While the Siberia v2 might still be fresh on the minds of a lot of you, the original 6Gv2 that the Apex M500 replaces was a little less known. This was one of the earlier mechanical keyboards from SteelSeries but up until recently they didn’t make a big push to be in the market. The 6Gv2 was a little head of its time really. The initial push when mechanical keyboards came around was for flashy keyboards and it was a simple design with a thin bezel. Part of the problem though was they never offered in with any backlighting and it was only available with black switches. Funny enough though it perfectly summarizes the early SteelSeries product philosophy where it was all about quality and per gaming performance for pros with no lighting or flash at all. Well the Apex line was introduced at CES a few years ago with a non-mechanical keyboard and later with their Apex M800 with SteelSeries’ own switches. The new Apex M500 takes a little from both sides. So we have a simple design that is a lot like the 6Gv2 with very thin bezels and no extra keys but this time around we have backlighting and a different keyswitch as well.
The M500 has a simple legend font to go with its clean design. Up on top they did slip in a SteelSeries logo up in the top corner but beyond that there isn’t too much going on. It is a full sized layout meaning you have a number pad and F keys in their traditional layout. Unlike the 6Gv2 they didn’t do with an ISO enter key on the US model at least. The black plastic case matches the keys well but we can still see a little of the blue painted backplate popping through as well.
While they didn’t add any extra keys, they did slip in a few function layer keys up in the F key row. F5 and F6 control backlighting brightness. Then F7, F8, and F9 are media controls with a forward, back, and play/pause. Then F10, F11, and F12 give you volume controls. Personally I never use function layer media controls, but it doesn’t hurt to have them for people who do.
In addition to being a full sized keyboard with no weird layouts, I can also confirm that the bottom row is standard as well. Normally a lot of the “gaming” focused keyboards will change up the bottom row slightly to get a smaller windows key or a larger spacebar. Being completely standard will help in the future if you want to change things up with new keycaps.
The outside edge of the M500 is a little different than the 6Gv2 in that is curves in a little where the 6Gv2 was very blocky. That said there isn’t too much else going on around the edges. Along the back there are three holes for the cord to run out of and on the sides they did emboss the SteelSeries logo.
Speaking of the cord, the M500’s cord is 6 and a half feet long. It isn’t sleeve like a lot of cords these days but it has a thick rubber finish for protection. They also ship it with two SteelSeries branded Velcro wraps already attached to keep any extra cord out of the way and to help with transporting it as well. The USB plug has a SteelSeries logo embossed in it and it has an especially long and thick rubber bend protector as well.
Up under the M500 the base of the keyboard actually is hiding a little style. The cord comes out of the middle and is non-detachable and it has the option to run out the left, center, or right side of the back of the keyboard. The sticker with the serial number and all of the required certification logos is up on the top edge. For feet there are three rubber feet along the bottom edge with the outside two being about an inch wide and then there are two flip out feet. The flip out feet are designed in a way that they have rubber on the ends that works both with the feet flipped out and also when they aren’t being used as well to give traction all of the time.
I mentioned it before but here is a look at the embossed SteelSeries logo in the side of the keyboard. Here we can also see that they went with a normal OEM keycap profile as well. I originally thought the F keys might be shorter but it is just the angle of the keyboards casing getting thicker up on the top row so the F keys are sunken in a little more than normal.
So for keyswitches the Apex M500 is only available with Cherry MX branded reds. This is both good and bad. I love that they went with Cherry switches, both because some of the other brands seem to not be as likes as the official Cherrys. But I was also worried that they would use their own QS-1 switches. While those are great for that keyboard, especially their lighting. I think having a traditional switch option is a good idea. The downside though is currently it is only available with reds. Reds aren’t bad, but it’s best to have a few options, this was part of the problem with the 6Gv2 with its black switches. Some people are going to want clicky blues and others (like me) would prefer a tactile brown. We can get a better look at the light blue painted backplate that is designed to give the blue backlighting more pop. I would have preferred other backlighting color options as well, maybe even an orange given that is SteelSeries’ color, but it’s still great that it at least has backlighting.
For the keycaps, SteelSeries went with the normal setup. The caps are white transparent abs with black paint on them. They aren’t especially thick, but about what you would normally see. I mentioned earlier that the legends use a simple font but I didn’t mention that the letters do seem to be a touch larger than normal. Having the letters up in the top left corner is a little weird to me as well for a backlit keyboard.