We’re finally entering the “comically tiny and fast” era of mechanical gaming keyboards. SteelSeries has just released the new Apex 9 TKL and Apex 9 Mini, two compact keyboards that feature custom optical switches and a surprisingly customizable layout.
Ignoring the differences in form factor, the Apex 9 TKL and Apex 9 Mini are identical. Both keyboards use double-shot PBT keycaps, replaceable switches, adjustable feet, and an aluminum top plate. They connect to your computer via USB-C cable and offer customizable RGB lighting (controlled via SteelSeries GG software).
But more importantly, these are the first Apex keyboards with SteelSeries OptiPoint optical switches. They actuate to only 1.0mm and have a response time of 0.2ms without bounce. And when you want a less responsive keyboard, you can toggle the switches to actuate at 1.5mm using SteelSeries software. (I suggest creating custom “profiles” to make switching easier.)
It is clear that SteelSeries has something interesting on its hands. The company explicitly states that these keyboards are made for (and inspired by) professional esports champions, who have recently turned their backs on full-size keyboards. A compact design is not only portable, it also gives you more room to move your mouse.
Both the Apex 9 TKL and Apex 9 Mini are $130. Again, the only difference here is in the form factor. I’d suggest buying the Apex 9 TKL if you need a multi-purpose keyboard, as it has arrow keys, a row of functions, and a handful of extra buttons.