With us being a few years into the whole RGB movement with mechanical keyboards, we are still seeing some companies finally moving their keyboards over to RGB and others have been refining their original designs. At this point, I have tested and covered just about everything and I think almost every day I’m turning down companies who want to send more and more of the same. I nearly did the same with the Gram Spectrum from Tesoro but the fact it was available in an all white design caught my eye. With everyone else only selling them in black, it is nice to see something a little different. On top of that, the Gram Spectrum also has Tesoro’s new switch called the Tesoro Agile with a short throw and short actuation point. So today I’m going to check out the Gram Spectrum and see what it is all about in all of its pale glory and find out how the new switches compare to the rest of the market.
Product Name: Tesoro Gram Spectrum
Review Sample Provided by: Tesoro
Written by: Wes
Pictures by: Wes
Amazon Link: HERE
|Processor||32bit ARM Cortex Premium|
|Memory||512KB (4Mb) Onboard Memory|
|Key lifespan||60 million keystrokes|
|Key Rollover||Full N-Key / 6 Key Rollover|
|Backlit||16.8M RGB color|
|Special keys||Keyboard lock, Reset Hotkey, Instant Macro Recording, Instant Profile Switch|
|Cable||1.8 meters, braided, detachable|
The packaging for the Gram Spectrum is the standard full sized keyboard box and the outside is similar to past Tesoro keyboards but with a few changes. For starters, there is a photo of the full keyboard on the front but it is a little smaller than you would expect. This gives more room to see the gray/black background with the purple trim. Up in the top left corner is the Tesoro black and white face logo and then up above the keyboard is the full Tesoro logo with the keyboard name as well. The smaller photo also left room to highlight a few key features down along the bottom as well as showing off the new Tesoro Agile switches.
The back of the box has another photo of the keyboard with the backlighting turned on as well as photos all along the top that show off key features of the board. Next to the keyboard they also talk about the Agile switches a little more, specifically their shorter throw and actuation distance and the lighting and macro customization.
Inside the box, there is foam on both ends to help the Gram Spectrum fit snug due to its extremely thin bezels. It is then wrapped in a plastic bag. Up under the flap with “Break the Rules” on it, you will also find the removable USB cable. Beyond that, the board comes with a thin manual that shows a few instructions for the function layer controls.
Photos and Features
Beyond the Gram Spectrum coming in a bright white, the keyboard is completely different than anything else you are going to find on the market. It is a full sized layout meaning you get a full number pad and it has a traditional key layout with the exception of the bottom row having the 1.5u Ctrl and Alt keys leaving the windows and function layer keys to be smaller at a 1u size. What is different about it though is Tesoro designed the Gram Spectrum with almost no bezel all around the outside edges and even in between the sections there aren’t big gaps. On top of that, the keyboard has a floating keyset. We have seen this with a few boards like the Corsairs but with the Gram Spectrum the base of the keyboard seems to be thinner and it doesn’t have a natural angle to the base. This makes the keyboard a little more compact and this is exaggerated even more with a keycap design that is a little shorter and without the slight curve you normally see. In person, the board looks amazing but in my photos, the white backplate ended up with shadows due to issues with my lighting that doesn’t really show how bright white the entire keyboard is.
The front edge of the board angles down so you don’t have any part of the keyboard touching you under your hand when typing and from this point of view we can kind of see how thin everything is for being a mechanical keyboard.
Like I said before it is a full sized keyboard so you do get all of the traditional keys. I would prefer if it also had a standard bottom row to allow for easier swapping out of the keycaps, but I know in Tesoro’s target audience (not keyboard enthusiasts, mostly gamers) that is less of an issue. I was disappointed that Tesoro made such a beautiful keyboard only to go with a font that takes away from the clean look and is frankly hard to read. This wouldn’t be as big of a deal but remember finding replacement caps that have that bottom row isn’t going to go well. The shadows from our lighting really show just how much the keys are floating and I promise it looks nothing like that in person, it's just all bright white. Over above the number pad they slipped in the Tesoro mask and put in pinhole lights for the status indicators but they put larger labels under them. I think without the logos, labels, and with a simpler font, this might be one of the best-looking keyboards I’ve ever had come in.
For the function layer, the F keys have audio controls for mute and volume. There are also play/pause, and skip buttons for your music. We also have a window key lockout option and then four different macro and lighting profiles that you can quickly swap between using function and F1-F4. Not in the photos below, but the direction pad also has function layer controls to turn the brightness up and down and to flip between some of the included lighting profiles.
Along the back edge, you won’t find any USB hubs or audio passthrough ports that rarely get used on other keyboards. This time around Tesoro kept things simple and went with a detachable USB cable and it plugs in along the back using a Mini USB plug.
