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Phantom Lapboard Review

About.com Rating 3 Star Rating

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Phantom Lapboard Review

Image courtesy of Lisa Johnston

The Phantom Lapboard attempts to satisfy two different (often converging) camps -- the couch-dwelling Internet surfer, and the PC gamer. It has a rotating keyboard that elevates, with a designated mousing surface beneath it. A solid, attractive device, the Phantom unfortunately comes with a few constricting flaws.

At a Glance

The Good: Attractive, sturdy constructions

The Bad: Can be uncomfortable to use, unresponsive keys, slippery mousing area

Setting it Up

The Phantom Lapboard is 2.4GHz wireless keyboard/mouse combo set. The USB receiver has a "connect" button, which isn't as commonly seen these days, but connecting the keyboard to it was seamless. The mouse, unfortunately, wasn't quite as easy, but I finally determined that the on/off button sticks a bit. On the plus side, the 1200 dpi mouse has an on/off button, and there's a receiver placeholder on the keyboard -- always a bonus in my book.

To use the Phantom, the keyboard raises up at an approximately 20-degree angle, revealing a dedicated mousing surface beneath.

Using It

Image courtesy of Lisa Johnston

One thing is certain - the $129 Phantom Lapboard is not intended to be part of an ergonomic workstation. You can spin the keyboard 360 degrees around, but I was never able to find a comfortable position for extended typing, and I often made typos, especially if I tried to type too quickly. The keys often didn't respond to my first attempt, and I frequently had to go back and make corrections.

Now, if you're a gamer (and that's really who should be using this product), this probably won't bother you as much as long as you'll only be keying with one hand. (The non-responsive keys would still be problematic, though.) I could foresee it being more of an issue if you'd planned to use it for controlling Internet and media from your couch, requiring two hands.

Another downside: I couldn't, for the life of me, get the keyboard to lower once it had been elevated. The capability is there, but the plastic level just wouldn't release, and I feared I was going to snap it if I forced it.*

The mouse is a fat, glossy ambidextrous thing. It felt a bit too wide for me, but my hands are on the smaller side, so this could just be a personal preference. Since the buttons were so wide, I frequently clicked the right-click button by accident -- frustrating, but, again, maybe not a problem for others. As with most peripherals, glossy means that fingerprints show easily, and this was true with the Phantom, along with dust and scratches.

Gamers

Gamers may not care as much about aesthetics (although I fail to see how using a mouse that isn't even remotely ergonomic would be beneficial). Depending on the game you're playing, you may not even mind that your wrists are tilted at such an angle (with one higher than the other to boot). If you're using just one hand for typing on the other for mousing, it could be quite comfortable to be able to lean back in your chair and game away. Except for one thing -- the mouse kept slipping off the lapboard if I shifted my knees even slightly downward.

Unless you sit at perfect attention, or if you simply have naturally perfect posture, I foresee this being a problem. If you absolutely will only use one hand for typing and one hand for mousing, you will probably be OK. But there were several times where I relaxed my knees just a bit and removed my hand from the mouse, and the mouse went sliding right off the lapboard onto the floor. Of course, as a spokesman for the company pointed out to me when I voiced my concern on this feature, if you're gaming on the couch, the mouse is going to simply slip onto the couch.

Another upside: The Phantom seems sturdy and well-constructed, so both the keyboard and mouse could probably withstand a few falls. Unfortunately, the mousing area is so slippery that this will probably happen quite often -- not something you want to risk if you're going to be PC gaming from your desk.

Bottom Line

Image courtesy of Lisa Johnston

The only person who would thoroughly enjoy the Phantom Lapboard is a gamer who games from the couch, with one hand for mousing and one for keying. Anyone who strays from that profile probably won't reap any benefits.

Update: A spokesman for the company read this review and emailed me a picture of where the button is to release the lever to lower the keyboard. Once this is demonstrated, yes, it is quite easy to lower the keyboard. However, the discreet button is not labeled, nor is it shown in the device instructions or on the packaging. Unless the company is prepared to email each consumer who purchases a Phantom Lapboard, I suspect many people will be left wondering how to lower the keyboard as well.

Disclosure: Review samples were provided by the manufacturer. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.
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