Overall SteelSeries’ lineup of keyboards fulfills a wide variety of gamer’s needs and budgets. If we could use one word to describe their two mechanical keyboards, that word would be solid. Within their line-up, there are a couple of gems that are contenders for the “best of the best” at their respective price points. SteelSeries is definitely one of the lead innovators in gaming-grade keyboards. The downside? Many of their keyboards do not use mechanical switches. The two that do, lack many features that some gamers can’t live without.
In this review, we take a close look at the SteelSeries keyboard line-up.
A Short History of the SteelSeries Company
Before we dive into the review section, SteelSeries’ history is worth mentioning. SteelSeries is a Danish company founded in 2001. A global leader in the gaming accessories and peripherals market, these guys have been making some of the best gaming gear for quite a while now. Like Razer, and others we have reviewed, SteelSeries is a recognized name in professional gaming and eSports. SteelSeries keyboards are among the top mechanical and membrane gaming keyboards on the market.
Through their products, professional player sponsorship, and community support they have built one of the iconic brands of gaming. They take feedback from the competitive gaming community seriously and aren’t afraid of incorporating new ideas into their gear. While this usually pays off in a big way for the company and its followers, there has been a flop from time to time. That’s okay though. No one maintains a 100% shot percentage forever, and the cost of innovation has clearly worked out for them in the long run.
The bottom line: SteelSeries is in the running for the title of the Cadillac of gaming peripherals. It is a great brand that encompasses some of the best, most innovative gaming gear on the market. Full disclosure: whenever we review a SteelSeries’ product we do our best to stay objective, of course—but we do approach them with a little respect and trust we can’t seem to shake.
Featured SteelSeries Keyboards: In-Depth Reviews
Here are the top SteelSeries keyboards of this year.
The 6Gv2 is one of two mechanical keyboards SteelSeries offers, the other being its big brother the 7G. It’s very similar to the 7G, at a much-decreased cost that still preserves the integral gaming build. Both of these keyboards are constructed with a robust metal plate chassis, while their keys feature metal-infused plastic. Bonus: these keyboards can also be used as cudgels for self-defense purposes.
The gold plated switches, USB connector, black coating, and cylindrical key design all lend their hand to giving the 6Gv2 keyboard a no-nonsense look that is quite appealing. Anti-ghosting is built into all the keys. They are easy to pop off and wash allowing you to keep it looking new for a very long time until those WASD keys fade slightly (but that should be viewed as a badge of pride, soldier!). The downside is that this keyboard is pretty limited in the flashy features department. Some gamers prefer this, but some love back-lighting and programmable keys which this keyboard has neither.
This is a gaming keyboard through and through. The mechanical switches are of excellent quality. They are fairly loud as you’d expect from a mechanical keyboard. Its keys aren’t designed for office use, they are designed for gaming. The fact that it is only offered in Cherry MX Reds and Blacks only solidifies this point (both considered gaming switches). Yes, you do need to push the keys all the way down when in doubt, because there is no clicking sound accompanying each press. If you’re a competitive gamer playing MOBA, FPS, or other action titles this is all a wash anyway, as your bottoming out already. This issue is further minimized by the fact that once you use these switches your muscle memory is going to pick up on the operating force required to actuate each key.
The end result is a well-priced keyboard with a strong gaming focus and outstanding build quality. The 6Gv2 is one of the gems of the SteelSeries lineup. Definitely a good buy.
The 7G is SteelSeries’ flagship mechanical keyboard. The build is nearly identical to the 6Gv2. Featuring black cherry switches (no red option this time), it is constructed with the same materials as the 6Gv2. About one pound heavier than its little brother, the 7G features a large hand-rest for improved ergonomics over the 6Gv2. Unlike some cheap plastic keyboards, and like its little brother, this heavy-duty keyboard isn’t going anywhere. Even if you get into a vigorous flaming match with that guy who can’t stop suiciding to the enemy team and have to type at 300 WPM this beast of a keyboard is not going to slide an inch. It does have USB pass-through ports as well as microphone and headset jacks. All of these are gold plated upholding that austere, high-quality look.
We aren’t sure those few additional features warrant that much higher of a price than the 6Gv2, but if you want the best mechanical keyboard SteelSeries has to offer, this is the one.
The APEX is one of our favorite non-mechanical gaming keyboards on the market. It has a slim design with low profile keys to top it off. If you’re a fan of how laptop keyboards feel, you will like the feel of this one. This keyboard has a more “gamer-like” stylish appearance than their mechanical line, sporting 5 different lighting zones with 8 different levels of intensity. This amount of customization provides near limitless color illumination options.
The keyboard also includes the macro customization you’d expect from a gaming keyboard. The macro layout is very intuitive. The APEX has 22 independent macro keys that each have up to 4 layers (which can be cycled through using the 4 quick access keys in the upper left corner above the 10 macro keys). The fact that you can have up to 88 different macros means you have more than enough for commonly used functions outside of gaming as well. The user-friendly software that comes with the keyboard makes the mapping process easy. Other things we like about this keyboard: the extra-large spacebar, easy to disable windows key, integrated USB hub, media keys, and a fancy braided nylon cable, and profile management facilitated by the powerful software. One downside is that this keyboard will not be as durable as its mechanical line. The APEX is guaranteed for 5 million keystroke cycles as compared to the 50 million of the 6GV2/7G.
The bottom line? Boy did SteelSeries pack a lot of features into this one—the APEX is a unique gaming keyboard solution that offers a wide range of customization.
This is a striped-down version of the APEX. It has 15 macro keys with 2 layers, 1 color back-lighting (bright white), and media controls. If you’re looking for an entry-level keyboard or don’t need all the features of the APEX the RAW Gaming Keyboard is a less expensive alternative.
SteelSeries Merc Stealth Gaming Keyboard (Discontinued!)
Unfortunately, much to the dismay of many WoW and other MMO fans, the Merc Stealth has been discontinued. A loyal Steelseries fan pointed out that many gamers have petitioned Steelseries to resurrect the Merc Stealth into a modern version with mechanical keys and Windows 10 backed by their latest software. He also pointed out there’s still a large number of folks still using this keyboard even to the “point of looking for non-functional keyboards to repair or replace the worn-out parts [of their Merc Stealth]”. Who knows why Steelseries isn’t listening to their fans and delivering the next iteration of this particular model, but hopefully things will change sooner rather than later!
The Merc Stealth is a great budget gaming keyboard option. It’s not mechanical, but the rubberized keys don’t feel cheap, and SteelSeries packs some pretty cool features into this keyboard. It is the only keyboard with a specialized ergonomic gaming key area, almost akin to some of the newer gaming keypads that have come out recently. In this gaming key area, there are 34 dedicated gaming keys. Not bad! We found this to be a great MMO keyboard, with all those mappable keys and extra-large movement keys, it can take a little getting used to but when mastered, can be quite functional.
For you stealth gamers out there, this does have three different color illumination options: blue, red, and purple with 4 brightness levels (intense, subtle, and ambient, and off). The keyboard is customized through the SteelSeries Z Engine software that comes in the package. We found the dragging and dropping utility very intuitive and made customization and tweaking easy and quick. The keyboard has two USB 2.0 ports, audio jacks, and those useful multimedia keys. Taking into account how much functionality, customizability, and the large gaming key area, we are surprised SteelSeries is letting this guy go for just under 50 bucks.