The Weapons Locker: AULA Excalibur Single-Hand Gaming Mini-Keyboard REVIEW
I've experimented with several of these 1/2 to 1/4-sized mini gaming keyboards. Most of them have been passable to me. For those who claim they just do not understand the appeal or why someone would use them, I can't do anything for you. Commenting about how anyone would see the usefulness in this instead of just using their primary keyboard isn't going to go anywhere in this conversation. For those who do see some usefulness in these kinds of devices, let me tell you how this one shakes out in comparison to the others.
To-date, I have used the original Belkin Nostromo n50, the Belkin / Razer n52te, the Razer Tartarus Chroma, and the Deebol46-key Wired Professional Single-handed Gaming Keyboard. I also have a Koolertron Programmable Split Mechanical Gaming Keyboard (which is also sold with just one half of the keyboard as a gaming keyboard controller), but I have not had a chance to test this device yet. Of all of these keyboard gaming peripherals I have owned and tested, I like the AULA the best. Strong statement? Perhaps so, but it's pretty well-deserved.
The AULA Excalibur features ergos that are best suited to my physique and gameplay style. For those with larger hands, the AULA orients keys in a mushroom dome fashion so that more keys can be squeezed into a form-factor that offers enough of a deck to accommodate my hands and wrist, but also does not take up so much space that it occupies all of my desktop real-estate. I will say that this is an evaluation from someone who uses tenkeyless keyboards, so I have a little extra room on my desktop. Your mileage may vary if you are using something like a Roccat Ryos or other huge keyboard with a big footprint.
Perhaps the best thing about the AULA Excalibur is the software. It's the first application for a gaming peripheral that, minus some English grammar imperfections, is not some Byzantine cryptogram of an application that conveys absolutely nothing about how to simply configure the blasted device. It's pretty clear in how to program macros, and set up the desired lighting scheme; and there are tons of lighting schemes available with all of the options that are provided. AULA CMS is the plainest and most straight-forward of any gaming cfg software that I have ever used. That being said, there shouldn't be much that one needs to do, as the Excalibur is mostly just a keyboard and is recognized as such by every game that I tested as well as Windows. In addition to the majority of the keys that games come default configured to use, the Excalibur also groups 8 macro keys, the ten numeral keys, and the Function keys, which is more than most mini-gaming keyboards provide. All of the controls felt easy to use during my 6 weeks of testing. I should mention that I have just never felt the need to use a self-configured multi key macro in gaming, and so I did not test that feature of the software and the device.
The AULA Excalibur is also mechanical. I believe the keys are Cherry Blue, but I have not been able to confirm that; the actuation point of the key is at or very near the top of the travel path.. Unlike some other gaming mini-keyboards, there is no thumb-pad or thumb-stick or D-pad. The keys offer RGB backlighting for most of the keys; the macro-keys and numeral keys are fixed with a green color, although you can individually program some with different colors. You just cannot apply a specific color to them all as a single group like you can with the keys on the main deck. It comes with a wrist-rest which is made of a soft-to-the-touch but firm, rubber-like material and was quite comfortable in use. I prefer using the Excalibur with the wrist rest rather than without it.
OK, so here are the bad points. The wrist-rest does not remain attached to the keyboard when you move it. It simply slots into the bottom pegs, but it does not actually latch. If you are not careful, you can also pull off the F-key keycaps when you are picking the keyboard up to move it. If you mess around and grab the keypad by the F-keys and try lifting the board by them, the Excalibur is heavy enough that the keycap might come off rather than lift the keypad up. They are easy enough to re-attach, but it's a bit unnerving. And while I felt the software was intuitive, its point of origin still feels a bit sketchy, and it may not be as intuitive to someone who has not used a ton of gaming peripheral applications and configurators.
Despite some of these detractions. I still find the AULA Excalibur an excellent gaming keypad and overall peripheral. Quite frankly, if I did not have to require myself to use a lot of different gear in pursuit of formulating informed opinions when writing tech reviews, I wouldn't use anything else. I'd prop the Excalibur up at my primary gaming PC and never take it down. It features excellent build quality, a great mechanical keyboard deck, and fairly intuitive and powerful software. If you like using gaming mini-keyboards and don't mind the bulk, go grab one. Right. Now.