Gaming on home theater pcs seems to be an increasingly popular practice, judging by Steam's Big Picture mode and Valve's own SteamOS. Sitting on the couch with a controller is great for platformers and racing games, but a desktop PC is still the preferable way to play FPS and strategy games. Though some companies have tried to replicate the speed and precision of the keyboard and mouse for the couch—Valve's Steam Controller being the most prominent example-none of those solutions have caught on so far. Corsair is trying to help HTPC users get their game on by introducing the Lapdog, a two-in-one keyboard and mouse tray. The Lapdog sells for $120 on Corsair's website.
Let's begin by taking a look at this canine's various components. The Lapdog itself is just an empty chassis made from brushed aluminum and hard plastic. Buyers will need to add a Corsair keyboard plus a mouse from any manufacturer to make it useful. The 29" by 10" (74 x 25 cm) tray is quite large, but the size makes sense considering the Lapdog can hold a full-sized keyboard alongside a generous mouse pad.
Installing a keyboard isn't too much of a hassle. Corsair's illustrated instructions are clear and concise. Corsair includes a small hex wrench to remove the screws that hold together the various plates. One minor issue was that the aluminum top plate of the Corsair K70 keyboard we used to review this unit scraped up against the aluminum of the Lapdog, which left a few scratches on the unit's metal components.
A cable compartment hidden underneath the topmost aluminum plate offers just enough room for the thick cables Corsair generally uses on its high-end gaming keyboards. The Lapdog is only designed to work with Corsair's full-sized K70 and tenkeyless K65 keyboards. Other keyboards can fit into the chassis, but they won't fit as snuggly or seamlessly as the Corsair keyboards and will likely slide around in use. To make users' lives simpler, the Corsair website offers a few bundles that come with both a keyboard and the Lapdog. An included metal plate covers up the space that would be otherwise left open by the K65's nonexistent numpad.
Unscrewing a few fasteners for the mousepad reveals an extension of the cable compartment and the USB hub for the installed keyboard and mouse.
Once the keyboard and mouse are installed, the Lapdog connects to a computer with a 16 foot USB cable. This lengthy cable gives users a generous amount of leash to play with while maintaining a direct connection to a PC.
The cable also has a power jack that connects to a 12-volt wall charger. The wall charger powers two external USB ports on the side of the Lapdog. The most obvious use for these ports would be plugging a headset or headphones, but Corsair brags that these ports also have fast-charging support for smartphones and tablets. The Lapdog doesn't need to be connected to the wall charger if these ports aren't being used.
The Lapdog's 10" x 11" (25 x 28 cm) mouse pad sits above its USB ports. I found the considerable size of the mouse pad to be plenty for all of the game genres I tried. The pad's sandstone-esque texture feels nice, and it also provides plenty of traction for the mouse. However, it does make sliding the mouse around somewhat noisier than a smoother surface might. The bottom and right edges of the mouse pad have small plastic lips that stop the mouse from sliding off the pad.
The Lapdog comes with a memory foam cushion that magnetically connects to the bottom of the unit. I found this pad to be quite comfortable, but I wish the magnets were slightly stronger. The cushion would occasionally come loose when I repositioned the Lapdog.
Taking the dog on a walk
All of the Lapdog's pieces come together to form a sleek-looking piece of gaming equipment, but good looks don't mean anything if this dog can't hunt. My time with the Lapdog was mostly spent sitting on a couch playing Star Wars Battlefront and Civilization V. Both games would normally be troublesome to play while sitting in front of a TV, but the Lapdog let me make short work of them. I couldn't play a shooter with a game controller to save my life, but the Lapdog allowed me to comfortable play Battlefront with keyboard and mouse while on the couch. While Battlefront could arguable be played with a controller, Civilization unquestionably requires a mouse.
My experience with the Lapdog during these gaming sessions was largely positive. As I already mentioned, the cushion made the experience comfortable. However, what really made the experience great was just the fact that I could relax on the couch and still play with a keyboard and mouse. The Lapdog is one of the first kits that offers this convenience, which is what really sells the product.
Even so, there were a few issues I had with the Lapdog. If I had to sum this thing up in one word, I'd call it unwieldy. While the Lapdog is marketed at gamers, a small wireless keyboard with a touchpad is much better for navigating an HTPC. A small, light keyboard like the wireless Microsoft keyboard you see above is easy to just pick up and use. The Lapdog, on the other hand, has to be picked up, carried across the room with all of its wires trailing behind, and then optimally positioned for a long gaming session.
Part of the unwieldiness comes from the extra space required to house a full-sized keyboard. Given my experience in most games, I could definitely go without the numpad of the full-size K70 we used to review the unit. The lack of a wrist rest on the Lapdog also made my gaming experience less comfortable than it could have been. The unit's sharp metal rear edge dug into my wrists when I let them hang off the board during gaming, as one might on a couch. A strip of some kind of padding in the box would really help here.
While the Lapdog is a major advance in living-room gaming on its own, I'd really like to see a "K65 Lapdog" that simply grafts a mousepad and cushion onto Corsair's tenkeyless board, obviating the bulky cable tray. With the cable tray removed, the keyboard could be moved up to the front edge of this hypothetical assembly, leaving plenty of space for a wrist rest.
One other thing the Lapdog can't fix is simply the nature of gaming on an HTPC. Sitting a ways away from a TV screen, even a large one, is similar to sitting a little ways away from a computer monitor. Fine details can be hard to make out when sitting on the couch. That might be fine in some titles, but it's detrimental in FPS games when one has to accurately shoot enemies from afar. Of course, this isn't the Lapdog's fault, but it is something to keep in mind when trying to game in the living room. While it can still be fun to play on the couch with the Lapdog, it still won't be exactly the same as sitting at a desk.
Corsair's Lapdog is an interesting concept. It allows PC gamers to relax on the couch without giving up the ability to play all of their favorite games. Many people work long hours sitting in front of a computer and don't want to have to sit down at a desk to play their favorite games. I enjoyed the Lapdog's sturdy build quality, generous mousepad, and comfortable lap cushion.
However, the Lapdog has a few issues. Since Corsair built this tray to accommodate both full-size and tenkeyless boards, and off-the-shelf ones at that, it has a lot of fat that could be trimmed. Put a tenkeyless Corsair K65 keyboard in this thing, and you end up with a lot of extra dog in your lap that you just don't need. The Lapdog's lack of padding on its rear edge sometimes causes discomfort while gaming, thanks to its sharp metal edge. Corsair could potentially solve these issues with a smaller K65-only Lapdog, or by integrating Lapdog features with one of its tenkeyless boards and ditching the extra space devoted to cable routing.
Minor issues aside, the Lapdog is one of the few options on the market for gamers who really want to bring the PC gaming experience into the living room. Potential Lapdog owners will need to be OK with using a Corsair gaming keyboard (hardly an imposition) and the unit's $120 price tag, but we think those who take the plunge will be rewarded with a living-room gaming experience that's mostly similar to sitting at a desk with a mouse and keyboard. PC diehards that we are, we think that's a pretty exciting value proposition for people with gaming HTPCs—and for those without, the path is clear to build one.