The included cord is bright white as well and has a nice white sleeving on it. This along is really unique, most white keyboards get a basic white rubber cord, the sleeved cords are almost always exclusive to the black keyboards simply because there aren’t many white keyboards sold and it has to cost more to do a small run of them. The cord has matching white ends with Tesoro branding in them. The cord is thick but flexible and more than long enough for most situations. The best part though is because it is removable if you need a shorter or longer cord you could get one and swap it out.
The bottom of the Gram Spectrum is as bright white as the top and is just as simple. In the middle is a black sticker with all of the normal regulation logos as well as a barcode for the serial number and the model information. For feet, the bottom of the Gram Spectrum has four corner pads in white for grip when you want to lay the keyboard flat. Then the two flip out feet are wider than normal and have rubber all along the touching edge.
So rather than doing what everyone else is doing and using the Cherry switches or the knock off brands, Tesoro changed things up completely and have designed their own switches. They look like a Cherry switch but they did shorten the overall throw and also raised the actuation point up so they activate quicker. The throw is 3.5mm where a normal switch is 4.0mm and the actuation point is 1.5mm down where most switches are in the 2.0mm range. This should cut a small fraction of time off your times when you press a button, but I’m not sure anyone will be able to notice or not.
Officially the switches are branded Tesoro and with that, I don’t know if they were manufactured by any of the normal switch manufacturers but they do look a lot like Gaterons and they also feel like them as well. Gaterons have a little less drag than a Cherry switch and these feel really smooth. You can notice the shorter throw when typing on them, especially if you recently came from a normal cherry or cherry equivalent keyboard. The switches come in two colors and as you can see the color code the bottom of the switch, not the stem. You can get a red and a blue. The blue looks to be similar to a Cherry blue according to Tesoro’s graphs and the red similar to the reds. The documentation mentions a green switch in place of the blue as well so I’m not sure if they actually went with blue or green but our sample has the red switch. The force graphs provided seem to imply that our red switch is a linear switch like the Cherry red but I can say for sure that they feel a lot more like a Topre or a brown with less of a bump but they don’t completely feel linear. For me that is great, my preferred switch is a Cherry Clear or a Brown. For stabilizers, they went with a Costar style. This means you have the metal bar and the keycaps are a little harder to remove for cleaning, but a lot of people prefer the Costar style for noise.
For keycaps, Tesoro really upped their game. For starters, like I have mentioned earlier they didn’t go with a standard OEM profile or a Cherry profile. The keycaps are a completely unique design that is flat front to back but with a cylindrical profile on top. This makes the keyboard similar to the Cherry 3.0 and some non-mechanical keyboards with its flat profile. The caps are also shorter as well, similar but slightly taller than a DSA profile in height. They also went with a double shot design and I can’t understate how awesome that is. Double shot means they used two different plastic molds to make the legend rather than painting the keycap and then etching the legend off. This is important because the paint will wear off but this will never lose its legend or start to shine through. Sadly they went with that awful font for the legend, but at least it will never need to be replaced. I’m not sure if that makes me happy or sad.
Tesoro has software specific to the Gram Spectrum on their website. This software doesn’t work with any other Tesoro products but does let us have better access to a few of the key features of the Gram Spectrum. When you open it up, it isn’t really different than past Tesoro keyboards with the exception of the Gram name up top and the photo. Up top, we can pick from the four profiles as well as a PC Mode that is independent of the profiles and just works when you have the software running. For lighting, you can pick from the illumination setting that sets a default color across the board, different colors per key, or go to the lighting effects page to pick from a few different lighting effects. Most are basic but there is still the color spectrum wave that a lot of people like. Beyond lighting you can also reprogram each individual key to do different things, open up a program, or even record a macro to play when the key is pressed.
For testing, I have been using the Gram Spectrum for weeks as my main keyboard. This means I have been using it to write, even right now I’m typing on it. I have also gotten some gaming in on it and I have used it for general web browsing. All together I have had enough time to get my initial impressions then also adjust to the keyboard and see if any weird issues come up. Initially, when I first started typing on it I had a bit of a hard time with its thinner profile. The Gram Spectrum has a thinner base, a short and flat keycap profile, and shorter throw switches as well. All together it was a fairly big change from your standard every day Cherry switched keyboard with OEM profile keycaps. So right out of the hole I had to make sure to tilt the keyboard up, something I don’t normally do but the angled profile of the Gram Spectrum better matches the standard angle of most other keyboards. Beyond that, it just took a little time.
