Some of the top high-end gaming keyboards are made by SteelSeries. The business has since produced its Apex 9 TKL (available at Amazon for $139.99), a tenkeyless model that combines some of the best features from the original Apex Pro and the recently released Apex Pro Mini Wireless.
SteelSeries concentrated on strength, customisation, and delivering the greatest gaming experience possible despite the fact that it lacks features like wireless compatibility and multi-device connectivity that are standard in other keyboards at this price.
About the Apex 9 TKL
- Price: $140
- Connectivity: Wired (detachable USB-C to USB-A cable)
- Switches: SteelSeries Linear OptiPoint Optical switches (rated for 100 million presses), hot-swappable (OptiPoint Switches only)
- Dimensions: 14 x 1.65 x 5.04 inches
- Weight: 635 grams (1.39 pounds)
- Material: Aluminum top plate, plastic shell
- Special features: Five onboard memory profiles, customizable RGB backlighting, Double-Shot PBT keycaps, included keycap puller
SteelSeries has confirmed support for Windows, macOS X, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, and PS5. There is also unconfirmed support for Android OS and ChromeOS.
The Apex 9 Mini, which has all the features of the TKL model and the functionality of a full-size keyboard while maintaining the footprint of the Apex Pro Mini Wireless, was released concurrently with the Apex 9 TKL.
The headlining feature of the Apex 9 TKL are the custom-built OptiPoint optical linear mechanical switches, which are hot-swappable and feature 2-point actuation, the same found within the Apex Pro Mini Wireless. The 2-point actuation allows you to adjust the sensitivity of each key to either 1.0mm for competitive gaming or 1.5mm for traditional use. The downside is that you can only use OptiPoint switches. At the time of this review, alternative switches are not available for purchase from third-parties or SteelSeries.
The SteelSeries GG software expands the capabilities for this keyboard tenfold. The Apex 9 TKL has five preconfigured lighting patterns, one paired to each of the five preset included profiles. Through the software you can modify the RGB lighting on a per-key basis, whether the lighting is active or reactive, and even create unique lighting schemes.
You can also create custom macros, set key and meta bindings, and tie custom layouts to specific games so when they are launched, the profile switches to accommodate the game. These features proved pretty easy to set up and implement, but there is a bit of a learning curve. As it stands now, the program is only compatible with Windows and Intel-based Macs.
The Apex 9 TKL was designed to appeal to the competitive gamer. While not a pro, while playing games like Call of Duty: Vanguard and CS:GO, this keyboard provides a slight competitive edge against die-hard fans of these games. This is thanks in part to being able to adjust the actuation level to 1mm for lighter key presses, and paired with the lightning-fast 0.2ms response time, my response and reaction timing in-game are greatly improved.
As a daily driver, this keyboard stands toe-to-toe with my Logitech MX Mechanical keyboard. I used Monkeytype to test the reliability of the Apex 9 TKL. With the MX Mechanical, I averaged 53 words per minute with 94% accuracy.
By comparison, I was able to average 69 words per minute with 98% accuracy on the Apex 9 TKL. I also found myself more productive overall. This is thanks in part to a combination of adjusting 2-point actuation alongside strategic key mapping and macros, streamlining my workflow.
Whether being used for gaming or productivity, the SteelSeries Apex 9 TKL provides a pleasurable experience with intuitive customization options at a great price. It’s a durable compact keyboard that melds elements from two of SteelSeries’ best, and an intuitive gaming keyboard that focuses on what’s important to a gamer. It also demonstrates why paying a little extra can be a good thing.
While I can sing this keyboard’s praises, you can’t avoid solid competition from the likes of Corsair and its $130 K60 Pro TKL and Razer’s sub-$100 BlackWidow V3 Tenkeyless. While unique in their own ways, all three keyboards have similar features like fully addressable RGB, programmable keys, and custom macro controls.
However, the customizability of the user experience makes the Apex 9 TKL outshine the rest. From hot-swappable key switches, to adjustable keystroke actuation points, this keyboard will last for years to come since it can change based on your needs.