The Tesoro Excalibur SE Spectrum Optical Keyboard

Aesthetically, the Excalibur SE Spectrum is a very simple-looking keyboard. With its plastic body and subtle design it can be easily mistaken for a cheap, typical office keyboard. Its appearance bears more resemblance to the membrane-based Zalman K650WP that we reviewed a few months ago rather than most high-end mechanical keyboards. A closer inspection reveals a well-made plastic body with smooth, comfortable rounded edges covering a white steel plate beneath the keycaps.

We received the US layout version of the Tesoro Excalibur SE Spectrum. It is a standard 104-key keyboard that does not fully adhere to the ANSI layout, as the bottom row is different to the standard. The bottom row of the keyboard has a 6.0× Spacebar, two 1.5× ALT, two 1.5× CTRL and three 1.0 × WIN/Fn bottom row keys. The standard ANSI layout has a 6.25× Spacebar and seven 1.25× bottom row keys. Tesoro’s approach is supposed to be the “gaming” mechanical keyboard design that favors the “useful” CTRL and ALT keys, while it minimizes the size of the unwanted (and dangerous for the serious gamers) WIN and Menu keys.

The keycaps are made from ABS plastic with large, futuristic characters. Both of the primary and the secondary character is printed at the top of each keycap, allowing both of the characters to be visible once the LED lighting is on. The characters printed at the bottom of the keycaps are indicators of the advanced functions that are accessible by holding the FN key pressed.



There are no extra keys on the Excalibur SE Spectrum. All the advanced functions are available via keystroke combinations, which are accessible by holding the Fn key and then pressing another key. When the Fn key is being held actuated, the F1 to F4 keys offer access to pre-programmed keystroke macros, the F5 to F8 keys adjust the response rate of the keyboard, the F9 to F11 keys offer basic volume controls, and F12 locks the entire keyboard. Some other interesting FN combinations are present:

  • FN+End locks the FN key,
  • FN+WIN locks the WIN key itself,
  • FN+Insert and FN+Delete control the key rollover rate,
  • FN+W transfers the WASD keys to the arrow keys and vice versa,
  • FN+Home starts the macro recording,
  • FN+Pg Up, FN+Pg Down and FN+Arrow keys control the lighting,
  • FN+Menu changes the backlighting color (when applicable),
  • FN+PS/SL/PB switch between three different profiles and
  • FN+ESC resets the keyboard’s current profile.

There is also a function to reset the entire keyboard and erase all of its user’s programming.

Aside from the phrase “Break the Rules” etched above its arrow keys and the backlit company logo, there are no other extra features or anything special to comment on about the Excalibur SE Spectrum. It has no USB pass-through ports, no extra keys or buttons, or any other features that stand out. It also has no wrist rest, which will be an issue for professionals with a keyboard this tall.

On paper, the Excalibur SE Spectrum features RGB backlighting, but lighting options and effects are very limited. There are actually only seven colors that the user can choose from (blue, red, green, purple, teal, yellow and cold white) and a limited number of pre-programmed effects. Some of the effects are programmable, such as the “message” lighting that lights up a user-defined number of keys in sequence. All programming is performed by keystroke combinations, there is no software package accompanying the Excalibur SE Spectrum.


Beneath the keycaps we found the new optical switches that Tesoro is using. These switches were developed in partnership with Gateron, a known manufacturer of mechanical keyboard switches. We will delve more into the design of these switches in the following pages. The top of their body is clear for a better, more even lighting distribution. Costar-type stabilizers can be found beneath the larger keys.

The removal of the plastic frame allows a clear view of the white steel support frame that provides support to the many keys and protection for the PCB. The main PCB is black and is well manufactured, without any imperfections that we could notice.

Tesoro has sprayed the main PCB with a thick varnish, making it essentially waterproof. In theory, the Excalibur SE Spectrum can withstand very serious drink spills. Sticky liquids like Cola variations however can still get inside the mechanical switches and make them sticky, even inoperative if they interfere with the infrared sensors. This same varnish prevented us from identifying the keyboard’s integrated circuits, as removing it damaged the lettering on the ICs as well. The keyboard’s microcontroller is not of great importance here because the Excalibur SE Spectrum has very limited advanced functions and no software support at all, therefore even a very low cost microcontroller can easily cope with its requirements.


