If you're looking for the absolute best way to play mouse and keyboard-based PC games on the couch, this is the best way to do it. It's not perfect, but it's extremely close.
Have you ever tried to play a game with a mouse and keyboard while sitting on the couch? It’s a miserable experience and barely worth trying.
Those days are gone, as there are actually three legitimate lapboards specifically designed for playing games. We’ve already reviewed the Razer Turret, and we weren’t exactly in love with what we found. At $160, it was just too small to meet the demands of intense PC games.
Corsair also makes a device known as the Lapdog, which only costs $75, but it doesn’t include a keyboard. It also features some pretty serious design flaws, the most glaring of which is the position of the keyboard (there’s no wrist support), and the width of device itself (it’s too big to fit on recliners).
Filling in these gaps is where the Sova comes in. It comes in two models — equipped with a membrane keyboard for $150 and a mechanical version for $199. We’re here to put it up against the other two big players and determine if it’s worth picking up.
Specifications and Dimensions
Before we jump into using the Sova to play PC games, let’s take a quick look at the key details you need to know about the device. First, the overall dimensions of the product are 25.4 inches long, 11.02 inches tall, and and 1.45 inches deep (64.6 cm x 28.0 cm x 3.7 cm). The mousepad portion of the device is 10.83 inches by 10.45 inches (27.5 cm x 24 cm), which is big enough to handle the intense movement required in competitive PC gaming. It’s a fairly beefy device, coming in with a weight of 5 pounds (2.35kg).
The cable that comes with the Sova is 4.37 yards (4 meters) long, and it features a breakaway design that’ll make sure you don’t pull your computer off the TV stand or the Sova off your lap if someone trips over the cord. And speaking of cords, there are two USB ports on the lapboard that’ll let you hook up other accessories (mouse and headset are the two you’re most likely to use). There are also channels along the back of the Sova that’ll help you run the cables for your mouse and headset as cleanly as possible.
Some other specs you’ll want to know about are the polling rate, which is 1000Hz. It also comes with anti-ghosting keys with N-key rollover. This is important for hitting multiple keys quickly when playing games. There’s no number pad, which is a fair compromise as it allows the keyboard to fit more comfortably on your lap.
Upon opening the box, first impressions are quite positive. It just looks like a well-designed piece of hardware. The only negative you’ll find right away is the lack of included mouse (Razer’s lapboard offering comes with a mouse). For the price, it would be nice for Roccat to include one of its mice in the box, but I also understand the desire to let PC gamers use whatever mouse they’re use to.
The first thing that caught my attention is the size — it’s a big device. And that’s not a negative. You want a big, sturdy keyboard when you’re going to have it set on your lap. Also, the size of the wrist support area is impressive. It looks like resting your hands on the device will be comfortable, even for long gaming sessions. Of course, we’ll dig in further to the comfort later in the review!
As for the look, it follows the style of many other popular PC gaming peripheral companies. It features a stylish, large logo on the mouse pad, and the word Roccat and a smaller logo on the wrist support area.
On the back, you’ll find four pads, which aren’t super thick. They feel soft and squishy and are quite comfortable.
Ease of Use
There’s not a lot you need to do to get the Sova up and running. Plug in your mouse and headset, then plug the dual-USB ports into your PC. You can call it quits right there and just use the device as you would any other keyboard. Roccat actually made a video of the process, which is quite funny, since it couldn’t be easier.
Now, outside of the setup process, actually using the Sova to play games is quite easy, though it’s not without some problems. We’ll dig into the experience of gaming and computing with it more heavily in future parts of the review, but one thing I need to make mention of right away is the mouse surface.
It’s hard, which offers a bit more speed than a cloth one. Whether you prefer that over cloth is simply a matter of taste, but the lack of friction means it’s prone to slide around on its own when you take your hand off. Most of us don’t sit with our legs perfectly flat, so there’s going to be some incline. It’s not a deal breaker, as the included channels use the mouse’s cable to keep it from sliding too far, but it’s something to keep in mind.
Outside of that, I have no complaints about the ease of use of the Sova. It’s just the right size, comes with the perfect amount of padding, and is quite comfortable.
When it comes to the design of the Sova, the main thing that stands out is the size of it. When compared to its two major competitors, it’s just the right size. The Corsair model is too big to fit on your lap comfortably, and the Razer is too small to actually be usable for PC gaming.
The other major design choice that makes the Sova stand out from the crowd is the wrist area. Instead of having your hands placed right on the edge of the keys, there’s a giant wrist support that makes using the keyboard feel more like you’re using it on a desk. It’s a feature that seems super obvious, but when you consider that none of the other major players on the market offer one, you really need to call it out.
