Tesoro Excalibur Illuminated Mechanical Gaming Keyboard Review

Tesoro Excalibur Illuminated Mechanical Gaming Keyboard Review

Fancy a new illuminated mechanical gaming keyboard under the Christmas tree this year? Then you may want to have words to the man up north about this one.

@chad_sebring
Published Sun, Dec 7 2014 12:13 PM CST   |   Updated Thu, Jul 30 2020 4:20 PM CDT
Rating: 96%Manufacturer: Tesoro

Introduction, Specifications and Pricing

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If this were six months ago, then the Tesoro company would still have been a company we knew very little about, but in that time, they have been very forthcoming in delivering samples of their products for us to review. As a result, we have now developed sort of a profile of what we expect to see in their products, and more specifically, their keyboards.

When we got our hands-on the Lobera, we saw that Tesoro wasn't afraid to attempt shaping the frame away from the typical rectangle. While they used odd patterns and design elements, at the Lobera's base there were great components and a high level of attention to detail. When it came to the Tizona, we found a more typical design and layout, but we still found the same level of components, and the great attention to the small details, even if most users will never see them.

So, as we now get to take a look at our third mechanical keyboard from Tesoro, we do have some pretty high expectations of what this product should deliver. First, we expect Kailh switches, as the previous two were based upon them. We also expect that when it comes down to it, everything about this keyboard will be designed with a purpose, and there will be less thrills and frills that the more oddly shaped keyboards would offer. This time, because the design is more straightforward, we don't expect much in coatings or design elements with altered textures. Most of all, we expect to see an illuminated keyboard that does very well on its own, and from what we have seen of their configuration software, this should be a great solution for gamers and typists alike.

If you haven't yet figured it out, today we will be looking at Tesoro's latest, the Excalibur Illuminated mechanical keyboard. With a basic rectangular design, and touches that make this keyboard distinctly Tesoro, we feel that sometimes simplicity is best. As long as Tesoro does not fail to meet our expectations and stay the course we have seen them following with previous models, we feel the Tesoro Excalibur may very well be the keyboard to get, especially if you are looking for the features we have seen before, just in a more sleek and elegant packaging. If none of the above has raised your pulse thus far, then the amazing price of the Excalibur just might.

When it comes to provided specifications, we get very little from Tesoro, but this compact list pretty much sums it all up. Under the rendering of the front profile of the Excalibur, we see the keyboard is 450mm in width, 145mm in length/depth, and it stands 24mm tall with the feet tucked into the bottom of the keyboard. As for the rest of the construction, it is comprised of a two-piece plastic frame that surrounds the steel plate and PCB to give the keyboard its structure, and hopefully eliminate potential flex and twist. The switches in this model are blue backlit Kailh switches, and in our case, we have blue Kailh switches. The last thing we have to consider are the cylindrical key caps that are molded in white, and then painted with the iconography left blank for the light to shine through.

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The smaller print at the bottom shows us that this keyboard offers 512KB of onboard memory for profile and Macro storage. There are five total profiles, the Macros can be tied to any key, and with software involved, keys can also be disabled or reassigned. There are four levels of illumination, and that covers three levels of full illumination (one is a breathing mode), and one level where only twenty specific keys illuminate. Continuing on, we see the fifty-million click lifespan of the Kailh switches, and we find that there are no multimedia switches included. The Excalibur connects via USB on the end of a 1.55 meter cable, and there is no USB hub, or extra audio ports in this design.

Price tags of $100 or more tend to keep most of the potential clientele away from mechanical keyboards. Tesoro, like a few other companies, has seen the light, and are taking on the more budget friendly end of the market. This means that even while you get a sleek product, very comprehensive software, and the ability to store and go with profiles and Macros, you don't have to shell out $100 or more to get it. With that angle of attack, the $69.99 pricing we are seeing most everywhere just got even more reasonable. Tesoro may not have been the first keyboard to release at this price, but they are giving it all they have got to deliver a budget friendly keyboard that offers slightly more than the competition.

PRICING: You can find the Tesoro Excalibur for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing, but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The Tesoro Excalibur (BLUE switches) retails for $69.99 at Amazon, the Tesoro Excalibur (BROWN switches) retails for $69.99 at Amazon, the Tesoro Excalibur (RED switches) retails for $69.99 at Amazon, and the Tesoro Excalibur (BLACK switches) retails for $69.99 at Amazon.

Packaging and Documentation

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Even with a tight budget, Tesoro went all out on the packaging to make it stand out in the crowd. The front offers a sword at the left, and the Excalibur name and six of its features below that. Then, to the right, we see the keyboard, and at the bottom there is a notation referring to the Excalibur as the "sword of king."

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This smaller end gives us the story of Excalibur's blinding abilities, the "god mode" the scabbard offers, and that he who holds Excalibur is the rightful king of Great Britain. To the left of the description there is half of the Tesoro logo, and to the right is the product name with the image of the sword.

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Off to the left end, we have the same naming as shown in the last image, and also the address to grab the driver. Here we really wanted to show that out of the four available choices, this Excalibur came with Kailh blue switches, and features the typical U.S. layout.

