The SteelSeries Apex M750 Mechanical Keyboard

SteelSeries is a company known for their discreet designs and the Apex M750 is no exception to that rule. The keyboard sports soothingly simple design, with smooth curves and clean flat surfaces. The company's logo at the top right corner of the keyboard is all that breaks the flatness of the minimalistic design. This design has the mechanical keys "floating" above the aluminum surface of the keyboard, allowing for easier cleaning and reducing the keyboard's bulk and weight.

We received the US layout version of the SteelSeries Apex M750. It is a standard 104 keys keyboard that fully adheres to the ANSI layout. There are no volume control knobs, extra media keys, or any other extra keys/buttons to be found. The bottom row of the keyboard has a 6.25× Spacebar and seven 1.25× bottom row keys. SteelSeries replaced the right "menu" key with a key that bears the company's logo and can be used to access some of the keyboard's advanced features on-the-fly.

A closer look at the keycaps reveals that they are standard height ABS plastic keycaps, meaning that they are also easily replaceable with most keycaps designed for Cherry MX switches (or, in this case, their clones). Large bold characters are etched on the keycaps, with the secondary character at the bottom half of the keycap. There is nothing special regarding the keycaps of the Apex M750, at least not in comparison to its immediate competition.

  

The low-profile keycaps are made from ABS plastic and have normally sized characters printed on them. These keycaps do not affect key travel, which remains at four mm, the same as with most mechanical keyboards currently available. Both of the primary and the secondary character is printed at the top of each keycap, which is a tactic frequently used with mechanical keyboard so as to place both characters over the lighting LED. The catch here is that the lighting of these switches is uniform around the stem, so using such switches on this keyboard is virtually meaningless. These keycaps are most likely coming from a production line that is supplying the same keycaps for use on mechanical keyboards as well.

As the Apex M750 has no dedicated media keys, media and other advanced controls are accessible only via keystroke combinations using the "SteelSeries" key. Even then, the company kept functions down to an absolute minimum. By default, users can only adjust the brightness of the backlighting (F5-F6) or access basic media and sound volume controls (F7-F12). The SteelSeries Apex M750 is not nearly as simple as that though, as it is a fully programmable keyboard and can be greatly customized via its software.

The curved underside of the keyboard is a little interesting, with a glossy center part and large rubber stripes/legs. SteelSeries removed the standard feet that keyboard have for tilt adjustment and replaced them with removable rubber pads. Like every other keyboard, the Apex M750 has two tilt settings - one is almost flat or, by replacing the rubber pads with those in the package, the keyboard gains a permanent tilt of a few degrees. The rubber pads have the advantage of not closing/folding/breaking if mishandled during a heated gaming session.

Beneath the keycaps we find the company's new QX2 switches. The switches appear to be a perfect copy of Cherry MX Red RGB switch, mimicking practically everything - the travel distance, actuation force, clear frame, RGB LED at the top, everything but Cherry's logo, which has been replaced by the SteelSeries logo. An experienced user can tell the difference between the QX2 and the original Cherry MX switch, as the keys of the Apex M750 wobble noticeably more than those of a Cherry product. The wobble is not dramatic but the shaky movements seem to add to the overall noise output of the keyboard slightly, plus they deteriorate the otherwise premium feeling of the keyboard.  

The RGB backlighting turns the minimalistic Apex M750 into a colorful festivity. With the RGB LED at the top of each switch, the secondary characters are obviously underlit, a common issue with this particular design. Other than that, the lighting is vivid and clean, with the clear frames of the switches smoothly diffusing it around every key. The backlighting is fully programmable via the keyboard's software. By default, the Apex M750 combines the effects of a rainbow flow pattern plus a ripple-per-keypress reactive lighting. Impressive as this may be, so many effects are just too distracting, probably even just for gaming. Working in a dark room with the keyboard's default lighting configuration is practically torture.

Opening up the Apex M750 reveals that the top aluminum cover is the very frame of the keyboard, with the plastic rear only serving as a cover for the PCB. The switches were attached directly to the well-machined aluminum sheet and then the PCB was soldered directly in place. The design is very simple and yet very practical.

The core of the Apex M750 is a powerful STMicroelectronics STM32F072C8 microcontroller, with a high performance 32-bit ARM processor at 48 MHz. The chip has an internal 64 Kb of flash memory plus 16 Kb of SRAM, as well as advanced 32-bit and PWM timers. It is not the most powerful microcontroller that we have seen used in a keyboard but it definitely suffices for the capabilities of the Apex M750.

