Tesoro Gram Spectrum Review

June 17, 2016 | 10:13

Tags: #kailh #mechanical-keyboard

Companies: #tesoro


Tesoro's new Agile switch is designed in-house but produced by a third-party OEM. Tesoro was reluctant to reveal who, but prying off a keycap reveals it to be Kailh – the logo is on the switch housing. Both this and the stem of the switch are semi-translucent to allow light from the surface-mounted RGB LED to spread more evenly through the switch, although it is still focussed at the top.

*Tesoro Gram Spectrum Review Tesoro Gram Spectrum Review - Performance
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The Tesoro Agile switch is offered in Blue (clicky, tactile) and Red (linear, non-tactile) varieties, and our own sample uses the Blue ones. Both are designed to roughly mimic the action of the equivalent Cherry MX models but with a key difference – cutting down the actuation point from 2mm to 1.5mm (and the total travel from 4mm to 3.5mm). The idea, as the name suggests, is to make the switch faster to actuate and provide a more responsive feel. This is nothing new – both the Logitech Romer-G and SteelSeries QS1 switches have a 1.5mm actuation point as well, and Cherry itself has Rapid Fire models currently exclusive to Corsair with 1.2mm actuation. The Tesoro Agile switches use a Cherry-style cross-shaped plunger and presumably similar internal mechanics as well, though they claim a 60 million key press lifetime compared to 50 million for Cherry MX models.

*Tesoro Gram Spectrum Review Tesoro Gram Spectrum Review - Performance
Click to enlarge

The switches sound promising on paper, but the real question is, how do they perform? The answer is a bit of a mixed bag really. To start with, there are pronounced differences between these and Cherry MX Blue switches. The initial travel before you meet resistance at the start of the tactile bump is definitely less here; it's almost immediate, in fact. The low-profile keycaps are aligned on a single plane too, which makes moving your fingers around them feel fast, just as it did with the Apex M800.

However, despite what the force diagrams suggest, we found Tesoro's Blue switches to be a touch stiffer than the Cherry MX Blues we used side-by-side. We found ourselves having to type with a heavier hand than usual to successfully actuate the keys. To a degree, this counteracts the usefulness of the lower actuation point and keycap design when it comes to agility. Even when we adjusted and started to type heavier than before, we struggled to feel a difference in speed – games felt no more responsive than usual and our typing speed didn't seem to change.

*Tesoro Gram Spectrum Review Tesoro Gram Spectrum Review - Performance
Click to enlarge

Now, Cherry MX Blues aren't our usual switch of choice, but even so after a few hours of side-by-side testing we found the Tesoro Agile switches to have a less satisfying action overall. If you'll excuse the pun, it's difficult to place our finger on exactly why that is, but there seemed to be a degree of clunkiness and inconsistency on the Gram Spectrum, which stood in contrast to a crisper and cleaner feel from the German made switches.

That's a very subjective analysis, we know, but in an effort to pay closer attention to the feel of the switches, we discovered something more objective. Namely, the Tesoro Agile switches are not as mechanically sound as they should be. Through deliberately slow presses through the key action, we noticed that a number of the keys weren't actuating after the bump but rather a little after it – it was possible to press the key such that the bump was felt and the click was heard, but the key wasn't registered, entirely defeating the point of both. Now, to be clear, it's only a minor discrepancy and in actual use you will naturally follow through the bump at least a little, practically eliminating the chance of a missed press. However, try as we might, we were unable to replicate a similar effect on any Cherry MX Blue switch.

*Tesoro Gram Spectrum Review Tesoro Gram Spectrum Review - Performance
Click to enlarge

The Gram Spectrum isn't unpleasant to type or game on by any means, but it also didn't stand out as being better than or even equal to using a Cherry MX Blue keyboard. One thing we should note is that we think the Red linear version of the Agile switch is likely to offer more in the way of speed – to us, the tactile and clicky nature of the Agile Blue switch almost felt like it was getting in the way.

One final thing to note about our experience here is that this is definitely a loud keyboard. The clicks here are very distinctive, and there's also reverberation of noise from the metal plate, which can occasionally be annoying.
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