ThePhantom Lapboard is one of those fabled legends of the gadget world, a keyboard and mouse that you can use comfortably on a couch—in the making since 2004.
Phantom was kind enough to send us the first final production unit off of the line—preorder shipments should be fulfilled starting Feb 20th. It’s unfair to judge any product with higher standards only because of funding and manufacturing delays—even if the Phantom Lapboard is the Duke Nukem Forever of the keyboard world. But despite these delays and issues, there’s still no clone or ripoff to compare it to.
Phantom’s pitch is a wireless, ambidextrous keyboard that can be used via lap for a home theatre PC with a full-sized mouse. The keyboard itself pivots vertically, lifting the keys from the platform on your lap to make room for a mouse, while simultaneously spinning 360 degrees horizontally so that it works for righties and lefties.
In use, the lapboard functions as promised. It synced instantly to both my PS3 and Mac through a 2.4GHz USB dongle (though, I should mention, I had left mouse button recognition issues on the PS3). The keyboard locks after a gentle tilt, and you can actually spin it round and round indefinitely…which can be addictive.
Typing, however, is a bit more problematic than I expected. It’s certainly possible, and the keys are clicky and responsive. But the keyboard tilts a bit too much for my taste (a full 22 degrees) and I found myself typing with one hand uncomfortably higher than the other. I wish there were two tilt settings—one that would just fit your mouse hand under it, and one with a little more clearance. That said, a few hours of hands-on gaming would probably put you more at ease with the design.
To tilt the keyboard back down, you push in on a semi-awkward rubber latch.
The mouse has a subtler style than you’d expect to see with a hardcore PC peripheral, with a one-piece plastic top creating two buttons with perfect resistance. (There’s also a clicking scroll wheel.) It’s rated at some insane DPI—it felt accurate enough—but there’s one downfall to gamers. The board for the mouse is just too slippery. At the slightest angle on your lap, the mouse will literally slide off. I’m actually tempted to sand the plastic or add new pads to the mouse because this very small (overlooked?) detail makes the lapboard far less pleasant to use.
I find the Phantom Lapboard’s $US130 asking price a bit steep—but if it cost less than $US100 it would be a strong recommendation. Using the mouse can feel a bit like walking on ice and the keyboard tilts a lot, but given that there are few competitors that can offer a full keyboard/mouse that fit comfortably in your lap, I’m glad to see the still-fresh idea finally come to market. [Phantom]