ProsVery comfortable when used on lap; excellent built-in mechanical keyboard; nice attention to detail
ConsWrist rest and mouse pad employ the same plastic surface, and it's not ideal for either; heavy; expensive
Here at TBG, we've tested lots of keyboards. From compact models for home theater use to RGB mechanical gaming keyboards that virtually glow in the dark, we've pretty much seen them all. Well, we thought we had. Turns out that Germany-based Roccat has been busy one-upping the competition when it comes to innovation. We were lucky enough to catch up with Roccat at PAX West 2016, and they generously offered to let us in on their newest keyboards. We've of course known of Roccat for years, but up until now hadn't reviewed any of its peripherals. We were therefore eager to see how Roccat's product line stacked up against Corsair, Logitech, and Razer, companies that dominate the gaming peripherals market, at least in terms of marketing.
The product we'll be focusing on primarily in this review is the Roccat Sova Mechanical Gaming Lapboard, which is one of several new gaming peripherals targeted at former console gamers looking to make the leap to PC gaming while still firmly planted on the couch. Roccat has some big-name competition in this arena in the form of the $120 Corsair Lapdog and the $160 Razer Turret. Roccat has little to fear from these devices, though, as each is so poorly designed that it's a wonder either got past the modeling stage. The Lapdog is hopelessly overpriced, given its lack of any included hardware, and the placement of the keyboard at the wrist-edge of the device is a terrible design choice. Meanwhile, the Turret offers a ludicrously-small mousing surface, making it clear that gaming is not its intended purpose; decorating your TV room with flashing green lights is. In other words, we're going to be judging the Sova on its own merits, rather than spending a lot of time demonstrating how it beats the competition.
Roccat was also keen to have us test out the brand-new Roccat Skeltr, which as of our publication date is still in limited release. Its claim to fame is an integrated Bluetooth module allowing it to interface with smartphones and tablets as a typing device. It is not, however, able to do so for PCs, as it must be plugged into a PC for power, meaning any wireless connection would be duplicative. We'll be touching upon the Skeltr's virtues and vices on the second page of this review, but in short, it seems that Roccat is not quite immune to the foul ball syndrome that clearly afflicts Corsair and Razer when swinging for the fences with new designs.
We'd like to extend a special thank you to Roccat for providing us with a review sample of the Roccat Sova Mechanical Gaming Lapboard and Roccat Skeltr RGB Keyboard, along with the Roccat Kova Gaming Mouse used for testing.
Description and Features
The Sova is a big device, measuring about 25.5" wide and 11" deep at its largest points, and just under two inches thick (including lap pads but not including keys). The wrist rest spans the entire width of the tenkeyless keyboard, and is 3.5" deep. The mouse pad is a very healthy 9" tall by 11" wide, meaning it's totally legit when it comes to actual gaming, unlike the mousing surfaces on some of its lapboard competitors. Of course, the generous proportions of the Sova comes with a penalty, in the form of a 5 pound, 11 ounce weight. That figure is pretty significant when the keyboard is sitting on your lap, and it's one reason that we might need to do the unthinkable and suggest the membrane-based Roccat Sova model over the mechanical version we tested. It's about 8 ounces (or half a pound) lighter. We'll say a bit more about the performance of the TTC mechanical switches used in our sample on the next page.
The bottom of the Sova is where Roccat's attention to detail is clearly demonstrated. Four removable lap cushions provide ample footing for the board, and two USB 2.0 jacks allow users to connect not just a mouse, but a USB headset as well (analog models are not supported). Along with the handy mouse cord clip on the backside of the keyboard, these components make it clear that Roccat thoroughly considered the basics before releasing this board.
Another feature that the Sova offers is blue LED backlighting, which can be set to one of six brightness levels. These settings are available on a per-key basis with the Sova Mechanical, allowing rolling blue light shows, one advantage it has over the Sova membrane model. Given that RGB lighting is all the rage, it's perhaps a bit surprising to see a premium offering with single-color LEDs, but we don't really consider this a major issue. Given that the Sova will likely be used in a darkened entertainment room, the single-color backlit keys are truly functional, and wouldn't be any more functional if they showed off every color of the rainbow. Unfortunately, our sample board had a dead LED under the "End" key, which can be seen if you look carefully at our product images. We assume Roccat would repair this under warranty if it ended up in the hands of a consumer in this condition, but shipping this big board back and forth would be costly.
In the photo above, we've broken down the Sova into some of its constituent parts. We removed one of the four lap pads, which allowed us to pop off the magnetically-attached mousing surface. These parts can be replaced over time, at least in theory. By the way, we've seen promotional images on the Roccat website as well as store websites showing off a smartphone cradle. We really wish this image weren't provided to stores, because it's not actually included in the package, nor does it seem to be available as of our publication date. The Roccat website notes that this is an optional accessory (although there's no indication of how to procure one), but store websites haven't picked up on that important detail. Roccat should seriously consider removing this photo from the product images provided to stores, as it's extremely misleading. And honestly, it's a shame this smartphone holder isn't included in the box, as it would be a nice addition to the package for couch gamers.