THERE is such a great and diverse range of peripherals on the market now that no matter what your preference or gaming need, there’s something out there that will suit it very nicely.
This creates the sort of situation I’ve experienced when reviewing the SteelSeries Apex Pro Mini Wireless Keyboard – it’s an excellent product, but not suitable for what I personally need.
My first thought on seeing the Apex Pro Mini Wireless Keyboard was “What is this, a keyboard for ants?”
Measuring 293mm wide by 103mm deep and 40mm high, it is, as you can imagine, a lot smaller than the keyboards I usually use.
Besides the smaller size, it’s also missing the ten-keys. They’re one of those things you either love or have no use for; I’m very much in the former category since I do a lot of Business Stuff™, but outside of a few complex simulation games like Microsoft Flight Simulator, I can’t think of the last time I actually used them for anything gaming related.
It is in that spirit that the keyboard has been compressed (60% of the size of a regular keyboard) and does a very good job of keeping most of the full-size features, generally by giving keys and alternate function that can be activated with a double-tap (for example, the number keys at the top will perform as the F1-F10 keys when double-tapped).
For general use it did take a bit of getting used to, but didn’t impact the gaming experience when I was testing it with titles including God of War and Doom Eternal – the WASD keys etc were accessible and despite my large hands, I could use them without issues.
The build quality on the keyboard is very good – the keys were responsive and not too “clicky”, and I found they had just the right level of spring too.
I really liked the adjustable activation points for keys; which allowed me to set up when the keystroke would register. Even better, it didn’t require any software or anything – it can be done entirely off the keyboard.
As someone who is so very tired of having to install software for peripherals which don’t really need it, I really appreciated this feature. Full disclosure: I do actually have the SteelSeries GG software installed anyway because I review and use quite a bit of their stuff – and in this case, it can be used to customise the key activation level on a per-key basis, which is surprisingly useful.
You can also extensively customise the RGB, macros, and other keyboard functions in the software too, further adding to its effectiveness and usefulness.
Connection is via Bluetooth or 2.4Ghz wireless, with a switch on the back to change between the two. As with the SteelSeries Prime Mini Wireless mouse, the USB-C dongle included in the box can be connected to the (also included) USB-A to USB-C charging cable via an included adaptor, allowing the wireless option to work regardless of your available USB port situation.
I had no issues at all with lag or input delays, regardless of whether I was connected via Bluetooth or Wireless. Setup was extremely simple, and the battery life in the keyboard was within the advertised lengths (about 40 hours for Bluetooth, 30 hours for wireless). And, if you’re like me and simply don’t trust wireless device batteries not to go flat when you need them most, you can plug the keyboard in via the USB-C cable and turn it into a wired peripheral.
It is worth noting that while the keyboard works with PC, Mac, Xbox and PlayStation, it does not work with iOS devices such as the iPad or iPhone – which is a shame, because it would be perfect as a peripheral for them; it only weighs 543gm, making it very portable.
Despite all the really good things about the Apex Pro Mini Wireless keyboard, for me personally it suffered a significant and critical issue: it was simply too small for my hands.
I have large hands and while I could use the keyboard for gaming and typing basic stuff into Google or Twitter, it simply wasn’t feasible for me to use as a work/typing keyboard with any degree of accuracy because my typing accuracy completely tanked; I’d hit too many keys or not the one I wanted to, and it was hard to position my hands comfortably for extended writing. I also really missed the dedicated arrow keys – it turns out I use them a lot for non-gaming stuff.
You know who had the opposite problem to me regarding the size, though? My kids. For them, the Apex Pro Mini Wireless was a perfect size and since they’re not doing boring grown-up stuff with it, were not worried at all by the absent tenkeys.
Another thing to keep in mind is the keyboard is really expensive – the RRP is USD$279.99, which works out to roughly AUD$400 (before shipping etc).
Eye-watering cost aside, the issues I had with the SteelSeries Apex Pro Mini Wireless Keyboard were almost entirely personal preference matters rather than actual faults with the keyboard – if this was a full-size keyboard I’d be very pleased with it.
The SteelSeries Apex Pro Mini Wireless keyboard has the build quality and design of a proper gaming keyboard, has most of the features of a full-size keyboard in some form or another, and it does everything it sets out to do extremely well.
If you’re looking for a small form-factor wireless keyboard for your PC, and have a healthy budget to work with, I don’t think you can go past this one.