Today we are looking at the Steel Series Apex M800 mechanical keyboard. Being such a fanboy of other Steel Series peripherals (yeah, I admit it, so what?), I was really quite excited to finally get my hands on an M800. I will say the M800 is pretty awesome, but is not without its imperfections. Let’s get started.
First of all, lets address the elephant in the room. Steel Series released their new mechanical keyboard along with a brand new proprietary mechanical switch, the QS1. These things are great. Steel Series took a risk deviating from accepted standards, and in a lot of areas the risk paid off. The QS1 switches actuate faster than any other mechanical switch I have used yet. They are smooth (usually) and extremely quiet (usually). Unfortunately, I did have a couple of keys that squeaked out of the box. After some fiddling, I was able to correct the problem. They do not, however, FEEL like mechanical switches, so if you are a die hard Cherry MX junkie, this board may not be for you.
It is important to note the steep cost of the M800, sitting just under $200 – which makes sense considering the vast amount of customization options provided by the Steel Series Engine and per key RGB illumination settings. You can basically make each individual key do whatever you want to in whatever color you want to – assuming there are no software bugs – which brings us to a really big problem.
Please note that my review unit is a pre-release version and may or may not reflect the finished product– however, I ran into SEVERAL software issues, ranging from issues with colors not changing with profiles, to keys not responding at all, to my rig blue screening when it went to standby (only with the M800 connected). I can’t say for sure that the issue was caused EXCLUSIVELY by the M800, but I didn’t have the same issue on any other keyboard. After working with Steel Series software team, we were able to minimize some of the issues, but the fact that they existed in the first place was a bit of a let down.
Build quality is also somewhat lacking for the price point, as the plastic frame is relatively flexible and light weight, and feels kind of cheap even compared to boards that are half the cost. As much as it pains me to say it, I think Steel Series dropped the ball on this one – they had some fantastic innovations here that were poorly executed. I hope to see these issues remedied in the final version, and will withhold a final review until then, mostly because I trust Steel Series to make quality products and they have not yet let me down.
UPDATE: After a few updates, it seems the SteelSeries team has been able to eliminate the weird software glitches I mentioned before. I’ve been using the M800 again for a while now and my only remaining concern is that, for some reason, the keyboard is not recognized before Windows loads completely, meaning you can’t use it to navigate BIOS options, or boot into safe mode.
Ben is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of PCGR. He writes much of the content, manages the site, and does other editorial things that would bore you to tears.