Introduction, Specifications and Pricing
It is sometimes very random how we get connected to companies. For instance, our connection with Tesoro, came about from a middle of the night (and we are talking like a four in the morning) conversation via Skype. To get to the short of it, we have impressed a certain company with our reviews, and they went out of their way to put us in touch with Tesoro, so that we can open the gates and let as many peripheral makers have a chance at our recommendations as possible. We would like to offer up a shout out to Sascha, you know who you are –thank you for the connection.
Without anything before this sample to open our eyes to what Tesoro was all about, we ventured over to their site. Once we were there, we looked at their lineup, and checked out their goals as a company in order to see what their overall plans and ideas are. It is good to see a company built off the sweat equity of gamers like Tesoro. This way you know the designers are taking considerations for people who actually game, and they are not some random company who thinks they know what gamers need.
We can see from their lineup that their products are all designed for gaming, and have software to go along with them so that you may customize things to fit your specific needs. For the gamers out there, you know what you demand in a keyboard –things like lighting, Macros, and remapping –yeah, they're all here.
In the brief time we got to know Tesoro via emails, they offered up one of two keyboards that are almost identical. From these two options, we received the Lobera Supreme. There is a model that carries the same Lobera naming, but it is not mechanical; it is plunger based. Also, as we said above, this is the second time we are given access to a mechanical keyboard that isn't Alps, Cherry MX, or some hybrid switch based. Instead, we now get to try out the brown Kailh mechanical switches, and see just how this Lobera Ultimate and all of its features come together. Stick around, and we are sure you will find a lot to like and appreciate about the Lobera Supreme as we move through our review and offer up our final assessment.
Specifications start us off with a general "gaming grade mechanical switch" naming to the switches. We already know what is inside this version, but along with browns, you can also get red, blue, and black switches in this design. The switches are silver plated rather than gold plated, and require 45 grams of activation pressure. They also tell us that we have cylindrical shaped key caps, only 2mm of movement is needed to activate the switch, and that 4mm of travel will bottom out the switch, not the cap. They conclude by telling us about the 1.55m of braiding cable, that the key caps are laser etched, that it offers a hub at the back, and that it also sports multimedia buttons.
As we scan the rest of the information, we are given the physical dimensions, along with the weight of the Lobera, right above the system requirements. As we move over to the right side, we see the compliance for this product's build. We also see a bit about their one-year warranty against defects, and not something silly you may have done to the product. We see that the package contents are wrong, as we get a Lobera Supreme, an additional USB power cable for the hub, and the installation guide in our kit. Since the wrong board is listed, we also think the part numbers for the various switch types may very well apply to the Colada, but we do know the Lobera does offer all four switch type options as well.
Since this keyboard is newer to the scene, we did not expect to see as many locations selling these Lobera Supreme keyboards. While a few places list the keyboard right around $140 U.S. dollars, when looking at Amazon at the time of writing this review, we found the keyboard to be currently unavailable. When the Lobera Supreme becomes available at Amazon, our pricing at the bottom of the page will reflect Amazon pricing. From what we know from looking at the packaging, and from what we have seen on their site, the pricing is very comparable to others that offer similar feature sets. So, let's trudge onward and see how Tesoro puts it all together, and see what we think about it after some time with it.
Packaging, Accessories and Documentation
The packaging is much different than what we are used to getting our keyboards in. While we have seen windows to allow us to look inside, the overall shape is new to us. On the front, there is an image of the hilt of a sword that gives this Tesoro the Lobera name.
The smaller edge to the right offers us half of the Tesoro logo at left, and to the right are icons noting seven key features. Things like NKRO, 1ms polling, thumb keys, DC jack, full color illumination, friendly software, and Macro recording for on the go.
Just to the right of the handle on the top panel, we find the check box of the included switch type, and that this keyboard is set up with the standard U.S. layout.
The other short side tells us the story of the Lobera name. We see here that Saint Ferdinand wielded the "wolfslayer" to symbolize his power. With the gaming edge to this design, the naming seems to fit, as any RPG gamer would love to earn that sword in a drop.
Along with the same naming and logo we have already seen, the last bit offered on the side panels is information about the system requirements, package contents, and the Windows 8 compatible icon is also featured.
The back offers images of eight features around the multi-colored layout. As far as we know, what is done in the image is not possible. At the bottom, all of the features are listed out in various languages to cover their potential markets.
Inside of the box, we find the keyboard under a thick layer of plastic that has been taped to the keyboard so it will not come loose, or shift around. To keep the keyboard secure, dense foam is used at both ends, while the cardboard at the top protects the cabling.