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  • timecop1818 - Saturday, September 8, 2018 - link

    So hold on, is menu button completely gone to be replaced with their Fn key equivalent? Reply
  • wavetrex - Saturday, September 8, 2018 - link

    Yes, there is no "menu" button.
    Which I found inconvenient as well, but resolved it quickly by remapping the right "Windows" key to be the "menu" button".
    The "Steelseries" key cannot be remapped, but every other one can.

    This is an absolutely excellent keyboard and I've been enjoying it since March 2018, and to this day nothing else to complain about it.
    It looks great, works great, easy to maintain (clean), software is awesome (and could be improved even more).
    Reply
  • timecop1818 - Sunday, September 9, 2018 - link

    Thank you. that seems like a decent compromise, I do use left winkey as well as menu (a lot), but can't recall many cases where right winkey would be in use. Reply
  • wavetrex - Saturday, September 8, 2018 - link

    @E. Fylladitakis
    Some people (that includes myself) like and want the minimalist design, which still keeps full ANSI compatibility.
    I bought this keyboard especially for this, it has the minimum size for a full-104 key keyboard and fits my desk well.
    Other mech. keyboards might have extra functions, dedicated media or macro buttons, but they are also significantly BIGGER, and that becomes a problem for many people.

    The position of the media combo-keys make it easy to distinguish between "Play/Pause - F8" and "Next - F9", since there's that gap between them, and these are basically the most useful ones.

    Volume Up/Down are also well placed, at the end of Fn row, making them easy to find blindly.
    ~~
    Finally, you seem to have missed in your article the fact that lighting can be controlled through the keyboard itself as well, not just the software.

    Pressing "SS Key" + Print screen / Scroll Lock / Insert / Home / Delete / End changes lighting modes and adjust parameters (like color, speed)
    Even without installing the software, it's possible to switch to a more "pleasant" lighting, like "Starlight" mode. The keyboard remembers the last setting event through power-off, so moving it to a computer without the software installed is nice.
    Reply
  • E.Fyll - Sunday, September 9, 2018 - link

    There is no need to try and justify your purchase to anybody. Every product has a potential market - if it didn't have any potential at all, nobody would bother reviewing it anyway. I am just highlighting what I think it is important, from my point of view. Readers are free to decide themselves whether the product fits their wants and needs.

    About this however:

    "Other mech. keyboards might have extra functions, dedicated media or macro buttons, but they are also significantly BIGGER, and that becomes a problem for many people."

    That's not even remotely true. There are at least a dozen mechanical keyboards available with dedicated media keys/volume control knobs which are not even bigger than the M750. The dead space occupied by the company's logo would be enough to host at least dedicated volume controls.

    Finally, that's a gaming keyboard and its target group is, well, gamers. I really don't think that a gamer cares about being able to switch to "starlight mode" without the software if plugging in the keyboard to another computer. I just never fathomed that someone would buy such an expensive keyboard for that feature. But thank you for pointing that out, just in case someone actually does care about that.
    Reply
  • Sarah Terra - Saturday, September 8, 2018 - link

    Sad how badly Ian Cutress has run this once great publication into the ground. Irrelevant, boring articles combined with endless keyboard reviews....ladies and gentlemen, I give you the result of liberal millennials "at work" Reply
  • m16 - Sunday, September 9, 2018 - link

    It just so happens that the majority of people happen to use keyboards and there's a lot of new offerings showing up.

    If you want to talk about drivel and politics, there's a place for you, fox is elsewhere on the internet, and it includes retirees.
    Reply
  • imemerson - Sunday, September 9, 2018 - link

    This site still does amazing work, including reviews of keyboards which are the most important peripheral for any computer. To make this site more useful to those of us that are here to learn and use it correctly, please remove yourself. I'm sure you can find plenty of low-quality "liberal millenials are ruining everything" places to spout your nonsensical drivel (try InfoWars or anything under the label of Fox News) and please stop slandering a site that actually engages in high-quality reviews and writing with a long history of excellent and truthful reporting. Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Sunday, September 9, 2018 - link

    "Sad how badly Ian Cutress has run this once great publication into the ground."

    Hey, credit where credit is due. I'm the editor-in-chief, I am the one who's running it into the ground! =P

    But in all seriousness, if you have specific concerns about the site I'm more than happy to hear them.

    However as far as keyboard reviews go, I am very satisfied with them and intend to continue. They are a nice way to mix things up in terms of content, and they draw reasonable traffic and reader interest.
    Reply
  • Ian Cutress - Monday, September 10, 2018 - link

    What's been irrelevant and boring recently? Lots of investigative work and new launches, as well as extensive show coverage in the past few weeks Reply

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