Today, PC gaming is one of the few growth areas in consumer computing, so hardware makers are pouring it on heavy, paying extra attention to developing gear for gamers. As a result, if you’re a PC gamer, you’ve never had it better when it comes to actually sitting at your desk and gaming.
You’ve got a wide selection of tricked-out, specialized keyboards, mice, and monitors to choose from. If you’re happy gaming right up in front of your monitor, you can customize your gaming environment to your liking quite easily. All it takes is cash.
But that’s not the case if you decide to push back from the desk and transfer your gaming artillery to the couch, for play on a big-screen television across the room. Sure, you can theoretically balance a rigid wireless keyboard on your lap. But what if you want to use a wired keyboard?
Then there’s the mouse. If you’re using a wireless mouse, you’re all set…sort of. But where do you put it? A couch cushion isn’t a great mousing surface. Plus, most serious gamers want a wired mouse, since they’re generally more accurate than their wireless counterparts (or at least that’s the perception many gamers have). And those same gamers wouldn’t even look twice at an “HTPC-style” keyboard with a built-in pointer, such as touch pad, for PC gaming. A touch pad, for most games, is pointer poison.
The answer to these dilemmas is a “lapboard”: a keyboard-and-mouse solution that lets you balance both on your lap. We haven’t seen many to date, and the two big new ones from Razer and Corsair take very different approaches. (Roccat also just released a third, called the Roccat Sova; we haven’t had the opportunity to test it yet.)
We recently reviewed the Razer Turret, which is an all-wireless lapboard solution. It’s a wireless keyboard you can balance on your lap, with a side portion that flips open to act as a mouse pad for an included mouse. When the Turret is not in use, both parts dock vertically in a trim charging stand, making it an excellent space-saving solution for couch gaming. The Turret keyboard itself is rather tight, though, and it’s pricey for what it is. (Also, it lacks backlit keys, a staple of almost every desktop gaming keyboard these days.)
Then there’s the subject of our review today: the Corsair Lapdog. Less a lapboard than a “gaming tray,” for lack of a better phrase, the Lapdog lets you use both a wired keyboard and a wired mouse up to 16 feet away from your PC and HDTV, thanks to a built-in, powered USB hub. Instead of just resting the keyboard on the tray, you install it inside the Lapdog chassis, so it becomes an integral part of the unit, granting gamers much-needed stability for typing or gaming. And underneath the big-bodied Lapdog is a large, contoured foam pad. It’s optional to use (you can remove it), but it makes the whole setup very comfortable in your lap.
Corsair calls the Lapdog a “Gaming Control Center,” and it makes couch-bound gaming much, much easier than any other such solution we’ve seen to date. Though it’s not perfect, it’s pretty close—so long as you’re willing to wed yourself to one of a few specific Corsair keyboards, and you have the space to stash this unwieldly beast. (It’s closer to a St. Bernard than a pug, let’s just say.)
The Lapdog comes as two big pieces and a bunch of smaller ones. Here’s an exploded view of what you’re faced with on unpacking the Lapdog box…
The top piece is the main tray for the keyboard and mouse, and the bottom is a soft foam support-pad assembly. The foam unit is the exact dimensions of the underside of the Lapdog and attaches to it via magnets, like so…
The Lapdog itself is 29 inches across and 10 inches deep. It’s made from plastic, with a few bits of anodized aluminum, so it’s quite light and doesn’t feel like a burden when you plunk it down on your lap. It’s in two sections: the left-side keyboard area, and the right-side mouse-pad zone.
The keyboard area fits either a Corsair K70-class keyboard (such as the Corsair K70 RGB Rapidfire we recently reviewedCorsair K65 RGB), which has a “tenkeyless” (no number pad) design. Before you ask: Yes, these are the only two classes of keyboard that will fit in the Lapdog’s chassis. The chassis is custom-made for them, and they fit snug, without space around the edges.
The keyboard drops into the area designed for it and gets secured on all sides. It is immovable once installed. You can see a K70 Lux installed in the body here; as you can see, it looks like the two parts were built as one unit…
Above the keyboard area is a covered “tunnel” for the USB cabling associated with the keyboard. The cable must be tucked into this niche, with the excess squished together and routed over to the mouse-pad area…
The mouse pad is a simple mousing surface that’s mounted onto a hard-plastic base. Underneath it is a built-in USB hub that occupies the far right corner of the Lapdog chassis. Once you have the keyboard installed, its cable gets routed out the right side of the “tunnel,” then plugged into the USB hub, as shown below.
Next, you drop the mouse-pad cover onto the contraption (after you plug in your wired mouse, of course), and everything attaches with small screws. (Corsair provides a small tool to accomplish this.) A small holder for the special screwdriver is incorporated into the foam pad, so, in theory, you won’t lose it. Note that you can use any wired (or even wireless) USB mouse with the Lapdog; it doesn’t have to be a Corsair model.
