The gaming peripherals industry today is truly suffering from a lack of fresh ideas and solutions. Therefore, any more or less original thing that is not in the assortment of all manufacturers is perceived with special enthusiasm, regardless of how much it can potentially be in demand by buyers. The «sofa» keyboard Roccat Sova, in my opinion, belongs to just such a category of products. In essence, this device is a knee pad that integrates a keyboard and a solid gaming surface under the mouse, which allows the player to do without a table and play their favorite games while sitting on the couch in front of a large screen. Of the closest analogues, offhand, we can recall the Corsair Lapdog and Razer Turret. However, the first one is too bulky, and it is more of a portable table, a blank for the keyboard. And the second, on the contrary, is too small, and is more suitable for working with Smart TV devices than for active games. Therefore, against their background, Sova seems to be the most balanced option. But let’s look at the features of this device in more detail.
|Polling frequency, Hz||1000|
|Number of keys||84|
|Keystroke resource, mln.||–|
|Changing the angle of the body||–|
|Built-in memory, KB||512|
|Ability to record macros||+|
|Handling rollovers||NKRO in WASD zone (24 keys)|
|USB cable length, m||4|
|Braid material||No tangles|
|Software||+ (Roccat Swarm)|
|Removable palm rest||+|
|External interfaces||2 x USB 2.0|
|Dimensions (L x W x H), mm||646 x 280 x 47|
|Weight, g||2 150|
|OS Compatibility||Windows 7 / 8.1 / 10|
|Peculiarities||Knee-mounted keyboard, removable mouse pad, removable palm rest, removable padded bottom feet, detachable cable, built-in 32-bit ARM processor|
|Average cost, $||150|
Contents of delivery
The box of the knee keyboard looks colorful, and at first glance you can understand the purpose of the product. On the reverse side, in text (in ten languages) and graphic form, the advantages of the device and its short technical characteristics are listed. There is no special internal protection against damage, except for a plastic bag.
The package includes a proprietary cable with two USB connectors, 4 meters long, a hanging holder for the mouse wire, instructions for use and a leaflet with information on recycling the product.
Appearance and design
Roccat Sova impresses with its dimensions. It really resembles a table, conditionally divided into three parts — a keyboard unit, a wrist rest area and a gaming surface for a mouse. The side faces are deliberately made in the form of a variety of bevels and bends to give a futuristic appearance to the device case. The weight of all this goodness, without a connected cord, exceeds two kilograms. The body is very strong and resists transverse loads well. It is possible that inside there is either a metal frame or a spacer made of durable honeycomb plastic.
The keyboard block is truncated, there is no number block to provide more space for the mouse on the right. At the same time, the manufacturer tried to keep the key layout as close to the standard as possible. And even made sure that the left Shift remained long, as players like it. However, a number of function keys are shifted to the left, on the right, under Enter, the block of arrows and editorial buttons is compressed. Del and Insert are paired with the Pause and Num Lock buttons, which are toggled in combination with Fn. It will still take some time to get used to such an arrangement of keys. By the way, as in laptops, Fn, in combination with the top row of buttons, can perform various useful functions. In particular, control the sound, call the calculator, switch tracks, call the My Computer menu, browser, switch the backlight or start a quick macro recording. The keys here are membrane, although there is exactly the same version of the device with TTC mechanical switches, which is called Sova MK. The buttons are quite low, quiet in pressing. All long keys are well stabilized, but the membrane is a membrane and you should not expect any special tactile responsiveness from it. The English font is applied using laser engraving in the center of the buttons, and the Cyrillic alphabet is in the lower right corner. Under the keyboard block there is a large area that serves as a place where you can put your palms when typing.
The mouse surface is plastic and very slippery. Its net size is 230 x 280 mm, which is slightly smaller than standard M-size table mats. The contoured Roccat logo takes up most of the surface.
In profile, taking into account the height of the keys, Roccat Sova reaches almost 50 mm, half of which falls on the soft «legs». There is no tilt and height adjustment, which is not surprising, because the device provides for the use of “lying on your knees”.
A large notch with small teeth runs along the entire length of the back face, where you can hide extra wires. The connector for connecting the signal cable is located in the middle, and is a short tail.