This handy little item is a DC-in power lead. This adds more power to the USB hub at the back edge of the Lobera. There are instances where some ports can't handle a high draw mouse and a headset, but with this, those issues can be alleviated.
Under the keyboard there is a thick folder that we see at the top left, which contains what we see here. At the top right is the manual that shows the layout, how to work the lighting, how to switch to NKRO, and how to use the on-the-fly Macro programming. At the bottom is the product catalog. If you like the keyboard, maybe you will want a mouse to match.
Tesoro Lobera Supreme Mechanical Keyboard
The top of the edges are angled downward, as we soon run into a light bar that is installed to match the color of the LEDs set to the keys. The lower section also angles away, and makes grabbing and moving it much easier.
This image shows off the many textures and design elements. They add elements like the fake Allen screws to look industrial, and that goes along with the diamond plate design on the incorporated wrist rest. As for other parts, they either have a brushed metal appearance, or they have a basic texture applied to them.
In this layout we have 77 keys on this side of the keyboard once we count all of the main keys, and add in the trio of H-buttons at the bottom. The space bar is named, and the function button sports the logo, but otherwise we are given this newer font to look at; it's much like something Razer would offer.
At the top, the function keys do double duty in this design, from F1 through F6 we get a mute, volume down, volume up, play/pause, back, and forward keys to adjust sound tracks and movies.
F7 is blank, but the F8 through F12 keys are used as defaults to swap through the five profiles this keyboard has, without having to go to the software to make a change.
We wanted to get back to the Thumbster –wait, scratch that ROCCAT reference –the H-keys that are the only three keys on the board that can be programmed on-the-fly. Of course, they can be used to do just about anything, and previous experience has shown these to be handy.
The Lobera Supreme also offers the basic 30-key layout to the right side of the keyboard. A few keys here do double duty, like the Insert and Delete keys for 6-key or full NKRO, and the 8 and 2 used to dim, brighten, or select the light mode for the LEDs.
Lobera Supreme Continued
As we always do, we raised the feet under the keyboard to look at the more ergonomic angle it provides. The keys are no longer sloping away from us, and are leaning forward for an easier view, as well as more comfortable prolonged use.
As fair warning to anyone planning to charge a cell phone or a battery backup for it, think again. The sticker plainly warns that an over draw can potentially cause damage to this device.
After removing the sticker, we find a pair of USB 2.0 ports, the DC-in jack for that provided cable, as well as a set of 3.5mm audio pass through jacks.
The length given of the cable is confusing. It states 1.55 meters, and that is true if you only measure the main section. There is another foot or so of cable once it breaks down into the USB 2.0 connection with the secondary connection tailed into it, and the pair of 3.5mm jacks for the audio –all of which are gold plated.
Under the Lobera Supreme, we see that even this side gets the brushed metal appearance, and the sticker with the serial number is placed right in the middle. At the front edge, we find boomerang shaped feet, and at the back, just inside the adjustable feet, are two straight feet to give the back its grip.
As for those adjustable feet, they have two heights to choose from. The smaller feet are a half inch in height, but are solid plastic. The large outer foot is just over an inch in height, and offers a rubber cap on it to ensure the grip is replaced to the back of the keyboard.
Inside the Lobera Supreme
We see the laser etched comment in the charts is a bit off, as we find key caps that are molded in white to allow the LED to pass through them, and then each key is painted, leaving the legends blank.
Under those caps we find the board is filled almost completely with these Kailh brown switches. To be honest, to tell them apart from their Cherry MX counterpart is nearly impossible. The feel here is smoother, and the caps don't seem to clack on the plate.
The frame comes apart pretty easily at the back, but various clips on the front edge will slow you down. The bottom offers ridges to support the plate and try to reduce vibration of the plate. The top section has the H-key caps mounted to it; oh, and don't forget to disconnect the side lighting if you ever plan to try to get this far into a tear down.
As we look over the PCB, we find that an attempt to clean the flux residue has been made, but it isn't done all that well. Not the worst by any means, but we have also seen them much cleaner, and without any traces of that flux remaining.
Tesoro backs this design with a 32-bit Freescale MC9S08JM23 MCU. There is plenty of power and capability in this processor to handle what the Lobera Supreme offers in its feature set.
Just to the right of the MCU, we find the Genesys Logic USB 2.0 hub controller. We have seen this controller in many keyboards, and have not run into issues with the hubs previous to this. After testing these out, we find the controller is adequate again.