Once the keyboard is installed, everything is attached internally, and the mouse-pad cover is back in place, it’s time to connect the Lapdog to your PC. To do this, Corsair provides a 16-foot cable that has a male USB plug and a female power jack at the PC end. For the cable’s power connector, the Lapdog comes bundled with a small power brick that has to be plugged in to wall power, then connected to the inline cable connector to provide power to the Lapdog’s internal USB hub and components. (The Lapdog doesn’t draw the necessary power over USB, alas.)
The main cable is more than long enough, in our estimation, for most living-room applications, and it’s thick too. That makes it durable-feeling (important, because it is proprietary), but it’s difficult to hide in a living room, though you could probably route it around the edge of the room if the distance were short enough. We just ran it straight through our living space, so it was a bit of an eyesore. Know that it’ll definitely be a tripping hazard if you have small children running about, or lots of foot traffic across the space.
Once it’s all connected, though, you have auxiliary control of your battle station from the couch. You also get two USB 3.0 ports on the outer edge of the Lapdog chassis that are unused, so you can charge your phone, plug in a USB flash drive, or use a USB headset with ease.
When you buy it, the Lapdog is offered either bundled with a Corsair keyboard, or bare. As a stand-alone product, it’s a bit expensive at $119.99, considering it’s essentially a large tray with a USB hub built in. If you want to buy it with a fitting Corsair keyboard, the price goes up to $199.99, bundled with a non-RGB Corsair K70 Lux with red backlighting and your choice of Cherry MX Blue, Brown, or Red key switches. If you want the more elaborately lit Corsair K70 RGB Rapidfire keyboard, with the fancy rainbow LEDs in the keys, the bundle price goes up to $249.99. (Corsair didn’t offer Lapdog/K65 bundles at this writing.) The bundle pricing, in both cases, was a better bargain. The Lapdog and either a Corsair K70 Lux or K70 RGB RapidFire keyboard, bought separately, would run you about $40 more.
The Lapdog comes with a two-year warranty and weighs 5.7 pounds by itself. Now, let’s look into setting it up, and using it for gaming.
Setup Real-World Testing
The Lapdog we received for testing included a Corsair K70 Lux keyboard ($119.99 by itself; $199.99 as a bundle), and the whole apparatus arrived in two boxes, one of them big. The process of “building” the Lapdog took about 30 minutes. It was for the most part painless, as the included manual covers most of the steps with clear illustrations and wording.
By default, the Lapdog comes with an extra plate installed, which accommodates the length of the Corsair K65 keyboards. Because that model line doesn’t have a numeric keypad at right, it’s much shorter than the K70, and this large piece of plastic in the Lapdog fills this space. Since we had a Corsair K70 Lux on hand for our review, and it does have a number pad, our first task was to remove this extra hunk. You can see it in place below.
It didn’t take much effort; all we had to do was undo several screws holding this filler piece down, then remove the plastic.
Next, we wiggled the Corsair K70 Lux keyboard down into the keyboard opening. You have to do it at an angle, which allows the leading edge of the keyboard to slide underneath a retention lip in the Lapdog. Next, we routed the keyboard cabling through the provided tunnel. We did not use Corsair’s included zip ties to secure it, since we were just testing the fit. Using the zip ties isn’t strictly necessary, anyway, because once the cables are in place, you screw an anodized aluminum “cover” over them. They won’t go anywhere.
On the far right is the USB hub, our next focus. We had to examine the two USB connectors coming out of the K70 Lux and plug in the one with the keyboard icon on it. The other USB connector on the K70 Lux’s cable is a USB pass-through and gets rendered useless in the Lapdog. That’s because we could no longer access the extra USB port on the K70 Lux’s edge. Once the keyboard was sealed inside the Lapdog chassis, it was surrounded on all sides.
After the keyboard cable was taken care of, we plugged our wired mouse into the other USB port in the hub, then placed the aluminum cover over the tunnel (atop the keyboard’s cables), securing it in place with a few screws.
Next, we grabbed the mousing surface. Note that this detail is not mentioned in the manual, but once you secure the cover over the USB hub (which is the mousing surface), there’s a gap that allows the mouse cable to emerge from inside the Lapdog. (You can leave the excess mouse cable hidden inside, if you like.) The gap is on the left edge of the mousing surface, where it meets the aluminum portion of the Lapdog that covers the keyboard cabling…
Know that you can also let your mouse cable hang all-out and plug the mouse into one of the two USB ports on the Lapdog’s right edge, if you will need to detach the mouse frequently. (Unscrewing the mouse surface to get access to the internal connectors on the USB hub to unplug the mouse is a chore.)
With both the keyboard and the mouse connected, and all appropriate covers in place, it was time to connect the Lapdog to our PC. We plugged in the AC power “brick” (it’s actually not very big) and connected it to the inline power connector on the Lapdog’s cable. The other connector (a USB) went into a USB port on our desktop computer.
The other end of the cable went into the two ports on the right rear of the Lapdog: a USB port, and a round power jack…
As expected, the keyboard lit up and our mouse came alive. It was time to play.
