By: Brian Cheung (Guest Writer)
May 29, 2015
Growing up in Calgary, Alberta, my favorite pastimes are playing street hockey in the summer, and pond hockey in the winter. When I am not outside imitating my favorite players, I love watching the sport on television. Typically, I choose two teams to cheer for in a season; one is a Stanley Cup contender, and one who is considered the underdogs. My Stanley Cup contenders has and always will be the Chicago Blackhawks, with their young talent and passionate playing style. The underdogs of this season was certainly the home team, the Calgary Flames. A little backstory is the Calgary Flames got fired up and won the last tens games of the regular season. This meant they clinched the last playoff spot in the Western Conference, and was going into postseason for the first time since 2008-09. Throughout the 2014-15 season, the Flames surpassed the expectation of many; mostly other teams they have played against. When they met the Vancouver Canucks in the first round of playoffs, people saw a series with potential of going either way. In concise terms, they won the series 4-2, and left the Sedin sisters cup-less once again. However, when they moved into the second round, they were facing a totally different type of team, the Anaheim Ducks. Even many of the fans saw winning this series as an impossible task -- myself included. To the dislike of many, the Flames were eliminated in the series 4-1 to go home earlier to get a head start on golfing. Without a doubt, the Flames overcame many shadows in their path during its rebuild season with injuries, playing against teams superior to them on paper, and coming back to win it when it counted. It gave the fans mixed feeling of excitement and disappointment in the many highs and lows. These were the same feelings I felt when I first received the Tesoro Lobera Spectrum. This was the first time I have heard of this company, and only the third time we have reviewed a product from them here at APH Networks. Going up against some of the more established manufacturers with developed features and aggressive styles, will the Lobera Spectrum be up for the challenge and surprise the opposition? Read on to find out!
Today’s review unit of the Lobera Spectrum arrived from Tesoro Technology USA's headquarters in Fremont, California. Fremont is home to many technology companies, such as Antec and Corsair. Tesoro Technology’s USA office in Fremont is their newest location after moving from Milpitas, California, where we last reviewed their product; namely the Tesoro Durandal Ultimate by Technical Editor Aaron Lai. It was shipped using the United States Postal Service as Priority Mail, and was handled by Canada post once it reached the borders. The standard brown corrugated cardboard box arrived to our APH Networks office located in Calgary in excellent condition without any bumps or holes. Without further ado, I cut the box open, and got down to work.
As I opened the box, I was half surprised to find it filled with packing peanuts. This was because with the last two keyboards we have reviewed from Tesoro, one came with packing peanuts, and the other did not. As I pulled the retail packaging out of the box, the contrast in color really caught my attention. Due to the name of the product being called the Lobera Spectrum, I was fully expecting a more colorful and exciting design, which proved to be true. The box is a standard rectangular shape following the conventional design of many other manufacturers. On the front of the box are very few words. The left side of the box mainly consists the name of the manufacturer, product, and Tesoro's slogan, "Break the Rules" with its manufacturer's website. Right in the middle of the box displays a large image of the Lobera Spectrum in all of its glory. On the right side of the box, there are five main features of the Lobera Spectrum listed, and product description reading "RGB Mechanical Gaming Keyboard". A few more features are listed on the top of the box, along with the type of mechanical switches inside the keyboard. The switches we have today are Kailh Brown switches, which we will discuss later on in the review. Finally, on the back is an almost-to-scale image of the keyboard, and diagrams of more features.
Before we move on, let us take a look at the features and specifications from the manufacturer’s website:
- Full-color illumination - World's first full-color illumination mechanical keyboard. 16.8 million colors and several illumination modes to choose from! Look at the sides, they are lit, too!
- USB hub - This keyboard has a 2 port USB Hub and two audio ports for your headset and mic. `You can connect an external DC source to power your hub up.
- Memory - This keyboard features 512 KB of onboard memory for easy macro storage. All your preferences and 5 game profiles will always be with you.
