Evaluating The Phantom Lapboard

In an attempt to squelch my insatiable--and sometimes unhealthy--need to experiment with all kinds of keyboards and other input devices, I recently acquired three more 'boards for the collection, the latest Das Keyboard Pro Silent, the Microsoft Sidewinder X4, and the unique Phantom Lapboard.  Although they all technically do the same thing, these three keyboards are actually quite different.  I plan to write about all of them in time, but for this post I'd like to focus on the Phantom Lapboard.

The trials and tribulations of Phantom Entertainment and their so-called Phantom console have been well documented over the years, so I won't rehash any of that drama again here. Suffice it to say, after much ballyhoo, the Phantom console never saw the light of day, and things were quite ugly for a while. Throughout all of the drama, however, the company's Lapboard as it was known, seemed to garner much interest. It took a number of years to finally arrive, but the Phantom Lapboard is actually available for sale and has been for quite a while.

For those unfamiliar with it, the Phantom Lapboard is a clamshell-like wireless keyboard and mouse combo, designed for gamers. It is meant to be used on one's lap, and has a flat mouseing surface beneath the keyboard keys. The kit, which is available in glossy black or white finishes, includes the keyboard, a 1200dpi wireless mouse, and a single 2.4GHz USB-transceiver. Simply plug the transceiver into an available USB port on any Windows (2000 or newer), Mac OS, or even Playstation 3 system, and it'll be detected and be ready to use in seconds. Installation is that simple. And the devices range is good enough to cover even a large living-room. If you're close enough to enjoy gaming on a TV or large monitor, the Lapboard will almost certainly be in range.
Using the device takes some getting used to, but the design is ultimately quite comfortable.

The keyboard, which can be spun around its base for both left and right-hand operation, tilts up at a slight angle, and the mouse is meant to be used on the hard surface incorporated into the base beneath. We found the keyboard to be responsive and very good for gaming (although it doesn't support N-Key rollover), despite it being wireless, and the mouseing surface is as slick as could be. In fact, the surface may even be a little too slick--if you're sitting at a steep angle, letting go of the mouse will cause it to slide right off the surface.

The included mouse works well, but doesn't sport any unique features--it's a basic three-button design. We wish it had at least two more programmable buttons, but for most games, three buttons and a scroll wheel will suffice. Adjustable DPI settings would be nice too.

The keyboard itself sports low-profile, short stroke keys, with scissor-type key-switches. I found the keys to be a little stiff, but didn't suffer from any fatigue during long gaming sessions. The keys have held up well during a couple of weeks of use too, although in time, the lettering will likely wear away and the keys will "shine" like most do. On a related note, I also found the keys to be fairly good for typing (better than a crappy membrane board, but not on the level of true mechanical key-switches). The shape of the board, however, isn't conducive to long- comfortable typing sessions. And there's no numpad.

Overall though, I am quite pleased by the Phantom Lapboard. It does what it is was designed to do, and it does so quite well. It's $139 asking price is somewhat steep, but the Lapboard's range and the precision of the included mouse are better than many other wireless desktops, and you won't get the uniquely designed base that makes the Lapboard so good to use while gaming. If you're looking for a wireless keyboard and mouse for an HTPC that's also used for gaming, the Phantom Lapboard is worth serious consideration. it's a very cool device.