The Tesoro Excalibur SE Spectrum Review: A Mechanical Keyboard with Gateron Optical Switchesby E. Fylladitakis on March 20, 2017 9:00 AM EST
Per-Key Quality Testing
In order to test the quality and consistency of a keyboard, we are using a texture analyser that is programmed to measure and display the actuation force of the standard keyboard keys. By measuring the actuation force of every key, the quality and consistency of the keyboard can be quantified. It can also reveal design issues, such as the larger keys being far softer to press than the main keys of the keyboard. The actuation force is measured in Centinewton (cN). Some companies use another figure, gram-force (gf). The conversion formula is 1 cN = 1.02 gf (i.e. they are about the same). A high quality keyboard should be as consistent as possible, with an average actuation force as near to the manufacturer's specs as possible and a disparity of less than ±10%. Greater differences are likely to be perceptible by users. It is worth noting that there is typically variance among keyboards, although most keyboard companies will try and maintain consistency - as with other reviews, we're testing our sample only.
The machine we use for our testing is accurate enough to provide readings with a resolution of 0.1 cN. For wider keys (e.g. Enter, Space Bar, etc.), the measurement is taking place at the center of the key, right above the switch. Note that large keys generally have a lower actuation force even if the actuation point is at the dead center of the key. This is natural, as the size and weight of the keycap reduces the required actuation force. For this reason, we do display the force required to actuate every key but we only use the results of the typical sized keys for our consistency calculations. Still, very low figures on medium sized keys, such as the Shift and Enter keys reveal design issues and can easily be perceptible by the user.
Even though the switches of the Excalibur SE Spectrum rely on infrared sensors for signaling, the switch’s mechanical design and movements are almost entirely the same as those of a typical mechanical switch. As a result, there are small variations between the switches that are being caused by the inequity of the mechanical parts, like every mechanical keyboard has. The Gateron Blue Optical switch once again almost perfectly copies the Cherry MX Blue variant, with an average actuation force of 51.1 cN across the main keys of the keyboard. The disparity is a little higher than 8%, a relatively high reading in comparison to the <5% figures we normally see on keyboards using original Cherry MX Blue switches, but not high enough to be a cause of concerns. It is next to impossible for someone to discern such small differences by touch.
I always try to use every keyboard that we review as my personal keyboard for at least a week. My typical weekly usage includes a lot of typing (about 100-150 pages), a few hours of gaming and some casual usage, such as internet browsing and messaging. I personally prefer Cherry MX Brown or similar (tactile) switches for such tasks. Cherry MX Blue switches and their variants are not cup of tea because their audible feedback tires me after a while, and that was the case with the Excalibur SE Spectrum as well. That aside, the switches put no strain on my fingers and the tactile feedback was both consistent and practical. However, the lack of a wrist rest proved to be a serious issue for me that sometimes I spend many hours using a keyboard, so I essentially had to “cheat” by using an aftermarket product in order to keep testing the Excalibur SE Spectrum.
For gaming, the Tesoro Excalibur SE Spectrum has left me with mixed feelings. The audible feedback of the Blue switch variant may not bother some users, and a few users may actually even want it as a feature, but I personally found it distracting and tiring while trying to focus on the game. I also could not use any of my macros because they all make use of complex commands that frequently include mouse movements, which the simplistic recorder of the Excalibur SE Spectrum cannot emulate. With the lack of software allowing at least the ability to reprogram keys into launching external applications, allowing users to launch macros compiled with third-party software, the Excalibur SE Spectrum is limited to very simple, basic key sequence macros that are of very limited use to gamers.