Tesoro’s Excalibur V2 may boast a fancy 32-bit arm processor and some interesting lighting effects, but it’s the smooth, quiet keystrokes that will keep you coming back for more—and forgive its software shortcomings.
Tesoro Excalibur V2 is the first Tesoro keyboard I’ve reviewed; I’ve seen their products at PAX Prime and E3 for years, but never gotten around to taking one for a spin. The Excalibur V2 does a good job of making a first impression—and identifying some areas Tesoro needs to invest in.
Feature highlights and specifications
The Excalibur V2 is based on custom ‘Kalih’ mechanical switches: “gaming optimized” switches with a slightly shorter travel distance to make them “faster”. Razer and Logitech offer their own gaming optimized switches for their keyboards.
While I applaud the innovation, I doubt the change in switch characteristics is truly that profound for most gamers. (In my experience you tend to adapt to and/or compensate minute changes with whatever you’re using in a pretty short amount of time.)
The Excalibur V2 also has a built-in processor to eliminate the infinitesimal (and largely theoretical) amount of ‘lag’ a software driver might incur, and onboard memory for macros and profiles. Built-in lighting effects and on-the-fly lighting and macro recording capabilities round out its key features.
Excalibur V2 features and specifications
- Per key illumination
- 512kb onboard memory
- 32-bit arm processor
- Instant lighting recording
- Gaming-optimized Kalih switches – .4mm actuation
- Rated up to 60 million keystrokes
- 1000Hz polling rate
- All keys are programmable
- NKey / 6Key rollover
- Double injection keycaps for extra durability
Come for the smooth quiet keys, stay for the smooth, quiet keys. The Excalibur V2 isn’t particularly long on features, but it feels good where it counts. It’s also quieter than many mechanical keyboards, although I wouldn’t call it ‘quiet’. (The Kalih switches feel very close to Cherry MX brown switches.)
Most of the Excalibur V2’s essential functions are handled via FN+ an alternate key. This includes features such as brightness controls, profile switching, media controls, and on-the-fly macro recording. You can also use FN+ left or right arrow keys to cycle through its predefined lighting effects, which includes ripple effects, breathing, and others.
This is good, because the Excalibur V2’s biggest weakness is Tesoro’s driver software, which could use some refinement. Simply put, it’s just not up to par with the likes of Logitech, Razer, SteelSeries, or Roccat—and sometimes performs so oddly I was wondering if it was corrupt or needed to be reinstalled. (As someone who works in UI/UX, I may be more sensitive to this shortcoming than most people.)
In truth, I think it just needs work. The Macro recorder seems to work well enough but the rest of the Excalibur’s core functions are needlessly mired in a poor UI.
One other point that may annoy some users: The Excalibur V2 uses a stylized ‘gamer’ typeface, and replaces some common key names with abbreviations. For example, Home is HM, Page Up is PU, Print Screen is PS etc. This isn’t a major issue, although it did briefly throw me off when I went hunting for the Print Screen key. Some may take exception to it, if only based upon the fact that some folks complained about Razer’s similar (but far less pronounced) typeface styling on some of its RazerBlackWidow keyboards.
Aside from its software and typeface foibles, the Excalibur V2 feels great and it’s a pleasure to type and game on. I actually like its switches a little better than my preferred Logitech Orion Spark keyboard. It might be the closest thing to typing on keys backed by soft (but firm) kitten tummies.
Hopefully some software updates in the future will improve the software and its capabilities. Until then, I’d enjoy it for the exceptional typing and gaming experience.
But at around $80 the Excalibur V2 is a solid deal and well worth consideration if you’re in the market.