Steelseries is a well established and much-used brand on the pro scene, and several top players use their gear. Everything from headsets to mouse pads are frequently seen as the best of the best compete in major tournaments, and of course we know their stuff is of good quality.
The box states this is the "World's fastest mechanical keyboard". Bold words, given that Cherry, for example, aren't known to be sluggish, but it lets us know where they're aiming. Apex M800 is big and heavy, and comes across as a quality build, and it is beautifully designed. The keyboard is all black with the logo to the right above the numerical keys.
The macros are placed on the left side and on the rear there are two USB ports. There is no wrist support, but the solution to this is that the switches are very low which means that the angle is not very hard on the wrist. Instead of supports on the back there are replaceable rubber pillows offering different degress of thickness, a clever move given that the traditional supports tend to break. Another feature we've not encountered previously is the groove underneath the keyboard that fits perfectly with the chord to the headset. Overall it leaves a great impression and the quality is top notch.
And that takes us to the keys. The glorious keys. Steelseries' own QS1 switches are great and while they are reminiscent of the feeling you get from a membrane, the massively important difference is that you get reliable and lightning fast response. It's simply incredibly fast and the shorter route that their switches take is immediately noticeable, not least when compared to Razer Blackwidow Chroma and Corsair K70 RBG, where you have to press longer/harder (0.5mm) in order for it to register.
Apex M800 also sports double processors, one for button presses and one that handles everything else. No expenses spared, everything has been lined up to enable as quick and accurate a response as possible. The surface of the keys feels great underneath the fingertips, and we appreciated the tiny bumps on the W key that allows us to quickly find our way to WASD when playing Counter-Strike. One key that is very different from how it is on other keyboards is the space bar. Typically it's a thin, long bar, but this one is much shorter and twice as thick, something that feels odd at first, but an hour or so into our session it began to feel perfectly normal and highly functional.
As with the top models of competing brands, Apex M800 is backlit with 16.8 million colours. The lighting is awesome and it's noticeable that the LED light is placed right in the middle of each key as the colours is extremely evenly distributed. We're keen on tiny details and one example here is that out of the box each key changes colour as you press it and then shifts back to its original colour. A neat little feature that adds a nice organic touch to your actions. Naturally, you can turn this feature off if you don't feel it adds anything.
Steelseries Engine 3 is software that you can easily download from the official website. It's an easy to manage piece of software where you set the lighting, program macros, and connect various profiles with specific software or games. A feature we haven't encountered previously is their Gamesense; support for certain games that lets the keyboard display information from the game in real-time. This feature supports three games currently - Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Dota 2 and Minecraft.
While playing Counter-Strike we activated the feature and had the keyboard display health, armour and ammunition through the coloured keys. We settled into a game and the keys lit up different colours and as our health depleted the keys turned dark. An incredibly neat detail, that will surely be tailored to more games in the future and it really adds something to the experience.
To sum up: Steelseries Apex M800 is a brilliant keyboard. It's nearly perfect. Every little detail has been carefully thought out, and it's easy to see that Steelseries are among the best when it comes to pro gear for the hardcore gamer. Whether QS-1 are the fastest mechanical switches in the world is difficult for us to weigh in on, but the shorter path to connect means that for us it's fast enough, it's most responsive keyboard we've ever had the pleasure of testing. Simply brilliant.