With their Apex line, SteelSeries has put out some truly impressive gaming keyboards, most notably the M750.

However, top of the line gaming keyboards often cost more than some gamers are willing to spend on an input device. What’s a gamer to do who’d rather spend their hard-earned cash on “cooler” upgrades like a video card or the latest triple A titles?

Enter the Apex 150, a budget-friendly gaming keyboard that aims to ease the burden on your wallet while providing most of the features you’d normally see on a keyboard twice the price.

Does the Apex 150 manage to walk the delicate tightrope act between price and performance? Read on to find out, and take a look at the SteelSeries Apex 150 gaming keyboard here for $49.99.

Design and Comfort

Even though this is a budget keyboard, SteelSeries didn’t scrimp on construction with the Apex 150. The frame itself is made of plastic, but don’t let that fool you – it’s surprisingly durable, and didn’t give at all when I tried to bend it. The board itself is lightweight, yet sturdy, and won’t move around on your desk.

One of the first things you’d expect to not be included on a budget keyboard is RGB lighting, but SteelSeries still managed to include some basic RGB lighting in the Apex 150. There are five lighting zones, and each can be modified to the color of your choosing. You can also pick among three different lighting effects for each zone, or turn lighting off for each individual zone entirely. The brightness can be adjusted as well, but unfortunately it’s a global setting, instead of on a per-zone basis. Overall, it’s a nice bit of customization, especially at this price point. My one complaint is that the default setting looks too much like a rainbow threw up all over your keyboard, but with a few tweaks, it’s easy to get something that looks decent.

The Apex 150 is a full size keyboard, but lacks dedicated media or macro keys you might find on more expensive models. Personally, I don’t miss these, and I’d rather a smaller keyboard than one crammed with extra rows I hardly ever use.

Performance and Features

Let’s address the elephant in the room: as a more budget friendly keyboard, the Apex 150 has membrane switches instead of mechanical. SteelSeries knows that standard membrane switches can’t compare when it comes to the feel of mechanical ones, so they’ve developed custom “QuickSwitch” switches that look to bridge the gap between crummy-feeling membrane switches and more expensive mechanical ones.

According to SteelSeries, they used an iron base, a rubber dome sheet, and thermoplastic keycaps to replicate as much as possible that consistent and satisfying feel of a mechanical switch. I have to admit, I didn’t think it would be possible, but SteelSeries has come close. Key presses on the Apex 150 have a good amount of weight and feedback to them, although they require perhaps a bit too much force for some gamers who need to quickly mash keys. Typing was also surprisingly enjoyable, as I never struggled to get key presses to register and rarely found myself making mistakes due to stubborn keys being too sensitive. I’ve tried a bunch of these wannabe mechanical membrane switches, and they’ve always felt a bit like putting lipstick on a pig. Not so with the Apex 150.

While you’ll never confuse these with Cherry switches, these QuickSwitch switches are about the best you can do with a $50 dollar budget. I can’t believe it – SteelSeries has actually made me like membrane switches! OK, I don’t want to go that far. But I do believe that most gamers won’t see these membrane switches as too much of a step down from a performance perspective, and that’s what matters.

The Apex 150 is also liquid resistant, with two built in drainage cavities that will route spills to the outside of the keyboard and away from internal electronics.

SteelSeries does it again

While the Apex 150 can’t compete with the heavy hitters in the $100+ range, it’s a nice little keyboard for gamers on a budget. If you really care about fancy RGB lighting, macro keys, and mechanical switches, I’d recommend saving up some money for a more expensive board. If cash is the deciding factor, however, you could do a lot worse than the Apex 150.