The mouse surface and wrist support area can also be removed. This would, in theory, allow you to replace them with different mouse surface or wrist supports, but for whatever reason, Roccat doesn’t actually offer replacements on its website. However, it’s still a standout feature because being able to pull these pieces off makes it so you can clean them without risking damage to the electronics. Hopefully at some point Roccat will offer some customization options here.
As mentioned before, the cable that comes with the Sova is extremely long, and it features a breakaway design that’ll protect your PC and the Sova itself. There is no support for wireless, which could be seen as a drawback or a positive, depending on your perspective. For performance, wired is always better than wireless, and that can certainly make a difference for PC gaming. Wireless, on the other hand, gives you a great deal more convenience than wired. It’s a tradeoff, but if having a long wire running across your living room is a deal breaker for you, than you might want to pass on the Sova. If you’re fine with wires, you’re going to get a faster response time.
The mouse area has a little clamp that keeps your mouse cable clamped down, but it also slides left and right, giving you some movement. There’s also channels along the back of the Sova that’ll let you run your other wires over the USB port without looking hideous.
All in all, Roccat absolutely nails all of the design aspects on this lapboard. Everything from the size to the convenience features are exactly what you want. Not only are the design choices intelligent for performance, but everything feels solid and durable, which is good when you’re spending well over $100 to take one of these home with you.
PC Gaming with the Roccat Sova
When you buy the Sova, the main thing you need to know is whether it’s able to handle the PC games you throw at it. The main idea is to take the games that would traditionally require you to sit behind a desk and bring them to the couch (or chair, or recliner, or floor). In that regard, the Sova delivers as close to perfectly as you’ll find from a device of this kind. It’s not as good as playing at a desk, but it’s incredibly close.
I personally prefer a mechanical keyboard for PC gaming, so the fact that we tested the membrane version is a bit of a drawback. If I were to go out and buy one myself, I would definitely spend the extra money on the mechanical model. With that said, the keys on the cheaper model do feel pretty solid. They offer a good clicky feel that’s close to a mechanical keyboard, and if you’ve never owned a mechanical one (or you don’t find the benefit is worth the extra cost) then you’ll do just fine with this one.
Another preference thing that goes against the Sova is the choice to use a hard mousing surface. Personally, I find the slightly slower tracking speed of a cloth mat to be preferable, but that’s because I tend to favor turn-based strategy and MOBA games where speed is less important than precision. If you’re big into shooters and you need speed, you might actually find that you prefer the surface offered here.
I can’t really knock the Sova for the choice of mousing surface, as it really is just a matter of preference, and as far as hard mouse surfaces go, this is a good one.
If you’re playing a game where you take your hand off of the mouse frequently, the issue of the mouse sliding will come up again. However, as long as you use the cable management correctly, you should be able to leave just enough cord to let you move around, but not so much that the mouse will fall off the surface completely. Plus, quite a few genres require your hand to be on your mouse at all times, so it shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
The ultimate praise that I can offer the Sova is that I was completely comfortable while using it and I never felt like I was at a competitive disadvantage. Any other method I’ve tried to use a mouse and keyboard from the couch either forced my hands into an awkward position that I couldn’t stay in for an extended period, or they made me feel like my movement was compromised in a way that made me play worse. With the Sova, I almost forgot that I was sitting on the couch. Almost.
The biggest issue with the Sova isn’t actually with the Sova at all — a lot of PC games aren’t meant to be viewed from across the room. Games that are built for a mouse and keyboard typically have smaller interfaces that work great when you’re sitting a foot from the screen, but not so well when you’re 10 feet away. Unfortunately, there’s nothing Roccat could do to solve that problem, but it’s still something you need to think about before you spend the money.
I’d suggest launching the game you want to play, sitting where you intend to play from, and seeing if the interface is actually comfortable before you buy the Sova. I found that Dota 2 was perfectly acceptable from far away, but Starcraft 2 was trickier. Your mileage will vary depending on your eyesight as well.
General Computing with the Roccat Sova
While there’s nothing wrong with the Sova’s performance for general computing, I have a hard time recommending it if that’s your primary purpose. You’re much better off getting a cheap wireless keyboard with a trackpad, as that’ll be much cheaper and more effective for using Kodi, browsing the web, and doing other basic computing tasks.
If you’re planning to buy this device for PC gaming and you want to occasionally play media and browse the web, it does it quite well.
Should You Buy The Roccat Sova?
If you want to play PC games that don’t run well with a controller from your couch, the Roccat Sova is the best option on the market. It comes with a reasonable price for what it offers. It’s packed with just about every performance and comfort feature you could want. While it is a somewhat niche product, I can easily recommend it to anyone who wants to play Dota 2, League of Legends, World of Warcraft, Civilization, or any other game that requires a mouse and keyboard.
To put it simply: you should most definitely buy the Roccat Sova! The company’s “own the couch” slogan really rings true!