- All key rollover - Full N-Key Rollover is an advanced anti-ghosting technology that allows for multiple simultaneous key actuations. This makes you more agile when in the game.
- Braided cable - The keyboard’s thick braided cable is protected from mechanical damage and will endure your hardest battles.
- Macros - Every key of this keyboard is programmable. Up to 300 macros can be set and stored in the memory.
- Memory: 512KB
- Profiles: 5
- Keystrokes per profile: 5
- Macro keys: Any
- LED levels: 16.8 million
- Weight: 1.5kg
- Key lifespan: 50 million keystrokes
- Profile keys: 6
- Connection: USB
- Cable length: 1.55m
- USB ports: 2
- Dimensions: 498 x 183 x 25mm (WxDxH)
After peeling the plastic seal from the box, I carefully pulled out the matte black box containing the keyboard. I was rather pleased at how Tesoro had gone the extra mile in using the matte black box to protect the product aside from using its retail packaging, and to give it a little more mystery. Lifting the two side tabs on the box, and pushing the top open, you will find the Lobera Spectrum wrapped in a thin foam pocket. On both sides holding the foam pocket and keyboard were black foam bumpers to further protect the keyboard in transit. Other items Tesoro has included are a product manual, and a CD containing product information, drivers, and software for the keyboard. However, Tesoro does recommend users to get the latest drivers from their website. You know, for those who have access to the internet, and no longer has an optical drive on my computer like me.
Tesoro likes to name their keyboards after swords, and this one is no exception. The Lobera Spectrum is named after the sword of Saint Ferdinand III, King of Castile and Leon. The word Lobera is a Spanish word meaning "wolf slayer". It was a symbol of power by Saint Ferdinand II of Castile. He was often depicted in paintings with an orb in one hand, and a sword in the other. He was known as being an exemplary knight, and permanently united Castile and Leon in 1231. Don Juan Manuel, Prince of Villena, grandson of King Ferdinand III wrote in the Book of the examples of Count Lucanor and of Patronio, the “Lobera was the sword of Fernan Gonzalez of Castile, a sword of great virtue.” Don Juan Manuel writes of King Ferdinand III lying on his deathbed addressed him these words, “I can bequeath no heritage to you, but I bestow upon you my sword Lobera, that is of passing worth, and wherewith God has wrought much good to me.” Lobera, forged in steel, has a blade of 80cm, with silver ornaments kept as a relic in Capilla Real at Seville Cathedral in Spain.
Taking a closer look at the Lobera Spectrum keyboard, you will find it is simple in design. However, this is true only at first glance, and false when you look at the keyboard as a whole. It has everything a keyboard is expected to have, and gives users more. The majority of the keyboard surface surrounding the keys are matte black in color, and does not leave fingerprints behind. Tesoro has gone with a smoother brush-like metal finish on the overall surface, in contrast to the texture of the wrist rest and the top right corner of the keyboard. Much like the Tesoro Durandal Ultimate reviewed by Aaron, the wrist rest and the top right corner both has a diamond plate floor pattern, making it look more rugged and industrial. The Tesoro logo appears only once on this keyboard; at the very top right corner. Along the bottom of the logo are LED light features for the Num Lock and Caps Lock. Echoing what Aaron has previously said about manufacturers labeling their products, “I quite like it when manufacturers do not label up their products very much, or at least make the labels more discreet, as in-your-face logos make products look cheap.”
