Allyn isn't the only one with a Lapdog on his couch

Subject: General Tech | June 20, 2016 - 09:40 PM |
Tagged: RGB, mouse, lapdog, keyboard, gaming control center, couchmaster, Couch, corsair

The Tech Report would like to back Al up in saying that gaming on a TV from the comfort of your couch is not as weird as some would think.  In their case it was Star Wars Battlefront and Civilization V which were tested out, Battlefront as it is a console game often played on a TV and Civ5 as it is not a twitch game and the extra screen real estate is useful.  They also like the device although they might like a smaller version so that keyboards without a numpad did not leave as much room ... perhaps a PocketDog?  Check out their quick review if Al's review almost sold you on the idea.

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"Corsair's Lapdog keyboard tray is built to bridge the gap between the desk and the den by giving gamers a way to put a keyboard and mouse right on their laps. We invited the Lapdog into our living room to see whether it's a good boy."

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Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Corsair

Introduction and Unboxing

A few years ago, Ryan reviewed the Couchmaster. It was a simple keyboard and mouse holder that suspended those parts above your lap, much like a computer chair, but at your couch. It was a cool concept, but at the time, living room PC gaming hadn't gained much popularity. While we don't all suddenly have living room PCs, the concept has gained some steam. We've seen recent launches of devices like the Corsair Bulldog - a rather beefy DIY living room PC meant to handle enough hardware to support living room gaming at up to 4K resolutions. This left a bit of a gap in Corsair's lineup. They make keyboards, mice, and now a living room PC, but where do you put those peripherals while sitting on your couch? Enter the Corsair Lapdog:

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Along with the Lapdog, Corsair passed along a Vengeance K70 (single LED color, but with key-by-key adjustability) keyboard and an M65 Pro RGB mouse

Setup

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Above is the setup process staged with the keyboard and mouse plugged into the integrated 4-port USB 3.0 hub. Note that we did not need to plug in both keyboard connectors as there is no need to use the USB pass-through feature of these keyboards as the mouse gets its own dedicated port. Owners of the older K70 RGBs might note that even though the early models did not come with a pass-through port, they still had an additional connector for additional USB current. Fear not, as the second plug of those keyboards is also not needed here since the Lapdog uses a powered USB 3.0 hub that can provide sufficient current to light up those models over that single connector.

The cable that combines both power and USB connection from the Lapdog to the wall/PC is 16 feet long, which should provide plenty of space to stretch between just about any TV + couch combination. It was a great idea by Corsair to combine the USB cable and power cable in this way, minimizing the mess and cable clutter that reaches across the floor. You get another 5 feet or so of length for the 12V power adapater as well, so install should be a breeze for users.

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Here we see the removable block-off plate. This comes pre-installed in case the user intends to use a K65 (short-body) keyboard. For those cases, the plate keeps the surface flush while covering the area normally used by the number pad. We are installing a K70 model and will be removing the plate for our configuration.

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In case you're wondering how to remove the various cover plates and mouse pad in order to complete the installation, there is a mini hex driver built-in to the back of the foam lap pad.

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Looking at the bottom of the Lapdog keyboard/mouse housing, we see six magnets that mate with the appropriate places on the bottom of the foam lap pad. The pad is made of cloth covered polyurethane foam. It does not appear to be memory foam and is fairly rigid, which is desirable as we need to keep the keyboard and mouse on a reasonably firm surface when using it on a lap.

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On the right edge of the Lapdog we have rear ports for power and USB 3.0 back to the PC, and on the side, we have another pair of USB 3.0 ports off of the internal powered hub. This lets you do other cool stuff like plugging in portable USB storage or even connecting and charging your phone.

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With the build complete, I'd just like to comment on how seamlessly the corsair keyboards blend with the rest of the Lapdog. The anodized brushed aluminum is a perfect match, though it does add some weight to the completed product. There is a slight lip at the bottom and right edges of the mouse pad which keep it from sliding off when not in use.

Impressions

After setup, I spent some quality time with the Lapdog. In gaming, it definitely works as advertised. With the device on your lap, WASD + mouse gaming is essentially where your hands naturally rest with the default positioning, making gaming just about the same as doing so on a desktop. The lap pad design helps to keep it from sliding around on your lap while in use, and the overall bulk and heft of the unit keep it firmly planted on your lap. It is not overly heavy, and I feel that going any lighter would negatively impact stability.

