T-Dagger ESCORT T-TGK303 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard Review

REVIEW

Supplier: Syntech Price: R 699

T-Dagger is an entry level gaming peripheral brand by Eastern Times Technology in China that offers a full range of peripherals for the gamer on a budget. Today we’re having a look at the ESCORT T-TGK303 Mechanical Gaming Keyboard, which is a mechanical keyboard with the price of some membrane keyboards.

Firstly, yes, it is indeed a mechanical keyboard at the price of R 699. The ESCORT keyboard sticks closely to the standard 104 key full-size layout, with the single exception being a Function key (which we will get to a little further on in the review) in place of the left Windows key. The keys are double shot, so should last the lifetime of the keyboard. T-Dagger has made use of OUTEMU Blue mechanical switches, which have a rated lifespan of 50 million presses. The switches have a similar feel and sound to Cherry MX Blue switches, so if you’re a fan of the Cherry version you should feel fairly at home with the ESCORT.

Note that I said fairly, and not completely. The OUTEMU switches are reminiscent of the Cherry equivalent, but there is definitely a different feel to them even if the clicky sound is hard to distinguish from the Cherry switches. The OUTEMU keys have a different feel to the resistance as you press them, which is likely fine to those new to mechanical keyboards but will take some getting used to for anyone who has previously used Cherry MX Blue switches.

Specifications
Keys 104, QWERTY layout
Interface USB
Mechanical Yes
Switch type OUTEMU Blue
Backlighting Swivel arm
Lighting Six colours, non-changeable
Macro keys None
N-key rollover Yes, tested up to ten keys
Anti-ghosting Partial
Cable 1.5 m rubberized
USB pass-through No
Warranty 1 Year

The ESCORT has a 1.5 m long rubberized USB cable which comes wrapped in a Velcro strap. Moving onto the keyboard itself, it’s extremely heavy and well built. One of my favourite tests for a keyboard’s rigidity is to grab it by opposing ends and torque it firmly with a twisting motion along its longest axis. The ESCORT doesn’t disappoint here, giving very little flex and no creaking noises whatsoever.

The backlighting is provided by various colours, with each line being a different colour but no adjustments to said colours possible. From top to bottom, each row is blue, purple, orange, pink and red respectively. Brightness can be adjusted by using the Function key in conjunction with the up and down arrow keys, with five brightness levels offered as well as off. This is more than many keyboards priced several times higher, but of course doesn’t offer RGB control. The lighting was vivid on all colours other than blue, which was difficult to see regardless of ambient lighting.

The Function key combined with the F-keys (F1 through F12) offers a variety of shortcuts including Windows Explorer, Calculator, and media controls. Function combined Inset you can control the backlighting effects, where there are patterns and effects, of which there are nine. The number keys allow for various key combinations to be lit for different types of game, such as FPS, RTS or MOBA. The keyboard also allows for two custom lighting effects, which can be programmed from the keyboard itself. Lastly, there are locks for the Windows key and the entire keyboard. All relevant keys for Function controls are labelled, and the functions are further explained in the very concise manual included in the box.

Macro keys are sadly absent from the keyboard other than the predefined functions. It’s a pity, as implementation could be done through basic software. There are various applications available to program your own macros to a keyboard, but it would have been nice to see such functionality available out of the box. Many entry level keyboards lack macro keys, so we can’t be too harsh on the ESCORT for its lack thereof.

The keyboard offers n-key rollover for at least ten keys, with any combination of ten characters resulting in ten characters on the screen. Anti-ghosting is at least partially absent, as was evident by holding down A, S, D and F, and then pressing the up arrow which resulted in ASDF being repeated. Such events were not found in actual use of the keyboard, where no real-world combinations resulted in ghosting. True ghosting, where such a combination might result in a rogue E popping up, was thankfully not an issue with any combination I could come up with.

Typing took a bit of getting used to due to the different feel of the keys, having a tiny amount of friction when actuating a key. Within about half an hour this was no longer an issue, and it was time to start testing typing on the keyboard, where I’m glad to report there were no issues. Key presses were fast and accurate, with 90 word per minute typing not resulting in any errors other than user error. Gaming was a similar story, and the predefined lighting zones were a nice touch here and something I wouldn’t mind finding on more keyboards.

With all control being done through the keyboard itself there is no need for software to be installed to get full functionality of the ESCORT, although software often provides a more intuitive experience. This is especially true when applying custom lighting effects, as lighting up just the letters for example requires almost 30 key presses and there is no undo function should you make a mistake partway through. A mistake means stopping and starting the process from scratch, which can be frustrating.

Very solid build quality No full RGB backlighting
Affordable price tag No macro keys
Backlighting on a budget Key actuation has a slightly strange feel

Conclusion

The ESCORT is hard not to like just because of its appealing price tag. At R 699, you will be hard pressed to find something mechanical and with the same build quality from any larger vendor. When it comes to value for money it’s a seriously tough keyboard to beat. It would have been nice to see further functionality provided through software, but you can’t really complain too much given the price. For the budget buyer, the ESCORT comes highly recommended.

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