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Steelseries APEX M750: One of the Year's Best

Hardware Reviews By Christopher Coke on September 07, 2017

Steelseries APEX M750: One of the Year's Best

The Steelseries APEX M750 is one of the best keyboards of the year and quickly becoming one of my personal favorites. I don’t say that lightly. Over my years reviewing hardware for MMORPG, I’ve laid hands on more keyboards than I imagined possible. Throughout it all, very few have ever made me seriously consider switching over. The APEX M750 isn’t perfect, but it’s the best keyboard I’ve used so far this year and could wind up the best starting point for gamers breaking into the world of RGB.

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Specifications

  • MSRP: $139.99
  • Top Material: 5000 Series Aluminum Alloy
  • Key Switch: SteelSeries QX2 Linear Mechanical RGB Switch
  • Actuation Point/Travel Distance: 2mm/4mm
  • Force: 45cN
  • N-Key Roll Over: 104-Key(All)
  • Anti-Ghosting: 100%
  • Illumination: Individually controllable per-key RGB, including whole-keyboard patterns and reactive typing effects
  • Weight: 2.2 lbs
  • Dimensions: 153.5mm (H) x 454mm (W) x 46.7mm (D)
  • Cable Length: 2 m, 6.5 ft

Let’s get this out of the way first. The M750 has some shortcomings and I want to get those out of the way so I can tell you exactly why this keyboard has me considering packing up my Corsair K70 LUX. There’s no USB passthrough for one, no dedicated macro or media keys, no wrist rest, and no cable routing options on the bottom. Currently, the software doesn’t allow you to layer effects to create the most astounding profiles and, perhaps as a result, there are no profiles to share anyhow. It also features these weird rubber feet inserts that pop out if wiggled too much. Change for change’s sake isn’t always a good thing.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about the positives, shall we? When I received the M750, I had few expectations. I’ve reviewed an APEX series board in the past, non-mechanical, so I wasn’t surprised to see a similar design at play. These boards just look great from a design perspective. The M750 keeps the rounded edges along the top and bottom that we’ve grown accustomed to, as well as the inset sides with the rounded triangle flair. Because the board is constructed of an aerospace aluminum alloy, the edges of these triangles, (as well the Steelseries logo about the number pad) could be milled for a gleaming edge that immediately catches the eye. The rest of the board is a matte black and this contrast immediately signals its metal build, providing a great impression of quality before you’ve even touched it.

 When you do, you’ll find a board that’s not too heavy but solid as a rock. There is precious little flex to it, and though the back is plastic, it doesn’t feel cheap. As far as first impressions go, it makes a good one, though it would have been even better with a volume roller or braided cable.

Typing on the M750 is excellent. The Steelseries QX2 switches, developed with Gateron, are linear. Going on the spec sheet alone, they are identical to Cherry MX Reds. As anyone familiar with mechanical keyboards will tell you, though, there’s more to how a keyboard feels than the color of its switch. Mechanical keyboards can vary, even with the exact same switch. It’s known as “keyfeel” and is the combined sensation of the switch, keycaps, stabilizers, and overall construction of the slate’s body.

Compared side by side with my Gigabyte AORUS K7 with Cherry Reds, Steelseries QX2’s are much more enjoyable to type on - and I liked the K7! The keys are slightly louder, but not much and not obnoxiously. The larger keys have a delightful springiness and extra key noise on their Cherry-style stabilizers. Travel and actuation distances are the same (4mm and 2mm), so they will feel familiar to anyone who has used reds before. Everything comes together to make the keyboard just feel great, pulling my from team brown switch to team red.

The illumination is fantastic, too. It’s bright and well isolated due to the black finish on the top plate. It’s color representation is impressive too, though pure white has just the slightest tinge of pink. Like every other keyboard that mounts its LEDs at the top of the housing, the top legends are more brightly lit than the bottom. I will gladly trade those shortcomings for illumination that has so much more pop - my K70 looks almost subdued in comparison. RGB may not mean much to how a keyboard functions, but if you’re paying for it, you want it to look good. Steelseries delivers.

