Review: SteelSeries Apex M500

The SteelSeries Apex M500 is a no-frills mechanical gaming keyboard that delivers smooth, quiet performance at a reasonable price. If your needs and/or budget are relatively modest, the Apex M500 should meet them.

The SteelSeries Apex M500 delivers quiet, smooth mechanical keys in a no-frills package.
SteelSeries Apex M500 mechanical gaming keyboard (Photo credit: SteelSeries
 The Apex M500 is based upon Cherry MX Red switches, which generally require the least amount of force to press (or ‘actuate’) compared to the 4 main types of mechanical switches (Cherry MX Red, Brown, Blue, and Black). In other words, they are generally the quietest mechanical switch, and require the softest touch.

Feature Highlights and Specifications

It’s arguably the Apex M500’s general lack of features that define it, although installing the SteelSeries Engine driver software adds some extra capabilities. The main feature you gain from the SteelSeries Engine 3 software is the ability to create multi-key macros and assign them to any key on the keyboard, complete with custom/no/standard timing intervals.

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The Apex M500 is based on Cherry MX Red switches, which are quiet, soft-touch switches.

You can also use the SteelSeries Engine 3 software to adjust the brightness of the LEDs (which you can also do using the SteelSeries key+F5 or F6), and adjust the polling rate of the keyboard (if you’d ever want to for some reason).

Aside from that these software-driven features, the APEX M500’s general features are as follows:

  • Cherry MX Red mechanical switches good for up to 50 million keypresses
  • Blue LED backlighting with 7 brightness levels
  • 125/250/500/1000Mhz polling rate
  • Breathing and static lighting effects
  • Cable routing underneath the keyboard
  • Anti-ghosting and 104-key N-key rollover

Performance

The Apex M500 performs exactly as you’d expect it to, which is to say quietly and predictably. It’s a reliable if unassuming and relatively boring piece of equipment. But its “dullness” is also what makes the Apex M500 relatively inexpensive and a solid, reliable competition-grade keyboard. And you don’t even need to install SteelSeries’ Engine 3 software if you don’t care about adjusting the polling rate or creating macros.

Extra functions—such as media controls and LED brightness controls—are accessible as alternate functions of the F5-F12 keys.

Beyond that, the APEX M500 is as elegant as it is simple—even though I tend to prefer a little more clickity-clack in my mechanical keyboards, I still found the M500 very comfortable (and quiet) to game and type on.

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The Engine 3 software, though hardly necessary for the Apex M500, is still among the best driver software for PC peripherals in terms of overall usability and intuitiveness. This is important because some competitors—often from relatively obscure gaming companies—may undercut the Apex M500 in price, but often do it at the expense of good software drivers and support (i.e. drivers that are rarely, if ever updated, and may provide limited options).

Overall: 9/10 – Highly recommended

The Apex M500 gives you all the essentials of a good mechanical gaming keyboard—and nothing else—for a reasonable price (around $100).

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