It was only a matter of time: Steelseries has finally unleashed its Apex Pro Mini line of ultra-compact gaming keyboards. Though they share the same 60% layout as the famous Ducky One 2 Mini, the Apex Pro has more than a few tricks up its sleeve. In fact, for our money it’s the best Ultra compact gaming keyboard you can buy today. Find out why in our review.
- Current Price:
- Key Switches: OmniPoint Adjustable Mechanical Switch
- Switch Rating: Guaranteed 100 Million Presses
- Adjustable Actuation Points: 0.2- 3.8mm
- On-board Lighting: Per-key RGB
- On-Board Memory: 5 Custom Profiles
- Processor: 32 Bit ARM
- Keycaps: Doubleshot PBT
- Connection: Detachable USB Type-C
- Connection: Wired / 2.4 GHz / Bluetooth
- Battery Life: 30 hours (Wireless) / 40 hours (Bluetooth with default lighting)
- Dimensions (WxDxH): 11.53 x 4.02 x 1.59 inches
- OS: Windows, Xbox, PlayStation, and Mac OS X*. USB port required.
- *Not all software features supported on Mac OS
- Software: SteelSeries Engine for Windows (8.1 or newer) and Mac OSX* (10.13 or newer)
- *Not all software features supported on Mac OS
Steelseries Apex Pro Mini Wireless - What Is It?
The Apex Pro Mini Wireless is the latest in Steelseries’ Apex line of gaming keyboards. It’s the smallest of the bunch, featuring a tiny yet feature-rich 60% layout that does away with all but the most essential keys. It also features the company’s top-of-the-line OmniPoint 2.0 switches, which Steelseries claims are the fastest in the world with “11x faster response time and 10x swifter actuation.”
Top of the line really seems to be the name of the game with this keyboard. If there’s a performance feature you can think of, it probably has it. The keyboard is completely programmable with bright RGB. It comes with multiple programming options, including adjustable actuation points for completely custom sensitivity that can even be tied to specific games and applications. It’s able to connect wired or wirelessly over Bluetooth 5.0 or 2.4GHz wireless for a 1ms response time. It even features doubleshot PBT keycaps with clean, backlit legends.
The keyboard is currently available in wired or wireless options. Steelseries was kind enough to send both versions for this article, and the wired version is exactly the same but comes in at $180. The wireless version retails for $240. Other than the wireless version having slightly different packaging and including a wireless dongle, the two keyboards are otherwise exactly the same. Both are very expensive, there’s no way around that, but if you’re looking for the best 60% keyboard for gaming, this is the hands-down best choice.
There are a few reasons to make such a bold claim, but the biggest is absolutely Steelseries OmniPoint 2.0 switches. Unlike the mechanical switches found in most gaming keyboards, or the optical switches that are becoming increasingly popular, the Apex Pro Mini Wireless’s switches are Hall Effect. Instead of using mechanical contacts or a beam of light under every key, it instead uses a magnetic sensor.
This design has major benefits. Instead of turning on and off like a light switch, the magnetic sensor is able to detect precisely how far down the key is being pressed. The switches are analog, similar to a joystick or trigger on a controller, but instead of using this functionality to mimic controller inputs like the Razer Huntsman Analog, Steelseries ties this to a more reliable set of functions, like custom actuation points.
Every key on the Apex Pro Mini and Pro Mini Wireless allows you to set a custom actuation point. Most switches have 4mm of travel and trigger a press of 2mm. OmniPoint 2.0 switches let you set the actuation point anywhere from 0.2 to 3.8mm. That means you can set the keys to be more sensitive than the fastest “speed switch” on the market (which usually actuate around 1-1.2mm). Or, if you’re typing, you can lower the actuation point and reduce typos. This can be done in the software or on the fly using a key combination, and for bonus points, the number row lights up to show your current sensitivity level. Even in writing this review, my actuation point is 3mm, and I’m consistently more accurate than the typical 2mm Cherry MX key switch.
These settings can apply to individual switches too. So, for example, if you’re gaming and want your movement keys to be rapid fire, you can set a fast actuation point for just those keys.
Another neat feature enabled by the OmniPoints’ depth-sensing technology is the ability to tie multiple actions to a single key press. For example, you can walk with a half-press and run when the key is bottomed out. You can equip a grenade with a gentle tap and press down all the way to throw it. Crouch at a half-tap, prone at a full. You get the idea.
Given its size, programmability is exceptionally important. Like most 60% keyboards, most of the missing keys are accessible as secondary functions by holding the function key (marked with a Steelseries logo) and are printed as side-legends on the keycaps. Where most 60-percents stumble is in limiting how remappable the keys are within software. The Apex Pro Mini’s biggest competitor, the Corsair K70 Pro Mini Wireless, which I reviewed for Tom’s Hardware, falls into that trap to some degree.
Not so with the Apex. Every key is completely remappable, including the functions that Steelseries already hard coded into the firmware. The keyboard supports up to five profiles, so you can always go back to default, but being able to completely tailor the keyboard to your gaming style and workflow makes the form factor much more usable. You’re also able to perform advanced functions, like launch programs, trigger Windows shortcuts, play macros, or even control the mouse.