I also tried some actual writing on the Lapdog (I used it to write this article). While the typical gaming position is natural when centered, the left offset of the keyboard means that any serious typing requires you to scoot everything over to the right. The keyboard side is heavier than the mousing side, so there are no tipping issues when doing so. Even if you were to place the center of the Lapdog over your right leg, centering the keyboard on your lap, its weight will still keep the Lapdog planted on your left, so no issues there. Long periods of typing may put a strain on your back if you tend to lean forward off of the front edge of your couch, but the Lapdog is really meant to be a 'lay back' experience, and extended typing is certainly doable in that position with a bit of practice.

The Corsair Lapdog is available for $119.99, which I feel is a fair price given the high-grade components and solid build quality. If you're into PC gaming from the comfort of your couch, the Corsair Lapdog looks to be the best solution your you!

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Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: Logitech G

A mix of styles

Logitech continues its push and re-entry into the gaming peripherals market in 2016, this time adding another keyboard under the Orion brand to the mix. The Logitech G G810 Orion Spectrum is, as the name implies, an RGB mechanical keyboard using the company's proprietary Romer-G switches. But despite the similarity in model numbers to the G910 Orion Spark announced in late 2014, the G810 has some significant design and functionality changes.

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This new offering is cleaner, less faceted (both in key caps and design) but comes much closer to the feel and function than the tenkeyless G410 from last year. Let's take a look at how the G810 changes things up for Logitech G.

Keyboard Design

The G810 Orion Spectrum is a full size keyboard with tenkey (also known as the numeric keypad) that has sleeker lines and more professional lines that its big brother. The black finish is matte on the keys and framing but the outside edges of the keyboard have a gloss to them. It's a very minimal part of the design though so you shouldn't have to worry about fingerprints.

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At first glance, you can see that Logitech toned down some of the gamer-centric accents when compared to either the G910 or the G410. There is no wrist rest, no PCB-trace inspired lines, no curves and no sharp edges. What you get instead is a keyboard that is equally well placed in modern office or in an enthusiasts gaming den. To me, there are a lot of touches that remind me of the Das Keyboard - understated design that somehow makes it more appealing to the educated consumer. 

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This marks the first keyboard with the new Logitech G logo on it, though you are likely more concerned about the lack of G-Keys, the company's name for its macro-capable buttons on the G910. For users that still want that capability, Logitech G allows you to reprogram the function keys along the top for macro capability, and has a pretty simple switch in software to enable or disable those macros. This means you can maintain the F-row of keys for Windows applications but still use macros for gaming.

Continue reading our review of the Logitech G810 Orion Spectrum keyboard!!

Put some Spring in your step with new peripherals

Subject: General Tech | April 29, 2015 - 04:34 PM |
Tagged: freesync, 4k, gsync, keyboard, gaming mouse, input

It has been a relatively quiet year for new CPUs and GPUs as we await new releases apart from the occasional incredibly high priced new product.  On the peripheral side it has been anything but quiet, with numerous gaming mice and keyboards of both mechanical and other types being released.  Not only that but we are finally starting to see both AMD and NVIDIA's variable refresh rate monitors appear on the market as well as new 4k and other more traditional displays.  The Tech Report has some recommendations for all of the above as well as other backup peripherals, audio devices and more in this article here.

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"It's time for our latest roundup of recommendations for monitors, keyboards, mice, and more. We've tied it all together in our April 2015 peripheral staff picks."

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Subject: General Tech
Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction

The ASUS STRIX TACTIC PRO is a premium mechanical gaming keyboard featuring Cherry MX Brown switches and some serious style.

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Keyboards are a very personal thing, and as this is one of the three primary interfaces with the system itself (along with the mouse and display), feel will help decide the experience. Without a doubt mechanical keyboard have become very popular with enthusiasts, but as more manufacturers have started offering them - and the market has begun to saturate - it becomes much more difficult to pick a starting point if you're new to the game. To further complicate a buying decision there are different types of key switches used in these keyboards, and each variety has its own properties and unique feel.

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And on the subject of key switches, this particular keyboard built with the brown variety of the Cherry MX switches, and ASUS offers the option of Cherry MX Black, Blue, and Red switches with the STRIX TACTIC PRO as well. Our own Scott Michaud covered the topic of key switches in great detail last year, and that article is a great starting point that helps explain the different types of switches available, and how they differ.

