SteelSeries Apex 9 TKL is a simple and clean happy medium

Posted on March 28, 2024

Steelseries has been at it for a while now, working on ways to both rework the normal everyday keyboard but also provide simple and cleaner builds too. Not long ago the SteelSeries Apex Pro Mini stripped down and removed excess size and unnecessary buttons for a more minimalist approach. Now, the SteelSeries Apex 9 TKL is a happy middle, still prioritising conserving your desk space but bringing back just those few little touches you otherwise might have missed.

The first noticeable difference between the Apex Pro Mini (a device known as a 60% keyboard and the Apex 9 TKL is the return of the navigation keys (your F1- F12 keys) and, on the right-hand side, the arrow keys and navigation keys (Insert, Del, Page Up and Down, End and Home). This time all that’s missing is the number pad on the far right.

It will still spell a bit of trouble for those who often hot-swap between officework and PC gaming (like myself), missing those key little bits and bobs for tasks such as efficient data entry. Regardless, the trade-off is well worth it, reinventing and freeing up my desk space once more.

Like the Pro Mini before it, SteelSeries is seemingly incredibly proud of the speed and responsiveness of the keys. Labelling itself as the “fastest keyboard ever,” the device offers two input options to customise your own experience: a ‘gaming’ mode that boasts a 1mm deep press to prioritise speed, or a ‘typing’ offering that has this press at 1.5mm to focus on accuracy. I’ll be blunt with you. I’m not the most knowledgeable when it comes to gaming hardware but even I’m in belief of these boasted figures after some hands-on time. I don’t have the numbers, but the device really seems the part.

For instance, it was when I was in full writing mode, chipping away at a thousand-odd-word review that I found myself making more errors and typos as I went. It’s only a little later that it dawned on me that I neglected to return to typing mode following a gaming session preceding this. Simply put, the sensitivity that comes with the gaming mode is almost too good, causing problems if you happen to accidentally use it outside of its intended purpose. This checks out; in my trialing of the device I’ve recently been digging into Ghostrunner 2, a fast-paced FPS game that is very input and twitch reaction-focused. I felt at the top of my game, dealing with the almost physically strenuous exercise activity of pulling off difficult inputs. Key work felt more aptly flexible and free of sticky key shenanigans, compared to my prior device. I’m a large human with ape-like hands, so this proved more of an affair than it might for others. Though it’s the first time in a while I noticed the beginning of hand cramping, something others with large hands may want to consider.

Still, I can’t stress enough how deliberate and concise my presses have felt in the few weeks I’ve had with the Apex 9 TKL. Whether it’s chipping away at a thousand-word review for Checkpoint Gaming or some leisurely play, I felt more than well-equipped for the occasion. Key presses feel incredibly tactile and satisfying. There’s just no getting past that satisfying click that comes with a well-built mechanical keyboard.

The Apex 9 TKL also offers other bells and whistles in customisation and hotkey commands. My favourite little thing about the device is the small volume knob, situated at the top right corner. It’s just that little welcome touch that makes the experience and quick tuning for my gaming session on the fly all the smoother. For the more inventive and daring than myself, users can tweak the colouring of the LED lights of each keycap. With the SteelSeries GG app, you too can hotkey commands such as recording gameplay moments for later in-app editing. This is a function that hasn’t felt so easy in the past and something I’ll definitely be taking advantage of in the future.

Freeing up some more desk space but providing more than enough as a gaming keyboard, the SteelSeries Apex 9 TKL is a top contender for the messy gamer. If you’re not in constant dire need of that number pad and consider the trade-off of a cleaner desk worth it, why wouldn’t you make the plunge?

For more on the SteelSeries Apex 9 TKL and other keyboards from the brand, be sure to check out their range on their site.