(Pocket-lint) - The SteelSeries Apex 7 TKL Ghost is a limited edition design variant of the company's tenkeyless keyboard, featuring improved looks and plenty of awesome features.
Straight out of the box it's impressive enough, but when you plug it in you get to see the main draw - some of the best RGB lighting we've seen - it makes an already stunning keyboard even more glorious.
There's a lot more to the Apex 7 TKL Ghost than just looks though. Let us break down its highlights and minor misses as we've experienced.
- Aircraft-grade aluminum alloy frame
- Tenkeyless design with extra functions
- Double Shot PBT PrismCaps
Straight out of the box, it's immediately obvious that the Apex 7 TKL is going to be a pleaser. This is a wonderfully constructed keyboard with a good solid build quality, an aluminium frame, and numerous design highlights - that include everything from cable channelling to double shot pudding-style keycaps and much more.
Like the standard Apex 7 TKL, the Ghost has a dedicated display that you can use to show a variety of things - including Discord notifications, CPU and GPU data, and all sorts of other things (all of which is programmable within SteelSeries GG).
On the far right of the 'board there's also a tiny little volume wheel and multi-function media button; the latter will play music with a single press, skip with a double-tap, and rewind with a triple-tap. We honestly prefer dedicated media keys, but this is still preferable to having them buried in the function keys as a lot of other compact keyboards do. It's also part of the compromise of having that screen on the top right.
The value and usefulness of that display is also going to vary depending on how you sit and the angle of your keyboard. If you like to slouch then it's harder to see as it's hidden behind the keycaps. If you sit upright then it's more visible. We're also sad that Spotify won't display on the screen, but at least Tidal will.
This keyboard also has a soft-touch magnetic wrist rest that pleasantly snaps into place, so it comes off easily when you don't need it. It's not padded particularly heavily, yet is somehow pleasant on the wrists and brings some easy relief when just typing away. It has an off-white finish and seems like it should be easy to wipe clean, though how well it holds up over time remains to be seen.
One thing that might leave users with mixed feelings is the cabling. In 2021 a lot of keyboard manufacturers are making boards with removable USB-C cables so you can upgrade to your own fancy custom cables and have some freedom of choice there. The Apex 7 TKL Ghost by comparison has a chunky beast of a cable - which is thick because it's two cables in one so you can have a passthrough port for plugging in other peripherals. Luckily the cable routing system on the underside means you can make it run out of the right, middle or left of the keyboard, so it'll sit nicely with your setup, but it's still a big ugly cable.
Satisfying key switches and comfortable caps
- 84-Key N-Key rollover
- 100% anti-ghosting
- SteelSeries Red Linear mechanical switches
- 2mm actuation, 4mm total travel, 45cN force, 50 million click guarantee
The satisfying glow of the Apex 7 Ghost is partly down to the PrismCaps. These are double shot PBT keycaps with a pudding style. This means they are partially transparent and thus let a lot more light through. We've seen other PBT keycaps that result in some dullness in the key lettering due to the extra thickness, but that isn't a problem here. The lighting and lettering is frankly sublime.
The added bonus is that the PBT design means that the keycaps will last longer and should help maintain that eye-pleasing white finish for a long time to come. There's a nice curvature to the caps too, so they're easy on the fingers and comfortable when typing.
Underneath the keycaps are SteelSeries red linear switches. These are essentially variations on the classic Cherry MX red switches, with similar specs. They're great for gaming on, not too loud, and fast to actuate at just 2mm. Sadly, the Apex 7 Ghost doesn't have the same adjustable Omnipoint switches as the Apex Pro TKL so you don't get that awesome option of being able to adjust the actuation on a key-by-key basis.
One small lowlight is the stabilisers on the bigger keys. The spacebar, for example, sounds a bit hollow and there are small sound differences between the other stabilised keys (such as the enter key and large right shift). That said, we've heard far worse. It doesn't have any nasty pings or rattles that we've heard elsewhere.
- Per-key illumination and reactive lighting
We've spoken a bit already about the RGB lighting on this keyboard and it's worth dwelling on further as it's simply wonderful. The combination of the white design, the pudding keycaps and the various lighting effects work perfectly together.
Firstly, it's worth mentioning that the lighting on this keyboard is insanely bright. If anything it's too bright. That's no bad thing though as it's also easily adjustable with the F11 and F12 buttons. There are a number of satisfying lighting options that you can switch between in SteelSeries GG software too.
These include not only different colours and effects, but also reactive options. Such as where a keypress will send a shot of lighting out across specific lines on the keyboard or spread out in the pattern from the key you've touched.
From SteelSeries GG you can also use various apps to conjure up other sorts of magical effects. Making the key lighting respond to the audio you're listening to or turning a gif into an RGB visualisation. There's per-key illumination that's programmable too, so loads of options to play around with.
Even more in the software
- Extra layer of actions with SteelSeries Meta Layer
The other most interesting feature is hidden in the software and not immediately obvious: download and install SteelSeries GG and you're treated to access to all sorts of extra setting options. From here you can customise the display, setup profiles that will activate when you open specific games, reprogramme keys, record macros, and more besides.
On one tab you'll find an option for Meta Bindings. This is a secondary layer of buttons that you can programme within the software. You can then access these by pressing-and-holding the SteelSeries button on the right-hand side of the keyboard next to CTRL.
This means that you no longer need to worry about the loss of keys due to the TKL format and instead can have access to even more, including macros. When you do programme them, the colour will also change on the keys so you can see at a glance which keys you've programmed on the Meta Layer. Fantastic stuff.
The SteelSeries Apex 7 Ghost edition is a fantastic gaming keyboard in our mind. Wonderfully designed, comfortable to game on, staggeringly good-looking, and boasting highlights such as RGB lighting and dual-programmability of the keys via the Meta Bindings.
It's just a shame the switches aren't optical or the awesome Omnipoint ones from the Apex Pro TKL. Still, you can't have it all. But this 'board is otherwise about as close to perfection as can be.
SteelSeries Apex Pro TKL
Not as fancy looking in our opinion - but it does have the added bonus of intelligent key switches with programmable actuation, so you can set the actuation of most of the keys on the keyboard individually.
Corsair K65 RGB Mini
A smaller and perhaps not as feature-rich 'board, but it's a real looker. It's pleasing on the fingers too, meaning we thoroughly enjoyed using this one.