Since their founding in 2011, Tesoro has pushed the boundaries of what’s possible in gaming peripherals. They were the first company to push N-Key rollover to their entire line of keyboards and the first to allow gamers to program every single key. Today we’re looking at the Gram SE Spectrum, a mechanical keyboard with rapid, hot swappable optical switches, full RGB illumination, and its own programming suite. For only $119.99, it’s a steal.
- MSRP: $119.99
- Switch Type: Tesoro Optical switch – Blue and Red options
- Keyboard Colour: Black/White
- Actuation Distance: Blue: 2.3mm +/- 0.6mm, Red: 2.0mm +/- 0.6mm
- Operation Force: Blue: 60g +/- 15g, Red: 45g +/- 15g
- Travel Distance: Blue: 4mm +/- 0.4mm, Red: 4mm+/- 0.4mm
- Optical Sensor Lifespan: 100,000 hours
- Processor: 32bit ARM Cortex Processor
- Memory: 512KB
- Ultra-polling rate: 1000 Hz
- Connection: USB
- Key rollover: 6-key / N-key options
- Backlit: 16.8 million RGB
- Lighting Effects: Per key customizable illumination
- Special keys: Profile Reset, Keyboard Reset, Profile Switch, Multimedia, Color Mode Switch, Rollover Switch, Instant Macro Recording, Instant Lighting Recording, Keyboard Lock, FN Lock, Win Key Lock
- Multimedia keys: 6
- Cable: 1.8 meter detachable braided cable
- IP56 Certification: IP56 *passed test for protection against dust and powerful water jet streams, when keyboard not in operation
- Warranty: 1 year
The Gram SE Spectrum is one of the growing line of keyboards to feature optical key switches. Unlike traditional mechanical switches, optical switches don’t require physical contact to function. Instead, Tesoro’s switches (made in collaboration with Gateron) use a beam infrared light which is broken whenever a key is pressed. By avoiding electrical contacts, Tesoro is able to avoid the common drawbacks like jitter and “debounce” and deliver ultra-fast 0.1ms response times.
The bigger benefit has to do with wear and tear. Since there’s no physical contact, the optical switches in the Gram SE Spectrum don’t weather like normal key switches, extending their lifespan. Tesoro explains their lifespan a bit differently than Cherry, referencing their sensor’s 100,000 reliable hours versus Cherry’s 50 million clicks. Used for 24 hours a day, these switches would hold up for eleven years. If gaming was your full-time, eight-hour-a-day job Tesoro expects them to last an astounding 34 years!
The keyboard feels built to last, too. Like most RGB keyboards, it features the floating-key design where the top plate is left off in exchange for a nice metal top plate. Board flex is minimal and it holds firm under twisting pressure. Like most keyboards, the rear is all plastic, but since the overall body is thin with little empty space inside, it still feels dense and firm.
What I really appreciate, though, is the nice braided cable. It’s detachable, so if it every breaks, you won’t be left replacing the whole keyboard, but it’s the perfect thickness to remain flexible and free of annoying kinks from packaging. Nothing is worse for cable management than kinky, unruly wires!
Even though the picture on the box shows a black keyboard, the unit we were sent was white. The keys, top plate, and braiding on the cable are all nice crisp tones of white that look fantastic on a desk top. It has the side benefit of really making the RGB lighting shine as it reflects over its surface.
The sample we were sent features Tesoro’s clicky blue optical switches. They have an imperceptibly longer travel distance but are close cousins with Cherry’s MX Blue switches. Between the two, I actually like Tesoro’s optical blues more, however. The clicks are ever so slightly higher pitched and the larger keys have a typewriter-like snap I just adore. For gaming or writing, it just feels nice under the fingers.
Since the keys function through light and not hard wiring, the switches can actually be hot swapped without any soldering. Tesoro includes four extra switches of the opposite type in the box, as well as a switch puller. If you’re gaming and want different feedback on your most used keys, it’s easy as easy as pulling out the old and snapping in the new.
Interestingly, even though you can swap out the switches easily, Tesoro opted for a non-standard bottom row, so finding alternate keycaps will be different. Since these are standard, thin ABS, that’s too bad as I would definitely like to upgrade.
Where the Gram SE Spectrum really shines is in the programming. Without using any software, you can record and execute macros and swap between nine different lighting presets. You have your standard breathe and rainbow wave, but also a handful of reactive typing effects. My favorite shoots runners of light down the row for each key pressed. You can also record your own lighting sequences without any software. It’s fairly limited compared to what we’ve seen, it’s still a neat feature found in few other keyboards, and the lighting itself looks fantastic in low light.
With a quick visit to Tesoro’s website, you can download the Gram SE Spectrum’s software package and gain much more control over the colors and configurations of the lighting. You can also remap keys and assign secondary functions, like launching programs. Like the onboard controls, it’s not the most advanced out there, but at this price point offers a lot of functionality. It’s macro recording and editing is also simple and easy to get you up and running quickly and easily.
The Gram SE Spectrum was my first Tesoro product but it certainly won’t be my last. For $119.99, the Gram SE Spectrum is an outstanding value. Not only does it offer fully customizable RGB lighting, but its optical switches will last longer than their mechanical counterparts while sacrificing nothing in feel. If you’re in the market for a mechanical keyboard but don’t want spend an arm and a leg, the Tesore Gram SE Spectrum is a safe bet.
- Incredible switch lifespan
- Feels great to type on
- White colorway really makes the RGB shine
- Nice build quality
- Great price
- Some limitations both onboard and in software
The product discussed in this article was provided by the manufacturer for the purposes of review.