Every profile can also hold two separate lighting schemes: one of the main layer and another for when you’re holding the function key. The lighting is bright and vibrant. You can set colors and animations in sections of the keyboard or as a whole thing and, of course, set custom static lighting schemes.
The overall build quality of the keyboard is good, but I’d hesitate to call it great. It uses excellent double-shot PBT keycaps that will never chip, fade, or shine. The case is normal plastic with a pair of standard flip out feet. The stabilizers are only very lightly lubed, so you do get some rattle there. Overall though, nothing too out of the ordinary in build quality and construction, and high points like the keycaps and excellent switches make it feel a cut above when taken as a whole.
Steelseries Apex Pro Mini Wireless - Performance
The real question is how it performs in games and for day-to-day use. Starting with the latter, what really drew me to this keyboard — even before I knew the features — was its sound. While the Cherry MX switches used in the K70 Pro Mini Wireless and Ducky One 2 Mini are tried and true, they’re also scratchy, pingy, and don’t sound that great.
The Apex Pro Mini Wireless’s switches sound and feel better than any other gaming keyboard in recent memory. They’re factory lubed with light oil, so they’re incredibly smooth right out of the box. There’s no scratchiness or pinginess. Add to that the customizable action points, incredible programmability, and extended 100 million key press durability, and you have a switch that feels and performs among the very best available in keyboards today.
For gaming, these switches are phenomenal. Being able to customize your actuation point makes a noticeable difference in the responsiveness of the switch. Even small changes (+/- .3-4mm either way) make a difference. I tended to keep my WASD keys more sensitive than my typing keys, and that localized difference made swapping back to a normal keyboard feel almost sluggish in comparison.
The wireless connectivity options are very useful too. The 60% form factor makes it especially portable, so being able to leave the extra wires at home is a nice benefit. There’s also no noticeable difference between playing wired and using the 2.4GHz dongle. Bluetooth does introduce some delay but is perfectly fine for typing and for slower-paced games.
If you’re not used to it, you’ll need to plan on a fairly steep learning curve swapping to such a compact keyboard. Having so many keys and functions relegated to secondary layers means memorizing new locations, and that takes some time. I’ve used the form factor for quite a while and didn’t have any trouble adapting to it here, but it’s definitely something to keep in mind.
The small size is great for making the most out of your space, however. If you have a small desk or limited gaming area, the Apex Pro Mini Wireless can help you reclaim some of that. It’s also great for large mouse sweeps and for a more ergonomic posture with your hands closer together.
Where it really comes into its own is when you come to grips with its layout and customize it for yourself. I personally hate having the Function key on my right hand and the uncomfortable contortions that are required to access secondary keys. Instead, I swapped my Caps Lock to become Function and moved arrow keys to IJKL whenever it’s held. Around that are navigation and editing buttons. If I press Caps+Ctrl I can swap profiles to instant access to custom layouts for individual games. There’s major potential here, and much more than the Apex Pro Mini Wireless’s competition currently offers.
Steelseries Apex Pro Mini Wireless - Worth the Money?
This brings us to the final question: the Apex Pro Mini Wireless (and its wired sibling) are very expensive. The Apex Pro TKL offered many of the same features and added an OLED screen on top for the same price as the wired Mini Wireless, $179.99, albeit with lower quality ABS keycaps. The Minis don’t have that and are, well, Mini.
I think it is, and here’s why: the Apex Pro Mini Wireless is aiming at a very specific group of gamers. For many of us, 60% is simply too small and you’ll find yourself hunting for keys and secondary commands. But, there’s a growing market of gamers that’s been on the rise for several years that crave this small design. The Apex Pro Mini Wireless is catering to that smaller group and it’s doing so incredibly well.
The Apex Pro Mini and Pro Mini Wireless are the best 60% gaming keyboards you can buy, full stop. The feature set and functionality are better than you’ll find anywhere else currently.
Take the Corsair K70 Pro Mini Wireless. It’s a solid keyboard that attempts to go toe to toe with the Apex Pro Mini. But, while the Apex Pros use Hall Effect switches with all of their unique benefits, the K70 Pro Mini still uses Cherries (hot-swappable, though, which the OmniPoint 2.0 switches are not). There is currently no K70 Pro Mini wired version, so you’re stuck with the higher price, even if you don’t plan on playing wirelessly.
Or you could turn to the Wooting 60HE. There things are much closer, and the Wooting even offers full gamepad emulation for analog game controls. But, it’s wired only and has more limited software.
I do wish that Steelseries would have included a screen or RGB light ring or… something extra. There is no way around how expensive this keyboard is and when you look at the Apex Pro TKL, it naturally leads you to wonder why it’s so expensive, even for the wired version. But, those keyboards are aimed at two different consumers, and the market for 60% high-performance wireless gaming keyboards faces a premium from every big brand. Steelseries just gives you more for the money.
At the end of the day, this is a great gaming keyboard. If you can get on board with the ultra-compact form factor, this is the highest performance, best sounding, best feeling miniature gaming keyboard you can buy. Against the other competitors in this space, the Apex Pro Mini Wireless is the absolute best bang for the buck and an easy recommendation to make.
The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes. Some articles may contain affiliate links and purchases made through this will result in a small commission for the site. Commissions are not directed to the author or related to compensation in any way.