Cherry MX Brown

The Cherry MX Brown switch in action

I'll go into the feel of the keyboard on the next page, but quickly I'll say that MX Brown switches have a good feel without being too "clicky", but they are certainly more stiff feeling than a typical membrane keyboard. While it's impossible to really describe how the keyboard will feel to a particular user, we can certainly cover the features and performance of this keyboard to help with a purchasing decision in this crowded market. At $150 the STRIX TACTIC PRO carries a premium price, but as you'll see this is also a premium product.

Continue reading our review of the STRIX TACTIC PRO mechanical gaming keyboard!!

Manufacturer: Multiple

Finding Your Clique

One of the difficulties with purchasing a mechanical keyboard is that they are quite expensive and vary greatly in subtle, but important ways. First and foremost, we have the different types of keyswitches. These are the components that are responsible for making each button behave, and thus varying them will lead to variations in how those buttons react and feel.

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Until recently, the Cherry MX line of switches were the basis of just about every major gaming mechanical keyboard, although we will discuss recent competitors later on. Its manufacturer, Cherry Corp / ZF Electronics, maintained a strict color code to denote the physical properties of each switch. These attributes range from the stiffness of the spring to the bumps and clicks felt (or heard) as the key travels toward its bottom and returns back up again.

  Linear Tactile Clicky
45 cN Cherry MX Red
Cherry MX Brown
Razer Orange
Omron/Logitech Romer-G
 
50 cN    
Cherry MX Blue
Cherry MX White (old B)
Razer Green
55 cN   Cherry MX Clear  
60 cN Cherry MX Black    
80 cN Cherry MX Linear Grey (SB) Cherry MX Tactile Grey (SB)
Cherry MX Green (SB)
Cherry MX White (old A)
Cherry MX White (2007+)
90 cN     IBM Model M (not mechanical)
105 cN     Cherry MX Click Grey (SB)
150+ cN Cherry MX Super Black    

(SB) Denotes switches with stronger springs that are primarily for, or only for, Spacebars. The Click Grey is intended for spacebars on Cherry MX White, Green, and Blue keyboards. The MX Green is intended for spacebars on Cherry MX Blue keyboards (but a few rare keyboards use these for regular keys). The MX Linear Grey is intended for spacebars on Cherry MX Black keyboards.

The four main Cherry MX switches are: Blue, Brown, Black, and Red. Other switches are available, such as the Cherry MX Green, Clear, three types of Grey, and so forth. You can separate (I believe) all of these switches into three categories: Linear, Tactile, and Clicky. From there, the only difference is the force curve, usually from the strength of the spring but also possibly from the slider features (you'll see what I mean in the diagrams below).

Read on to see a theoretical comparison of various mechanical keyswitches.

Microsoft's Universal Mobile Keyboard Is Coming Soon

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | September 17, 2014 - 10:57 PM |
Tagged: windows, mobile, microsoft, keyboard, ios, Android

Let me share a story. There was a time, around the first Surface launch, that I worked in an electronics retail store (and the several years prior -- but I digress). At around that time, Microsoft was airing ads with people dancing around, clicking keyboards to the Surface tablet with its magnetic click or snap. One day, a customer came in looking for the keyboard from the TV spots for their iPad. I thought about it for a few seconds and realized how terrible Microsoft's branding actually was.

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Without already knowing the existence of their Windows 8 and RT tablets, which the ads were supposed to convey, it really did look like an accessory for an iPad.

Doing Microsoft's job for them, I explained the Surface Pro and Surface RT tablets along with its keyboard-cover accessories. Eventually, I told them that it was a Microsoft product for their own tablet brand and would not see an iPad release. The company felt threatened by these mobile, touch devices and was directly competing with them.

...

So Microsoft is announcing a keyboard for Windows, Android, and iOS. Sure, it is very different from the Type and Touch Covers; for instance, it does not attach to these devices magnetically. Microsoft has also been known to develop hardware, software, and services for competing platforms. While it is not unsurprising that Microsoft keyboards would work on competing devices, it does feel weird for their keyboard to have features that are specialized for these competing platforms.

There are three things interesting about this keyboard: it has a built-in stand, it has special keys for Android and iOS that are not present in Windows, and it has a built-in rechargeable battery that lasts up to 6 months. The peripheral pairs wirelessly with all of these devices through Bluetooth.

The Microsoft Universal Mobile Keyboard is coming soon for $79.95 (MSRP).

Source: Microsoft

A half dozen pairing suggestions; does your mouse match your keyboard?

