Earlier this year, we introduced you to the new SteelSeries Apex 9 TKL and Mini keyboards (you can see that here). Since then, we’ve been spending time with the boards, and are ready to deliver a verdict. today, it’s the SteelSeries Apex 9 TKL up for review.

When it came in, the SteelSeries Apex 9 TKL pushed the SteelSeries Apex 7 TKL off to the side (look down below for a photo of them side-by-side), as the 7 had become my daily driver. With the SteelSeries Engine, getting the 9 setup was quick and painless (including a firmware update), and got it hooked into the color syncing across the mouse and mouse pad as well.

The first great thing about the SteelSeries Apex 9 TKL actually has nothing to do with the hardware, but with the color scheme. With the black keys and base, it is super easy to see the keys with RGB on whether you’ve got bright overhead lights on or not (with the white Apex 7, I’d actually have to turn off RGB with the room lights on to read the letters), and given how that can fluctuate, I rather liked it. Of course, if you want to turn the backlighting off, well, then you’ve got problems on the dark keyboard.

The next thing that I found particularly great with the SteelSeries Apex 9 TKL was the fact that they’ve included a keycap puller under the flap on the back of the keyboard. Sometimes you just want to swap a cap or move things around (as I did for the key layout on my Mac; the Engine software made that simple as well), and having that puller available – and always there on the keyboard – is great. It also feels a lot sturdier than the wire keycap puller you may have kicking around.

The switches!

And speaking of keycaps, that’s another great thing about the SteelSeries Apex 9 TKL – while it’s still giving you that clicky sensation (and sound), the optical switches are a bit quieter than what you’d find on the 7 with it’s red mechanical switches. It’s enough of a drop in key volume that I noticed, and found I preferred, as I didn’t necessarily have to mute myself on calls if I was typing.

And speaking of typing. Under the fingers, the keycaps of the SteelSeries Apex 9 TKL feel like any other recent SteelSeries keyboard. The finish is smooth but not slippery, and the switches – with their two-level actuation points – are responsive. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been using this keyboard daily for the past few months, and it’s been amazing. I mean, most keyboards just work out of the box, sure, but here, this one just felt right.

Apex 9 vs Apex 7

Compared to the Apex 7, you do lose a few things with the SteelSeries Apex 9 TKL. For one, no magnetic wrist wrest (no biggie). For another, you lose out on the small display (not really missed here). Finally, you lose a USB-A port on the keyboard, and at first I did sort of miss that. As I worked with it and pondered it, however, it wasn’t a loss. For one, the Apex 7 requires two USB connections on your computer to enable that port (one for the KB, one for the port). With the Apex 8, it’s just a single connection, AND it relies on a USB-C connector at the keyboard. So yes, you can easily unhook it to move it out of the way for whatever reason, or even quickly plug in something else on the USB-C cable.

So, whether you’re gaming, writing code, or typing out the next great novel, the SteelSeries Apex 9 TKL is definitely worth checking out. You get that pleasant tactile feel (and sound) that you’d have with a fully-mechanical keyboard, customizable backlighting, and a compact connection into your system. If you want to pick one up, they go for $139.99 (in 6 language layouts) from Amazon or direct from steelseries.com

vs the Mini (review coming soon!)

Tech Specs from SteelSeries

  • Key Switches: SteelSeries Linear OptiPoint Optical
  • Switch Rating: 100 Million Keypresses
  • On-Board Memory: 5 Custom Profiles
  • Processor: 32 bit ARM
  • Actuation Points / Force: 1.0-1.5 mm / 35g
  • Connection: Detachable USB Type-C
  • Width: 355 mm / 14 in
  • Depth: 128 mm / 5.04 in
  • Height: 42 mm / 1.65 in
  • Weight: 635 g
  • Height Adjustment: Rubber Tri Level Feet
  • Lighting: Per Key RGB Illumination
  • Compatibility
    • 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

By Patrick Kansa

A big data developer and leader with a penchant for gadgets, books, watches and beverages. You can find my work on WristWatchReview, Knapsack.News, and Slushpile. If you're on Twitter and/or Instagram, you'll find me there as @PatrickWatches.

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