Included is a clamp for the mouse cable. It clings to the back of the keyboard. The recess in the latch at the back is rubberized, so you don’t have to worry about the cord fraying or fidgeting.
When attached to the keyboard, the latch looks like it is shown in the photo below. The manufacturer also provides a mount for a smartphone or tablet, but it is not included in the package.
On the reverse side of Roccat Sova there are four large and soft fabric legs. They noticeably soften the pressure of the keyboard on the user’s feet during its operation. However, I would still prefer to see here the legs from the table, which could be put on the sofa, at least as an option.
Near the tail for connecting the signal cable, in a small recess, there are two pass-through USB connectors. Small holes are made right next to them, allowing you to immediately lay the wires from the attached devices into the channel on the back.
The signal cable has a length of 4 meters, it is of medium thickness, harsh and bends very reluctantly. There is a Velcro to adjust the length. Of the two USB connectors at the end, the middle one is responsible for connecting the keyboard itself, and the last one is needed for the through USB ports to work. The proprietary connector for including this cable in the keyboard is made in such a way as to avoid the possibility of breaking the wire. If someone catches on the cord, then it should, in theory, simply split into two parts. In practice, the decision is rather controversial, because the connector sits firmly and there are much more chances to tear out the port on the computer or drop the Sova on the floor than to snap this cable at the base.
Soft pads on the base of the keyboard can be easily removed for replacement. In the upper right corner under them is a sticker with a serial number. And under the bottom two there are holes through which you can push and remove the front covers.
In particular, the palm rest is detached. It is held half by snaps, half by magnets at the bottom.
The playing surface is removed from the right side. Unfortunately, I could not find these replacement parts for sale on the official website. And if they are not yet in the official service, then the meaning of such manipulations may be completely lost.
The entire keyboard unit is backlit in blue, which can be adjusted in brightness. The inscriptions are clearly distinguishable in both font options, but even at maximum brightness they look just like blue text, it’s not even immediately possible to guess that this is a backlight if you see it turned on right away. In the mechanical version of the keyboard, the backlighting of all keys can be adjusted individually, but this option is not provided here. Three standard Lock-indicators are placed in the upper left corner and are highlighted in white when active.
The Roccat Sova keyboard uses the Roccat Swarm Universal Driver. The current software version is 1.9311 and the keyboard has firmware version 1.27. The main page of the software, which greets the user when downloading, contains the most commonly used settings. To bring the corresponding window to it, you must click the blue icon in the form of a clerical hairpin in the upper right corner. At the top there is a list of available tabs, and at the bottom there are slots with five profiles that can be stored in the keyboard’s built-in memory and quickly switched from any tab.
In the main settings, you can set options for keyboard feedback with the user. In particular, select the sound that will be played by the PC audio system when a particular key is pressed, set the volume and mark additional events that require sounding. In the same way, lighting effects are attached to the events of starting the PC, going to sleep, waking up or changing the profile. This also made the adjustment of the length of the delay when repeating characters, the frequency of repetition and the blinking frequency of the cursor. As well as resetting all settings to default.
In key assignment, the user can change commands on all buttons except Esc and Fn. On the left there is a complete list of available commands and macros. Almost every typing key, in addition to the main purpose, you can add an alternative command for the Easy-Shift mode.
In the backlight settings, you can choose one of six lighting effects and specify the nature of its work. You can also set the brightness level. On a membrane keyboard, all settings are applied simultaneously to all keys. On the mechanics, individual settings are available.
The Profile Manager stores all the profile options that the user has created for their keyboard. Five profiles fit into the keyboard’s memory, and the rest can be saved to the PC’s memory. It supports editing profiles, linking them to autorun along with individual applications and automatic switching.
The macro editor contains a library of ready-made macro commands for almost all the most popular modern games. You can also write your own version. It supports keyboard and mouse input (through a separate menu item) and setting time delays. Recording the position of the mouse cursor is not supported.
The AlienFX section will allow Alienware owners to sync their devices with Roccat products.
Swarm Connect allows you to connect your keyboard to a mobile device like a tablet or phone and control its settings remotely and wirelessly. Or get information about the current state of the PC.
The Talk FX section is responsible for synchronizing individual Roccat devices with each other.
