Coming in hot at just $49.99 (£60 in the UK, and around AU$76) is the SteelSeries Apex 3, a budget-conscious option from the company's excellent Apex line. That immediately makes it a great choice for anyone who wants a flashy gaming experience but is keen not to break the bank.
Despite the lower price meaning some features have been dropped from this model, the build quality of the SteelSeries Apex 3 is undeniably still up to snuff, with a durable polymer frame and pleasingly grippy plastic keycaps.
Price: $49.99 / £59.99
Form factor: Full
Switches: SteelSeries Whisper-Quiet Switches
Keystroke lifespan: 20 million presses
Media keys: Dedicated roller
Wrist-rest: Magnetic rubberized
USB passthrough: None
Yes, the SteelSeries Apex 3 lacks some of the fancy add-ons boasted by its more expensive siblings. There’s no tiny OLED display for quick customization here as per the SteelSeries Apex 5 (one of our picks for the best gaming keyboard), nor is there a USB passthrough, the latter of which is a shame but unsurprising in a more affordable keyboard.
It does retain a lot of features, though. That includes three-way cable routing channels along the underside and 10-zone RGB lighting, which looks great and is good to see in a budget gaming keyboard.
Also returning from other Apex models is the dedicated media wheel, a dinky metallic roller in the top-right corner that can be used for scrolling and clicking. It's ideal for swift volume adjustments.
The big design ‘flaw’ here for many potential buyers is the lack of mechanical key switches. The membrane switches in the Apex 3 are SteelSeries’ own ‘whisper-quiet’ design, and that does ring true; much like the Razer Cynosa V2, the keys feel a bit spongy, but make little to no noise.
One benefit of these switches is that they make the keyboard waterproof; or at least, IP32-rated dust and water resistant. There are channels under the keycaps running to small drainage holes on the base of the chassis, allowing a spilled drink to drain out harmlessly.
On the whole, the aesthetic choices and manufacturing standard hold up well against both more expensive keyboards and the Apex 3’s immediate competitors in the $50 range. We do wish it had a braided cable, but this is really a minor gripe.
In gameplay terms, the SteelSeries Apex 3 feels fine to use. It doesn’t have the same immediately snappy response that mechanical keyboards do, but the keys are as quiet as advertised and feel fantastic to use (after a brief adjustment period). Typing is also excellent, making this a great choice for anyone who works or games late at night. Because it's so much cheaper than other membrane keyboard options like the Corsair K57 RGB Wireless, that's a pretty big deal.
We do wish the keys had a little less travel, however; in twitchy first-person shooters like Valorant, we missed the definitive feedback of linear red mechanical switches that you'd find on slightly more expensive keyboards.
Overall - should you buy it?
Unless you’re very selective when it comes to the switches on your keyboard, the SteelSeries Apex 3 is an excellent choice. With great durability and a decent amount of features, it’s hard to claim that this keyboard is anything other than amazing value for money.
If you were in any doubt, SteelSeries has one last trick up its sleeve: an included palmrest with a comfortable rubberized finish that snaps magnetically onto the base of the keyboard. It’s a final flourish that sets the Apex 3 apart from the crowd, and we love it.