There's big money in esports, so it stands to reason there's big money in esports-branded peripherals, right? That's the logic hardware companies are following, anyway. Case in point: SteelSeries and its new Apex M500, a mechanical keyboard that it says is tournament-ready.
Beneath the buzzwords and phrases like 'esports' and 'tournament-ready' that SteelSeries throws around in its press release is a mechanical plank with Cherry MX Red key switches. Choice of key switch is a personal thing, though if limiting the choice to just a single kind, SteelSeries is probably right in choosing Cherry MX Reds. The Reds are one of two common linear switches (the other being Black). They have a low actuation force that many gamers like and are non-clicky, lacking the audible "click" feedback that Cherry MX Blues offer (a favorite of this editor). Check out our guide to mechanical switches if you find the differences confusing.
Though the Apex M500 is aimed at gamers, and esports players in particular, SteelSeries refrained from being too bold (or gaudy) with its design.
"Products shouldn’t look like they came through a portal from the future. We designed the Apex M500 to get the job done. The sleek and minimalistic design gives you everything you need in a professional gaming keyboard, without any of the fluff," SteelSeries explains. If you pay attention to hardware trends, you'll notice this isn't the first mechanical gaming keyboard to go stripped-down: Logitech just did the same thing with the G610.
Minimalism really is the key here. The Apex M500 uses a standard key layout without any dedicated macro keys or other fancy gaming amenities, like an integrated LCD or phone/tablet dock like Logitech's G910 Orion Spark. There's also just a single color backlight option (blue) with three different breathe settins and four levels of brightness.
According to SteelSeries, the Apex M500 is "built like a tank" with tough plastics and a steel back plate for reinforcement. That translates into 2.74 pounds of heft, which probably isn't enough to throw across the room in a fit of rage with the hope of it surviving the ordeal.
Though there are no dedicated macro keys, you can reassign keys and create macros with the SteelSeries Engine Software, including on-the-fly macros. You can then store your settings in an unlimited number of profiles.
Perhaps the best thing the SteelSeries Apex M500 has going for it is price—it's available now for $99.99 (€119.99).