Following on from our review on the SteelSeries Apex M800 Mechanical Keyboard, today we will be taking a look at SteelSeries latest keyboard offering by way of the Apex M500. The Apex M500 is no a frills mechanical keyboard that features Cherry MX Red switches which have become a favourite among gamers. Not only are the red switches one of the best for gaming, they are also fairly good for typing on as well so they make so keyboards that feature them generally offer good all-around performance. In this day and age with so many clones and knockoffs around, it’s nice to see the top companies sticking to their guns and using the tried and tested Cherry MX switches. The Cherry MX switches are the original mechanical switch and are known as the best mainstream mechanical switch.
On to the Apex M500, not only does it feature Cherry Red switches, it also has a nice blue LED backlighting to it. The M500 isn’t your typical gaming keyboard in the sense of looking like it’s from another planet, it features a very simple design that represents quality and good performance. As well all know, gamers have different tastes and SteelSeries are trying to appeal to this fact by offering a basic mechanical keyboard with Cherry MX switches. On the first impression, the Apex M800 looks like a very well constructed keyboard that should perform great thanks in part to those amazing Cherry MX Red switches so without further ado, let’s take a quick look at the specs and get a closer look of the M500 itself.
- Switch Type: Mechanical
- Switch Name: Cherry MX Red Gaming Switches
- Throw Depth: 4 mm
- Actuation and Reset Depth: 2 mm
- Actuation Force Needed: 45cN
- 50 Million Click Lifetime Guarantee
- Layout: Traditional
- Full Anti-Ghosting Support
- N-Key Roll Over: 104 Key
- Illumination: Per-Key Blue LEDs
- Quick Access Media Keys
- Fully Programmable Keys
- Cable Management System
- Weight: 1241 g, 2.742 lbs
- Height: 136.43 mm, 5.37 in
- Width: 440.56 mm, 17.34 in
- Depth: 39.52 mm, 1.56 in
- Large Adjustable Rubber Feet
- Cable Length: 2 m, 6.5 ft
Taking a quick look at the outside of the box and on the front, we have a nice almost full-size image of the M500. We can see this keyboard is compatible with both PC and Max and as mentioned it features Cherry MX switches and a per-key blue LED backlighting.
Flipping over to the back of the box and now we get a look at the whole keyboard. There is also some information regarding Cherry Switches and how their life expectancy is up to 50M clicks. Over on the right, there is a bit more information on things such as the N-key rollover and the Steel Series Engine 3 software.
Inside the box, we are left with only a quick start guide and the Apex M500 keyboard. When they say no frills, they sure do mean it!
Taking a proper look at the Apex M500 and we can see there are no extra buttons or anything, it is a standard full-sized keyboard with no extras at all. SteelSeries were even so serious about the whole no frills thing, they included a standard rubber cable instead of a braided one. Personally, I’ve never been too concerned about peripherals cables, as long as they are black, I am happy as I try to hide them as much as possible anyways.
The Apex M500 is constructed from the hardest of plastics and also has a steel back plate to help make it durable for those late night rage sessions. I’m not saying to try your luck and bang it on the desk, but should it endure a bit of a rage fit, it should be fine as it is very durable and sturdy.
The keycaps are fairly standard and feature the laser etched markings so the backlighting can shine through with ease. The font used on the A-Z keys is quite large and very easy to see which may bode well with some users.
There are still a couple of multi-function F-keys available across the top row. The F5/F6 keys will allow you to control the brightness of the LED backlighting and the F7-F12 are your standard media controls which are nice to see on the keyboard. While it may not be much, it is nice to see these keys and even better, most adults will be able to manage the volume controls with one hand which is always a bonus!
To make use of the extra functions on the F-keys, you simply hold down the SteelSeries key and hit your desired F-key, it’s that simple.
One thing I was very impressed with was the underside of the M500. As you can see, not only does it feature a fairly unique design, it has 3x non-slip rubber grips and the 2x flip-up feet are also coated in soft rubber. However, the star of the underside is the cable management system which will let you route the cable on the left, right or even the center of the keyboard. Cable management is becoming more popular on keyboards and I think this is something we as end-users can all get on board with.
The feet are easily flipped up with a simple pull to allow for a more ergonomic feel.
Non-slip grips are a fairly normal feature on keyboards these days as it helps stop them from sliding around on desks, though it is always nice to see different implementations of these.
The SteelSeries Apex M500 is constructed from the hardest of plastics which offers great durability and a pure quality look. Again, I don’t recommend you start bashing it about, but it should be able to take a bit of a thrashing during a rage fit!
