Tesoro GRAM SE Spectrum review: optical precision
GRAM SE Spectrum
Tesoro Red Optical, ~50g
2 lb. 5 oz. | 17.5 x 5.5 x 15"
Extra keys, keycap puller, key puller
Solid build quality, decent LEDs, an innovative new switch, and more make this mechanical keyboard interesting for gamers and office users. Enthusiasts might find the switches interesting as a proof of concept.
The switches have wobbly stems, the software is only slightly better than Tesoro's last package, and the keycaps aren't high quality. The soft touch finish doesn't meet enthusiast standards.
Tesoro GRAM SE Spectrum – Unboxing
The Tesoro GRAM SE Spectrum comes in a handsome box. Glossy graphics showcase this mechanical keyboard, but a matte finish prevents the box from being gaudy.
I’m happy to see a keycap puller, switch puller, and four Blue Tesoro Optical switches in the box. Previous offerings from Tesoro, including flagship mechanical keyboards, didn’t include any tools. The GRAM SE Spectrum mechanical keyboard is contained in a plastic bag. Foam edge inserts prevent shipping damage. My only complaint involves the instruction booklet. It is moderately vague and provides no information about the GRAM SE Spectrum’s accompanying software. Regardless, this is an excellent package.
Tesoro’s GRAM SE Spectrum shares much of its lineage with the GRAM Spectrum mechanical keyboard. Its painted steel upper case and ABS plastic lower case are sturdy and well finished, though tiny imperfections may exist in the paint. (I’m nit picking.) Fitment is solid. The rim around the upper and lower case doesn’t exhibit any significant gaps or imperfections. Some small bits of plastic may cling to the lower case drains, but that’s a non-issue. It can be cleared away with a single fingernail scrape. The lower case doesn’t include the sound deadening mat found in the GRAM Spectrum mechanical keyboard.
Creak may occur if the keyboard is flexed multiple times after sitting at certain angles, but it will never present itself during normal use. Traveling users might hear infrequent noises from their backpack. That’s fine, as I wouldn’t recommend traveling with the GRAM SE Spectrum mechanical keyboard. Its painted metal upper plate will chip if handled roughly, and loose items in a backpack could seriously mess the finish up. It’s also rather large and heavy.
Twelve appropriately black fasteners, two of which grip the metal upper case, hold the GRAM SE Spectrum together. The PCB is level due to some screws and a few clever supports bent down from the upper case. Some pegs in the lower case provide further support for the PCB, which is vital to keep switch activation points consistent throughout the keyboard. Tesoro’s Excalibur SE Spectrum, the first mechanical keyboard with Tesoro Optical switches, allowed its PCB to sag in the corners. GoMK’s review covered that defect in detail.
The GRAM SE Spectrum’s PCB, which is adequately thick, has an even conformal coating that shouldn’t affect its optical sensors. It’s much more even than Tesoro’s other spillproof keyboards. The solder work is well done as well. No excessive joints or residue are present.
Cables usually aren’t exemplary. The GRAM SE Spectrum’s removable cable is pretty darn close. Gold plated connectors, a durable braided exterior, and a ferrite core (which may be excessively large) are very appealing. The connector is less ideal. USB Mini B is really starting to show its age, so an upgrade to Type A male + Type C male would be ideal.
This mechanical keyboard, like the GRAM Spectrum, sits solidly on the desk. The GRAM SE Spectrum’s feet are thick and coated with rubber, so that’s a win. Its case pads are level and grippy, but the pads are also quite short. As a result, the ridges around the GRAM SE Spectrum’s feet may touch your desk. That won’t cause any problems, but it is a minor annoyance. I’m seeing issues with case pad height from a number of manufacturers, including Das Keyboard and Velocifire, so this is a regular misstep in the industry that needs attention.
Switches & stabilizers
These Red switches are awesome. Extreme linearity, smoothness, LED lenses, and responsiveness are all present. They also handle off center keypresses with more grace than most MX models. The downside? A noticeable amount of stem wobble. MX switches perform much better in that regard. Some of the stem wobble is mitigated by the click mechanism in Blue Tesoro Optical switches. Downstroke and upstroke clack are also noticeable, though that’s not unusual in linear switches.