The new Tesoro Agile key switches ended up being a pleasure to type on. They have a smooth feeling like Gateron switches and while they seemed to imply that the red switches on our sample were linear, I had just a slight bump giving a big of a Cherry Brown feeling but with a little less resistance. They aren’t all that noisy though even now I still bottom out the keys a lot harder than I normally do given the shorter throw and with that I make a little more noise than they should. The Costar stabilizers have been great, there hasn’t been any rattling or issues with any of the stabilized keys. Add to all of that, without having a top bezel around the keys means you interact with the solid metal top plate and the bottom shell is very solid as well. A nice change, even when comparing to past Tesoro keyboards. The thin bezels also mean the keyboard is slightly smaller than a normal full sized keyboard and it doesn’t take up any room that it doesn’t have to on your desk. Speaking of the desk, the rubber feet on the bottom did a great job keeping the keyboard locked in place well.
What about the other features like the media controls? Well, frankly I only ever used them intentionally testing them out. It’s just a personal preference of mine, but I just don’t ever use function layer media controls. By the time I find them I could just use the on-screen controls or the controller on my desk. I did like the four profiles to flip through, I used them for lighting profiles mostly. I also like the on keyboard brightness control for the lighting, something that my everyday keyboard doesn’t have (MasterKey Pro L). My everyday keyboard does, however, have a lot more control over the RGB lighting without having to dig into the software and I would love to see Tesoro push this more.
Speaking of the lighting, I really like how the lighting looks on the all-white keyboard, especially without the bezel hiding some of the light. The lighting is bright and glows all around the keys. I spent most of my time just using the color spectrum mode because the other lighting modes weren’t as exciting. I would love to see more lighting modes in the future, or the ability for people to make their own like Razer and Corsair have done.
Beyond that, the double shot keycaps are most likely going to be the most underrated feature of the keyboard. I don’t even think I saw it listed as a feature on their website. They keep the backlighting from bleeding around the legends and I know they will hold up much better than the normally painted keycaps. They are also a little thicker than a standard keycap so they feel better when typing, a most solid click. It’s too bad that have that font for the legends, though. On top of me just not liking the way it looked, I actually ran into issues a few times when typing where things like the & and % keys didn’t look how you would expect and I had to stop and find them.
Overall and Final Verdict
When going into the review I was mostly interested in the Gram Spectrum because of the new Tesoro Agile key switches and the keyboards bright white design, something that I don’t see that often in full sized keyboards. Beyond that I expected the Gram Spectrum to be similar in construction and quality to past Tesoro mechanical keyboards. That is because for the most part all of my Tesoro keyboard reviews have been similar with a decent quality keyboard that is always just a few features away from being in the same class as top keyboards on the market. Well with the Gram Spectrum I was completely blown away, the build quality and overall construction of the Gram Spectrum is nothing like past Tesoro keyboards and up into the enthusiast category, not the normal “gamer” focused quality we typically see.
Tesoro designed the Gram Spectrum with a thinner bezel design that makes for a slightly smaller keyboard while still being a full sized keyboard. All of the normal media controls and multiple profiles are all there as well. The RGB backlighting is bright, really bright, partially due to this being a bright white keyboard. The all white design looks great, it didn’t take long for my wife to try to take the keyboard from me in testing. If they dropped the Tesoro branding and the labels for the LEDs indicators I think you could sell this under any of the enthusiast brands without anyone noticing.
The Tesoro Agile key switches that I was excited to check out ended up being better than expected as well. It wasn’t their short throw that got me, in fact, I would be just as happy with a normal throw, it is how smooth they are. Combine that with quality double shot keycaps that are a little thicker than what you normally find on a consumer keyboard and it is really great to type on, even with the flat profile of the keycaps. The double shot keycaps are a feature that most won’t even notice but add considerably to the overall quality of the board. They will never wear through like the normal painted keycaps that backlit keyboards have.
With all of the good things about the Gram Spectrum, I expect it to have just as many issues but it really came down to one big issue and one smaller one. The big issue was the ugly font that they used for the key legends. I wasn’t a fan of it, but I really started to hate it when typing and I found some keys to be hard to read. F10, for example, looks like F11 and @#%& all are hard to see as well. The smaller issue was just that I would like to see more lighting effects added, in fact, I would love to see the software revamped completely or dropped to match the high quality of the keyboard. With on keyboard RGB controls like Ducky and Cooler Master and a better font, this could be one of if not the best RGB keyboard on the market.
With an MSRP of $119.99, the Gram Spectrum ends up priced less than all of the other RGB keyboards that I would consider to be similar in quality or features like the MasterKeys Pro L and the Corsair RGB keyboards. They do have to overcome the fact that this is a little expensive for a brand that fewer people know, but it is a great keyboard as long as you don’t mind that font and don’t expect toy level RGB controls.
Live Pricing: HERE