Headline: Keyboard Maker Makes Lapboard, Details At 11. We’ve read this story before, and not too long ago, when Corsair finally released its Lapdog, an enormous lapboard with a Corsair K70 dropped into it. Roccat has now released its own take on a living room gaming lapboard with the Roccat Sova MK, and although it took the same basic approach that Corsair did (no compromises on performance, period), the Sova MK is smaller and arguably more comfortable to use.
We had few complaints when we spent hands on time with the Lapdog save for a few minor quibbles over ergonomics. Specifically, I found that the bezel around the keyboard was too thin, the edge of the mouse pad dug into my palm, and the USB cable was ungainly and always in the way.
With the Sova MK, Roccat has mostly solved those issues (but introduced one of its own).
The Lapdog’s bezel is thicker along the top edge to accommodate the mouse and keyboard cabling. This left the bottom bezel thin. On the Sova MK, this is flipped: The bottom bezel is quite large--in fact, it’s less a bezel and more a bona fide wrist rest--and the keyboard is mounted higher up, such that the top edge is thin.
Even better, the Sova MK has a beveled edge all across the bottom, as opposed to the sharper edge of the Lapdog. I found that this minor design difference significantly affected my comfort level. Whereas the edges of the Lapdog bugged me almost immediately, the Sova MK was more comfortable for long stretches of gaming.
Further, although we understand why the Lapdog has such a mass of cables, it seemed like we could have done with a little less in that department. Roccat apparently feels the same, because the Sova MK has a simple USB cable (with two special ends) and no AC power plug. There is a short stub of a cable and a special connector sticking out the back of the Sova MK, and to this you connect the lone USB cable.
The cable has a sort of Y-adapter end with two USB connectors, and it’s about 13 feet long, which should be sufficient reach for most living room setups.
That’s about four feet shorter than the Lapdog’s cable, but that brings up a key point: Everything about the Roccat Sova MK is smaller or thinner than the Corsair Lapdog, and that’s a good thing. The lapboard is several inches narrower, the whole assembly is about half as thick, and the soft lap cushion is thinner, too. Even the USB cable is physically thinner. As I wrote about the Lapdog, the whole thing just feels large and takes up a lot of space; the Sova MK, though by no means small, takes up less room--enough so that it’s easier to stow it away when you’re not using it.
Where the Sova MK bows to the Lapdog is in regard to cable routing and keyboard options.
On the Lapdog, Corsair made a large trench across the top of the lapboard and then included a removable piece of metal to hide and route the mouse and keyboard cables. It’s simple and clean and tidy. The Sova MK, by contrast, has a thin trench on its outside edge; the mouse cable barely fits into it and doesn’t stay put especially well, and there’s no ideal spot for the cable to emerge. Roccat included a little mouse bungee to help you route the mouse cable where you want it on the mousepad, and that was handy, but there’s not enough room anywhere to completely stash the mouse cable. No matter what, a long length of it will droop off the back.
The biggest issue for some, though, will be the lack of flexibility in keyboard choice. Corsair limited your options with the Lapdog to its K65 and K70, but the Sova MK offers no alternative choices at all. The keyboard is built into the lapboard.
Roccat does offer you two Sova options, but they’re limited to a TKL version with TTC Brown switches or one with membrane switches. If you prefer a numpad, or don’t like the feel of Brown switches, or have reservations about TTC switches in general (I, for the record, have none), you won’t want the Sova. It’s as simple as that.
Set Up, Software And Use
One thing I particularly like about the Sova MK is the setup process: You connect one end of the included cable to the Sova MK and the other to your PC. Connect a mouse to the Sova MK. That’s it.
This is compared to setting up the Lapdog, which requires the removal (and replacement) of many screws and the installation of a keyboard.
The Sova MK is supposed to work with Roccat’s Swarm software, but even after updating, I was unable to get the software to even recognize the Sova MK. This is because the unit I have (there aren’t many in existence) is pre-mass production, and Roccat didn’t have the software driver ready for it yet.
