Grammarly, that Web application that keeps an eye on your typing for you, tells me that I write around 120,000 words per week. Given that I work seven days per week, that works out at around 17,150 words per day. Yes, that is a lot, and that’s why Grammarly tells me that I am “more productive” than 99 per cent of Grammarly users.
That’s almost impressive until you realise that I’m only more accurate than 69 per cent of Grammarly users. I very much sacrifice quality for quantity with what I do. Anyhow. The point here is that without a good keyboard, I am in agony. I’ve tried a lot of keyboards in my time, and nothing was quite as comfortable as my SteelSeries M500. I know that we’re talking about “gaming keyboards” here, but for professional writers, the quality of gaming keyboards make them indispensable work tools as well. I very nearly cried the day that the M500 flew across the room (I was in a hurry and my foot caught on the USB cord), and I discovered that the “T” “G” and “V” keys had stopped working. And, I mean, you need those keys, there’s no way around it. The M500 had collaborated its last with me.
Thankfully, SteelSeries recently sent me the new APEX 3 TKL for review, and it’s like having a best friend back. This is a compact gaming keyboard (it gets rid of the right-hand number panel, which I have never needed in my career), and it is just spectacular on the fingers. Within days of using this, whatever chronic repetitive strain injury or atheritis is starting to cripple my hands is feeling that much better.
The keys on the APEX 3 TKL are soft. It’s like there’s a bed of marshmallow under there, and to me, the difference is like asking a professional runner why they would rather wear properly padded shoes than go barefoot. The impact on the entire body is so much less.
At the same time, there’s great accuracy built into the keyboard. At times, with soft keys, you’ll feel unconsciously tempted to press down harder to make sure that the keystroke is recognised, and that makes you a fraction enough slower that, down the track, you don’t get as much done. Or at other times you race on and the keystroke really isn’t recognised. My fingers have never doubted the accuracy and precision of the APEX 3 TKL, and while this is a minor difference, we are again talking about massive numbers here and the fraction of a per cent improvement to performance counts. I’m writing tens of thousands of words daily. In fact, I can even measure the impact that this precision has had on me. I was joking above about how I’m only 69 per cent more accurate than other Grammarly writers above. Before the APEX arrived, I was using the standard keyboard on my laptop, and I was only clocking in at between 50 to 60 per cent more accurate on that keyboard.
So, while I’m no hardcore PC gamer and I certainly don’t need a gaming keyboard for that use, I can easily imagine the performance boost that a good, reliable and accurate keyboard will have for people whose fingers are welded to the WASD keys.
Another major benefit of the APEX 3 TKL is that the keys are quiet. Really quiet. I’ve used plenty of mechanical keyboards in my time, and while the clickety-click can be fun, it becomes considerably less so at about the 10,000-word mark in a day. What’s more, those keys tend to annoy rabbits, and as a person with pet rabbits, having the little fluffballs thumping the ground in constant irritation doesn’t make for a great working environment. I’m sure if you get really scientific about all this the loudest mechanical keyboards do provide a tiny performance edge over the APEX 3 TXL, and for all I know the clickety-click rhythm is part of a sensory experience that boosts a gamer’s abilities, but most of us, I imagine, will prefer quieter keys, and SteelSeries provides that while maintaining an excellent typing experience.
You can use the keyboard’s software to set macros and adjust the backlighting, which are standard features for gaming keyboards, but another thing that I really like about the APEX 3 TKL is that it has been IP32-rated water and dust resistant. I live on coffee and beer. I’ve had spills on my keyboards. I appreciate this feature. I also like the small form-factor and the adjustable height stand. I can shift between working on my desktop and having the keyboard on my lap, and it’s equally comfortable either way, and that’s a nice bonus as I tend to shift from one to another over the course of a day. Finally, SteelSeries is promising 20 million keypresses of durability. I’ve done the math. That works out at about 200 days worth of typing at my rate, and while that might not sound like that much, very few people would put the kind of pressure on a keyboard that I do, and for the comfort that the keyboard offers I’m more than willing to replace it once per year.
It sounds silly to have a genuine attachment to any piece of hardware. I love my game consoles, my headsets, my toys and gadgets, but ultimately none of them is that indispensable that I take them personally. When I find a keyboard that I truly love using, however, it is something of personal importance to me. The APEX 3 TKL is that. If you’re a serious gamer, a professional writer, or in need of a good keyboard for any reason, then take a really good look at this one. Also, because Grammarly also tells me that I have a vocabulary that’s 99 per cent broader than the rest of the population: I like this keyboard with plenty of vim. There’s a word that I haven’t used yet this week.
– Matt S.
Find me on Twitter: @mattsainsb