SteelSeries Rival 3 & Apex 3 – The Perfect Gaming Mouse & Keyboard Under $100!

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The question for today is exactly how good are cheap gaming peripherals? I have the Rival 3 mouse and Apex 3 keyboard from SteelSeries, and both of these together cost about as much as a single Razer Viper mouse. Unfortunately, the Apex 3 is not a mechanical keyboard, but it’s got whisper quiet switches and I’m excited to test them out.

The Apex 3 keyboard has a basic full-size layout with the same frame as SteelSeries’ higher-end stuff. It also includes a soft touch magnetic wrist rest, all for the low price of $49 USD. And yes, I can confirm that the keyboard’s switches are indeed whisper quiet. The Rival 3 mouse is also quite barebones at $29 USD. Now I find it weird that SteelSeries are not exactly competing in the lightweight market, but the good news is that the Rival 3 is significantly lighter than the Sensei 10, which was the latest mouse they launched, so at least it looks like they’re on the right track. I have both the keyboard and mouse set up for some games, so let’s see how this $80 combo stacks up in the real world.

The first thing I want to cover is the mouse, because at $29 the Rival 3 is actually impressive. It’s the same shape as the Rival 110, so it’s not entirely new. It’s in the same size category as the Logitech G Pro Hero for example, and quite similar to my Cooler Master MM711 with a slightly longer body. It has an ambidextrous shape, but it’s really for right hand use only. It has surprisingly good built quality that actually feels better than that of the MM711. As for body shape, I can fingertip this one very well and the slight flaring of the bottom of the body helps with thumb placement. Overall, I feel like this would be a comfy mouse for medium to large hands. It’s also a pretty light mouse at 77 grams. I’m not sure if this is the lightest mouse from SteelSeries, but the Sensei 10 was like 92 grams, so they’re definitely following market trends of minimizing mouse weight.

However, the cable is quite bad. It’s not very soft and it has hard to remove kinks. Thankfully, the glide feet make up for it, with smooth motion that feels better than my MM711. Probably the most surprising thing about this mouse is the illumination. It is very good and can even be customized in three zones with smooth transitions and nice surface spill too. We often see this level of lighting on more expensive mice, so the added bling for $29 USD is definitely appreciated. The scroll wheel is low profile with soft but distinct scroll steps and a light middle click. It is awesome for $29 USD. The primary switches are rated at 60 million clicks, and they provide satisfying quiet actuation’s, but with less than usual travel distance.

And finally, probably the reason why this mouse is so cheap is because of the sensor. They didn’t cheap out on the quality of it, it’s still an optical sensor, but it’s a budget derivative of their TrueMove Pro sensor. This one goes up to 8,500 DPI, adjustable in 100 DPI increments, and with up to five profiles. It delivers that true one-to-one tracking throughout the entire range. Honestly, it’s a very good performer, but the lift off distance detection is slightly higher than I’m used to. This means that if you lift your mouse off the mouse mat at lower DPI settings, when you place it back down there will be a little bit more cursor juggle when the mouse is about to hit the surface compared more high-end mice that have much lower lift off distance. Having said all that, at $29 I’m impressed, and the only thing that’s trash here is the cable. However, they use the same cable on all of their other mice, so it’s not technically a downgrade for the Rival 3.

As for the keyboard, this thing is actually pretty decent too, but only for a specific audience. For starters, the price point is low enough that it occupies the budget territory, so it’s not exactly meant to compete with mechanical keyboards. However, there does exist full-on MX Cherry mechanical options that are $50. If you’re after the rubber dome switches for the sound profile and spill resistance, then the Apex 3 is okay in that regard. The wrist rest is very comfy and magnetic, but the coating isn’t very oil friendly, so don’t forget to wipe it once in a while. The three-way cable routing is appreciated, as is the single step height adjustment. I love the super responsive volume wheel and I’m glad that there is a multi-function button as well.

And just as on the mouse, the illumination on the Apex 3 is pretty gorgeous thanks to a white underplate that helps to diffuse all that color. It looks great in either static or rainbow effect, but its 10 zone customization is kind of a joke as the transition areas between colours look awful. The switches used here are SteelSeries’ new whisper quiet, low friction, 20 million rated keystroke switches. They have a soft resistance at the top that’s kind of like a tactile MX Brown, but not as smooth when it comes down. I actually don’t mind the operation and character of the switches, because even when you bottom out they are heavily muted so they are great for night gaming.

Now the key caps are standard ABS plastic with a clean font that I appreciate, but they are not interchangeable due to the nature of the mount itself. That is also the reason why the keyboard is rated for water resistance, as unless you actually submerge it in water no liquid should find its way under the caps.

So how does this peripheral combo perform in a gaming environment? Satisfactory! The mouse performed very well. I used the 800 DPI setting and it felt quite similar to the Cooler Master MM711, although much heavier. And surprisingly I enjoyed the keyboard as well. The switches are heavier compared to my Ducky Cherry MX Brown keyboard, so that was one major difference, and I couldn’t be as fast with the Apex 3 as I can be with my Vermillo or Ducky keyboards. As stated above, the sound profile was nice and quiet as advertised.

To conclude, the mouse I can easily recommend, it’s a complete barebones package that is very competitive at $29 USD. The keyboard is a bit more tricky because G.Skill and HyperX both offer MX Cherry keyboards for $50 USD. However, if you’re after quiet operation and some water resistance on a keyboard with a full-size layout, nice illumination, and wrist rest, then the Apex 3 is a solid choice. I don’t think it cuts any corners because it’s not trying to compete with mechanical solutions, and I would say it’s a very good budget option to compliment the Rival 3.

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