 

Switch-type

QS1 is the result of the collaboration between Steelseries and Kailh. Currently, Kailh is working with many peripheral manufacturers, including Razer and Tesoro, both producing mechanical keyboards with RGB backlighting. However, QS1 is unlike any of them, in fact its most similar counterpart is Logitech & OMRON's collaborative design, the Romer-G. QS1 has an RGB LED at the center, with diffuse plastic surrounding it. It brings out uniform backighting, though not as controlled as the Romer-G.

Steelseries Apex M800 mechanical keyboard - Switch type 

Its mechanical traits are unique too. The QS1 is a linear type switch that bottoms out at 3mm, and has an actuation point of 1.5mm. It requires only 45cN force to actuate t, making it faster than the Cherry MX-Red, the other gamer-preffered mechanical switch. This is also the reason why Steelseries advertises the M800 as the fastest keyboard on the market. 

Unfortunately, as there's no audible click or feedback, the typing sensation is different, and not necessary pleasant to typists. You'd expect it to be like other linear switches (MX-Black, MX-Red), but that's not really the case. Due to its architecture, the QS1 constantly pushes against the finger, creating a small amount of resistance behind each key-press. It feels oddly mushy, as if a very thick o-ring is present, but with a hard bottom-out impact. Funnily enough, some keys like Space, Backspace or Enter drag, which makes 'em screetch and feel stiffer than they actually are.

Keycaps

The keycaps are ABS plastic, with thick black coating. They are not as solid as Razer's or Ducky's variants, and seem to be more on par to Tesoro's or Corsair caps. The etching is custom, with notches on F and J, as well as 2x small knobs on W. 

 Steelseries Apex M800 mechanical keyboard - Keycaps

As I previously mentioned, the QS1 switch comes with custom stems, meaning you won't be able to replace the keyset or use custom keycaps.

Layout

M800's layout is familiar and relatively simple to use. Six additional Macro Keys are present on the left side, 30mm away from the Tab/Caps/Shift/Control row. Function keys run along the top, controlling lighting intensity, media keys, and volume. What makes the M800 different than most mechs is the large space-bar, at the very least double in width than the standard layout.  

This oversized space-bar is specific to the Apex keyboard, and it should supposedly allow the end-user to get to it faster. If that's the case or not, I cannot tell. In the past few weeks I used this mech side by side with the G910, I didn't see a clear difference between pressing the space bar on one board than on the other.

Underside

There are only a handful of ways to make a keyboard rest on the desk. Steelseries seems to bring something new to the table. Instead of having plastic risers, the mech uses four chunky rubber feet. Most of the underside is matte plastic, with the centerfold being glossy. This shiny area is intended for cable management since you can run cables underneath the keyboard from the two USB sockets. There's even a small plastic leg right in the middle.

 Steelseries Apex M800 mechanical keyboard - Underside

For further adjustment, the M800 comes with a taller pair of rubber feet that can be exchanged with the ones already inserted, and change the keyboard's angle higher.

Multimedia & Backlighting

Say what you will about illumination, but lighting is not just an added feature, it's a central focus. The sides are sleek, polished and neatly designed, with subtle curves shining according to the chosen lighting scheme. Speaking of which, the RGB LEDs are bright, but they never bleed out. They are brighter than Logitech's Romer-G, but clearly not as much as Razer's Kailh made switches.

 Steelseries Apex M800 mechanical keyboard - Sides

Despite that, I have to say, the exceptional variety of lighting schemes and the complexity in which they come is unparalleled right now. I know Corsair and Razer have some intricate systems, and use powerful MCUs for lighting, but Steelseries manages to marry simple-use with a variety of customizable options with ease. It's impressive at first, and remains impressive throughout, due to small things like playing snake or minesweeper on the keyboard or the possibility of making and assigning custom animated templates. 

Of course, so many illumination options may not always be a good thing, because when your mech lights up like a Christmas tree on steroids, focusing on what happens on-screen becomes difficult. 

Connectivity

Apex M800 comes with a 2-meter long braided cable of medium thickness, ending in 2x USB plugs for the added USB hub. One USB is used to power the mech, while the second one is for the added hub. 

Steelseries Apex M800 mechanical keyboard - USB dock 

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