Measuring in at 498 x 183 x 25mm (W x D x H), the Tesoro Lobera Spectrum is an average sized keyboard. Comparing the length with the other two Tesoro keyboards reviewed here at APH Networks, the Lobera Spectrum in terms of width is wider than both. In fact, the Lobera Spectrum is one of the widest keyboards available from Tesoro, but it is mainly due to the angled edges. Either way, the width should not be a problem for most users, especially if they are already utilizing dual monitors on their desk. The depth of the keyboard is more fitted to my liking, due to my preference of laying letter sized paper horizontally across my desk for note-taking purposes. The Lobera Spectrum, in terms of height, sits quite low to the desk, and would need some getting used to, or users could choose to use the back legs on the bottom of the keyboard to give it a boost in height of approximately one inch. One of the features of the Tesoro Lobera Spectrum is full NKRO mode over USB. Traditionally, full n-key rollover modes only appear over a PS/2 connection, but nowadays, full NKRO over USB is becoming more common. Borrowing a section from Aaron's Tesoro Durandal Ultimate review, you will know NKRO is abbreviated for n-key rollover, meaning each key is independently scanned by the hardware, so all key presses are detected regardless of other keys being pressed at the same time. In essence, this fixes ghosting issues found in cheaper and/or laptop keyboards. While ghosting is a bit of misnomer, and at times a marketing term, there are cases where keyboards will not be able to recognize more than one keystroke at a time, which can cause for missed keys. This can be extremely frustrating when you are playing games, or even if you are just a very fast typist. Generally, 6KRO is more than enough, as it allows users to press six keys at a time, and the keyboard will recognize all six independent strokes. NKRO allows for more than six, but can vary from keyboard manufacturer.
Our unit today has the ISO 105-key European layout, like many of the other keyboards from Tesoro. The location of the LED indicator lights are where they are expected; at the top right hand side of the keyboard. However, the function of these LED lights are not exactly as you would expect. The first LED light indicates whether or not you are in the Gaming/PC mode. This means it lights up when you have selected a macro profile, or if you have disabled the Windows key. The Gaming modes can be toggled by pressing Fn + F1 to F5 for the five individual macro profiles. Moving on from left to right, we have the Num Lock, Caps Lock, and Macro Recording indicator. Tesoro has also provided media keys next to the profile keys. From F7 to F12, we have Mute, Volume Down, Volume Up, Play/Pause, Previous and Next. These media keys can be activated the same way as the profile keys by pressing Fn + the corresponding function. Looking at the arrow keys located next to the number pad, we can see there are half circles on the Up and Down keys, and contrast symbols on the Left and Right keys. The Up and Down keys control four different brightness settings for the LED lights, and the Left and Right keys control the On/Off mode for the keyboard, respectively. Moving onto the number pad, the layout is as to be expected with no surprises at all.
Before continuing on, one of the best parts of the Tesoro Lobera Spectrum are its mechanical keyswitches. This section has been adapted from Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Kwan’s Thermaltake Tt eSPORTS Meka G-Unit review in October 2011. There are three main types of keyboards in the market today. The cheapest is the membrane keyboard, which is the easiest to make, but also has poor typing feel and response due to squishy keys. A scissor switch keyboard has its own independent keyswitch mechanism for each key, which delivers improved tactile response and typing experience. Modern scissor switch keyboards can be very good for everyday office use. Mechanical keyboards such as the Lobera Spectrum costs the most, because each keyswitch is an independent part.
The Lobera Spectrum features Kailh Brown mechanical switches, which are quite similar to Cherry MX Brown switches. Since Cherry lost their patent for mechanical switches, many manufacturers have attempted to imitate the Cherry MX switches. Although we have only reviewed one other product with Kailh switches, namely the Tesoro Tizona G2N and G2N-P, it should not be dismissed as some Chinese knock-off brand. Again, borrowing and adapting a section from Aaron's review, many manufacturers actually employ these switches in their products; including Razer, Thermaltake, and Genius, just to name a few. Kailh claims their keys will last up to fifty million keystrokes, just like the Cherry MX. Kailh Brown switches will be favored by typists who prefer a good middle-of-the-road option appropriate for both typing and gaming. It features tactile, non-clicky switches when pressed down, meaning a noticeable bump to let you know your key press has been registered. However, some users criticized the Brown switches for its tactile bump being so small that some may not find it useful. To be honest, in the end, preference of which keys comes down to consumer opinion.