The Gateron Optical Switch with Force/Travel Testing Per-Key Quality Testing and Hands-On
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  • DanNeely - Monday, March 20, 2017 - link

    I suspect part of it is that any ergo layout beyond the most basic (just a split in the center and bending the top inward) will require non-standard key caps. The reason why everyone and his dog is selling a basic mechanical keyboard is that essentially all of the hardware is off the shelf. All you need to do is to write an LED/macro programming app if you want to move into the mid/high tier of the market; at the low end not even that.

    And even for the most basic design I suspect the thinking goes something like: "1% of users buy mechanical keyboards. 1% buy ergo keyboards. That means the market for an ergo mechanical layout is probably closer to 0.01% of the total keyboard market than 1%, we probably can't sell enough to recoup our investment if we do this."
  • twtech - Monday, March 20, 2017 - link

    I understand that line of thinking, and obviously as neither of us are actually in the business of manufacturing keyboards we can only speculate beyond a certain point.

    However my counterpoint to that argument would be that most of the people who use split keyboards are people who are at their desks typing for many hours of the day, are often more affluent, and obviously care about the ergonomics of their input devices enough to not be using the stock $2 keyboard that came with the machine - and mechanical keys are also an ergonomic upgrade for frequent typists.

    So in my view, it's probably not a simple 1% of 1% type calculation. A programmer who makes 6+ figures and already has to spend $40-100+ for a non-mechanical ergo keyboard seems much more likely to be willing to pay $150-250 for a mechanical model than the average person who uses their computer 1-2 hours a day for gaming only and could buy a better graphics card with that money instead.

    Further, when you consider the number of mechanical keyboards already on the market as you mentioned - what percentage of that market share can the average manufacturer hope to capture? Does that even end up being much more than 1% of 1% anyway?
  • Mickatroid - Tuesday, March 21, 2017 - link

    A lot of assumptions there twtech, not a lot of evidence. Sure, if people prefer split keyboards there are good reasons to make one for them though. FWIW I have never seen the point of a 'natural' keyboard and I spend huge amounts of time typing. I have always thought they were for people who were either injured or who had learned the poor technique of holding their fingers up off the keys rather than letting their hands float over the keyboard and pressing down to type (at which point the relationship between the alignment of keys and the arms stops mattering). It is possibly true that people who are into keyboard ergonomics are past the need for a natural keyboard.
  • twtech - Tuesday, March 21, 2017 - link

    It's about the positioning of your wrists. A natural/split keyboard allows your wrists to remain straight while typing, which is not otherwise possible (at least unless you have a very narrow chest/waist).

    Even if you don't have an RSI injury yet - why not reduce stress on your joints and the likelihood that it will become a problem in the future?

    Obviously I'm making some assumptions here - and adding in some anecdotal evidence as well based on personal experience - but then, you're not going to be able to do much better in regard to the potential sales of a product that doesn't exist unless you've completed a survey to judge interest.

    We do know that Microsoft has been making variants of their natural keyboard design since 1994, and that at launch in 2005 for example the Natural Keyboard 4000 cost $65, which is about $80 in today's money. A mechanical variant would cost more than that obviously, but it does illustrate that natural keyboard users are willing to pay an above-average price for their input device.
  • mr_tawan - Wednesday, March 22, 2017 - link does this one count ?
  • twtech - Wednesday, March 22, 2017 - link

    Still different than the MS natural obviously, but still interesting. Thanks for the link.

    I wonder how easy or difficult it is to get used to non-staggered keys. Some of the symbols, etc., are also in non-standard locations - eg. quotation marks below the Z key.

    Still, I'll keep that one in consideration if I end up needing to replace one of my Matias Ergo Pros - I have one that I use at home, and one at work. I already had to replace one of them once because of a coffee accident.
  • ddriver - Tuesday, March 21, 2017 - link

    As usual, the obligatory FUGLY font some idiot somewhere decided has a "gamer" ring to it.

    And there follows the obligatory "bbbut... it makes it readable". To which I can only say this - if you need to look at what key captions say, you are a looong way from gamer, or even an adequate PC user for that matter.
  • Zim - Thursday, March 23, 2017 - link

    I've got a fever and the only prescription is more keyboard reviews.
  • MamiyaOtaru - Friday, March 24, 2017 - link

    been waiting for this. Wonder why they regressed from millions of colors to 8 when going to the IR switches
  • olive_oil - Thursday, May 25, 2017 - link

    Tesoro is a bad company. My Tesoro keyboard failed and I tried to get warranty service and I just got ignored.

    Later I found out they run their US business OUT OF A RENTED UPS MAILBOX.

    LOL No wonder I wasn't able to get warranty service!

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