We took a seat on our couch, which is about 15 feet away from our computer, placed the memory-foam pad on our lap first, then situated the Lapdog down on top of it. The magnets were just the right strength, so it “clicked” into place easily and felt nice and stable in our lap. Then, we set to typing and gaming.
Using the Lapdog
The first quirk we noticed about the Lapdog is that the memory-foam pad has an inverted hump that’s designed to fit snugly between your legs. It’s in the middle of the pad, in order to keep things balanced. If you actually use it this way, though, the keyboard ends up way over on the left, making it hard to type. We ended up ignoring the hump and just moving over the whole works a bit to put our hands in front of the keys. We’re not sure why Corsair designed it this way.
Foam foibles aside, we found the Lapdog lay very comfortably in our lap; it didn’t feel heavy or burdensome at all. The keyboard was very easy to type on once we shifted the unit, and the mousing surface felt accurate and grippy, too. Because all you really do with the Lapdog is use a keyboard and mouse, we spent some hours gaming with it, and we had a lot of fun. You’ll want a big-enough HDTV screen to make this work from the couch, though, and the ideal size depends on the distance you’ll sit from the screen.
We also tried the Lapdog with a monitor, which was a bit too far away for our liking. And since it was a 32-inch panel, it was just too small to use from a distance. You’ll really want to use the Lapdog with a big TV at typical couch distances. Corsair declares this the ideal couch-gaming solution for someone with a 4K HDTV, and in general it’s great for gaming in the living room, provided you can see what’s going on in game menus and the like from your specific couch-to-TV distance. In our case, we had no trouble making our Web browser bigger to read, but we could not see our mouse pointer most of the time. This not the fault of the Lapdog, of course, but of PC gaming and computing on an HDTV in general.
As far as the Lapdog goes, though, it felt thoughtfully designed, comfortable, and well-made despite most of it being plastic. The memory-foam underside felt fine on our lap, and it was comfortable enough for us to use for a few hours throughout the day without noticing its weight or size. You could also use the Lapdog without the foam bottom, if you so desire, or it gets worn out. The overall build quality suggests that the rest of the Lapdog could last quite a long time, and it even made us consider some sort of gaming HTPC build for our living room for the first time. Of course, Corsair even offers such a thing, as a complement to the Lapdog; it’s called the Corsair Bulldog, which is a DIY home-theater PC kit. (See our preview of the Corsair Bulldog from Computex 2015.)
Overall, the Lapdog impressed us with both its design and high level of functionality. Corsair could have whipped up a less ambitious product—just, say, a plastic tray to hold your keyboard and mouse—but the Lapdog is well-conceived, for the most part, and easy enough to set up in just a few minutes.
Aside from the specific contours of the memory-foam pad and the lack of mouse-cord-routing instructions, we had no functional issues using the Lapdog. It’s comfortable even for long stretches, and both the mouse and the keyboard felt secure once installed. The mousing surface had the right amount of bite under our mouse, and the whole package, once assembled, worked well.
The only major issues we had with the Lapdog are the fact that it requires a Corsair K70 or K65 keyboard, and its overall size. The first is due to the design of the Lapdog, as the keyboard snaps into place for a perfect fit. (Cynically, one might linger on the idea that Corsair wants to sell more keyboards, too, but that’s a given.) The problem is that it makes the Lapdog an expensive proposition, even when bought in a $199.99 or $249.99 bundle with the keyboard. And even if you happen to already own an appropriate-model Corsair keyboard, it’s not ideal to have to unscrew everything and remove the keyboard from the Lapdog when you want to use it on your desktop. You’ll have to adopt that keyboard for the Lapdog, or buy a dedicated one. Therefore, anyone buying the Lapdog will most likely have to buy the keyboard, too, and it’s unclear if you’ll ever be able to use the Lapdog with any other, future model of Corsair keyboard.
The second issue is just the sheer size, and the fact that a wired mouse might be tethered awkwardly off the Lapdog. This plank is more than two feet long, and you’ll have to dedicate a spot to store it when it isn’t in use (under or behind the couch, perhaps). Bear in mind that you’ll also have factor in that 16-foot cable, which at least you can detach from the back of the Lapdog and coil up out of sight. But then there’s the mouse. The mouse is the troublesome thing; if you plug a wired one into the internal ports on the USB hub, as intended, you’ll have a tethered thing that needs to be stored with the Lapdog. Putting the Lapdog in a niche or closet, standing on end, will leave you with the mouse hanging pendulously from one end.
Indeed, we wish Corsair had fashioned a bracket or some other mounting scheme for a wired mouse, to use when the Lapdog is in storage. It was enough of an annoyance, we found, that we might be tempted to plug our mouse into one of the exterior USB ports for easy detaching, or to use a wireless mouse that we could just store separately.
Overall, though, the Lapdog assembly works well and is easy to set up and use. If you are a PC gamer itching to move your command center to the couch, put it on your list of must-haves, or at least must-considers. And we’ll leave you with our cat’s investigation into what makes the Lapdog tick. Suggested captions in the comments below, please! (Ours: “Lapdogs and cats, living together…”)
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