The real selling point, and why I say this may be the best keyboard for RGB newcomers, is the software. Steelseries gathers all of its programmable peripherals into a singular suite they call the Steelseries Engine (SSE). When considered alongside the sheer amount that it allows you to do, it’s not an exaggeration to say it is the cleanest, most accessible and user friendly suite available today. It won’t allow you to dig into layers upon layers of illumination (there are none) or create custom gradients, but it will allow you to make your keyboard look fantastic in about no time flat. If you need those features, the M750 might disappoint. For everyone else, it likely offers more than enough power to do whatever you would like.

There are nine preset Active effects. I was impressed to see that they’re not all the standard waves and ripples. They’re there, but also Fireworks and mini-explosions in Boom, as well as color bubbles and a few others, on top of speed and direction controls. Active effects and Reactive typing run at once, so while you’re main lightshow is running, your keypresses add to the fun. It defaults to a color-shifting fade, which looks great, but can also be set to send runners into or out from your key presses. Combined, Active and Reactive effects do a whole lot to really make your keyboard look just so without getting into the nitty gritty of millisecond timings and perfectly looped gradients.

I’ve talked in other reviews about how much I appreciate the power of layering and full on animating your keyboard. Until now, that’s taken profile sharing and very dedicated community members to make possible. The APEX M750 brings with it a number of Engine Apps (game and functionality applets within SSE), including ImageSync. ImageSync allows you to import a gif, which the software then translates into an animation. It’s not perfect, as the animated space is limited to 22x6 (every key is a pixel), so you shouldn’t expect amazing results for all but very simple GIFs. However, since you can crop and tweak those you import, you can come out with some really neat animations. It took me a simple image crop to get a 1UP mushroom sliding across my keys. Someone spent hours programming that for competing boards.

Other apps offer additional charms. There’s a few for individual games, a built in audio visualizer, and a nice Discord app that changes your lighting to show comm events. PrismSync will also allow you to line up lighting effects with other Steelseries peripherals.


The illumination and programming panels pack a user friendly punch

You can, of course, also reprogram every single key and save layouts for individual games. Recording and editing macros is as easy as ever, though it can’t be done on the fly (shifting lighting presets can be done on the board itself). You can also set keys to launch programs, perform OS functions, or even simulate mouse clicks. It’s fully featured, though I do miss the timer features from Steelseries’ Rival mice; that would have gone great to display cooldowns with lighting flourishes.

The APEX M750 has its flaws, but it’s charms outweigh them all. It types like a dream and looks fantastic. On many other RGB keyboards, running Active and Reactive lighting at once takes multiple layers or simply isn’t possible. Steelseries brought both to the table right out of the box. There are tradeoffs with the M750. There’s no dedicated media buttons, no braided cable, no profile sharing. What you get, though, is one of the most accessible, programmable, best looking keyboards on the market.  For $139.99, it is absolutely one of the best values out there.

Pros:

  • Excellent build quality
  • Steelseries’ linear QX2 switches feel great to type and game on
  • Bright, vibrant lighting
  • Powerful and accessible software suite
  • GIF importing opens up a world of animation and customization options

Cons:

  • No USB passthrough, braided cable, or audio ports
  • No advanced lighting customization (but still lots)
  • No profile sharing, media, or macro keys
  • Weird rubber foot inserts

The product discussed in this article was provided by public relations for the purposes of review.

Hey, MMORPG Readers! We’re looking for your recommendations on the latest and greatest PC gaming gear you would like to see reviewed. Has something that’s caught your eye? Let us know what you thought of the review and what you’d like to see next in the comments below!

Christopher Coke / Chris has been a fan of MMOs since the mid-1990s when he cut his teeth on MUDs. These days he scours the internet for the latest and greatest multiplayer gaming experiences.