There are four tabs in the program settings. In General, the way automatic software updates work is configured (on / off and silent installation or with notification). In addition, you can choose one of 17 supported languages for the program interface.
The Update center has a report on the current software and firmware versions of the product, as well as the Recovery Tool — rollback to the latest working version of the keyboard firmware.
In the monitoring section, you can select the parameters that will be displayed on an additional screen when connected via Swarm Connect. In particular, this is information about the current state of the PC, the number of clicks per minute and erroneous clicks. Statistics can be reset if desired.
The Help section has a built-in form through which you can directly send a ticket to the support service. Or you can read the answers to the most frequently asked questions.
Ergonomics and testing
Since Roccat Sova is not a traditional desktop keyboard, its ergonomics are quite specific. In principle, it can be used by laying it on the table, while the surface will stand evenly enough so that the mouse does not roll off it arbitrarily. But, due to the height of the device at 50 mm, you will either need to raise the user’s seat high, or you will need an understated tabletop. Therefore, as a replacement for a desktop keyboard, Sova is unlikely to be convenient. But with the role of a couch input device, it copes much better. Soft legs from below do not put pressure on the user’s legs, the table does not warp when the mouse moves, and the mouse itself glides very well on the built-in gaming surface. However, the user is unlikely to be comfortable sitting in the “legs” position at the seams all the time, and when the position wants to change, there is a desire to put the keyboard on some kind of support, such as hard pillows or sofa or chair handles. After all, this stand does not have its own folding legs. And keeping two and a half kilograms in your hands is not so convenient all the time. Since the keyboard block is shifted to the upper left corner of the device case, there is also a question about the convenience of typing on it. The left hand is certainly comfortable, but the right hand has to be strongly wrapped to the left side. This leads to the conclusion that Roccat Sova was more designed not for typing, but purely for gaming use, in which only the left hand rests on the keyboard. Needless to say, this device will seem wildly inconvenient for left-handed people for the reasons indicated above. Based on this, the non-standard key layout no longer seems to be a problem, because it is not intended for blind typing anyway. And with his playing role copes quite well. In terms of resistance to dirt, this keyboard performs well. Most plastic surfaces don’t tend to pick up fingerprints, and anything left on them can be easily wiped off with a damp cloth.
The blue backlighting of the keys makes it possible to clearly distinguish Latin and Cyrillic characters on it and looks good in the dark. Unfortunately, against the background of bright external lighting, it noticeably dims.
I had no questions about the Roccat software this time. It works stably, is understandable and has a huge set of useful and not very functions.
Anti-ghosting on this keyboard is implemented with an emphasis on games. On the left side of the keyboard, on the keys shown in the figure, the NKRO mode is supported, that is, there are no sticking in principle. But in all other places on the right, the “rule of three”, standard for membrane keyboards, works, that is, only two adjacent buttons are guaranteed not to stick, while the third one can already cause blocking and not working.
Roccat Sova is a highly unusual gaming keyboard designed for those who like to play «on the couch» and not at the table. It is difficult to make demands on it that are essential for desktop input devices, because this thing is specific and creates its own niche for gaming accessories, partly entering into direct competition with joysticks and keyboards for Smart TV. Therefore, instead of the traditional enumeration of advantages and disadvantages, I just want to express my thoughts on improving this device. Firstly. In the drawings of the early prototypes, this keyboard was wireless, and it was very good. What made the company change its mind and make it work exclusively on the wire? Extra weight of the battery, the inability to provide a stable connection over a wireless channel, or just banal savings? After all, the cord is reliable, but at the same time it’s hard, you need to remember about it, you can catch on to it, and not everyone will have enough of its length of four meters. The second point concerns weight. Still, two and a quarter kilograms, it’s not so easy. What’s stopping you from adding optional or fold-out legs, like the ones you find on hotel breakfast tables, and not having a keyboard on your lap? Well, a more petty claim is the inability to connect analog headphones here, but only a USB headset.
In the bottom line, such an exotic as Roccat Sova has both its pluses and minuses. Those who really need such a device will purchase it due to the lack of significant alternatives. All others will be limited to more traditional keyboards or other peripherals suitable for their tasks.