Although this is the first mechanical keyboard I have owned, there are certain features I have gathered over the years from using many of my friends' mechanical keyboards. Many of them own very loud mechanical keyboards from the switches they choose to purchase their keyboard with. For myself, I prefer a keyboard with high quality and features, but not obnoxiously loud. With the Kailh Brown switches, the quality and features are there and the switches are reasonable enough. Of course, this is all personal preference, and was expected with the Kailh Brown switches. Also, after using the Lobera Spectrum for about three months now, a key has yet to get stuck. This means I have not had a row of repeating letters or numbers when I only pressed down once.
Looking at the backside of the Lobera Spectrum, you can see it features a number of connections. Starting from the left to the right, there are two USB 2.0 ports, external DC source, headphone jack, and a microphone jack. These connections make it easier to access ports commonly used by typist and gamer alike. Tesoro has attached a removable sticker covering the ports to notify users of the maximum current capacity of the USB port is 100mA, and should not be used as a charging power supply. However, these ports are useful when users need to plug in and access USB drives. Although Tesoro has not provided the Lobera Spectrum with the newer USB 3.0 interface, this is still a nice feature to have. The headphone and microphone 3.5mm inputs are an extension for the keyboard connecting to your computer. This is especially useful for myself due to the earphone jack on my PC being more than a headphone cable's length away from my chair. A feature I would like to mention is the braided cable located next to the ports. It is not uncommon, but it is always nice to see in terms of craftsmanship in their products. The cable measures 155cm from the keyboard to the end, which features two gold-plated USB connectors, and gold-plated audio and microphone jacks. As I have mentioned in my Genius GX Gaming Maurus X review, gold-plated USB connectors are nice to have, and it is pretty to look at, but it does not really do anything practically or electrically (It does, to some extent, for the analog 3.5mm jacks though). The four individual cables split off from one another about 30cm from the actual connectors.
Flipping the keyboard over for the last physical inspection, the Lobera Spectrum met the standards I had envisioned in a keyboard of this caliber. Looking at the base of the keyboard, there were seven main points of contact, and all were rubberized to prevent any movement during usage. In addition, with its 1.5kg weight, the keyboard certainly did not move accidentally. I was especially pleased with the angular rubberized feet at the bottom two corners of the base. For myself, I feel as I am using the keyboard, it tends to move toward me, and the angular rubberized feet really provide an extra stickiness, so it stays in place even during your most hardcore gaming sessions. In addition, not only has Tesoro made the back legs of the keyboard larger than previous models, they have also made the bottoms of the legs rubberized. Whether or not users choose to pop the back legs, the keyboard will still stick to the surface of your desk. I did pop the back legs to give the keyboard a little boost, and to get the height I preferred.
The Lobera Spectrum is an entirely different animal when you plug it in to your computer, and fire up your desktop. Especially if you start it up in a darker room, it will light up your world like nobody else. Even the sides of the keyboard lights up according to the LED lighting effects you have chosen in the software interface. Users can customize using 16.8 million different colors (I did not actually confirm this), and nine different lighting effects. The four effects allowing users to fully utilize the full-color illumination are Firework, Rainbow Wave, Audio, and Spectrum Color. The main effect Tesoro has used to advertise the Lobera Spectrum is the Rainbow Wave. This effect, as the name suggests, sends a wave of color across the keyboard at a very quick rate. For myself, it was cool for the first five minutes before I changed to a tuned down effect to prevent getting a seizure. I settled for the breathing effect, which pulsates between off and maximum brightness in a gradual wave.
When looking at the LED light, the brightness for each key is evenly distributed. Although each key has a dedicated LED under it, the edges of some longer keys such as Enter and Shift would be dimmer than the middle. Referring to the same problem Aaron saw in his review of the Tesoro Durandal Ultimate, the lower parts of the function keys where the media symbols are do not light up on the Lobera Spectrum. It is not a big deal; just something to point out.
