The other day, I reviewed the SteelSeries SRW-S1 racing wheel, calling it a great “in-between” product for someone who doesn’t want the cheapest piece of plastic available, but also doesn’t want to pay premium prices. Today, I bring you the gaming keyboard equivalent of that.
Like the racing wheel, I already have 2 keyboards before I was provided with the Apex RAW; the stock keyboard that shipped with my computer, and a Logitech wireless solar powered one that I use ona day to day basis. No, I certainly didn’t need a third, but there’s a reason why this third one is still plugged into my PC and the other two are sitting on the ground right now.
First off, I was somewhat disappointed to find that the multiple color backlights of the regular Apex keyboard were not an option in the RAW; here all you get is a white backlight. Not a dealbreaker, but I like color. Sue me. You should see how gaudy my office is.
Most of the features of the Apex RAW are for gaming enhancements, but they also work very well for day to day use as well. The RAW comes with 17 macro keys that feature up to 2 layers; 34 macros in all. These are laid out in a row right above the “F” keys up top, and also to the left. For gaming purposes, the benefits are quite obvious. I mapped a bunch of commands to the macro keys with SWTOR and Guild Wars 2 and it worked about as well as expected. Nothing groundbreaking here.
What the RAW does really well is a lot of little enhancements “under the hood,” so to speak. It’s stuff that you’ll probably never notice, but it makes gaming a lot more smooth. For instance, the Apex RAW has small tactile bumps on the “W” key to make returning to a WASD configuration just slightly more quick. The macro keys mentioned above are all slightly raised, making them easier to access without having to take your eyes off the action on-screen. Superior anti-ghosting allows up to 20 simultaneous key presses as opposed to the 3-10 seen in most other standard gaming keyboards. And there are to extra arrows on either side of the “Up” arrow, one for each diagonal direction. Is all of this necessary? Of course not, but it’s nice to have, and the more little things like this that SteelSeries throws in, the more I have a reason to invest in the Apex RAW over something else.
Interestingly enough, where the Apex RAW really shines is in day to day use. I have the macro keys mapped to all my most commonly used programs, and even functions like copy and paste. Again, nothing groundbreaking here, but it’s nice to have. It’s makes life a little bit easier, and who doesn’t like that?
Aesthetically, the Apex RAW is actually kind of drab. It’s just a normal black keyboard with white illuminated keys and an oversized space bar. There is a nice design touch if you view the keyboard from the side. From that angle, there’s a nice curved effect that looks pretty neat, but unless you found a new way of typing on a keyboard that I’m unaware of, then that’s not something you’ll ever see. Rounding out the features are removable spacers on the bottom that you can swap out to adjust the angle of the keyboard.
As with most SteelSeries PC peripherals, the Apex RAW is powered by the SteelSeries Engine. Here you can set your macros, adjust the intensity of the backlight (up to 8 levels), and adjust the polling rate of the keystrokes. Pretty basic stuff, but good have. Honestly for a $69.99 keyboard, I wasn’t expecting EVERYTHING thrown in. It’s not the cheapest gaming keyboard on the market, but it certainly isn’t the most expensive one either.
Which brings me back to my original point about both this keyboard; it is a fantastic “in-between” product as far as price and quality goes. It is well made and does what it needs to do. The Apex RAW won’t blow your socks off with flashy lights and 3,000,000 customizable buttons and the ability to do your taxes and train your cat to do tricks, but for the mid-range price point, it’s hard to argue with the features it DOES bring to the table.
Case in point, I am typing this out on my Apex RAW as we speak, and like I mentioned earlier, my other two are sitting on the ground. I probably won’t bust out the Logitech one again until I run out of USB ports.