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Around the back, we find images under certain key points to cover; in order, these are the multimedia, profiles, six-key or NKRO, and LED functionality, followed by information on where to get the drivers. Along the bottom, in thirteen languages, there are lists of eleven features contained in the Excalibur.

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The second, smaller end of the packaging just shows us the naming and rendering of the sword, much larger this time, and we also find the silver half of the Tesoro logo.

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The last panel of the box has a QR code, bar codes, and the model number at the end not shown, but in this image we can see what is needed to run the Excalibur, what comes in the box, and a notation that this is Windows 8 ready.

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Inside of the box, we find the Excalibur wrapped in a sleeve of bubble wrap to keep it from rubbing against the cardboard. The cable is located along the front edge of the box, and the cable is also wrapped in plastic to prevent damage. Our Excalibur arrived in fantastic condition.

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Other than the keyboard, you also find this glossy paper brochure at the bottom of the box. This is it for paperwork, and this is not in any way instructional.

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What you will find inside is page after page of other gear available from Tesoro. So, once you have the keyboard home and are enjoying it, you can easily look at what other gear you may want to get.

Tesoro Excalibur Illuminated Mechanical Keyboard

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Now that the keyboard is out of the box, we can begin with a look at the left side of the Excalibur. Here we can see the two-piece frame that gives this keyboard its strength, and we also see that the key caps are angled away from the front edge of the keyboard when it is flat on the table.

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Along the top edge on the left side, we find the set of six multimedia keys. These will allow you to mute, lower the volume, raise the volume, play or pause a track, seek the previous track, and also seek the next track, but all require the function button be pressed for use.

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Moving a bit further to the right, we find the profile keys from the F8 to the F12 keys. This allows you to press the function key, and swap through various settings on the profiles that the software will allow.

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The layout of the left side is pretty standard, and uses a block font on all of the key caps. The space bar features the Tesoro name, and the function key has their logo on it, setting this keyboard apart from the crowd.

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The right side of the keyboard offers the last thirty keys in the keyboard. On the insert and delete keys, we find where to swap between six-key and NKRO. On the number pad, we see lighting icons on the number two and number eight keys that allow you to adjust various lighting options.

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Just in case you missed this in the last image, Tesoro smoothed out a bit of the textured plastic just above the arrow keys and applied their tagline "Break the Rules" to the top of the keyboard.

Tesoro Excalibur Continued

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With the feet extended in the back of the Excalibur, we find the angle of the key caps is much more user friendly, as they now tilt a bit forward.

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As we move around to the back edge of the keyboard, you can see the rubber USB 2.0 cable leaving the keyboard to the right. Slightly to the left, we find covers in what could have easily been a USB and audio pass through.

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For those that tend to move the keyboard around a lot, the entire 1.55 meter length of the cable has a rubber sleeve to prevent the cable from grabbing onto anything. The connection is USB 2.0 in speed, and offers no fancy logo on the cover, or any gold plating on the actual connection.

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Under the Excalibur, we find thin rubber strips at the front and back corners, and a large indented section in the middle with the sticker applied in the center.

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The flip up feet are solid and rubberized on the ends to ensure that the Excalibur will not slide around with these feet in use.

Inside the Excalibur

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As we start off with our dissection of the Excalibur, the first and easiest thing to do is to find a key cap puller and remove some caps. We find LED backlit Kailh blue switches in our board. As for the larger caps that require stabilizers, they are hidden and not exposed.

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As most illuminated mechanical boards do, the Excalibur uses the same idea for the key caps. They begin with a cast of the caps in white, which are then painted with a plastic feeling coating that should offer about two years of wear time if heavily used. The iconography is left unpainted so the LEDs can shine through.

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Getting to this point did not require all that much effort; we just removed a few screws, and released latches around the edges. Once apart, the top section is pretty typical, but you can now see the tubes in the lower section that will keep the steel plate and PCB fully supported.

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One thing that Tesoro doesn't appear to fuss about is the residue left on the PCB. While everything else seems to be pretty top-tier in design and feel, it would be nice if they spent the same level of attention on the inside, as other manufacturers are able to keep it clean in this price range.

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The Freescale MC9S08JM23 MCU is in charge of all the traffic handling and functionality of the Excalibur. We have seen this MCU used many times before, and it is more than capable of the demands this keyboard can make of it.

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With the keyboard now back together, let's have a look at the lighting modes. This mode illuminates the profile keys, numbers, WASD, and left and right side of the main section lights as well. To the right, we see the logo is lit, as are the arrows, the number two, four, six, and eight keys, and the enter key.

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Taking that down a notch gives us this illuminated layout. This time just the profile keys, the WASD, space bar, arrows, and the number two, four, six, and eight are lit.

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The next three modes offered are fully lit - well, sort of. There is a bright mode, a dimmer mode of full lighting, and a third mode that offers a breathing illumination. There is also the option to turn the lights off all together.

Software

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This is the first window offered after downloading, installing, and opening the software. At the top, you can see we are in PC mode, which locks out most of the software functionality until you select one of the five profiles. We also see the keyboard with a ring to the left showing the percentage of capacity left in the onboard memory, and the profile reset button is to the right of that. At the bottom of the window, you can start to take control with the six bars on the left.