The Cherry MX Red switch is pretty much the pinnacle of the gaming mechanical switch and anytime a company uses them, you know they are looking to offer maximum performance. SteelSeries have no doubt chose these switches for this exact reason and I am sure the fact they offer a per-key LED backlighting didn’t hurt either. As you will see on the top of each switch is a little white bulb which is actually the blue LED. Also worth noting is the blue base that the switches are set in, this helps to offer a nice lighting effect that can be seen under the keys caps.
As soon as you plug the M500 in the illumination kicks in a just looks amazing! Not only am I a sucker for LEDs, I always like mine to be blue or RGB, so I can turn them blue. As I tried to show off in the photos below, the blue looks truly amazing and as we saw on the F5/F6 keys, you can control the brightness to your desired level which is a feature that is always nice to have right on the keyboard.
While the below photo looks quite nice, it is something that really needs to be seen in person to be truly appreciated. BLUE LEDS FOR THE WIN! The LEDs can, of course, also be turned off as well as being dimmed down a bit.
Performance and Software
The Apex M500 can make use of the SteelSeries Engine 3 software, even if there aren’t a whole lot of options. On the right-hand side, users can see the illumination brightness and effect as well as the polling rate and regional settings. On the left, users can control the individual key binds and even set up macros if desired. Again, going with the overall basic theme of the M500, even the software is very minimalistic and easy to use.
As I am sure you know by now, the M500 features the Cherry MX Red switches which are well-known for their gaming ability. This alone speaks volumes about the performance that this keyboard has to offer. Either way, I still went ahead and tested this beauty out as per my normal routine, loading up all my favourite FPS games. As expected, the M500 didn’t let me down and as my daily keyboard also features Cherry Red switches, I didn’t notice much difference at all. Typing on these switches and using the keyboard for day to day activities is also quite nice, the Red switches really do offer a great all-around feel to them.
The Apex M500 is a standard layout keyboard and also features full N-key rollover. What this basically means is you can hit every single key on the keyboard at the same time and they will all register. While being able to hit 104-keys at once may be a bit overkill, it’s still a nice feature to have as when I first got into PC gaming, if you tried to hit 3 keys or more at the same time, you would run into severe issues. As I mentioned in the software part, you can also customize each keys binding and even create macros if that is your type of thing. This allows users to get just that much more performance out of the M500 which is great to see.
When I first plugged in the Apex M500 from SteelSeries I had a good inclination of the performance it would offer. I mean, this is not my first keyboard featuring Cherry Red switches so I was definitely looking forward to trying it out and making sure the rest of it was up to scratch. The M500 is well constructed and while very minimalistic, it is still a great quality keyboard that is heavy and durable.
I am sure you are all about tired of hearing about the Cherry Red switch but they have to be mentioned again. The Cherry MX Red switches are one of the main contributing factors to why the M500 is able to perform as well as it does. The other main factor is that SteelSeries has gone with all high-quality parts to finish of the keyboard to ensure the red switches perform as they should. If you’ve never experienced Cherry Red switches I would recommend you go out and try them for yourself in some way, shape or form. To help aid in offering a bit more performance, the M500 can make use of the SteelSeries Engine 3 software which will allow you to customize every key and set up macros should you want too. The addition of the multifunction F keys allowing you to also control your media also adds a bit more to the M500 performance wise and was great to see.
SteelSeries went with a very minimalistic design with the M500 in all aspects from the keyboard itself to the software used to help customize it. SteelSeries wanted to create a no frills keyboard that was all about offering the best in performance and that is exactly what they have done. While there are still a few extra customization options, for the most part, this is just a standard keyboard that features Cherry MX Switches, a hard plastic casing and a steel backplate for added durability. Again, while it is a very simple keyboard SteelSeries have used the best in components to build it which allows it to offer some amazing performance.
Coming in around $100/€120, the Apex M500 will hopefully hit the UK market at somewhere around £90-£95. This pricing is very fair and is a tad bit less than other similar keyboards from some of the more well-known companies out there. It would truly be great to see a sub £100 mechanical keyboard in the UK market that features Cherry switches, and Cherry Red switches at that! However, even when comparing it in the US market, it still beats the competition for similar keyboards and when all is said and done, for the money you are getting a very well built keyboard that offers great performance. SteelSeries cut some corners by not including a load of functions or RGB LEDs but it seems to have paid off well for them and will help them in the long run. If you are looking for a basic keyboard that offers amazing performance then look no further, SteelSeries has you covered with their Apex M500.
Many thanks to SteelSeries for providing a sample of their Apex M500 for review.