It’s been a few months since we’ve offered a SteelSeries review, but our peripheral-maker friends have come through again with a batch of goodies. This time around, we bring you the new Apex gaming keyboard, and the Siberia v2 Limited Edition Heat Orange headset.
I’ve been using the original Apex RAW since March of this year, and there’s a good reason why I chose that particular keyboard over the other three that I have sitting around. While the original RAW was massive in size, it offered an insane amount of macro keys, customization options, excellent and responsive tactile feedback, and was the only one of my keyboards that lit up in the dark. That last feature certainly isn’t a game changer, but hey, I like lights.
What does the updated Apex add to the mix? How about more macro keys, more lights, and even better feeling keys? The original RAW had 17 macro keys with 2 layers for 34 customizable keys in total. The new one has even more layers, four total, to bring the full number of customizable macros to 88 total. Holy hell. I can’t even imagine using a quarter of all those keys, much less all of them. A solution I found to using a good portion of them was to tie them to my most frequently used programs, but a few wayward finger presses and unintended program launches forced me to quickly abandon that idea. It’s just nice knowing I can.
Like the original RAW, the updated version features a few extra keys that you may not find in many other keyboards. You get six directional arrows (the two additional keys are diagonals), a row of media controls along the right edge, and a giant spacebar that’s almost as big as my old LG Chocolate phone. All this (in additional to all the macro keys) make for a big and heavy keyboard, but to me that’s a good thing. I like a little heft in my peripherals. It feels like I’m getting a beefier product, something with sturdier construction than what I would normally be used to.
Perhaps the biggest difference (yet most unnoticeable just by looking at it) is the construction of the keys themselves. The new Apex uses rubber dome switch technology as opposed to a mechanical switch. While a mechanical switch offers a nice spring and the familiar “click-clack” sound, having a rubber dome underneath each key offers much less resistance and allows for faster keystrokes. In essence, it feels more like a laptop keyboard than a “traditional” desktop keyboard. How it feels is really up to your preferences, but what’s undeniable is how responsive the keys are. Clickity-clack or not, the Apex has one of the nicest feeling and quietest keyboards I have ever used.
The original Apex RAW had illuminated keys, but it was only available in white. That’s all fine and good since from a purely functional standpoint, it did its job. But dude….I like colors. The Apex now has ActiveZone lighting technology, a proprietary SteelSeries features that allows for different colors in five separate zones on the keyboard. You can choose from a palate of 16.8 million colors, which is mindblowing if you think about it. The zones are divided into: QWERTY Zone, Macro and Layer Zone, Function Row Zone, Numpad and Media Control Zone, and the SteelSeries Logo and Side Lighting Zone.
Other than looking pretty when lit up in a dark room, these lighting schemes can also serve an in-game functional purpose, as you can set your healing macro layer to glow blue, your buff macro layer to glow red, etc. For those of you that like to set up a ton of macros for MMOs and such, this is an awesome feature to utilize.
Of course, all of this is customizable via the excellent SteelSeries Engine, which is basically used with every SteelSeries product I own. Within this engine you can set all your keys, macros, colors, intensity, different profiles, and more, along with all your other SteelSeries peripherals. Considering I use a SteelSeries keyboard, mouse, and headset, it’s incredibly convenient to have everything in one program.
The Apex will take up 2 USB ports on your computer, but in reality, you get those 2 ports right back since the rear of the Apex has 2 USB 2.0 ports. If you choose to never use those ports, you can just plug one of the 2 USB connections in, and the leave the powered cable out. This feature comes in handy as I now no longer have to reach down to my tower to plug in a flash drive or my gaming controller.
The new Apex keyboard is available for $99.99.
The next product we bring you is the Limited Edition Heat Orange version of the Siberia v2 headset. I’ve reviewed the FLUX line of headsets, and while that’s a great pair of headphones for mobile devices and the one I was using on a daily basis, I have to say that I’m ready to make the Siberia v2 my headset of choice as far as PC use goes.
The first thing I want to point out is the comfort; my goodness it feels nice. The Siberia v2 has large, soft, cushioned ear cups. It almost feels like you have two marshmallows cupping your ears. Add to that the fact that the whole headset weighs almost nothing when you have it on, and you get one of the most comfy headsets in recent memory.
What makes the headset so lightweight is the fact that the frame itself does not rest on your head, thereby providing virtually no weight. What SteelSeries has done is provide a double frame structure, with the outermost “rigid” frame serving as the “chassis” of the headset, while an inner soft frame molds around the head. The inner frame doesn’t squeeze your skull or anything; rather it’s connected to four small metal cables (two on each side) that go into the earpieces. When you pop the headset on, the cables will either extend or retract to form a comfortable mold to fit your noggin. The result is a headset that gives the impression of being nearly weightless. It’s one of the best designs I have used, and easily the most comfortable.
From an aesthetic standpoint, the headset looks very clean. The entire unit is comprised of the color black, with the main frame a glossy plastic, and the inner soft frame a matte black fabric of sorts. On the outside of each ear cup is a large glowing orange light, which can be customized to pulsate at a variety of different speeds. This design was clearly mean to target a more subdued look with the orange light as the only “oomph” in the whole headset. It’s not about loud colors in this edition of the Siberia v2.
As far as sound quality goes, it’s kind of a hit or miss. I like my volume to be loud, but I never felt the headset got as loud as I wanted. I listened to a bunch of music on my PC with the headset, and even with my PC volume pumped all the way up and the headset’s volume all the way up as well, it never got as loud as I liked. It almost seemed like there is a built in safety measure to keep things at a safe hearing level. To be fair, it did get very loud, and the quality is crisp and clear, so I’m sure most people should be satisfied with the sound.
In-game, the sound quality is simply staggering. While the Siberia v2 might not provide 5.1 surround, I doubt you’ll notice any difference when you’re in the middle of Battlefield 3 and you hear the sound of bullets whizzing all around you and explosions thumping in your head, or ripping down Brands Hatch in GRID 2 with your opponent’s engines roaring in your ears. 2.0 never sounded so good, and even though I mentioned the volume “cap” earlier, a little tweaking between the equalizer (via the SteelSeries Engine), my PC’s volume, the headset’s volume, and the in-game volume resulted in a volume that I was satisfied with.
The final feature I want to touch on is the retractable mic. The mic is tucked away neatly in the bottom of the left ear cup. A simple tug will bring it out, and it can be positioned in any manner that you see fit. It’s small, not at all intrusive, and provides some fantastic voice quality. The headset’s mic has a smart noise cancelling feature which allows your friends to hear your voice above all the action that’s happening around you…and I don’t mean in-game noise. Any surrounding noise like a washing machine, dogs barking, crying babies, etc. will not be an issue as the Siberia v2 will filter out the sounds that are closest to the mic (your voice) and enhance the quality of those important sounds.
All this packaged together makes for one of the best headsets I have reviewed in quite some time, and the Siberia v2 Limited Edition Head Orange is now my daily use PC headset. My only complaint is that I cannot use it with more devices, as it does not have a 3.5mm jack (it’s a native USB headset), so my Zune, Vita, 3DS, phone, tablet, etc. are all not going to be able to benefit from the awesome quality of the v2. Shucks.