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Selecting the first profile allowed us to click on the Macro button, and as you can see, the right side of the software window has changed. Now there is a window that allows you to create a Macro with delays and multiple key presses per push of the Macro key. At the bottom of that section, you can also import and export Macros if you have them ready from your last keyboard.

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Key assignment is exactly as it seems it would be. This is where you can take any key on the keyboard and simply click on it in the window. After clicking on a key in the window, it will then show at the bottom, and you just press another key to be used instead of its default function.

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The launch program bar offers the user five slots for shortcuts with the press of a single key or combination of keys. Again, click on the key or keys desired, and then click the folder, and search out the program you wish to set. It is just that simple.

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For those that just need to eliminate some of the keys during a game or in any application that may cause you to fail heinously or end up on the desktop suddenly, you can disable all the keys you wish in this section. As for the default tab, that will reset the entire software package, not just the profile you are working on, so be careful of that.

Final Thoughts

Structurally, the Excalibur is very rigid, and does not flex much at all unless you are intentionally trying to warp it. By this, we mean that there isn't any flex of the steel plate as you use the keyboard, and with all those cylindrical towers in the lower section of the frame, there is much less vibration noticed in this design than in some other models. The choice of switches were right up our alley, as we prefer slightly stiffer spring pressure, and an audible noise and activation point felt in every press of a key.

The talk of key activation does bring us to the one and only issue we found in our "Excaliburrrrrr" keyboarrrrrd, and that is therrrrrre seems to be a stuck "rrr" key. Aside from the last half of the previous sentence, we had to constantly fix this while writing our article. This is a first for us to experience, but it is not unheard of, and the same issue had been reported before on another brand of keyboard. As for it going against Tesoro, while shipping out a brand new product for a replacement is something nobody wants to happen, it does happen, and we are certain that Tesoro would take care of you on this issue.

Even with the dodgy key, we are still using this keyboard. We could have just thrown it to the side and gone to one of the many other keyboards in the office, but for some reason, we found that we just couldn't put it down. We have gotten used to the feel with many other samples, so that definitely helps, as this Tesoro just feels familiar.

Compared to boards like CMStorm, Thermaltake, or even boards like the KUL, Tesoro delivers something just as good, but offers more features than most at this price range. Once you factor in the software, the ability to store Macros and Profiles onboard, and take the board on the go without the need to install software everywhere you go, the Excalibur does appear to be a great value. All things included, the Excalibur stands above even the Poseidon keyboard at the same price, without software or onboard memory. The software not only offers the basics of what every gamer wants, but also allows you to remap the board and even delete functionality completely, and that really leaves the doors wide open for layouts and configurations to help you to master your game play.

We find very few at what appears to be the low-end of pricing for newly released budget friendly keyboards, but the Tesoro Excalibur should be at the top of your list at $69.99. Forget our small issue, and realize that you are getting a very solid keyboard. The Excalibur even fixes things some high dollar submissions still have issues with, like vibrations and flex that can strain to your hands.

In addition to the full U.S. layout, and not having to opt for a TKL solution, you still get serious software for complete control under your fingers, and six-key and NKRO with 1ms polling rate that truly works as designed. If you are looking for the best bang for the buck in low-cost mechanical keyboards, you seriously need to consider the Tesoro Excalibur Illuminated mechanical keyboard. While it will not blind anyone, it certainly does put in a much better position to win by your rules.

PRICING: You can find the Tesoro Excalibur for sale below. The prices listed are valid at the time of writing, but can change at any time. Click the link to see the very latest pricing for the best deal.

United States: The Tesoro Excalibur (BLUE switches) retails for $69.99 at Amazon, the Tesoro Excalibur (BROWN switches) retails for $69.99 at Amazon, the Tesoro Excalibur (RED switches) retails for $69.99 at Amazon, and the Tesoro Excalibur (BLACK switches) retails for $69.99 at Amazon.

TweakTown award
Performance95%
Quality including Design and Build98%
General Features99%
Bundle and Packaging90%
Value for Money100%
Overall96%

The Bottom Line: While our Excalibur came with a small chink in the blade, the features, options, and functionality once the software is involved takes this keyboard beyond others in its class. At this price, you need not look any further, Tesoro has what you want.

PRICING: You can find products similar to this one for sale below.

USUnited States: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com

UKUnited Kingdom: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.co.uk

AUAustralia: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.com.au

CACanada: Find other tech and computer products like this over at Amazon.ca

DEDeutschland: Finde andere Technik- und Computerprodukte wie dieses auf Amazon.de

After a year of gaming, Chad caught the OC bug. With overclocking comes the need for better cooling, and Chad has had many air and water setups. With a few years of abusing computer parts, he decided to take his chances and try to get a review job. As an avid overclocker, Chad is always looking for the next leg up in RAM, cooling, as well as peripherals.

We openly invite the companies who provide us with review samples / who are mentioned or discussed to express their opinion. If any company representative wishes to respond, we will publish the response here. Please contact us if you wish to respond.

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