PC gaming in the living room, from the comfort of a couch, and on a big screen has so far been dominated by the game controller. While this works for some games, the experience suffers greatly in others. For instance, a controller is not exactly ideal for first-person shooters, and is completely useless for real-time strategy games.
Recently, Corsair and Razer have both tried their hand at solving this issue with two very different products. The Corsair Lapdog is a seriously large gaming 'lap station' that takes a full-size Corsair K70 gaming keyboard (purchased separately), and pairs it with a large mouse pad. The result is a large, expensive solution, especially after you add in the cost of the keyboard. While I did enjoy using the Lapdog for the most part, a few design oversights - such as the lack of a wrist rest - really hurt the experience.
So how about the Razer Turret then? The Turret is pretty much the opposite of the Lapdog in that it is smaller, to the point of being too small. The keyboard isn't mechanical, and instead uses chiclet keys. The Turret's wireless/Bluetooth support makes it a much more practical option than the wired Lapdog. Priced at $150, the Turret is considerably more affordable than the Lapdog. However, that's a high price to pay for what is essentially a laptop keyboard with an accompanying child-sized mouse.
Ultimately, we found the Lapdog too expensive and impractical, while the Turret was too small, making it uncomfortable for prolonged use.
At the end of each review, we mentioned Roccat's upcoming Sova (announced in 2014!). Although we only had a few photos to go on, the Sova looked like a more promising couch gamer. Finally, we now have the Sova on hand for some testing, so is it everything we thought it would be?
Design & Features
Since size was an issue with both the Lapdog and Turret, let's start there. The Sova is 646mm long, 280mm wide and 37mm thick. What is important to note here is the width, as the Sova is 7% wider than the Lapdog. There is an excellent reason for it, though - it includes the much needed wrist rest.
Despite being wider, the Sova is 12% shorter and an incredible 61% thinner. In terms of physical size, the Sova is, in my opinion, perfect. Roccat has been able to make the Sova shorter than the Lapdog by removing the keyboard's number pad, which is a smart move, given that it isn't required for gaming.
The keyboard part of the Sova measures 300mm long by 120mm tall, and features advanced anti-ghosting with N-key rollover as well as blue LED backlighting. An awesome feature of the Sova is the ability to buy it with either membrane keys or mechanical key switches (Sova MK). For review, we have been supplied with both versions of the Sova.
Under the keyboard, we find a removable cover that acts as part of the wrist rest. The entire area that your wrist can rest on measures 300mm long, and 130mm wide, which is plenty of room. To the right, we have a large hard-surface mouse pad, which measures 280mm x 225mm and, like the wrist rest cover, it is removable.
Both of these panels are held in place using magnets, and must be popped out from the rear of the board. This is accomplished by removing the foam pads on the underside, and then pressing out the panels with a finger - easy enough to do. Roccat says that gamers will be able to choose from different mousepad/wrist-rest materials as well as customize colors. Roccat offers 3D printing options, meaning that gamers can create a Sova experience that is uniquely their own.
Underneath the Sova, there are four of the aforementioned foam pads that will rest on the user's legs. They work well for cushioning, and help make the Sova very comfortable to use. The foam pads are replaceable, which is great, although we aren't sure how much Roccat will be charging for them yet.
There is also a two port USB hub under the Sova, which can be used to connect a gaming mouse and headset.
The rear of the Sova features a groove for cable management - which is important, because the mouse cable really only needs to be very short, and the groove helps take up the slack. At least 80% of our mouse cable was tucked away into this cable management channel when testing. Of course, when it comes to the mouse, you are free to bring your own solution and it doesn't have to be wired.
There is also a 5-pin female connector here which is used to connect the Sova to your HTPC, the cable is 4m long and features a pair of USB type-A connectors at the end. There is also a small mouse bungee included in the package which is a nice touch.
Using the Sova
In my opinion, Roccat has created the the perfect couch companion with the spot-on design of the Sova. The size is just right, as is the weight and how it's distributed. If you are predominantly typing, you can move the Sova off center, so that the keyboard part of the device rests square on your lap, without the overhanging mouse pad tipping it over.
For years now, I have been using a Cherry MX brown keyboard, so it has been some time since I felt the mushiness of a membrane keyboard. Even so, the Sova keyboard didn't feel too bad. I personally would be happy to shell out the extra $50 for the mechanical Sova MK, particularly if I plan on using it regularly. If the Sova is something you might only use for an hour or two per week then the membrane version should be fine. It is also a lot quieter than a mechanical keyboard, if that is a consideration.
The mouse pad surface feels great, and though hard pads are louder than their cloth alternatives, they provide excellent accuracy, which is obviously important for gaming. They are also very durable and are easy to clean which is obviously a huge plus for a living room device. The pad itself is also plenty big, and we love the idea of being able to customize it.
Without a doubt then, the Sova is a superior gaming solution to both the Corsair Lapdog and Razer Turret. The Sova will suit both casual and extreme gamers wanting to play from the comfort of a couch.
The big win for consumers is the price, as the Sova costs just $150 for the membrane version. On top of that, Roccat is currently offering a free Kova mouse to those that pre-order . The mechanical version also comes with a free Kova mouse if you pre-order, and at $200 it is a good deal cheaper than going with a Lapdog. For those wondering, the Sova will begin shipping at the end of August.
By offering the Sova at two price points, Roccat has been able to counter both the Turret and Lapdog. Granted, the Turret still has the advantage of being wireless, but seeing as it's impractically small, that doesn't count for much.
The only downside to the Sova is the fact that it is a wired solution, like the Lapdog. This means that users will need to hook up the 4m USB cable to their PC and then remove it when they are done. Finally, like the Lapdog and Turret, the Sova is for right-handed users only.
Overall, the Roccat Sova is by far the best couch gaming solution we have seen yet. Roccat nailed the design, and it seems a shame that despite seeing very similar products in 2014, it has taken 2 years to get this thing in the hands of gamers.
Pros: The size is just right, as is the weight and how it's distributed. It features a much needed wrist rest, a large hard-surface mouse pad, and is available at two price points with either membrane keys or mechanical key switches.
Cons: It's a wired solution and for right-handed users only.