Overall, I found the Sova MK delightful to use. As I mentioned, the beveled edge was comfortable even after long gaming sessions, and I particularly loved the huge wrist rest. The lapboard offered sufficient padding on my legs, and the mousepad area (10.8 x 9.45 inches) is plenty large. Roccat told me that the retail Sova MK will have slightly different material than the one I have on hand, but I don’t think any change is needed; although it’s a slightly bumpy plastic surface, which may turn some users off, I used a Roccat mouse with it and found the performance exemplary. Roccat has hinted at the possibility that it will make the mousepad removable and offer different surfaces, so users could ostensibly opt for a hard plastic surface, metal or different fabrics. (Roccat stated in its materials that the wrist rest and lap cushions may all be replaceable, too.)
As with the Lapdog, the Sova MK leaves you wondering what to do with your arms. This is simply an issue inherent with any lean-back lapboard device, though, so one can hardly complain about either company’s design here. With a small throw pillow under my left arm, I was completely comfortable. I didn’t need anything under my right arm.
There were a couple of issues that I bumped into, though. One is that any time I moved at all, the mouse slid off the edge of the Sova MK. (The same thing happens with the Lapdog.) Again, this is a problem that will arise on virtually any lapboard. However, I did accidentally disconnect the USB cable a couple of times right in the middle of a game. I must have stepped on it without noticing; suddenly my input just stopped, and I got fragged. It took me several seconds to figure out that I’d yanked the cable out.
Specifications And Price
Although there are two versions of the Sova--one with membrane keys (Sova) and one with TTC Brown switches (Sova MK)--they are otherwise essentially identical.
The Sova offers onboard storage for profiles, and there is blue backlighting on both models. It has two USB 2.0 ports so you can connect a mouse, and perhaps a headset (as long as that headset is USB).
As I mentioned previously, expect Swarm software support for the Sova--but for now, there’s no driver.
Curiously, Roccat is selling the Sova only in bundle form, at least for now. You can get either the membrane or the mechanical version for $149.99 or $199.99 respectively, and Roccat will include a “free” Kova mouse, which costs $50 by itself. That means the mechanical switch version of the Sova essentially costs $149.99.
|Roccat Sova lapboard|
|Microcontroller||32-bit ARM IC|
|Onboard Memory||512 KB|
|Polling Rate||1,000 Hz|
|Lighting||Blue LED, multiple brightness levels|
|Software||Roccat Swarm (no driver yet)|
|Ports||2x USB 2.0|
|OS||Windows 7/8/10, 32/64-bit|
|Misc.||-Replaceable mousepad (275 x 240 mm)-Replaceable wrist rest and lap cushions-Docking rail for mouse bungee-Roccat Talk-Roccat EasyShift|
|Price Bundles||-$149.99: Sova Membrane + Roccat Kova mouse-$199.99: Sova MK (mechanical) + Roccat Kova mouse|
There is much to like about the Sova MK, and Roccat deserves credit for creating something that surpasses the Corsair Lapdog in design. The Sova MK is smaller and thinner (read: more convenient to use and stow) without losing anything to the Lapdog.
Roccat needs to fiddle some more with the mouse cable routing, though, and I wish it offered audio jacks instead of (or perhaps in addition to) the second USB 2.0 port. Further, although I tested a (slightly) pre-production Sova MK, it’s disappointing that the software wasn’t ready.
Also, Roccat may have done itself no favors by limiting the Sova’s keyboard options to a membrane and a tenkeyless TTC Brown switch version; it’s betting that users won’t want Red or Blue switches, or a different switch manufacturer, for that matter, and that's a tricky wager.
However, pricing and a few small issues aside, like the Lapdog, the Sova MK disappears when you use it, and that’s the whole point of a living room lapboard mouse and keyboard setup. Roccat opted for a design that doesn’t compromise on performance, at all.
Update, 6/15/16, 7:40am PT: The original version of the article incorrectly stated that the lap cushions were not removable.