Hands-on Tesoro Gram XS: Ultra Slim Mechanical Gaming-Keyboard
With a height of just 24 mm (0.94 inches) the attractive ultra-slim mechanical chiclet-style gaming keyboard Tesoro Gram XS - available in black and white - has been awaited with eager anticipation by many for quite a while. First introduced at CES 2018, the gaming keyboard with ultra-low-profile mechanical switches is now finally officially on sale. Technical details can be found in our German news article released upon the keyboard’s first introduction.
We’ve had the opportunity to take a closer look at the Tesoro Gram XS keyboard as well as the Tesoro 360 software prior to its official launch in Germany. Tesoro sent us the black model with “blue” switches and a US keyboard layout (model number TS-G12ULP (B) BL). Compared to the red switches, the blue switches have a much more defined and firm accentuation point.
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Tesoro Gram XS: Ultra-slim in a rigid case
In addition to the 104-key keyboard the box contained a 1.8 m-long microUSB cable (USB Type-A to microUSB Type-B) as well as a quick-start guide showing the most important keyboard controls. The keyboard itself feels very minimalistic yet classy thanks to its ultra-slim outline.
Mainly due to two metal plates (aluminum/steel) for the key base and extra PCB stabilization the keyboard weighs a hefty 720 g without the cable. It sits very firm on the desk thanks to a total of six rubber feet and does not slip at all. There are no fold-out feet at the back nor is there a palm rest.
Build quality was excellent on our review sample, and despite its thinness the Gram XS seemed very sturdy and well made. The microUSB cable can be unplugged for easier and more convenient transportation, but we would have preferred some sort of additional strain relief or cord grip for the cable. Plus, why not USB-C to begin with? By design, the microUSB plug has more play than the USB Type-A plug on the opposite side of the cable.
Tesoro Gram XS: Our impression of the blue mechanical switches
Our black review unit’s chiclet-style keycaps were matte-black and reminiscent of a mechanical notebook keyboard. Due to their design and slim profile the caps were not as firm as conventional full-sized caps on other mechanical keyboards and wobbled slightly. In addition, the matte finish turned out to be a very effective fingerprint magnet. Fortunately, the smudges were very easily wiped off with a microfiber cloth. We cannot make any statements regarding the keycaps rigidity and longevity due to the nature of this review. Officially, Tesoro claims up to 20 million keystrokes for the switches.
Our review unit’s blue switches had a very firm and much more defined accentuation point than regular chiclet-style keyboards. Bigger keys, such as the space bar or the shift keys, tended to get a bit spongy towards the sides. We have not experienced any missed keystrokes during the entire test period. The Gram XS’s mechanical clicking sound is on a par with other mechanical gaming keyboards, and the keyboard’s ultra-slim mechanical switches did not offer any advantage over a full-sized mechanical gaming keyboard when typing.
Tesoro Gram XS: Macros and backlight
The keys are individually RGB backlit (up to 16.8 million colors), and the keyboard’s maximum brightness was high enough even for daylight. Brightness distribution, however, leaves a lot to be desired: The backlight was visibly brighter at the top than at the bottom.
Thanks to its 512 KB onboard memory the Gram XS can save up to three gaming profiles (FN+PF1, PF2, PF3) as well as instant macro recordings. It also supports six multimedia shortcuts (back, play/pause, next, mute, and volume up/down), on-the-fly switching between PC and Gaming mode (FN+G/PC), USB 6-key or N-key rollover (FN+Ins/6, FN+Del/N), disabling the Windows key (FN+Windows-Key), and even disabling the entire keyboard (FN+End/KB). Backlight brightness can be adjusted via FN+Page up/down.
Tesoro Gram XS: Tesoro 360 software
The Tesoro 360 software has been redesigned from scratch, and Version 2.100.01 has been released recently. A new firmware for the keyboard, version Updater_580030 (104-key model) is also available. Our tests were conducted with these latest versions of the software and firmware. This release of Tesoro 360 is a lot less cluttered and very intuitive and simple to use. After installation you choose a language as well as theme for the user interface (black or white). Software and firmware updates can be checked and installed in the settings.
The backlight settings can be found in the quick-start menu, and various presets including Standard, Trigger, Firework, Breathing, Starlight, Cyclic, Frizzle, and Spiral as well as a total of nine colors are available to choose from. The backlight can also be turned off completely in this menu. Individual configuration and extra lighting effects can be found in the Advanced settings, which also include a macro editor as well as extra multimedia configuration options for mouse, media, and Windows features. Individual configuration allows for either actual individual configuration of each and every key and also arranging various keys, such as the WASD keys, cursor keys, function keys, or the numpad in groups. The software turned out to be very detailed with highly configurable backlight effects.
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All things considered we liked the ultra-slim Tesoro Gram XS a lot. Thanks to the detachable USB cable and its comparatively small footprint we were even able to stow it into our backpack in order to work or game on the road. It is definitely a born-and-bred true mechanical gaming keyboard with full 6-key/N-key rollover and onboard memory for up to three profiles. Its design is rather minimalistic and simplistic, and the Tesoro 360 software was easy to use and allowed us to customize the keyboard to our liking, including key assignments, macros, and backlight.
At an MSRP of $120, the Tesoro Gram XS is one of the more expensive keyboards. At this price point, features such as RGB backlight with support for elaborate lighting effects, multimedia features, and extensive software for individual configuration is an absolute must. This also holds true for high-quality materials and well-tried mechanical switches, such as the Cherry MX switches.
The three areas where the Gram XS showed the most need for improvements were the accentuation point distribution for the larger keys as well as the homogeneity of the keyboard’s noise emissions and its backlight brightness distribution. Plus, we would have definitely preferred a strain-relieved USB Type-C port. The keyboard will most likely find its niche among fans of slim chiclet-style keyboards with a focus on gaming rather than avid typists.