Keyboard offers quick response, switch choices in compact package, but few macro keys (August 17th, 2014)
Product Manufacturer: Tesoro
- Heft/position hold
- Selection of switches
- Flip down feet
- Lack of a number lock (without ten key)
- Thumb buttons
The market for gaming keyboards is getting crowded, starting off with some fairly simple keyboards and diverging into the land of modular configurations and piecemeal construction. But what about gamers that just want a plain mechanical keyboard that handles the daily grind with ease, only to spring to life in gaming situations? Would what a relatively unknown brand - Tesoro -- calls a "tenkeyless" keyboard be something that users should consider, or would they be better off looking for something a little more complex?
The Tizona from Tesoro features a "tenkeyless," 87-key design, cutting a keyboard down to its bare essentials for gamers. However, it doesn't mean that gamers need to go without, as Tesoro offers a ten-key expansion to transition the keyboard to a standard width. The Tizona measures in this configuration 18.9 x 6.1 x 1 inches, giving it a smaller footprint than many other gaming keyboards on the market.
The ten-key unit attaches to the main keyboard section through USB 2.0, eating up one of the two available ports on the Tizona. Two sets of small magnets allow the two pieces to attach to one another, possessing enough strength to hold together until one actively tries to pull them apart. Even if it's pulled apart during use, it only takes a couple seconds for it to register once connected again. Users can also connect the ten-key units on either side, or can mount one on each side for an additional bank of keys to bind.
Design for the Tizona is rather plain, not offering much in the way of gutters or extra padding along the edges. On the left and right edges of the "tenkeyless" portion, black space is only measured at 0.5 inches. This is reduced to 0.25 inches at the top and bottom. The ten-key has only a little more than that on its sides. The Tizona features a flat black paint job, with only the white lettering on the keys and some purple and silver accents in two spots.
Since the keyboard was designed in a way that cuts away some of the free space that generally sits above the print screen key, light indicators are placed above the arrow keys in a smooth purple cutout. Two LEDs indicate when caps lock, scroll lock and gaming mode are activated. Number lock is noticeably missing, but if consumers didn't pick up the ten-key add-on, it wouldn't be necessary to have. However, with the ten-key added, there is no way to tell whether number lock is on other than typing, which feels like an oversight.
The only way a user can identify the keyboard as a Tesoro at first glance is by the branding on the space bar, or the Tesoro shield on the escape key. On the ten-key, "Tesoro" is embossed in silver set against the same smooth purple plastic the LEDs sit in. The Tizona doesn't have any special LED lighting or color options on the keyboard. It's very much a "what you see if what you get" style of device.
Total weight of the Tizona when combined with the ten-key comes to 3.04 pounds, giving it plenty of weight to anchor to a desk. It also has large anti-slip rubber patches on the bottom, keeping the keyboard firmly planted when in use. Between the weight and the rubber patches, even vigorous players will have a hard time getting it to move. The keyboard has very little flex, thanks to the thick plastic and metal backing plates.
When it comes to the flip-down feet, however, they don't hold up as well as they should. Feet on the main section offer a loud snap, clicking into one of two slots for height. The first slot offers little hold when the keyboard is at rest, causing them to slip without much force when pushed forward. The hold of the feet on the ten-key is worse, requiring less effort for them to go flat. Plus, one of the feet is always being used to hold the USB cable for connecting to the main section in place.
For gamers looking for a wealth of macro keys, the Tizona may not be the best keyboard to consider. The keyboard only has three additional buttons, all thumb buttons, which can have their usage changed depending on the mode of the keyboard. In the standard mode, the buttons open a new browser window, media player or email client. There's an additional mode which is triggered by pressing a function key that replaces a Windows key and F12, allowing the Tizona to change over to a gaming mode. After pressing this, thumb buttons change to whatever binding is set to the three keys to the right of number lock.
Currently, Tesoro doesn't offer any specific software to run in the Tizona. This isn't necessarily bad, as not all users want to tweak settings. If there is one drawback to this though, it's the inability to disable or change the thumb buttons through an interface. During everyday use, these buttons are hit constantly by accidentally bumping them or hitting them with the palm while typing. In many cases it isn't an issue, but launching a new browser window or the media player in the middle of doing something can be frustrating. Pressing the function and delete keys at the same time will disable them altogether.
Taking the idea of a simple keyboard even further, the Tizona lacks any dedicated media keys. Instead, users need to use the function key with F1 through F6 to control volume, track control and pause/play functions. The ten-key also has its own function key, but this reduces the double-height plus key. For users accustomed to using a traditional ten-key for computations, this can get annoying quickly. Function keys cannot be used across the two sections for triggering of the F-keys or other sub-functions.
For consumers, Tesoro didn't limit the the keyboard in the style of mechanical switches offered, allowing buyers to select from black, blue, brown or red switch models. That way, gamers can pick the style of switch they prefer without a change in price. The switches in the blue model, made by Kailh, have an actuation force of 45g. They are stated to respond at 2mm, with 4mm of travel to the bottom. The switches respond quickly, without any noticeable lag once the key registers the activation with a click. During games of Red Orchestra 2, pressing a key yielded an immediate response, even with several keys being held down at once.
The Tesoro Tizona keyboard is not difficult to recommend, as gives consumers a wealth of choices in a compact package. For some gamers, specifically those that require several macro keys, then the Tizona won't be the best fit, since that's an aspect it truly lacks. But with the flexibility to add another number pad, there is a way to address that. Allowing consumers to purchase the keyboard with the mechanical switch of their choice goes a long way as well, especially when the price doesn't budge from $110 for the keyboard and keypad combo.
Separately the "tenkeyless" portion runs $90, with the keypad somewhat lower at $40, so it doesn't make much sense to buy them separately unless the ten-key isn't needed. Overall, Tesoro's simple approach to the Tizona should pay off big for any gamer looking for a basic mechanical gaming keyboard.