I’ve always liked the idea of hooking a PC up to my TV, but it’s never really worked out in practice, and the main reason is obvious: input. While the keyboard-and-mouse setup is perfect for many kinds of games on a desk, it’s impractical on a sofa; you need a flat surface for the mouse, and balancing a regular keyboard is tricky enough. There are a bunch of all-in-one solutions that are fine for navigating to Netflix, but they don’t cut it for gaming.
Enter the Roccat Sova, a product first announced over two years ago at E3 2014 and which has finally found its way onto the market. It’s a "lapboard" — a backlit keyboard set into a large chassis with space for a wrist rest and mouse surface, all designed to sit comfortably on your lap. There are two USB ports, one of which you’ll need to plug your own mouse into — I used a Razer DeathAdder — and the Sova itself has a cable that takes up two USB ports on your PC. The cable has a breakaway portion in case your cat gets a little too excited by what’s happening in Overwatch.
The Sova comes in two varieties: one with a mechanical keyboard for $199.99, one with a regular membrane keyboard for $149.99. I tested the mechanical version, and while it's better than a membrane keyboard I’m personally not a massive fan — it uses TTC brown switches, but doesn’t give a ton of tactile feedback. Though I usually prefer blue switches for their audible clicks and tangible bumps, brown switches are more popular and mainstream because they’re quieter while still clearly letting you know when you’ve activated the key. The Sova's keys almost feel like they're using red switches, which have a smoother action, lighter weighting, and no bump before the key bottoms out.
Which is not a bad thing, depending on your perspective! This is all very subjective, and faster red switches are very common in the gaming world, so a reddish-brown keyboard may well be enjoyed and preferred by a lot of gamers. I like blue switches for getting maximum feedback from typing as well as gaming, but I’m not a competitive player so the heavier weighting isn’t a hindrance. The switches that Roccat has opted for are probably more broadly appealing.
Personal preferences aside, the mechanical Sova is a much better keyboard than anything I’ve ever used on a sofa before, and the overall design mostly holds up. There are four removable cushions, and I found that removing the front two worked best for my seating position; with all four in place, the Sova tended to slope toward me, and the mouse would start slipping down when not being actively used. The plastic build is light, chunky, and comfortable, and although it’s a heck of a thing to find a place to stash in your living room, the results are worth it — you get the precision of PC gaming with the chill factor of consoles.
The precision of PC gaming with the chill factor of consoles
I hooked up my old Alienware X51 — a gaming PC about the size of an Xbox One — to my TV and blasted through a few shooters, and it really did feel like the best of both worlds. I usually don’t mind playing FPS games on consoles — I love Destiny and Halo, for example — but Doom in particular is so fast-paced that I couldn’t imagine playing it with a pad, and the Sova is the best way to put it on a bigger screen.
Other options out there include the Razer Turret, which is sleeker, smaller, and wireless but uses shallow chiclet keys, and the Corsair Lapdog, which is more like a $120 tray for a couple of Corsair keyboards. The Sova isn’t the best keyboard in the world, but if you like mechanical keyboards and want a convenient all-in-one solution to playing PC games on your sofa, it’s your best bet right now.