The most important part of the keyboard is the typing experience it provides. Once again, the Lobera Spectrum keyboard features Kailh Brown switches. Since these switches provide tactile feedback, and no clickiness, I believe it is the best type of switches for a user who wants a mechanical keyboard. It is truly a good middle-of-the-road option for typists and gamers alike. In addition, since the switches do not click when actuated, it is office-friendly as well. As for typing, the keyboard is relatively comfortable to use. Due to personal preference, I am using the back legs to give the keyboard a slight boost. Even resting the back legs into the keyboard, the height is still comfortable to type on, as my wrists are still resting on the wrist rest.
Included with the Lobera Spectrum is an application to set up all your macros. Like the many of the Tesoro products, this utility does not work across the board with all of the company’s products. A unified software suite would have been a lot more convenient, especially for users who own more than one product from the company. The Lobera Spectrum is able to store up to 300 macros, meaning every key on the keyboard is programmable, and can be stored in its onboard memory. Inside the keyboard is 512KB of onboard memory, which is used to store all your macros. But since there are five different profile modes, there is no way to tell which profile is active, unless you have different LED lighting effects for each, and you can accurately remember the effects corresponding to the profile.
The interface itself offers many features to allow users to fully customize how they want their keyboard to look. The two options directly controlling the look of the keyboard are the Illumination and Lighting Effects options. However, while this is a full-color illumination keyboard, and even the sides light up as well, I was a little disappointed at how the LED lights for the Num Lock and Caps Lock were not customizable. Overall, the utility was not the easiest to use, as there were certain areas that could be improved, in both the interface itself and features as well. For one, while using the media keys adjust the volume up or down did not display the volume slider. On my laptop currently running Windows 7 Home Premium, with the same program installed, the volume slider will automatically appear, however with the x64 version of Windows on my desktop, this was not the case.
Although there was no official showdown at sundown, the Lobera Spectrum accepted the challenge, and took the opposition by surprise. The design of the Lobera Spectrum was done exceptionally well, and still impresses me to this day. The two different finishes on the surface of the keyboard makes it very attractive, with the smooth brush-like metal contrasted with the diamond plate floor pattern. If I had to summarize the build quality of this keyboard in two word, it would be 'rock solid'. With the numerous rubberized feet and its hefty weight, it will not move on you unless you want it to. The features of the Lobera Spectrum are really the icing on top of the cake. The goodie bag of features waiting for you to explore include the full-color illumination, wrist rest, media keys, storage of up to 300 macro keys, USB ports with audio in and out, and full NKRO. In terms of features, there are not many I could think of to add to the keyboard. Not only does it have many features to offer, it does a good job of presenting them to users. But since no system is perfect, there are items Tesoro could improve on. For one, Tesoro could do a better job in allowing users to know which profile they are currently using by utilizing the space under the Function keys. Also, with the full-color illumination feature, it was a bit disappointing to see the LED lights at the top right corner not change colors, even when in RGB rainbow mode. Lastly, I believe Tesoro can work on their application, so users will have an easier time using it and it would work with the Windows settings. Luckily, the utility does not play too much into the normal usage of the Lobera Spectrum, and updates can be released over the internet. In the end, the Lobera Spectrum is a rock solid keyboard in both build quality and features. Even at a price tag of $150 USD from Tesoro, the Lobera Spectrum is a good contender for your money.
Tesoro Technology provided this product to APH Networks for the purpose of evaluation.
APH Review Focus Summary:
8/10 means Definitely a very good product with drawbacks that are not likely going to matter to the end user.
7/10 means Great product with many advantages and certain insignificant drawbacks; but should be considered before purchasing.
-- Final APH Numeric Rating is 7.2/10
Please note that the APH Numeric Rating system is based off our proprietary guidelines in the Review Focus, and should not be compared to other sites.
I bestow upon you the keyboard Lobera Spectrum, that is of buying worth, by which is produced by Tesoro.
Do you have any comments or questions about the Tesoro Lobera Spectrum? Drop by our Forums. Registration is free, and it only takes a minute!