Steelseries are kicking off 2020 by launching a bunch of new PC peripherals today, including two new Apex keyboards and a new Rival 3 gaming mouse. The Rival 3 and Apex 3 keyboards are both budget-oriented affairs, which will be good news for anyone after a new mouse and keyboard that don’t break the bank, but the Apex 5 kicks things up a notch with its own OLED screen and aluminium chassis, bringing features previously reserved for Steelseries’ premium keyboards down to a (marginally) more affordable price bracket.
Let’s start with the Rival 3. Despite having a 3 in its name, this £35 / $40 right-handed gaming mouse looks to be a direct replacement for Steelseries’ entry-level gaming mouse (and one of our current best gaming mouse recommendations), the Rival 110, rather than the Rival 310. The Rival 3, for example, comes with one of Steelseries’ 8500 DPI TrueMove Core sensors, which is a step up from the Rival 110’s 7200 DPI TrueMove 1 sensor, but not quite as nippy as the Rival 310’s 12,000 DPI TrueMove 3 sensor.
The Rival 3 also doesn’t have the Rival 310’s rubbery side grips. Instead, it just has a smooth, matte finish on either side. It does, however, come with a couple of notable improvements over both of Steelseries’ current Rival mice, including a 60 million click endurance rating on its pair of switches (up from 50 million on the Rival 310, and matching Steelseries’ considerably more expensive Rival 650 mouse), and three zones of RGB lighting rather than two, with a new rainbow-coloured lighting strip extending all the way round the bottom of the mouse’s chassis. At just 77g, it’s much lighter, too, coming in 10g lighter than the Rival 310, and 12g lighter than the Rival 110.
That all sounds like a pretty great set of specs for a £35 / $40 gaming mouse, especially now the Rival 110 is becoming increasingly hard to get hold of. The latter is still available for £25 over on Amazon in the UK, but stock levels are looking pretty non-existent for those in the US. However, when my other best budget gaming mouse recommendation, the HyperX Pulsefire Core, is still very much alive and kicking (and is also available for £25 / $30 at time of writing), Steelseries are going to have to seriously beef up their Engine software and the type of functions you can assign to the Rival 3’s programmable buttons if it’s really going to justify that extra tenner.
Steelseries’ new Apex 3 keyboard is also likely to face stiff competition from Asus’ TUF Gaming K5 keyboard. Available now for £70 in the UK (US pricing TBC), the Apex 3 is IP32 water resistant, which technically means it can withstand up to 3mm of “vertically dripping water” when the keyboard is being tilted at an angle of 15 degrees or, put plainly, the odd splash of water from a nearby drink. That’s not quite as much as the 60ml of water you can throw at the similarly priced TUF K5 and still carry on using it, but at least it’s better than nothing.
The Apex 3 does, at least, have a more attractive design than the military-inspired looks of the TUF, and its magnetic wrist rest can be detached from the Apex 3’s main body instead of being built-in. Plus, the Apex 3 has three-way cable routing underneath, meaning you cam have the wire sticking out the top, right or left-hand side of the keyboard depending on your preference. This is always a welcome sight on any gaming keyboard, and I wish more of my best gaming keyboard recommendations had it as standard. That said, the Apex 3 doesn’t have as many dedicated media keys as the TUF K5, as all you get here is a dedicated volume roller and an all-in-one media key that lets you adjust the brightness of the keyboard as well as skip, pause and rewind music tracks.
What’s more, the Apex 3 is still only a membrane keyboard at heart, whereas the Asus TUF Gaming K5 is a proper mechanical-membrane hybrid. Still, Steelseries claim that their new, reinforced “low friction” switches are “whisper-quiet”, which, if true, will make it a damn sight easier on the ears (and the ears of those around you) than the mild clacks of its Asus rival.
The Apex 5, meanwhile, is a bit more upmarket, costing £110 in the UK (US pricing TBC again). Unlike the Apex 3, this is a hybrid gaming keyboard, with Steelseries describing it as having “the smoothness of a membrane switch with the added durability, performance and satisfying tactile click of a blue mechanical switch”. Personally, £110 sounds like a heck of a lot for a hybrid keyboard, especially when you can get plenty of our top mechanical recommendations for that kind of money, but a large part of its high price no doubt comes from its aluminium alloy chassis and dedicated OLED screen in the top corner.
In a similar way to Steelseries’ current Apex Pro and Apex 7 keyboards, the Apex 5’s OLED screen can be used to display Discord messages, song info, GIFs, volume, and other various bits of game info from supported games, such as CS:GO and Dota 2. Whether you’ll ever have time to glance down at said info remains up for debate, but if you’ve ever gazed longingly at the OLED screens on Steelseries’ considerably more expensive Apex keyboards (which cost upwards of £180 at time of writing), then this is arguably the best and cheapest way to get one. You also get the same three-way cable routing, volume roller and all-in-one media key combo as the Apex 3, but its magnetic wrist rest falls into Steelseries’ “premium” category and is once again similar to its Apex 7 and Apex Pro keyboards.
In a way, the Apex 5 fills in the much needed gap between Steelseries’ £150 Apex 7 keyboard and their considerably cheaper £60 Apex 150, but there’s still no getting around the fact that £110 is a heck of a lot of money for a hybrid gaming keyboard. I’ll reserve full judgement until I’ve got my hands on a review sample, but in the mean time, I think you’d be much better off spending that kind of money on something like the excellent Fnatic Streak, which costs £120 / $110 at time of writing, and comes with proper Cherry MX Silent Red mechanical switches and the comfiest wrist rest on the planet.