Earlier this yr I lastly received round to protecting SteelSeries’s Apex M800 and its proprietary QS1 swap, and now it’s gone. Sure, after only one keyboard, SteelSeries has ditched the QS1 swap, with its sq. housing and centered LED.
Taking its place is the Apex M750 keyboard designed across the all-new QX2 swap—nonetheless proprietary, however fairly a bit extra acquainted. The QX2 falls squarely into “Cherry MX knockoff” territory, as with so many switches as of late.
So how does it fare?
Observe: This evaluate is a part of our best gaming keyboards of 2017 roundup. Go there for particulars about competing merchandise and the way we examined them.
Design: Conserving it easy
Earlier than we dive deeper into the QX2, let’s speak a bit concerning the Apex M750 itself. That is presumably SteelSeries’ flagship these days—if for no different motive than it bears a flagship value. At $140 the Apex M750 is the most costly keyboard SteelSeries sells, and regardless of its decrease numeric designation, the M750 replaces the Apex M800 utterly.
It’s a really primary keyboard although. Constructed nicely, actually—the all-metal chassis offers the M750 a sturdy and dependable really feel. However so far as luxurious options go—devoted media keys, macro keys, USB pass-through, removable or routable cable, wrist relaxation—none of that’s included right here.
Media keys are embedded within the operate row from F9 to F12. That’s extra logical placement than keyboards that use F1 to F4, because it lets you use the M750’s keys one-handed. It’s nonetheless no substitute for precise media keys although, not to mention a quantity curler, as on Corsair’s Ok95 or Logitech’s G810. Embedding media instructions within the operate row is the naked minimal these days, so on a flagship keyboard it appears like a misstep.
Macro keys aren’t any actual loss, and I’m effective with the M750’s smaller dimension in comparison with the M800. Hell, I’m additionally effective with no USB passthrough, no removable or routable cables, and even no wrist relaxation. None of those are must-have options.
Abstaining from all of them although? It makes the M750 really feel extraordinarily vanilla, compared to each the competitors and the previous M800, which had many of those luxuries. I complained about the identical bare-bones method to Razer’s BlackWidow Chroma V2 earlier this yr, and the Chroma V2 at the least included an opulent wrist relaxation to compensate. The Apex M750 has nothing.
[Note: It looks like SteelSeries has started adding the wrist rest to Apex M750 purchases for free, but it’s still listed on the site as a $15 add-on (and our review unit didn’t arrive with one).]
The M750’s generic aesthetic doesn’t assist increase its profile any. With out the SteelSeries emblem within the higher proper, I’d be onerous pressed to tug it from a lineup. The flared sides are the one design trait that stands out—oh, and the truth that SteelSeries used bizarre rubber inserts on the underside of the keyboard as a substitute of the standard fold-out flaps. It’s unusual and never terribly handy.
However, it’s value noting that the Apex M750 does value considerably much less (or at the least lists for much less) than most competing flagships. Logitech, Razer, and Corsair’s high-end fashions all record within the $170 to $200 vary. The Apex M750 lists for $140.
Even at $140 the Apex M750 feels a bit simplistic, however a $30 to $60 distinction might be big, particularly with keyboards—which I think most individuals discover more durable to justify the nearer it approaches $200.
The Apex M750 additionally boasts unbelievable lighting for its value. It’s one of many few RGB LED fashions to record underneath $150, and the $120 10-key-less model is possibly (I’d should verify) the least costly RGB keyboard up to now.
It’s wonderful RGB lighting too. Colours are brilliant and vibrant, and transitions are clean. And whereas the M800’s centered LEDs offered higher general illumination, SteelSeries has nonetheless accomplished an ideal job with the offset-LEDs necessitated by Cherry’s design.
I’m much more impressed by the work SteelSeries has accomplished on the software program facet although. SteelSeries Engine remains to be a bit heavy for a utility, however it seems to be nice. It’s additionally extremely simple so as to add advanced results to your keyboard, and SteelSeries has constructed out a number of the results folks have requested for on competing platforms for years.
One instance is the audio visualizer. I’ve been utilizing the M750 nearly completely with the visualizer, and it’s wonderful. Every column corresponds to a part of the audible spectrum (20 Hz to 20Ok Hz) and lighting then bounces up and down in time with the waveform. One other enjoyable impact: You possibly can import a GIF, and the keyboard will try to recreate it utilizing its 104 misshapen “pixels”/keys.
Different built-in results cowl chat packages and standard video games like Dota 2 and Minecraft, and whereas not all of those are distinctive to SteelSeries, they’re dealt with fairly a bit higher right here than I’ve seen from the competitors. You simply flip a characteristic “On” in SteelSeries Engine and also you’re good to go. The Apex M750 brings the RGB keyboard nearer to being a helpful piece of package, and never simply an aesthetic fad.
The QX2 key: A Cherry by every other identify…
As for the QX2, it’s an apparent Cherry MX Crimson clone with 4mm journey, 2mm actuation, 45 cN resistance, and the acquainted Cherry “stem” design. SteelSeries didn’t even change the colour.
Which, I assume, raises the apparent query: Why hassle with the “SteelSeries QX2” identify? The QS1 was manufactured by Kailh and I think the QX2 is as nicely. Is it only a level of delight for SteelSeries to have its identify on the switches? A tactic to compete with Razer and Logitech’s proprietary switches? Or is Kailh’s identify simply that poisonous amongst keyboard lovers?
Arduous to say, however it’s a bit unusual regardless. The swap is completely effective although, insofar because it’s simply a typical Cherry Crimson knockoff. I’m not an enormous fan of Reds, particularly now that the superior MX Pace/Silver swap exists, however for those who’re on the lookout for a light-weight linear swap for gaming, the QX2 is completely inoffensive. Fanatics will declare Kailh switches are much less exact or sturdy, however the common consumer gained’t discover.
And hey, at the least it’s a Kailh keyboard at a Kailh value—as I mentioned, the M750 lists at $140. That’s higher than Razer, which additionally makes use of rebranded Kailh switches (although that partnership is admittedly a bit extra sophisticated) however prices $170 for the BlackWidow Chroma V2.
The SteelSeries Apex M750 is a keyboard for individuals who need RGB lighting with out the RGB tax. At $140 (or $120 for the 10-key-less model), the M750 is available in nicely beneath the record value for many competing flagships, but gives comparable (or higher) lighting results than its higher-priced competitors.
However that low value comes at the price of different options—options that, in some instances, already existed on the previous M800 mannequin. With no media keys, cable routing, macro keys, or different “luxurious” options, the M750 is left feeling fairly bare-bones, nearly like SteelSeries sacrificed utility to hit a low-cost RGB keyboard.
If that’s true? Comprehensible. I’d nonetheless take operate over kind although, whether or not it’s a feature-packed single-color backlit keyboard for much less cash, or a feature-packed RGB keyboard for extra.