There’s something special about kicking back on the couch with your favorite game. Being able to put your feet up and sink into some comfy cushions adds that extra touch of relaxation that desk gaming just can’t touch at the end of a long day. This presents a problem to PC gamers when so many of our games require mouse and keyboard to play their best. Pulling it off can be done but rarely without compromise. The Roccat Sova may be the solution we’ve been waiting for.
Like many working gamers, there are days when I want nothing more than to come home and sink into the couch. After a day oscillating between pacing the floors and working at a computer, the idea of spending even more time at a desk just isn’t doesn’t appeal. So far, the PC gamer has always had to compromise when it comes to playing games on their television. In the past, I’ve used a flat board and a pair of USB extenders to bring my mouse and keyboard over. The Steam Controller solved that and is great for many games but it is rarely ideal. Even the other lapboards are too small or only work with branded, expensive peripherals. The Roccat Sova aims to address all of of those problems.
When I unboxed it, the first thing I noticed was how large it is. Measuring a full 25 inches long and 11 inches wide, the Sova is far from cramped. The built-in tenkeyless keyboard takes up most of the left side, complete with an extra wide wrist rest. The right side features a large hard-textured mouse pad. It’s five pound weight is slightly heavy but it disburses nicely and the cushioned underside keeps it comfortable.
The size, while at first concerning, turned out to be an asset. The concern wasn’t so much that the Sova seemed unwieldy (though it might for be smaller users) but more that it would be difficult to balance on the lap. Having a lapboard tip and slide is irritating to the point of unusability. The four cushions on the underside are wide and well placed, however, which kept things stable once I was in place. They also attach by clip, which means they won’t fall out by accident. Wide and stable, the board spaces they keyboard and mouse hands comfortably making it easy to use.
Taking the cushions out allows you to pop out both the wrist rest and the mouse pad. The Sova is 3D Print ready, so if you have access to a 3D printer, you can drop the included cat and brand name logos and replace them with something more to your taste.
One of the smartest features of the Sova is the embedded 2-port USB hub, allowing you to plug in a mouse and USB headset or other peripheral. The Sova itself connects to the PC with a single braided, two-headed cable. The cable is around 12 feet long and absolutely saved the mess of wires separately connecting the mouse and keyboard would create. The wires connected to the onboard hub can be tucked away into a deep routing channel on the back of the unit keeping the look clean. The mouse can also be run through a tether to keep it from sliding off the board when its tilted. It’s smart and cleanly design with Roccat’s signature matte black finish. The only thing that would have made it better would be some padding on the wrist rest -- it’s pretty lacking right now -- and dedicated audio jacks.
Once everything is plugged in, the Sova should theoretically just work. Despite the support materials claiming USB 2.0 compatibility, the devices would immediately disconnect unless I used USB 3.0. That’s a pretty big discrepancy that may mean plugging in around the back instead of conveniently in the front. If you want to control the lighting or macro options, you’ll also have to download the latest version of Roccat’s SWARM software.
The Sova presents quite the capable little keyboard. It features everything you would expect of a gaming keyboard: complete reprogrammability, profile options, decent illumination choices (blue only), media controls. It’s slightly cramped, which takes some getting used to, and I’ll never quite be onboard with defaulting Caps Lock to Easy-Shift, but functionally, it’s get the job done and done well.
Despite achieving what it sets out to do, there are some notable drawbacks. Our unit used TTC mechanical brown switches. Compared side by side with Cherry MX Browns, they felt close but they were less snappy and felt lighter to the touch somehow. The mouse tether is also a nice feature, but I’m not a big fan of how the mouse dangles by its cord when the Sova is put away on its side. Completely disconnecting the mouse makes for a tedious setup if you want to tuck the cord back in every time and save the tangle of wires. Storage itself is also a consideration. The Sova is likely to be the largest peripheral in your house. You’ll need somewhere to keep the two-foot slate when you’re through.
Finally, there’s no getting around the price. The Sova is expensive. The mechanical version we tested retails at an MSRP of $199. A cheaper membrane version is available for $149. The Sova is a specialized product and the price tag reflects that.
The Sova represents a new opportunity for gamers: the ability to play PC games from the couch without compromise. It opens that door with ease while still having room for improvement. If you’re in the market for a lapboard, you’ll pay a premium, but so far the Sova is king of the hill.
The hardware used for this review was provided by Roccat.