Subject: General Tech | September 11, 2014 - 07:10 PM |
Tagged: input, corsair, logitech, Mad Catz, razer, roccat, steelseries, gaming mouse, keyboard, round up

The end of summer brings more than just pretty coloured leaves, you can also expect to see round ups of products released this year.  The Register has put together an article looking at the best mice and keyboards for gamers which are currently available.  In most cases they pair a keyboard and mouse from the same company so that your desk will look impressive with matching peripherals.  It is not just about the aesthetics though, they also provide you with an overview of what features make each pairing unique and the features that should intrigue you.  Check it out right here.

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"In the case of the keyboards and mice I’m reviewing, it might be difficult to put forward a convincing argument that they are to blame, as they are all developed to make the very best of my gaming talents, but often this comes at a preposterous price."

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Source: The Register

Mad Catz S.T.R.I.K.E M Wireless Keyboard Is Unusual

Subject: General Tech, Cases and Cooling | August 7, 2014 - 12:18 AM |
Tagged: keyboard, travel keyboard, htpc keyboard

So, I am writing about a wireless, non-mechanical keyboard.

Mad Catz has made a weird keyboard layout. Honestly, it looks like something from a 1990's-era sci-fi video game. I could imagine "Lev Arris" pulling it out of his trench coat while discussing space pirates. It also includes mouse and media functionality, even when pairing with Android and iOS devices (it connects with Macs and PCs, too). It's also small.

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As stated earlier, its keys are not mechanical. They are, also, not membrane-dome. The keys are based on scissor-switches, common with laptop keyboards. While I do not know the specifics of this keyboard, I do not know of any scissor-switch keyboard with removable keys. This means that, if something gets stuck under a keycap, you cannot remove it (unless you intend to never put it back on). Again, Mad Catz could have done something special, but it is something to think about -- especially if you intend on using this keyboard in the living room while eating.

The keyboard has an adjustable, white backlight for the "main" keys. It is, also, $100. This is definitely a unique design, tailored for a living room (or hotel room) experience. It is not cheap, but interesting. I could see it being useful, especially if a user could use it for both their living room, and during travel.

Source: Mad Catz

Live and Let Dvorak

Subject: Editorial, General Tech | January 20, 2014 - 04:46 AM |
Tagged: Keyboards, keyboard

Peter Bright down at Ars Technica wrote an editorial about the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon. His opinion is that keyboard developers should innovate in ways that "doesn't undermine expectations". Replacing a row of physical keys for a software-controlled touch strip is destructive because, even if the change proved invaluable, it would ultimately be inferior because it clashes with every other keyboard the user encounters. He then concludes with a statement that really should have directed his thesis.

Lenovo's engineers may be well-meaning in their attempts to improve the keyboard. But they've lost a sale as a result. The quest for the perfect laptop continues.

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That is the entire point of innovation! You may dislike how a feature interacts with your personal ecosystem and that will drive you away from the product. Users who purchased the laptop without considering the keyboard have the option of returning it and writing reviews for others (or simply put up with it). Users who purchased the laptop because of the keyboard are happy.

I mainly disagree with the article because it claims that it is impossible to innovate the keyboard in any way that affects the core layout. I actually disagree with it for two reasons.

My first issue is about how vague he is. His primary example of good keyboard innovation is the IBM ThinkPad 701c and its "butterfly keyboard". The attempt is to increase the keyboard size to exceed the laptop itself to make it more conventional. Conventional for who? How many people use primarily small laptops with shrunken keyboards compared to people who touch-type function keys?

The second critique leads from the first. The PC industry became so effective because every manufacturer tries to be a little different with certain SKUs to gain tiny advantages. There could have easily been a rule against touchscreen computers. Eventually someone hit it out of the park and found an implementation that was wildly successful to a gigantic market. The QWERTY design has weathered the storm for more than a century but there is no rule that it cannot shift in the future.

In fact, at some point, someone decided to add an extra row of function keys. This certainly could undermine the expectations of users who have to go between computers and electronic typewriters.

It will be tough, though. Keyboards have settled down and learning their layouts is a significant mental investment. There are several factors to consider when it comes to how successful a keyboard modification will become. Mostly, however, it will come down to someone trying and observing what happens. Do not worry about letting random ideas in because the bad ideas will show themselves out.

Basically the point is: never say never (especially not that vaguely).

Source: Ars Technica