Not every key on the board has a mechanical switch beneath it. The H-keys are the only ones that do not; instead, we find yellow pad style switches under these. They are tough to actuate, limiting accidental presses, but with some force, they can be used with a thumb.
It is tough to see with the purple LEDs, but only the WASD, Profile keys, arrow keys, the 2, 4, 6, and 8 keys on the number pad, and the space bar are lit. The H-keys are always illuminated in white; except when all LEDs are off. The second image shows the WASD, space bar, profile keys, arrows, and number pad keys, but now keys 1 through 0 are also illuminated across the top. The other way is to fully illuminate the keyboard in whatever color you want, and you can dim it in three levels, or turn them off.
There is a lot to absorb in the UI, and even just on the main window. The profiles can be chosen across the top, but the PC Mode profile cannot be edited. There is the view of the keyboard to pick keys for reassignment, with a profile reset button at the bottom right of it. At the bottom we see macros, key assignments, launch programs, sync a program, disable, or default options to apply to the selected key. We also see that there is a place to import and export profiles and settings.
We selected the E key to show off the Macro window. You can name it at the top, and to the left is the screen that will show the series of presses that have been made. To the right are the control buttons, and we also see a time delay feature, as well as a repeat counter to apply to each Macro.
There are two ways to go about programing the H-keys. If you have a macro already programmed, you can tie it to one of these here. However, if you want on-the-fly recording, press and hold the R-key. The record light will then turn on at the top right of the keyboard, and you can program it. Then, by pressing the key again, the light goes off, and the Macro is ready to go.
At the far right of the main window is a purple arrow. Click on that arrow to select the color you wish to use. Once the little pop out comes open, you can chose which profile to apply the color to, and at the bottom are lighting mode options.
After a profile has been selected, this color chart appears. Simply click on any of the colored boxes to pick a more standard, or custom color option. While there is not a full RGB scale to choose from, the 228 choices here should suffice.
Sitting here thinking about what the Lobera Supreme brought to the table, there is a lot to talk about with this keyboard. While it did take us a couple of days to get used to the lighter Kailh brown switches, the more we used it, the more we appreciated it. We didn't find ourselves pressing the keys into that notorious clock of the Cherry MX switches as they caps slap against the steel tray. There were no harmonics in the steel plate either that were discernible over the couple of weeks that we played around with this keyboard.
On top of its basic functionality from a typist's point of view, there are all the great "gamer" aspects to this design as well. Between the Windows lockout, on-the-fly Macro recording, remapping, reassignment, and five profiles, the only thing missing is a mention of the onboard storage size. We know it has some, because the circle that had 0% in it is a counter of the space left to use.
The lighting options are not full RGB, but as we said earlier, we feel one of the 228 colors offered will suit your needs. Another cool feature we noticed was the ability to swap Roll Over support modes. We noticed that when moving the NKRO support, the lights shut off because the keyboard actually resets to take on the change at a push of two buttons; pretty cool. We also noticed that when in any of the profiles, the G-key, or windows lockout key, is always active by default. A cool feature they offer here, is that when you turn off the G-key, the keyboard LEDs will change color to denote that that key is turned off, even though there is an LED in that button. The H-keys are also handy as we learned previously from ROCCAT, and when we first saw it then, the comment was made as to how long it would take to see it elsewhere –well here we are.
The software is sort of confusing at first, but looking in the manual helps, as does checking out the online tutorials that Tesoro offers on site. Part of the issue we had here was that we feel they spent a lot of time concerned with the way things look, without actually thinking of those who have to use it. Because they used tiny little popup windows with even smaller text than the main window, we had a tough time reading things, and we use a forty inch display. The layout is easy for remapping, and even when it comes to the Macros, but hiding the color options behind a tiny arrow was strange, and trying to read the dropdown menu in the thumb keys section was nearly impossible. However, once it is all figured out, the possibilities at your fingertips are near limitless.
For those of you that loved the ROCCAT keyboards, and loathed the use of only blue LEDs, here is a viable option that is very comparable; we might almost say it's a direct replacement. While we may have used references to other companies, Tesoro did take a lot of the best features out on the market, and packed it all into one keyboard. And they did so without going crazy and adding ten or twenty "gamer" keys. With a design such as this, and with all the features you could want built right in, it more than justifies the near $140 price point.
We feel that even if it's based on Kailh switches, that this could very well be the next mechanical keyboard to make a huge name for itself once more users get this Lobera Supreme from Tesoro on their desktops. We really cannot say enough, this is just one of those keyboards you just have to use to understand, and we suggest you do so at your next available chance.
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