Interest in keyboards with mechanical switches has increased significantly in recent years, but the principle itself has been fulfilled for several decades. Tesoro decided to switch to a new evolutionary coil, introducing optical switches of its own design. Excalibur SE Spectrum keyboard with new switches entered our test lab.
In conventional mechanical keypads, microswitches are used that work when the key is pressed. They use a metal contact, which in time can oxidize or be worn. As a result, the switch will fail. Of course, manufacturers have long thought about improving the contacts, the same Cherry uses the technology of Gold Crosspoint, which extends the life of the contacts and reduces the risk of failure of the switches. But still the need for alternative technologies remains. Optical switches may be a possible alternative. Tesoro just launched new switches Tesoro Optical Switches. Our test lab received the Excalibur SE Spectrum keyboard based on them.
Tesoro has long been engaged in the development of optical switches. They were first presented at the Computex 2016. The story was repeated at the DreamHack conference, where Tesoro demonstrated new keyboards. Tesoro sent to our test lab a keyboard Excalibur SE Spectrum, which, most likely, will not appear on sale. Tesoro Excalibur SE Spectrum with switches Tesoro Optical Switches, apparently, is a test platform. Therefore, in the article we will concentrate not so much on the Excalibur SE Spectrum keyboard as on optical switches. For consumers, the new Tesoro Optical Switches will be available as an upgrade option for the GRAM Spectrum keyboard.
Tesoro offers several models of Excalibur keyboards. All models are made in the classical design, they are full-sized, that is, they contain a digital panel. Keyboard Excalibur SE Spectrum was no exception. But behind the classic “facade” lies the innovative technology of optical switches. Thanks to the built-in RGB-backlight, the keys can be highlighted with different colors of the rainbow, different effects are available. But Tesoro does not use software, so all settings (not just lights) will have to be performed directly on the keyboard. As for the lighting effects, we did not have a running wave. However, most users still prefer static backlighting.
Of course, the usual game features are supported, such as Full N-Key / 6 Key Rollover, there is the ability to lock the Windows key. You can even write macros, the recording starts when you press the Fn + Home combination. To call up macros, you can use the secondary function of the keys F1 through F4. Tesoro added a sticker with available shortcut keys so that users do not get confused.
Excalibur SE Spectrum keyboard is connected to the system by a USB cable of 1.8 m length. The keyboard is mounted on four rubber feet, the two rear legs are reclined, which allows to give the keyboard an additional slope. Outside, there is no way to say that Excalibur SE Spectrum uses any special microswitches.
And in appearance, the switches do not differ much from other models. Tesoro used the usual cross mount for the caps of keys, familiar to us by the switches Cherry. And the switches themselves are made in a transparent case, through which the RGB LED is illuminated, the mounts above are installed. Is that the inscription Tesoro on the switches you can guess that we have a special model.
To show the principle of the operation of the switches, we give below a diagram of the structure of the switches in the section. At Tesoro Optical Switches at first glance you can find many similarities with conventional switches. Caps of keys are put on the cross mount. The latter, in turn, is supported by a lower spring. When you press the key, you must overcome the resistance of the spring. But optical switches do not have mechanical contacts. Instead, when pressed, the infrared beam is blocked.
When you press the beam of infrared light is interrupted, the key is triggered. Tesoro showed the operation of switches not only on the diagram, but also on the video:
The absence of mechanical contacts gives several advantages. The problem of mechanical contact wear remains in the past. And the IR-ray can not rust. Tesoro knowingly indicates a very decent service life of 100 million taps. With the popular Cherry MX switches, it is “only” 50 million keystrokes. However, and this amount is more than enough for intensive use of the keyboard for many years. In addition, such statements of manufacturers are difficult to verify. But it is quite logical that the wear of optical switches is less than that of mechanical ones. Finally, the optical switches are protected against the ingress of dust and water droplets. Therefore, a keyboard with such switches will withstand not only intensive use, but also “accidents” with spillage of liquid.
Gamers will be interested in another advantage. The use of a light barrier to trigger a key results in fewer delays than in the case of mechanical switches. Tesoro indicates the response time of the switches to 0.1 ms. Unfortunately, the specifications of competing switches, for example, from the same Cherry, are missing. In addition, the response time of the keyboard itself can be longer.
Admittedly, we expected a few other tactile sensations from Tesoro Optical Switches Blue switches. As one might have expected, replacing mechanics with optics should reduce tactile returns. But Blue switches neutralize this effect. As in the case of Cherry MX Blue, Tesoro chose “clicks” and tactile switches with a trigger force of 60 g. The trigger point is probed, the keys make a loud “click”, so typing errors are unlikely to occur. The progress to the point of operation of 2.2 mm is slightly larger than that of the Cherry MX Blue switches, but in practice this is not noticeable. In terms of noise level, the switches are comparable to the MX Blue. The keyboard is unlikely to be used in an office environment, or if you have neighbors in your room, otherwise it will quickly irritate others.
As with the MX Blue, clicks and tactile switches are not the best option for gamers. Yet gamers prefer linear switches. Tesoro plans in the future to introduce other options for optical switches, which are better suited for gamers. In addition, with the new options will be able to change the optical switches on the keyboard. As a result, you can use different types of switches on the keyboard, which allows you to create custom layouts. And the life of the keyboard can be increased. If the switch breaks, it can simply be replaced.
The principle of operation of optical switches is very different from traditional mechanical models. But in practice, we did not notice much difference – at least in the case of the Blue switches used. The delay in the operation of the switches is smaller, but in games we have not been able to detect any differences from the typical game keyboard on the mechanical switches (the same Cherry MX).
On the other hand, it’s good that on tactile sensations the difference with conventional mechanical switches is small. You will not have to get used to them. If you feel comfortable with the switches of the Cherry MX Blue, then Tesoro Optical Switches Blue will go easily. If you type long texts, you can take advantage of less wear on the optical switches – the keyboard will last longer. Also, the pluses include protection from dust and water droplets.
As a result, optical switches are unlikely to make traditional mechanical switches obsolete. But Tesoro microswitches will cheer the market. Tesoro Optical Switches Blue will become a very worthy alternative to clicks and tactile switches of other manufacturers. Revolutionary changes, we do not get, but someone benefits of optical switches may well like.