Red Tesoro Optical switches seem exceptionally light in terms of press force due to a clever contactless design. Optical sensors wait for a cutout in the bottom of the stem to be obscured. When covered, the system registers a keypress. That solder-less design means that keyswitches can be swapped. Be careful with the switch puller, though, as it could scratch the upper case paint with ease. The switches are really stuck in there. I’m not sure if Tesoro plans to sell loose switches, but the included Blues provide a taste of customization.
My subjective impressions are also complimentary. It isn’t a typist’s switch, but gaming on it is an absolute joy. The switches are light enough to avoid fatigue and springy enough to prevent any perception of return lag. The weight, without a doubt, makes you feel like you’re in control of the keys. The optical technology doesn’t, however, make the keyboard feel any faster than its competitors. The milliseconds that some keyboards manage to shave off aren’t enough to drastically alter your gaming performance unless you’re at the very top of the bell curve.
Tesoro Optical switches feel like a refined XMIT Hall Effect switch. They both feel exceptionally close to the spring, but these Reds are less scratchy and clacky.
Costar style stabilizers support the GRAM SE Spectrum’s long keys. They are lubricated, which is good, but that isn’t their most notable feature. The stabilizer inserts and wires are black. That, readers, is some serious attention to detail. The only misstep is a poorly aligned spacebar stabilizer wire. It makes contact with the edge of its switch.
Bottom outs feel crisp and defined. There is a small patch of roughness in the space bar stabilizer near bottom out, but that’s only evident during glacial key presses. Tesoro did pretty well overall.
The GRAM SE Spectrum‘s keycaps are comfortable, but otherwise undesirable. Soft touch coated thin ABS plastic isn’t a winner in my book, as it won’t hold up well or look good when shined up, but it’s roughly equivalent to what other big brands are offering. The thin plastic doesn’t help upstroke or downstroke clack either.
The font is sharp and minimally gamer-ish, so that’s a step in the right direction. A thicker replacement keycap set would do wonders for the GRAM SE Spectrum.
Tesoro GRAM SE Spectrum features
LEDs and power draw
The RGB LEDs on the GRAM SE Spectrum mechanical keyboard aren’t the brightest I’ve ever seen, particularly in the blue range, but they are nicely saturated and blended due to some neat switch-integrated LED lenses. Legend coverage is good overall, though slight dimming is evident near the bottom of translucent areas. I could see slight LED flicker in my peripheral vision, but the lighting and transitions looked smooth head on. A decent number of lighting and customization options are present, so I’d say it’s a good RGB LED implementation.
I should also note that the lensed lock lights aren’t quite as violent as those on the Das Keyboard 4 Professional. Worst case power draw is 532 mA, which is a bit above USB 2.0 spec. Not exactly ideal.
The software suite is quite similar to the GRAM Spectrum’s. A number of organizational improvements and better profile systems make it more approachable. You can find the custom Spectrum lighting option in its own tab, for example.
It does not, however, solve core user experience issues like changing multiple key colors simultaneously, selecting multiple keys, tabbing between RGB values, or pointing and dragging within the (minuscule) RGB color chart. It’s just a hair worse than what I would call a usable, average software package. I certainly wouldn’t make social media buttons available, as frustrated users will probably vent online.
The GRAM SE Spectrum implements a conformal PCB coating, contactless switches, and several case drains to mitigate spills. Its upper case also contributes to liquid removal. A gentle slope and few holes, besides the switch cutout, help it run off before sinking in.
Cleanup and switch replacement will also be quite easy, as popping everything apart takes a negligible amount of time.
Labels & branding
Tasteful, minimalist upper case branding and a plasticized lower label make the GRAM SE Spectrum mechanical keyboard a solid choice.
The disappearance of Tesoro’s infamous Harry Potter font is quite welcome. I look forward to seeing further evolutions in their branding.
Tesoro GRAM SE Spectrum – Editor’s opinion
Bringing the GRAM SE Spectrum to market was an excellent decision. It’s exactly what I would have done. Tesoro took a well reviewed existing chassis and stuck their excellent new switches in it. The keycaps are all that holds it back from barreling to the top of the ratings chart at GoMK. Frankly, it’s a great mechanical keyboard.
The GRAM SE Spectrum is an offering that competes with Razer and Corsair in the mainstream mechanical keyboard market segment. Gamers should definitely consider this as an alternative to big name gaming keyboard models. Kudos to Tesoro. That said, this isn’t necessarily a mechanical keyboard for enthusiasts. The clunky software, keycaps, and style don’t align with most trends in the community.