Conclusion

I always try to use every keyboard that we review as my personal keyboard for at least a week. My typical weekly usage includes a lot of typing (about 100-150 pages), a few hours of gaming and some casual usage, such as internet browsing and messaging. I personally prefer Cherry MX Brown or similar (tactile) switches for such tasks, but I do not consider linear switches to be inconvenient either. The Apex M500 was actually a little tiring for such use, not because of the switches but because the height of the keyboard and the lack of a palm rest place a lot of stress on the wrists. It does work just fine for the occasional typing of an essay/report or any other <10-page text with a couple of breaks, but I would not recommend it to professional writers and typists.

The intended market of the Apex M500 however is advanced and professional gamers. As far as gaming goes, assuming that the left wrist will require limited movement, the Apex M500 is highly responsive and very convenient to use. Even though it lacks a palm/wrist rest, the Apex M500 did not feel uncomfortable after an hourly gaming session for me.

The software left me with mixed feelings. As I use a few complex macros that include mouse movements and button presses, I had to use a third party macro programming software, compile the macros to .exe files and program the keyboard to launch them as external applications. For simpler macros and layout changes however, the SteelSeries Engine works great. It is a very simple, smooth and stable piece of software that has great potential should the company decides to throw some more resources into it.

As a keyboard, the Apex M500 has a very specific market and design focus. It is minimalistic, without extra buttons, USB ports, or even custom keycaps. In terms of durability however, the Apex M500 is very solid and the high quality of Cherry’s MX switches is widely known. Even though its external body is plastic, the Apex M500 does not feel “cheap” at all, yet it probably does lose in terms of visual prowess and prestige against aluminum-based models. The designer was truly focused on designing a simple, solid mechanical keyboard specifically for gaming.

In summary, the Apex M500 is a durable, no-frills mechanical keyboard that is an excellent choice for casual and advanced gamers alike. Although the macro recording capabilities of the supplied software are limited, it is smooth and very stable. Hopefully the company will invest more on it as they release more mechanical/programmable models, as it has great potential.

The only issue that the Apex M500 has is its very high retail price. SteelSeries suggests an MSPR price of $120 for the Apex M500, which is very steep and has virtually no hope against the competition. We found the Apex M500 currently retailing for $100 including shipping, a more reasonable price, and yet it still has many direct competitors retailing for significantly less. For example, the aluminum frame and Cherry MX based Cougar Attack X3 is currently retailing for just $70, a difference of about 30%. The Apex M500 is a very good choice for a gaming mechanical keyboard, but as keyboards are very much a commodity market, we feel that its retail price needs to be lowered if it is to stand a chance against the strong competition.

Software & Per-Key Quality Testing
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  • ddriver - Friday, June 10, 2016 - link

    What's with those small return keys... Reply
  • Olaf van der Spek - Friday, June 10, 2016 - link

    Return keys?
    You mean the standard Enter key? It's the normal shape and size...
    Reply
  • ddriver - Friday, June 10, 2016 - link

    http://i.imgur.com/sgfuu.jpg

    It is a frequently used key and it is only logical it's size is extended. Keyboard where it is a "single line" key are very uncomfortable.
    Reply
  • Olaf van der Spek - Friday, June 10, 2016 - link

    Some prefer an even bigger Enter, some prefer the bigger Backspace and \ being in the 'normal' location.
    A single-line Enter is already one of the biggest keys on the board..
    Reply
  • ddriver - Friday, June 10, 2016 - link

    It boils down to whether or not you have a basis for comparison. Do you have to type a lot, and have you ever used an extended enter keyboard? It is a huge step back having to conform to a small enter key. Seems to be a US thing, another "convenience" like using imperial units together with other progressing states such as Liberia and Burma :) Reply
  • Inteli - Friday, June 10, 2016 - link

    Yes and yes. The extended enter key is horrible. More often than not I type a slash instead of backspace because the Backspace keys on those boards are tiny. ISO/EU boards aren't any better because their keys don't stretch far enough left to be easily hit by the pinky.

    Different strokes for different folks, I guess, but most of us here in the US have adapted to the standard ANSI layout, and I find it perfect for me.
    Reply
  • ddriver - Friday, June 10, 2016 - link

    Tiny backspace seems to be another US oddity like the tiny enter.

    https://deskthority.net/wiki/ANSI_vs_ISO

    The backspace is clearly not tiny, what's tiny is the left shift, which I find somewhat silly, since it is done only to accommodate a redundant slash key, already present on the keyboard elsewhere. Even if tiny it is not inconvenient for use with the pinky, so much so that I barely use the larger right shift, if ever.

    The extended enter is a must for me, I'd never purchase keyboards or laptops without it. Good keyboards with good layouts are very rare in my experience, I have like 20 keyboards collecting dust, simply because each of them failed to improve on or even match my favorite keyboard, which I kind of "stole" - my father's company got it with a high end IBM server which didn't really needed a keyboard, much less a good one, so I replaced it. 18 years later it still works flawlessly, it has survived my pro gaming days (mainly quake 3 plus some other FPS) and several books. Built to last, which is very rare today, with most products carefully engineered to break soon after their warranty runs out.
    Reply
  • Inteli - Friday, June 10, 2016 - link

    If you look at the first picture you linked, you linked a modified ANSI board with a larger enter key, what Deskthority lovingly calls the "big-a**" enter key, and that was what I was referring to with the small backspace. An ISO board wouldn't work for me, since with my typing habits, I'd be pressing slash instead of enter, rather than slash instead of backspace.

    Clearly, we've learned to type on different layouts, and have grown different habits around them. I hit my enter key at its leftmost edge, which would make an ISO enter key an extra stretch for my habits. You obviously don't have such issues, and that's just fine.

    By the way, if this keyboard is ever sold in your country, I can practically guarantee that it'll have an ISO layout instead of an ANSI layout. American website, American standard layout.
    Reply
  • ddriver - Saturday, June 11, 2016 - link

    Yeah, I recently watched a documentary about a community of oddballs in Turkey who spent all their lives walking on all four. They couldn't make them walk on their feet no matter what. And let me tell you, it wasn't like they were proficient walking on all four - they were very slow and awkward, like turtles. But still, its the way they prefer, cuz it is the only way they know.

    Unfortunately, while big PC vendors usually provide ISO layouts, this is very rarely the case with companies specializing in (decent, mechanical) keyboards. I suspect this is because their products, although exported to Europe, have not been manufactured with export to Europe in mind.

    My local retailer has currently about 30 mechanical keyboard models on sale, and currently one 2 of them come with the extended enter key, sadly they look ridiculous and don't look like they are convenient for heavy typers.
    Reply
  • Inteli - Saturday, June 11, 2016 - link

    Your analogy implies that there aren't any proficient typers using ANSI keyboards. Reply

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